Tuesday, October 9, 2007

When In Rome, Eat At A Wine Bar

When I’m in Rome, I love to eat at wine bars because I like to sample small bits of this and that and to learn more about Italian wines.
The city has plenty of great wine bars to choose from but on my last visit I found one that was absolutely genius.

Its called Roscioli and is located near the Campo dei Fiori, ‘Centro Storico’ neighborhood of Rome. I didn’t just stumble across it. A Roman friend, who lives in NY and is in the wine business, sent me there. He knew I would love it and he was right.

When you walk in the first thing you notice is a wall of wines. All the stars of Italy are here but there are also a lot of wines I’d never heard of. Best of all they had fantastic vintages for most of their selection. Obviously this is a really serious place.

To the left of the entrance there’s a display case of the most brilliant salamis as well as other meats and cheeses, and in the back there’s a small area for eating. We were all starving so they brought us a plate of bufala mozzarella right away, plus prosciutto and marinated sun dried cherry tomatoes, and a breadbasket with the most delicious focaccia I’ve ever had. The waiter apologized that the focaccia wasn’t hot, but promised that more would come from the oven momentarily. It did and it was even more delicious.

He asked us what we would like to drink and I told him to take charge. Our first course, incredibly fresh scampi, raw, came with a Hoffstater Gewurztraminer. What a combination! The rich delicate shrimp along with the crisp fruit driven Gewurztraminer was sublime.

Then we went for two classic Roman pasta courses, which were magnificent. The first was spaghetti alla carbonara; the second was pasta matriciana. The carbonara was insanely good and the bacon, an Italian version called guanciale, made all the difference with the combination of parmesan and pecorino. I was so in love with this dish that I asked for some guanciale to take back with me. ( That’s the other great thing about this wine bar: anything you like they can cryovack for you to take home and you can purchase any of the wines as well). The second pasta, made with mezze rigatoni, (half the size of regular rigatoni) had a base of tomato sauce as well as chunks of the guanciale; it was equally stupendous. Our waiter brought a bottle of Antinori’s 2001 Tignanello. What a complex, rich, brilliant wine -- perfect with our pastas.

We were joined during the pasta course by a friend who is a great cook. She wanted us to try what she thought was an even better red wine. By the time they found it in the cellar we had to order another cheese course to go with it. The wine was a 1999 Giorgio Primo and was even more complex and rich. It was just as good but not better than the previous one. I felt really lucky to have the chance to try both. I bought a couple of bottles of Giorgio Primo to bring home so I can recreate the Roscioli experience, pastas and all.

We all left happy, and here’s another great thing about these wine bars: When you walk out the door you are in Rome. What a dream.

Via dei Giubbonari, 21-22


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