One perfect day (for us!) in Rome

We miss Rome.  No bones about it.

What a strange phrase that really is.  I mean, I know what it means, but why on earth, right?  I just looked it up:

To make no bones about something means to say something in a way that leaves no doubt, or to have no objection to it.

The expression comes from fifteenth century England…if someone wanted to show that they were dissatisfied with something, they would find bones in it – a reference to finding bones in soup, which was not a pleasant discovery!

Therefore, finding bones was bad, and no bones was good. If you found no bones, you were able to enjoy the meal with no objections!

And now we know.

Anywho.  We miss Rome.  And it’s not just our friends there who we do miss very much.  That little slice of Italy got under our skin, and we’ll never be quite the same.

The other day at dinner we brainstormed on what we would do with just one more day in Rome.

You might be surprised.  It’s not glamorous.  But it is real, and it’s what we really loved. Continue reading

3 Things I Learned on a Recent Weekend Adventure (Free Museum First Sundays For-EVAH)

We had a delightful Sunday adventure recently.  Like shockingly enjoyable.  With almost little to no planning.  I know.  I’m as incredulous as you.

It all started after waking up Sunday morning following a busy Saturday.  We hadn’t been out of town (or even out ON the town) in a bit.  I knew I wanted to do something.

Then I remembered that it was the first Sunday of the month.  This means free public museums in Rome.

Continue reading

Two Things that are Harder than I Realized

12.8_harder cover

So . . . we went to Malta last month.  I promise to talk more about it soon.  (Short recap:  it was awesome, surprisingly kid friendly, you should totes to it.  Oh, and I flew by myself with the chitlins.  What???)

Being there made me realize some things though.  Just like it is OK to admit things can be hard, I think it is OK to acknowledge that some things are tougher than I realized.

Continue reading

Do you run TO the crowd or FROM the crowd?

So there are lots of food-themed festivals around here, particularly in the summer and fall.   Fruit!  Porcini!  Carciofi for everyone!  I love food; sign me up!

I meant to do more.  And we will.  But we did make it to the Sagra delle Fragole (strawberry festival) in Nemi this June.

But the thing about festivals is crowds.  Shockingly, other people ALSO want to go to the cool-sounding festival with you.

I don’t really love crowds.

Continue reading

30 Day Everything Challenge: The Process (part 2)

6.8_30 day challenge

OK, picking up where we left off on the 30 day EVERYTHING challenge.

But first, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone.  I’ve been crazy excited to share this with you, and your comments and messages have meant a lot.  <Virtual Chest Bump!>  Ouch, that smarts.  I guess I should add some upper body work to my next challenge.

Ahem, moving right along . . .

Here is my “report card” if you will for the second half of the challenge.  (Check out the first half here.)  As you might expect, my performance was not as stellar for the second half.

16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Get Up Early X X X X X X X X X X
Whole30 X X X X X X X X X X X X
Plank Challenge X X X
Ab Challenge X X X X X X / / /
Steps X X X X X
8 Glasses of Water X X X X X X X X X X
5 Minutes Meditation X X X X X X X X
20 Second Hug X X X X X X X X X X
Real Kiss X X X X X X X X X
Wash Face X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Floss X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Bedtime Alarm X

Psst . . . It is also interesting to see how my 30 days compare to this whole30 what to expect timeline.

So here is how the second half of the challenge shook out.  One day at a time.  In real time.


Day 16:  Henry is screaming about something at 510.  Even though James deals with it, I sleep fitfully until my alarm goes off at 616.  If not for James needing to go to work early today, I might not have gotten up.

Ab challenge rest day!  Technically, yesterday was a “rest” day, but I’m trying to get in the shower earlier so I content myself with planks (120 seconds!).  Meditation does happen post-shower.

I am out of sorts this afternoon.  Tired and just kind of a headache.  I haven’t been snacking at all during this challenge, but I have a boiled egg and a half a clementine.  I’m glad because we go to a cook out for dinner, and I opt to wait until getting back home to eat.  (The thought of a naked burger with an iceberg “salad” just didn’t sound appealing tonight.)

I FINALLY get around to making paleo mayo today.  At first, I thought I had a mayo fail.  But it turns out that in my kids-screaming state, I was only adding ¼ cup oil instead of ¼ + 1 cup like I was supposed to.  When I added the extra oil, it worked out just fine.

Boiled eggs with mayo and truffle salt, roasted sweet potatoes, peaches

Boiled eggs with mayo and truffle salt, roasted sweet potatoes, peaches

Day 17:  I time myself on the Ab challenge this morning.  It takes me 25 minutes to finish the whole thing!  I do the situp/rollups continuously, but they take forever.  On all the other segments, I have to take breaks.

I try Nom Nom Paleo’s slow cooker kalua pig recipe.  I have high hopes for this one.  It is super easy, but mine turns out just pretty good.  It was a little drier than I expected.

Major bedtime fail.  First, we watch two episodes of Veep because I’m so excited that we got the website to work.  (It didn’t the last time we tried.)  Then something happened in my book, and I just couldn’t put it down.  I think lights out is like 2345.

Day 18:  I do not get up.  Exercise does not happen.  You’d think I could just squeeze in some planks, but I have trouble making it happen if I don’t knock it out first thing.  I don’t know if it is the kids, or the whole I’m already dressed thing, or just laziness.  But there it is.

Another bedtime fail.  James and I have a date night.  Ironically, we forget the real kiss and hug today, but at least we have some lovey dovey hand holding across a table at Mamma Mia.  That is until we have to move our hands to make room for the meat!  We have a ginormous steak for two called a Tomahawk.  It is amazing.  James also gets tempura vegetables and homemade chips.  I get a plate of grilled vegetables.

6.10_challenge 2

Yes, that IS served on a salt block

It takes awhile to get the check.  When we get home, our new neighbors just arrived and are having trouble getting in and they lost their bags.  After helping them, doing the bedtime routine, and reading, lights out at like 2330.  Not good, I know.

Day 19:  I get up a little early.  I didn’t set my alarm, but I wake up on my own around 630.

50 situps, but I don’t get a chance to finish.  Plank challenge rest day!  [Can you really count the rest day, if you just aren’t doing it lots of other days?]

We host some other new neighbors for dinner.  It is fun and eating is easy because I get to control the menu.  I am bummed on not sampling the scrumptious looking cherry chocolate chip cookies the neighbors brought.  And I feel kind of tool-y about not eating them either.  Like I’m being rude or something.

2341 bedtime.

Day 20:  I wake up at 616, but I don’t feel like getting up.

My family gets here today!  Visitors on whole30?  I know.  I expect some tough moments.  But I’m also thinking that my new habits will help me pull through with less pain.

Speaking of pain, though, bedtime is late tonight.  This is one of the nights that we have a sitter.  We walk around downtown and end up at an outdoor table by the Pantheon.  I didn’t see a single appetizer I could order so I just sit and watch my family devour some tasty dishes, being thankful that I had a boiled egg snack before we left.  It took the food a looooong time to come out this evening.  Like not eating until 2230.  But when my whole sea bass with grilled vegetables came out and they prepared it tableside, I had no whole30 regrets.  That was a tasty fish, my friends.

After we finally found a taxi that would seat five, chatted with the sitter, got ready for bed and did more reading than we should, bedtime was 0030.

Day 21:  Knowing we have a busy day ahead and that bedtime was late, I did not set an alarm.  I get up naturally at 700.  I am yawning, but alert.

I do my Ab exercises.  Instead of trying to do ALL the situps and then ALL the crunches, etc. I split them in half and put my meditation in the middle.  Kids are stirring towards the end, but I power through.

We have an epic day planned.  After a record of only eight minutes behind the official unofficial Melissa schedule, we take a bus to Trastevere and check out the Porta Portese flea market.  It was fun, but I would have enjoyed it more if it were a few degrees cooler.  We enjoy a nice lunch on the Piazza di Santa Maria, but I’m struggling on my order.  I can’t do grilled fish without getting a huge ginormous fish and nobody is interested in splitting and I just had fish last night.  In the end, I do a shrimp and arugula salad from the appetizer menu.  I destroy an entire avocado once we get home.

Things are decidedly fishy this weekend.  I prepare fish with mushrooms and more shrimp for dinner.  (The fish dish (cergia) was a hit, but I’m going to have to stop buying shrimp here.  They just don’t taste right to me.)

After a full day, I’m ready to hit the hay.  I’m in bed and reading before my 2106 alarm goes off.  But the best laid plans . . .  Henry is up and screaming around 2230.  He is quickly extricated to avoid waking up his brother.  We let him read in bed with us for a bit.  I am wrapping up my book and read way too late.  I think until 2330.  Henry wakes up again at 230.  Needless to say, it was not the most restful night.

Day 22:  I wake up around 630, but I don’t get up until almost 700.  I make it out to the computer, and I fail to do any exercising or meditating.  Huzzah.

Not sure why, but I have a killer headache this morning.  It is around earlier, but it gets really bad when I am outside.  An Alleve seems to help.

My mom tags along to the market with us this morning.  I can’t get over how good all the produce is here right now, particularly the fruit.  I buy oodles of cherries, peaches, and some fruit that may be a kumquat or an apricot.  [We decided definitely apricot.]

I also make another nongross dinner!  [Low standards, people.]  I make zucchini noodles with tomatoes and a lemon/egg/hot pepper sauce.  It is shockingly good.  This was a relief because I was really not enthused about the crappy dinner when I sat down to it.  Ugh, more whole30 nonsense, oh wait, this is actually really good.

Stay up reading until about 2300.  (OK, it was 2302, if you must know.)

Day 23:  I wake up on my own at 546.  Because this seems way too early, I read for a bit and try to sleep.  But no dice.  I still feel a little tired, but alert and rested.

I doubt this is related to my 30 day adventure, but just in case this is somehow related to ALL THE FACE WASHING or such, I want to mention that my eyes have been super dry.  Like wake up in the morning and sandpapery dry.  Like takes them at least 30 minutes to feel normal kind of dry.  No, I have not tried eye drops yet because I am really bad at them.  That’s right.  Even though I’ve had contacts longer in my life now than not and I can touch my eyeballs, I just can’t with the eye drops.  Occasionally, I can convince James to assist, but it is about as much fun as tracking down our cat to stuff in the carrier to take to the vet used to be.

Today is a holiday, Republic Day, in Italy.  Thinking it will be a good time to get out of dodge, we set off on an adventure and use three forms of public transportation to get to the ruins at Ostia Antica.  Here’s a pro tip:  when trying to avoid people, don’t use the train that heads in the same direction as the beach.  It is crowded, but we managed.

Thankfully, even though the Ostia Antica site is a few kilometers from the coast, there is still a nice breeze.  Otherwise, it would be brutal.  Temps are in the 90s.

The cafeteria there is better than expected.  While most everyone else has pasta al forno, I have chicken cacciatore with carrots and fruit.  It tastes like cafeteria food, but at least I’m not starving.

Coming home is one of the greatest temptations of the challenge.  We had been out ALL day.  We were tired.  And sweaty.  It was a good trip, but long, you know?  We decide to stop for gelato on the walk back.  Because of everything we had done and how hot it was, gelato just felt right.  Or a beer.  But THIS was the time when you really feel like gelato will hit the spot.  But I make it through.  When we get home, I pound a whole bottle of sparkling water.

I do rest for a bit, but my gelato angst is eased after I realize that I don’t feel completely wiped out.  I still have energy to move around and cook dinner.  This is huge because with kids, you can’t just go on a huge adventure and then lazily collapse somewhere.  They still expect to be entertained.  And fed.  Pesky kids.

I do decide to make it an early night though.  When the kids are in the tub, I do my whole bedtime routine.  After we put them down, I crawl into bed with my book.  I end up having to turn my bedtime alarm off because I’m out at like 2130.  Henry wakes up at 2330 for a brief scream, but what are you gonna do.

Day 24:  After that early bedtime, I thought I’d be rocketing out of bed at 500 or some nonsense.  But I must have been very tired because I wake up at 600 something and get up at 636.  Feeling pretty good.

Today I decide that attempting both the plank and ab challenges is no longer working.  I plan to jettison the plank challenge, but it is an ab rest day so I do the planks instead.  But then I chuck the planks.  Like I actually close the tab on my browser.  (Now only 78 tabs to go.)

Speaking of my abs, I’m definitely seeing results.  I’m no bikini model, but I can see definite definition, which I enjoy looking at, particularly first thing in the morning before that pesky food-in-stomach thing hides them a little.

Me:  “You better hide the scissors.”

James:  (confused look)

Me:  “To stop me from cutting all my shirts in half,” while lovingly caressing abs.

James:  (Hides head, either in shame OR because he can no longer look directly at the wonder of my sculpted physique.)

Day 25:  I get up a little bit early.  I have time to do 50 rollups, but I never get around to finishing the challenge.  Whoops.  If I don’t get it done in the morning, I just can’t seem to make it happen.

Bedtime is around 2245, but I have a terrible night.  I don’t know if it something me-related or worry about our upcoming trip or just because there is more light bleed in the room because the repair dude says we need to keep the shades open so that our mobile AC has more air.  But I wake up a few times and toss and turn.  Exactly what you need before a big trip!

Day 26:  Today I should get double checkmarks for getting up early!  I get up at 500 to get ready for our big trip to Turin.  But I should get negative checkmarks because I don’t do any exercising or meditating as we are trying to get out the door.

Water consumption suffers, but I definitely get in my steps as we try to cover the city in a day.  [More on our day trip to Turin soon!]

Unlike my previous whole30 faux pas, I decide to eat a deliberately off-plan food.  Turin is the home of gianduja, a chocolate and hazelnut mix that is one of my absolute favorites.  Coming all the way here and not trying it feels like going to the Sistine Chapel but walking around with a blindfold on.  OK, this is an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.  It just feels wrong.  I enjoy the chocolate, which was melting much too rapidly to contemplate taking any home, but I don’t chuck the whole day.  I don’t have any pasta or wine at lunch.  I don’t have the gelato at the airport.  This is how I hope to live life post-whole30.  Generally sticking to whole30-ish rules unless there is a good reason not to.  (Of course, real life happens, and I predict everything will be off the rails before I know it.  But I hope not.)

The offending chocolate

The offending chocolate

After our return flight and getting home and getting the kids settled and eating some protein, bed is at 2300.  I am beat.

Day 27:  After such an epic day, I decide not to set my alarm.  I wake up at 725.  I mean to do more exercise, but I only squeeze in a 60 second plank before I have to deal with some chilluns.

I invite some neighbors and friends over for playground happy hour, and I think it turns out nicely.  I can’t have the bread or cheese, but I enjoy the olives and cherries.  Socializing without wine isn’t so bad either.

This evening, I just can’t seem to shut it off.  Even though I got to see people, I want MORE adult time.  Bed time is at 2310.

Day 28:  I wake up at 5:something, but manage to drift back to sleep.  I actually dream that I sleep until 8:00 and feel a little guilty about “sleeping in,” but I decide to go with it because it is the weekend.  Then I look at my clock and it is actually 6:15.  Guess I still get my “X” today.

I do half the ab exercises.  When I started, I told myself there would be no partial credit, but I’m giving myself half an “X” for this.  200 situps and crunches is nothing to sneeze at, thank you very much.

I try a breakfast bowl with sweet potatoes, peaches, and poached eggs.  I like the idea of it, but it was a little off.

Today we adventure to Nemi for the strawberry festival.  And today, I again relinquish my whole30 “X.”  This time it was for strawberries with homemade whipped cream.  As before, I don’t go crazy for the rest of the day.  I don’t have the bread with my pork sandwich.  I don’t have any of the strawberry liqueur.  Ideally, I would have abstained, but I’m OK with this.

Strawberry arancio, strawberry pastry, and of course, strawberries

Strawberry arancino, strawberry pastry, and of course, strawberries.  (I only ate the strawberries.)

After the busy weekend, I’m in bed by 2200 with lights out at 2230.

Day 29:  I wake up on own at 600.  Other than my eyes being kind of dry, I’m raring to go.

I do half the ab exercises again before my meditation.  Half is good.  Still challenging, but not so much that I don’t even want to start or that it crowds out everything else, like meditation.

I repurpose last night’s leftover fish for dinner into a sort of fish salad with mayo, tomatoes, chives, and smoked paprika.  James, who was not the biggest fan: “I don’t see how you just plowed through that.”  Taste buds, man.  They have definitely shifted.

Bedtime is an epic fail.  I’m doing that thing where I’m being kind of productive on the internet and kind of surfing and I look down and it is 2230.  Oops.  Then I read until 2330.  Double drat.

Day 30:  I wake up at 530.  Uh, say what?  I don’t feel like getting up, but I’m the kind of awake where you know you won’t be going back to sleep.  At least I have plenty of time for my half ab challenge and meditation.

To beat the heat, my playgroup hits the indoor museum, Explora.  Afterwards, we get gelato.  I actually don’t miss it that much.  The boys are pretty cranky though that I expect them to share, instead of Mac sharing with me like usual.  I’m not sure what I expect from a 2.5 year old and a 1 year old, but they are not having it.

I’m kind of tired today, and I opt for a power nap during part of the kids’ naptime.  I don’t know if it is lack of sleep or just being wiped out from the sun.  It’s weird; it is pretty pleasant in the shade but the direct sun has become almost unbearable.

Tonight is date night.  We decide to go check out the summer festival stuff along the river, but it isn’t open yet.  I get my steps in on our nice long walk though.  I lose my whole30 check because I decide to have a sip of James’s beer.  I’d been smelling some of his beverages throughout the challenge, and I just wanted a taste.  I blame some of this on my less-than-satisfying dinner I made this evening.  We had fish with roasted asparagus and tomato.  I should have added sweet potato and side salad though.

AND instead of closing out the challenge on a strong note, I have a truly awful bedtime fail.  After paying the sitter, getting ready for bed, and reading, lights out is actually around 2345.  I guess I know which habit needs more work and likely a different approach.


So there you have it.  Curious what I did on Day 31?  I got up on my own at 630, did some ab exercises and meditation, and made eggs for breakfast.  Then I had a big old salad for lunch.  (I also attacked James with the tape measure in an eagerness to see how much things changed.  I’m sure you are not surprised by this.)

Definitely not a perfect record, but I think I jumpstarted some healthy habits.  I’m glad I did it.

Stick around!  Later this week, I’ll be assessing how everything worked and sharing, dum dum dum, results.

3 Reasons to try Antica Taverna

Being the shortest in my family, I have developed the ridiculous habit of standing on tip toes in all family pictures.

Being the shortest in my family, I have developed the ridiculous habit of standing on tip toes in all family pictures.

As you may have heard, we have all the guests right now.  Instead of trying an old standby, Antica Enoteca, we decided to branch out to a different restaurant also named Antica.  This actually isn’t too strange.  I’ve noticed that Italy is swimming with Antica Ristorantes, Enotecas, and Cafes.

Unlike some other restaurants I’ve covered, Antica Taverna is decidedly downtown.  The restaurant is only a few blocks from Piazza Navona, but far enough away to feel like you’ve one-upped the tourists.

It also has a decidedly Italian feel.  Like what you think of when you envision a very stereotypical restaurant.  Red checkered tablecloths.  Murals involving grapes.  You may want to discount my opinion because I have a high tolerance for kitsch, but I thought it was charming and cozy.

1) Prosecco while you wait

Even though we (read James) made a reservation, we had to wait a few minutes for our table.  To pass the time, we all received glasses of prosecco.  It wasn’t the best prosecco and they weren’t the biggest pours, but I adore prosecco and I appreciated the gesture.  It did feel fancy standing around and sipping while perusing the menu chalkboard.

Yes, yes, wine not prosecco, you get the idea.

Yes, yes, wine not prosecco pictured, but you get the idea.

2) Crazy good eggplant parmigiana

All of our food was good.  The eggplant parmigiana was excellent.  Best I’ve ever had.  Full stop.

GET THIS.  I had to wrestle the fork from  James to get a picture.

GET THIS. I had to wrestle the fork from James to get a picture.

It came in its own bubbly ramekin.  The dish was simultaneously greasy and light, if you can picture such a thing.  The grease was not in a why-did-I-eat-that-second-cheeseburger way, but ooo, oily from real olive oil and tasty cheese.  The eggplant, tomatoes, and basil all made the dish taste fresh in an I-can-almost-consider-this-healthy way, until you remember all the gooey cheese.

If I come again, we will skip any pasta and just order one eggplant parm per person.  Easy peasy, the end.

Fried cod, fiori di zucca, and mozzarella con prosciutto

Fried cod, fiori di zucca, and mozzarella con prosciutto

These pastas are good, but they only wish they could be the eggplant parmigiana.

These pastas are good, but they only wish they could be the eggplant parmigiana.

3) Stupid cheap

For just over 30 euro per person, we had two bottles of house wine, antipasti, primi, secondi, dessert, limoncello, and coffee.  A few dishes were shared, but STILL.  If you’d ever like the full courses experience without breaking the bank, Antica Taverna has you covered.  Of course, my bill will be even cheaper next time because I will just have eggplant parm and wine, squeezing in some dolce if I can.  The pear and chocolate tart was pretty sensational.

The tiramisu was also quite tasty for those of you into that sort of thing.  I know, I am the worst.

The tiramisu was also quite tasty for those of you into that sort of thing. I know, I am the worst.

5.6_antica taverna 3

Antica Taverna
via Monte Giordano 12
(+39) 0668801053
Open daily from noon to midnight
Reservation form on website

ICYMI: Finishing Out Food Week

4.17_ICYMI

Does it get more Italian than this?

On the blog:

To kick off food week, I shared about my love/hate/love relationship with food.  Also, some deets on the Mercato Esquilino in there.

Breakfast is, without a doubt, our most consistently paleo meal of the day.  Here is our version of a “sexy” paleo breakfast.

And I talked about one of my favorite restaurants in Rome, a decidedly non-paleo place.  #pastaporn

On the internets:

“But the thing is — it’s not good for children to have infinitely patient, saintly mothers, because the world is not infinitely patient and saintly. . . . It’s good for kids to recognize the incipient stages of someone losing their shit.”  Interesting thoughts.

I need to try this immediately.  Mayo, who knew?

Ever planned a girls’ get together of any kind?  This podcast will make you snort your coffee.  Hey Ladies . . . (Yeah, for now, continuing with podcasting.  Listening anyways.  No immediate plans to launch a Roman Reboot podcast.)

Check out this doodle diary of a new mom.  Yup.

Coming up:

My sis, BIL, and my absolutely adorbs niece are here!  We’ll be trying to see as much as we can with three kids under three.  At least the weather seems to be cooperating.  Hope you have a good one!

My favorite restaurant, every other time: Antica Enoteca

Ah, Antica Enoteca.  I just can’t quit you.  Things are so good.  And then they are meh.  But then you come around again.  It’s really every other time.

#1  My first trip, I was skeptical.  We sat outside, right beside an American couple, where duder asked for ice I swear four different times.  I’m not anti-tourist and definitely not anti-‘Merican, but I do use this as a proxy for restaurant expectation.  But then the pasta came.  I got carciofi with guanciale (artichoke with pork cheek) and James did his usual amatriciana.

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Best pasta I’ve had yet in Rome.  Full stop.  Mic drop.

#2  Our friends came into town after Christmas.  Other friends here graciously agreed to babysit.  W00t!  Big night out.  Instead of trying somewhere new, I decided to play it safe and revisit a sure thing.  See, here, you can easily get an amazing meal, but it is also easy to get a meh meal.

Antica was packed!  Luckily, we had a reservation, but we still had to wait a bit.  This was no hardship because I discovered Antica has London Pride on tap.  As someone who is always on the hunt for hops, this was a pretty awesome pre-dinner drink.  Also, the bar is very cool looking, like too cool for me to be hanging out there, and it was big night out w00t!

Once we sat, I ordered the same pasta.  This was admittedly a risky strategy.  Either you know you are getting something great or you are getting something that can never live up to the memory.  Sadly, my experience was the latter.  It was definitely good.  Our friends liked their food.  But it was not the best pasta I’ve had in Rome.  Womp womp.

1.16_guide

#3  Undeterred by the minor setback, we took my mom during her visit in February.  I learned my lesson and stayed away from the carciofi/guanciale masterpiece of my memories.  But my mom didn’t.  She let me try hers.  Best pasta ever again!  I was a little remorseful, but I consoled myself with my gnocchi that was also stupid good.

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#4  Feeling uncreative and thinking pasta plus a pre-dinner London Pride sounded like a good idea, James and I ended up back at Antica on a date night.  This time the experience was actually kind of bad.  They were out of London Pride, but they didn’t mention that until they brought a substitute.  He offered to swap it if we didn’t like it, but not that helpful . . .  The service was really slow.  And when we got our pasta, it was just ok.  Better than what I can make at home, but nothing to write home about.  Boo.

So there you have it.  I’m hesitant to give you a glowing recommendation because I just don’t know which Antica you will get.  Will it be the pasta dreams are made of or just an average plate of blah?

I can say that Antica has a solid wine-by-the glass selection and some very good charcuterie.  Even if you don’t opt to try the pasta, I’d definitely suggest grabbing a seat and a snack at the bar.  If you are feeling burnt out on Italian wine, you could even get a London Pride.  Most of the time.

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Antica Enoteca
http://www.anticaenoteca.com
Via della Croce, 76/b Roma
06/6790896

What makes your favorite restaurant your fave?  Would you forgive them for some uneven quality issues or are they dead to you forever?

Do you pepper your pasta? (Restaurant review: Cacio e Pepe)

Woohoo, date night!  This is something I adore about our time in Rome.  Back in DC, we didn’t go out a ton without the kids.  First, it was tough to find people.  Even once we found people, when I was working at the law firm, I just didn’t want to leave Henry.  It wasn’t that I didn’t trust people.  It wasn’t that I felt guilty.  I just really felt like I needed to grab all the time I could with him.  Even though intellectually I knew we got good quality time together and an evening out would be no problem, I just didn’t want to go.

Fast forward to Rome, now I have oodles of time with the adorable weirdos and I have no qualms about some time away.  We’ve also “discovered” the practice of having the sitter come when the kids are already in bed.  This way we get our evening family time, I can feed Mac, and a sitter isn’t trying to juggle the bedtime routine, one of the more complicated aspects of our day.  It works great in Italy when things don’t open until later anyway.  We’ll probably change it up when the kids are a little older, trying for more day outings and handing over the reins on bedtime.  But for now, it’s just easy.

We now have a weekly sitter.  In practice, it doesn’t work out every week because of our schedule or her schedule or illness or life, but most weeks we get to hit the town.  Which is awesome because I want to try everything.

I took to the internets for some date night inspiration and stumbled across Rome’s 6 Must-Eat Dishes.  A closed list that I can methodically pick off?  Yes, please.  We’ve been to Armando al Pantheon but neglected to try the saltimbocca.  Oops, I guess we’ll be back.  But for this adventure, we headed across the river to Cacio e Pepe.

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For our purposes this evening, Cacio e Pepe is both a restaurant and a dish.

This pasta dish couldn’t be simpler: pecorino Romano cheese and fresh black pepper are swirled with cooking water from the pasta to make it creamy (and then, obviously, swirled with the pasta — cooked al dente, of course — itself). But the fewer ingredients and steps to a dish, the more important it is that they’re all perfect, right? And no place does it more perfectly than Rome, where the dish originated.

Try cacio e pepe at (big surprise!) Cacio e Pepe, which has managed to remain a surprisingly hidden gem, given its easy location in Prati and its local reputation for solid Roman classics.

So pepper on pasta . . . As Henry would say, “that’s weird.”  Right?  But don’t knock it until you try it.  The three ingredients in the dish pack a creamy, spicy punch.  Here’s a little more on how the dish came to be.

And the the cacio e pepe at Cacio e Pepe is LEGIT.  I hearted this restaurant.  They have a tiny interior with full view of the tiny kitchen, complete with bubbling cauldrons of pasta on the stove, and a bathroom up stairs that look like they lead to a hay loft.  The real action is outside in the spacious patio area out front.  Thankfully, for our February trip, it is covered and equipped with heaters.

This is a place where they don’t hand you a menu; you just order one of the three house pastas, five if you count two specials that evening.  This is a place where you just order some vino della casa and enjoy your carafe out of tumblers.  This is a place where they have secondi, but coming for those would just be silly.  Checked tablecloths?  Check.  It was great.

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I opted for cacio e pepe, for obvious reasons.  Somebody had to do it.  James got the carbonara.  Picture similar but less pepper, add bacon and egg.

Just look at this pasta.  It was a heaping bowl of delicious.  I’ve had cacio e pepe at other restaurants, but this is my fave so far.  I think other places didn’t add enough pepper.  Or cheese.  Not an issue here.

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The heaters were my only knock on the place.  They kept me plenty warm, but the pasta cooled off fast.  This meant my first few bites were pure heaven, and the rest was just really good.  I don’t think James and I said anything the whole meal as we wolfed our pasta down in a race against the temps.

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I’m certainly not knocking the price!  I think this was our cheapest date night yet.  With water, a half liter of wine, bread charge, and two pasta dishes, our total was 23 euro.  Not too shabby.

I’m not sure I’d make a special trip over to this restaurant, but if you find yourself out its way, I’d definitely recommend.  And if you find yourself looking to jazz up your pasta at home, maybe think about reaching for the pepper grinder.  (Or the honey!)

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Cacio e Pepe
Via Giuseppe Avezzana, 11
06 3217268

UPDATE:  Anthony Bourdain says cacio e pepe is the number one thing you should eat in Rome.  He also recommends Cacio e Pepe.

Itinerary for me Ma

Lucky for me as a sightseeing planner, my mom has been to Rome a few times.  This means she will be excited to see things, but we don’t feel like we have to pack in every single sight.

So I have put together a sort of wish list for my mom’s stay.  As you will see, there is plenty of flexibility.

Pasta

Pizza – maybe from Gaudi?

White wine

Red wine

Gelateria Salaria, our favorite close by gelato.

Come il Latte.  Simply the best.  Better than all the rest.

Catacombs of Priscilla

Villa Borghese

Villa Ada

Walk around downtown

A market

Montepulciano

More gardens, maybe Villa d’Este in Tivoli

Hopefully I will be able to report back on successful list completion.  The weather is not on our side this week, but we’ll do what we can and hope things will look up.  Now I must away.  Somebody couldn’t be bothered to stay asleep for all of nap time and is trying to eat my arms as I type.