A while back I mentioned that I was working on a big new project. To ring in 2011 I’ll tell you about it. I’m about to publish an App on what and where to eat in Rome. After all of these years of people asking for my ‘list’ of restaurants, food stores and just where to get good eats in Rome, this little baby will make it easy for you to have it in your hand. (or your iPad or computer). I’m just about finished with it, so stay tuned.
The happy outcome of this new project is not only have I been revisiting all my old and beloved haunts, it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone to try some new and wonderful places I’ve been meaning to get to for so long. So the first post of 2011 is about one of my new discoveries: Flavio al Velavevodetto.
I’d been hearing about this place for a while. It’s in Testaccio, and lots of people (including Slow Food’s Carlo Petrini) raved about it. But the strange name meant I never really thought about it. The name? Flavio is the name of the chef/owner who recently took over this already established restaurant. And Velavevodetto (the name he inherited from the previous owner) is sort of Roman for “I told you so.”
Flavio De Maio used to be one of the cooks and partners at the neighborhood’s most famous restaurants, Felice. Two years ago he went out on his own, and took over this place down the street.
We went a few weekends ago, and since it was winter we sat inside. The setting is super cool, and I would almost recommend going just for that. It’s set deep into the the Monte Testaccio, which is where the Romans used to dump their garbage a couple of thousand years ago. But since their ‘garbage’ was old terracotta amphorae, the entire hill is made from rich, earthy bits of pots, stacked one upon the other. The back wall of Flavio’s is faced with glass so you can actually see the bits and pieces. Pretty neat.
But getting back to the food. If you know me, you know one of my favorite restaurants in Rome is Perilli’s just down the street. So venturing into another Testaccio restaurant seemed like I was sort of cheating on them. And true, the menu looks the same. The same hearty Roman dishes like carbonara, amatriciana, tripe, etc. But as it turns out the printed menu is just for show. There is always a long and tempting list of daily specials (something Perilli never does). The waiter will come and tell you the dozen daily dishes. If you don’t get them the first time around, make him repeat them. It’s worth it.
I left the Amatriciana-eating to Sophie (of course) while I dug into a plate of Pasta con Carciofi. Huge massive chunks of artichokes, cooked till just barely tender, jostled up against enough quanciale to make me really happy. And Domenico’s Trofie con Broccoli Romanesco was extraordinary.
The seconds were fab too. Domenico had Bolitto that had been sliced and reheated in a delicious rich gravy, that seemed not-so-Roman, but was impossible to stop eating. I ordered one of their daily specials: fried meat balls. Sounds weird, but if they have it the day you go, order it. Light and delicate, a mix of beef and chicken, with a crispy coating of breadcrumbs. And something I really loved: served with a side of raisin-studded escarole and potatoes that had obviously been roasting nestled next to some wonderfully fatty pork roast.