Friday, November 4, 2011
The other day one of my favorite restaurant blogs in Rome, Tavole Romane, ran a restaurant review written by a guest. The guest in question was Swedish and so was the restaurant, so it made sense.
The restaurant was Bla Kongo, and the reviewer was John R. I’ve been following John for a while now on twitter. Although we’ve never had any interaction longer than 140 characters, I’ve gotten a feel for how he cooks and what he likes to eat. He’s an extraordinarily talented young chef, having worked with the likes of Rene Redzepi at Noma, was the sous chef at Antico Arco, and is currently the sous chef at Rome’s hottest new restaurant, Roy Carceres’ Metamorfosi
So. What was John doing in an out of the way Swedish restaurant in Rome that no one really talks about, eating what looked like (at least in the photograph) canned herring and meatballs shipped in straight from Ikea?
Did he trash the place? On the contrary. He was incredibly gracious, offered some advice for improving and gave the place points for trying.
And that’s the thing about us ex-patriots in Rome. Or anywhere I expect. Give us enough time spent eating the local fare (even if it is extraordinary) and eventually we will have a hankering for Swedish Meatballs.
Or, in my case, a hamburger.
Which is why I was so pleased to be asked to participate in a hamburger contest in Rome that is starting this week. Along with two other Rome-based food bloggers (Stefano Magini and Luciana Squadrilli - yes, I"m the token American) we’ll be checking out what has become the latest ‘exotic’ trend to hit Rome: The Hamburger.
My personal history with hamburgers in Rome dates back to the early ’70’s, when I lived here with my family. Yes, I loved all the pizza, pasta and gelato (and it obviously had a huge effect on the trajectory of the rest of my life) but want to know one of my fondest memories of that period? Taking the bus, with my best friend Lizzie Cantor, to Piazza Barberini to visit Picadilly, which was (correct me if I’m wrong) the only ‘foreign’ restaurant in Rome at the time. We’d take a seat at the counter, and each order a huge burger, that somehow - even at age 13 - we associated with home.
How was it? That was sort of beside the point. What we were biting into was 1 part taste and two parts nostalgia.
Picadilly has long since closed, but it’s been replaced by the likes of Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe. And of course - sadly - McDonalds, Burger King and the like.
But a funny thing has happened recently in Rome. The hamburger has come out of the American restaurant closet. A few of the city’s best Italian chefs have decided that they want to have their say when it comes to burgers.
As you’d expect the bar has been set much higher than the fast food burgers. And while some Americans may set incredibly strict standards that their burgers must adhere to, I’m sort of excited to see the Italian spin on this American classic (excluding of course the shameful Gualtieri Marchese MdDonald’s episode). Will there be ketchup, pickles and french fries?
What burgers will we be tasting? Some of the newest ones to make it onto Rome's menus.
Here’s the list:
Pastificio San Lorenzo
And the great thing is that you can join along (as long as you can get yourself to Rome, that is). If you’re an American expat, I’m sure you don’t need any excuse to get your burger on. If you’re Italian, well then, now’s your chance.
The contest starts on November 10. Just go to the Urbana 47 web site, and register. You’ll receive an email with a card to print out that allows you to taste each burger at a discount. Once you’ve tried them all, go back to the web site and cast your vote. The contest ends on December 1. The results will be announced as well as the bloggers ‘expert’ opinion. And of course there's gonna be a celebration.
In the mean time, stop by here in the comments section and let me know how it’s going, what you think. Are they the hamburgers you remember from your youth? Is this the way you always thought a hamburger would taste? What do you think is important when it comes to a hamburger?
Or are you like me, and just happy to be taking a big bite of something that reminds you of home?