Monday, April 12, 2010

Ristorante Mario

My last night in Rome, I went to the closest restaurant to my hotel, Ristorante Mario. It was in my guidebook, which described it as a Tuscan restaurant loved by both tourists and locals, and sure enough, the warren of dining rooms was filled with a reassuringly eclectic variety of diners. The waiter led me through to the back room, where I sat at a small table covered with a cheery yellow cloth and nibbled a breadstick as I watched the next table over be served one of those gigantic, bloody Florentine steaks, which they divided up among the four of them.
Such carnivory was not for me, however. I ordered ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach. It arrived in a wonderfully fresh sauce of chopped tomato and olive oil, topped with parmesan cheese and accompanied by a nifty little cheese box whose handle, when swiveled backward, also lifted the lid. I piled on a bit more parmesan and enjoyed. To be honest, I don't remember the filling or even the pasta, but the fresh acidity of the tomato sauce (I know, I know, how fresh could it have been in March?) was truly delicious.
For my contorno, I chose another artichoke preparation: carciofi alla Romana. These are cooked to pure velvet and doused in olive oil. They were perfectly tender and could have been a meal in themselves accompanied by nothing but the crusty-outside, pillowy-inside bread (some of the only bread I've had in Italy that was worth writing home about).
And for dessert, I took another chance on tiramisu. Again, it was a different interpretation than I'd ever seen, but this time it paid off. The slices of spongy cake were thick enough that there was a clear delineation between the plain side and the side soaked in coffee liqueur, there was a perfect ratio of cream to cake, and best of all, there were crunchy little chunks of chocolate buried underneath as well as that puddle of chocolate sauce pooled on top. This is the tiramisu I will attempt to make when I finally undertake that challenge at home. It was a triumphant finish to my short but endlessly rewarding adventure in Roma.

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