The food in Italy is amazing. We’ve had so many wonderful meals there, but one lunch in Rome was particularly memorable.
We’d just finished a morning tour of the Vatican and were searching the streets near the Pantheon for a restaurant one of our party had been to a few nights before. We couldn’t find it, so wandered into er Faciolaro. A large local family were in the midst of a long lunch, which we took as a good sign. We were enthusiastically waved to a table and menus pushed into our hands. The waiter rapid-fired Italian at us and we managed to order beers, coke and mineral water. The drinks arrived with a plate of prosciutto and olives and baskets of crusty bread, this was swiftly followed by a plate of white beans. We exchanged worried looks, not only was food we had not ordered appearing on the table – it was beans. The bravest of our group spooned a small serve of beans onto their plate and tentatively tasted it. “Oh wow,” he mumbled, shovelling more beans into his mouth. The bowl was passed swiftly around the table and soon emptied of its delicious contents. I later discovered this dish was one of the house specialties, ‘fagioli al fiasco’ (beans in a flask), cannellini beans cooked with olive oil, garlic, sage, salt and pepper. It was described in English on the menu as ‘beans’, so we would never have ordered it, but I have been looking for it on Italian restaurant menus ever since.
We made a valiant attempt to regain control of our lunch, ordering three pizzas. We thought we’d ordered one with pepperoni, but it arrived covered with roast capsicum (‘peperoni’ in Italian). It was a tasty error, all three pizzas were excellent. The lack of pepperoni had the boys craving meat. The saltimbocca caught their eye; veal, ham, butter – enough said. It exceeded all expectations, and remains a favourite of Nato’s to this day.
We ordered a round of coffees, the waiter scoffing at the cappuccino orders and nodding approvingly at the espressos. I declined a coffee, but the waiter must have thought it essential that I have coffee in some form so presented me with a tiramisu – it was divine.
Bottes of limoncello and grappa arrived at the table with glasses for us to pour for ourselves. Nato reached for the limoncello and the waiter threw his hands in the air in horror. “Per le donne” he exclaimed pointing at the limoncello and then the ladies, “per gli uomini” he gestured to the men and firmly placed the grappa in front of Nato. The boys took sneaky sips of limoncello while the waiter was busy with the other tables.
We called for the bill. With all the unordered food we’d eaten we had no idea what the total would be and when the bill appeared on the table we eyed it warily. Nato extended a cautious hand and flipped open the leather cover. His eyebrows shot up as he read the total. “Eighty Euro,” he announced in amazement, “less than twenty Euro each”. We left one hundred Euro and waved away the change. Our delighted waiter double kissed us all, posed for photos and then showed us out a torrent of “grazie mille” and “ciao”.
Via dei Pastini, 123, 00186 Rome