The eternal city

It will be here waiting for you.

Renato e Luisa

Portrait of a hipster: XVI or XXI century

I sat across from him on the subway last night. He got off at Pyramide too.

Roman water fountains - a primer

Step 1. Locate fountain (hint: they're everywhere).

Step 2. Plug tap with finger. Depending on the force of the water flowing though, only cover it partially. You want a gentle arc, not a 20-ft spray.

Step 3. Enjoy!


Alla fine, siamo tutti camerieri*

So, yeah. Go. Now I'm getting all bossy on you, but you'll thank me later.

Though I was alone, they did not seat me near the washrooms, or in the basement, but by the front door, right beside the deli counter (swoon).

My waiter only replied to me in Italian. They offered burrata four different ways. Had a menu page devoted to the winter truffle. Here's my burrata, along with some mozzerella, just for kicks.
But maybe my favourite part? The staff dashing through the rain to pick up fresh breads from their bakery location right up the street (the yellow sign that says FORNO).

Also, the umbrella guessing game everyone is playing when they leave. (See umbrellas, left.)

Also, that broccoli is used as a generic category of vegetables (the baked broccoli is actually broccoli, cauliflower, and broccoli romanesco). (Although, to be fair, this is the case for bitter greens in many places.)

* My translation: In the end, we are all waiters. On a tshirt at Roscioli.


 I already liked how it looked from the outside. I'll take old school class like that any day.

Then I walked in. I was so cold. It was so warm. I hung up my coat as they gestured me over to the window table.... beside the radiator.

The table decorations didn't hurt.
And then. The food.

They have a prix fixe (!). Which on Thursdays includes gnocchi (which is why I was there on a Thursday, though I did have to ask - the lovely server and I had our share of communications difficulties). But it all worked out in the end, with polenta, which came as a sort of amuse:

 And a trio of a suppli, a potato croquette and some totally crazy peanut brittle topped with an anchovy (yes):
 A close-up:

 And then, the grand finale. The best polenta* I have had in my life. Ethereal, lighter than air, topped with some version of an amtriciana. Oh my god. Make a point of eating here on a Thursday.

 * Technically, they are only be tied for first, but the other contenders are no longer available. I understand that Gianni e Maria has changed owners, though feel free to give them a try. They are a little closer to home, on St. Clair W. Also, they come (came?) in a dreamy Gorgonzola sauce.



The one that made headlines (via a papal tweet) was painted over this morning, but the original (a smaller version) is still up, still protecting the neughbourhood.


This kid was gooooood!

First time I've seen someone get all the way through maschile o femminile in one shot.


But perhaps the highlight of today's show was the following true or false question (my translation):

 A properly made espresso is extracted within 45 seconds. True or false.

The contestant practically rolled his eyes, "False."

Everyone is looking around like, "Nice gimme," and the host says, "Of course, we all know that a properly made espresso will be extracted to 30 ml within 30 seconds, using 7 grams of freshly ground coffee."

Like, of course. I knew that.

The error of my ways - Part II

So, there has been a lot of chatter in the food world about a place called Pizzarium. Trouble is, chatter is notoriously unreliable. (It often just means that a restaurant (or a restaurateur) is cute). In my experiences, places that are all the rage rarely live up to the hype. And I refuse to wait in line for pizza. Or eat out in the cold. And so this particular hotspot was only peripherally on my radar.

But I just happened to spend three hours at the Vatican museums this morning, and the pizza joint just happens to be located behind the Vatican, so I just happened to stop by on the way to the subway. You know. In case there was no line.

There was not.

What there was was suppli alla coda al vacchinaria. Oh my god.

What there was was pizza with (?) guanciale, broccoli raab, potato, and some kind of crazy salsa. Don't even get me started on the crust.

What there was was pizza with spinach, fried onions and potatoes.

(I also tasted the one near the gloved hand, with the purple pickled cauliflower.)

Run, don't walk. Brave the lines. Brave the cold (though maybe not the rain).

The error of my ways - Part I

Over the past two days, I have had occasion to reflect upon my tendency to write things off. 

The first occasion was yesterday. A glorious day, perhaps the sunniest and warmest of the trip. So in the afternoon, I revised my earlier decision not to climb the cupola at St. Pete's. 

You can see here how revising this decision was the right thing to do. 

And then there's this.
While it might not look like much, this bit is near the end of a 320-step climb (yes, pay the extra two euros to take the lift halfway). The climb itself is terrifying and exhausting. The stairs get narrower, the walls actually do start to close in on you - literally. As you near the top, they curve inwards, claustrophobically. I cannot believe that a thriller doesn't exist with a chase scene up the steps.

And is it me, or does that look eerily like a hangman's rope?


Two non sequiturs

One Rome related, one not.

Why do Italians insist, and I mean strenuously insist, that you take your receipts, all of them, every time? Once I was in a restaurant and really didn't feel the need, and the owner thrust them at me, while explaining furiously... something. Any insights would be appreciated.

Edit: A second search has revealed that shop owners, and presumably restaurateurs, are subject to hefty fines if they don't give you a receipt. Thanks to The Naples Handbook - Forces canadiennes en europe.

Second edit: I want my new job to be writing city handbooks for the Canadian forces. I can't stop reading it!

I just finished a strictly mediocre mystery story that was (well, this was interesting) set in Quebec and dealt with corruption in the (get this) police department, the government, and (you know what's coming) the construction industry. It was, well, not even mediocre. Pretty terrible. A good airport read maybe. But the author used the word "staunch" incorrectly. About fifteen times (people kept getting themselves shot, don't you know). I thought I was going to murder her, and her copy editor. But I just started reading a lovely, lovely book (just started, but I am really enjoying it) and on page, say, 21, the author used the word "stanch." In the right way. I could have kissed him.


And god love Europeans

And their practical use of space.

Why does -every- kitchen not have a built in drying rack, or no, wait, two?!

Gelato update

I have eaten my fair share of gelato, most of it good, some of it exceptional. 

The most interesting flavor? 


There is a strange Canadian theme

On L'Heredit√† (my favourite game show) tonight. 

Answers have included: Montreal, feet vs metres, Gilles Villaneuve, an actor whose name I didn't catch.

There was also an awesome Horror or Western segment. 

Now they're on to a bit about a famous person who used sit in front of the window nude in the morning. (Answer: Charles Dickens.)

Guess what the name of this street is?

These are the four quarters of an intersection:

You got it:


Italian lessons

Or, the cookbook that was written for me:

I actually did spend the past week taking an Italian class, which was excellent, but I think this book will help me advance to the next level.

(My translation: The people's leftovers*: the art of reusing everything that's left over in the kitchen.)

* I suspect (but only suspect, because my Italian isn't good enough yet) that this is acutally a play on words meaning "Power to the people" or "The people's progress" or something, because while the noun means leftovers, the verb has a number of meanings, one of which is "move forward." And since the articulated preposition is missing, it looks more like it's being conjugated in the third person singular imperative here. And oh, right. I think the author grew up on a commune. I'll let you know what ht title really means quando avanzo al livello successivo.)

Edit: I have it on very good authority that the title is in fact a play on words. It would seem that "Avanti popolo!" (ahead, people!) was a famous first line from a socialist anthem of the early 20th century.

My favourite Roman parking style

Because I know you were wondering...

The Roman artichokes are the round ones.