Vermeer & Texas Salad: Italy update #2

Comfort food after a day of sightseeing in Rome.

Comfort food after a day of sightseeing in Rome.

Day one ended with dinner at Da Francesco and that was a good move!  I had read about it on one my favorite blogs, 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson. Just a few blocks from Hotel Raphael where we are staying in Rome, Da Francesco serves Roman style pizza, very thin from a super hot oven with the crust slightly blistered black. We loved the wiry pizza maker who kneaded the dough athletically before tossing it and we were the only Americans there. Paul relished every bite of his pizza Margharita!

I had tonno vitello. This translates to Tuna with Veal. Sounds strange, but it’s delicious. Years ago we visited Ascona, in Switzerland’s Italian region with my brother, two young nephews and sister-in-law Karen whose mother is from there. One of my best memories is being served tuna vitello the evening we arrived exhausted from plane, train and auto travel. Karen’s dear Italian friend, Sylvia, said tonno vitello was just the thing after a long journey. We were nervous about the tuna/veal combo, but our fears were unfounded. Italian tuna in oil is really tasty. For this dish, it’s whipped to a velvety mousse, spread on thin slices of roasted veal breast and sprinkled with capers.  It is indeed perfect. So that’s what I had last night. I also had grappa afterwards for digestive purposes and slept like a baby.

This morning we fortified ourselves with cappuccinos from the amazing Hotel Raphael breakfast and thrust ourselves out into the rain again. We walked to the Piazza Popolo, Spanish steps (check out Guy Clark’s Dubliner Blues for my favorite song reference to the Spanish Steps) and Trevi Fountain, visiting several churches along the way. Paul was especially taken with the scale and beauty of Trevi. And yes, coins were tossed to ensure return visits!  The rainy walk was worth it though the narrow sidewalks of old Rome seem especially narrow when everyone is carrying umbrellas. It’s interesting to guess who will give way and who will pretend you don’t exist as umbrellas vie for space.

Our next destination was Museo de Quirinale  to see a Vermeer exhibit at 2:00 p.m.  We arrived in the area at 1:00 to find ourselves in a government compound with no restaurants so suffered through lunch at the nearest tourist bar. The TEXAS SALAD was edible but the rest was awful. ‘Nuff said.

After all that walking, we decided to take an elevator at the museum. We waited and waited. Finally the door opened and out marched 20+ preschoolers who were packed in like the proverbial sardines. Even the slightly grumpy man waiting next to us had to smile!

We enjoyed the Vermeer exhibit and happened on an official ceremony featuring a marching band and other precision military units parading in the drizzle.  We never figured out the purpose but it was fun to watch! Last stop was a revisit at the Pantheon for Paul to apply some history he had read the night before.

Finally made it to a bar near the hotel around five to rest our tired feet and have a refreshing glass of Prosecco and tiny cocktail sandwiches to hold us until our late dinner. It’s much more fun to eat late with the Italians than alone at seven!  In the cozy bar, the zipper on my coat refused to separate at the bottom. I finally dropped the coat to the floor and stepped out of it much to the amusement of two Italian crones at the bar.

We dined at Da Francesco again because it was  so good, so comfortable and so near the hotel after a long day afoot. Good house red, Roman style artichokes, perfect pizza and roast chicken with rosemary roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach. Simple and perfect for our last night in Rome.