Again craving something simple and hearty, a pizza perhaps, we acted on a tip from the distinguished Romaphiles, PL & PM, and headed back to Piazza Navona to Da Francesco. No pizza at lunch (a conspiracy to not fire up the ovens during the day?), so spaghetti for both of us. Cacio e pepe for me, with tomatoes for her. The self-serve antipasti is plentiful and excellent. How’s this: baked potato slices each topped with an anchovy and a dollop of marinara sauce? As I write, I’m thinking that I will never eat again. Except for those potatoes. The plonk we had along side was a gentle reminder that not every bottle can be a ’97 Brunello.
Sticking with a good thing, or two good things, we returned to the scene of the coffee crime and had another splendid Gran Caffe at St. Eustachio’s, this time enjoying it for half the price at the counter. Also explored their back-room roastery a bit. This place smells great! And in the name of science, we needed more samples of the San Crispino gelato.
Mirabelle is not the finest restaurant in Rome. That distinction goes definitively to La Pergola. When I asked earlier in the week about the possibility of a reservation there, I was told that they’d be happy to give me a table in mid-July. But Mirabelle also serves great food, and, situated on the seventh floor of the Hotel Splendide Royale Roma, also has a spectacular view of the city. We actually dropped by earlier in the day so that I could reconnoiter the wine list. Surprisingly, it wasn’t quite as good as the one at Paris from the previous night. But I did jot down the names of several promising bottles, in order to research them back at the hotel. When we arrived back at the restaurant at the designated time, or perhaps a few minutes, well twenty or so, late, there was a shocking turn of events. We were shown to a table inside! After some back and forth about the terrace being completely booked and, there was nothing to be done about it, and my insisting, we were shown to a nice table on the terrace. And then came a surprise! They brought over the pen which I had left behind a few hours ago. Ah, we were all friends again. As good as the food was, we were already reaching the saturation point, and the servings were huge. The standout was NAM’s pasta dish. The wine, a Marchesi di Gresey Barbaresco Camp Gros Martinenga 2000 was stunning. In a blind tasting, I would have guessed it was a red Burgundy. A mere 92 from Winespectator, but I preferred it to the Brunello from the night before. Disappointed our waiter with the “no room for desert” line, but did of course go for some more of that nice Labardolive bas Armagnac, this time the 1985. Good stuff. In all, we spent about two and a half hours there. The view was stunning, with the Villa Borghese below us and the Michelangelo’s great dome off to the left. If Rome is a beautiful city, it is at night, and from this perspective, it’s hard to resist its allure.
Not ready to say buona notte just yet, we popped in again to Harry’s. This was after checking out Cafe de Paris and being chased away by the bad music. Sitting on the terrace at about midnight, the clientelle was a little more interesting this time around. Starting to feel a little homesick, I had them search for some bourbon and eventually they dug up some Jim Beam for me. The Via Venetto of La Dolce Vita is long gone, but this gave us some feel for it.