I can still hear my friends and family telling us before we went on our trip to Italy a couple of years ago, “You are going to have the most amazing food in Italy!”  Logically speaking, I thought that was obvious.  I mean, how bad can Italian food be in Italy?  For those who have traveled or lived there, you know there is good Italian food and then there is horrific Italian food.  All can be found all over Italy.  In particular, we found the good, bad, and ugly in Rome.  We realized, even though not quickly enough, if the menu of the restaurant came in English, it would be horrific.  Bad pasta, bad seasoning, poor products, and generally, it’s to rip off pour tourists like ourselves.  As I wrote in another post, some of the worse pizza I have ever had was in Rome.  And yet, a place like Dar Poeta, one of the best pizzas I’ve had, can be found just on the other side of the city.

One place that we stumbled upon that turned out to be an amazing restaurant is right around the corner from the Colosseum.  Very close, in fact, to the church St. Peter In Chains [San Pietro in Vincoli] along Via Del Fangutale in the Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli .  Along Via Cavour resides a restaurant that blends in well with the surrounding architecture and a little nondescript.  But we read about this restaurant in our guidebook and decided to take a chance, even though the menu was all in Italian and the people in the restaurant did not speak English.  Adjusting to the “laid” back life of Italy was tough, waiting for someone to finally come around to take our order after about 15-20 minutes seemed like an eternity.  And yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how the rest of the world lives, and only in America do we expect instant service.  In many ways, we responded to this foreign restaurant like many Americans, ordering something familiar.  We ordered a vegetarian lasagne and a plate of mixed meats [salami, ham, etc] and cheeses.  What we got was truly sublime.  The lasagne was truly homemade and the flavors were both delicate and robust at the same time.  The photos below were taken during the days when I would still snap photos of food [back in 2008], so I get to share them here:

Beyond those dishes, were the desserts.  The homemade pistachio gelato and nougat with chocolate sauce was truly beyond reproach.  Never had I had ice cream, much less gelato, with cracked black pepper right on top.  It sounds weird and maybe even disgusting to put pepper on desserts, but as my friend once told me, “When the chef puts cracked black pepper on ice cream, he’s almost daring you to eat it.”  And dare we did and we were rewarded with the most amazing pistachio gelato I have ever had, still to this day.  Yes, these superlatives are well warranted and although it may appear that I’m merely exaggerating to make a point, I am not.  It was truly that good.

And so we learned another lesson in traveling and eating, especially in Italy.  If you see items in English, just walk away.  Find places where they only have menu items in Italian.  We were rewarded time and time again when we followed that golden rule.  From a trattoria in Florence, to Cavour 313 and Dar Poeta in Rome, and a typical Tuscan restaurant in the small medieval village of Bibbona, we never left angry or feeling duped.  I would never tell anyone to not be a tourist when you travel, because that’s part of the reason why people go to places like Rome and Florence.  To see the Sistine Chapel, to see the Colosseum, and to walk across the Ponte Vecchio.  But with food, I feel that’s where we can be more like the locals.  We ought to really try things that truly IS foreign to us, even if that might mean we just plopped down $60 for 2 for a dud.  But what this experience has taught us is that the duds are far and few between than plopping down $40 for 2 for the crappiest pizza on this planet in Rome because the menu is in English.