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May 16, 2011

I don't know if anyone out there cares but my three weeks of absence wasn't out of pure laziness. Spring dizziness took over me as usual and for the past week I was walking around (or to be frank, being a couch potato) with a fog cloud hanging around my head. Then, in the past weekend an opportunity to visit Rome came to the agenda, which I unreluctantly made use of. When I got back, I was so out of focus and lost, the usual side effects of going somewhere different, I only stopped by the kitchen to toast bread. However the most devastating blow to my creativity came with my discovery of a kitten in our side lawn, who apparently had lost her mom and was chasing a male cat who wasn't very friendly nor fatherly to her. It was the same day I was due to pick Tavsan up from the vet, as her treatment was finished but had refused to give birth in the safety of vet's clinic although we had given her time to do so. That same day our silent apartment turned into a mad house.

Kısaca Roma1-A vacant table awaits us 2-A sumptuous cup of cappuccino that makes me wonder why on earth can't we have equally delicious ones in Istanbul 3-Ice cream at Ciampini 4- The florists of Campo di Fiori

I was a clueless 12 year old when I was in Rome last time, with my "No Acid" t-shirt and worn out jeans I wore that whole summer. Unlike the suffocating weather of year 1989, this time it was pleasantly warm and rainy. Rain never discourages me as long as it is not paired with cold and storm so I eagerly left our little group on saturday to visit Campo di Fiori, the flower square, to take photographs and buy some sausages and pasta. On the way, I passed one little shop with the sweetest dinnerware pieces which were done by ceramic artists with Down Syndrome. A lovely plate with a beautiful butterfly pattern, made by an artist named Frederica, immediately caught my eye so I bought it with great enthusiasm. I left the shop feeling satisfied and happy for having bought a cute piece for my photographs and also for having contributed to an artist with the Down Syndrome. For 200 meters I felt really good. Then I dropped the paper bag while trying to level my camera bag and heard the sound of splitting ceramic. Surprised? Certainly not. Just another piece for my collection of pottery bought on a trip, broke and glued together I thought.

By the time I reached Campo di Fiori, rain had gained pace and the vendors were packing to leave. The whole square was covered in mud and left overs of food vendors, not exactly the scene I imagined when I wanted to photograph Campo di Fiori. There is nothing like wandering around a foreign town under pouring rain though. On the way back I indulged myself with three scoops of ice cream and headed towards the hotel to report to mom who was starting to wonder my whereabouts. My umbrella, camera, the map I had been torturing, the broken plate, colored pastas and the ice cream in a cone... If I hadn't broken Frederica's plate earlier this would definitely be the time.

Frankly, I wasn't planning on writing a post about Rome because the people I was travelling with, my two aunts and my mom, weren't "taste hunter" types and didn't want to be dependent on a reservation schedule. My leadership and organization skills are not my strongest qualities anyway so I didn't mind. We'd go with flow, be spontaneous and eat anywhere and any time we felt like even if it's a restaurant in the middle of the tourist attractions. The only place I could convince them to make a reservation ahead for was a pizzeria and that was for the occasion of my youngest aunt's birthday. Since I am highly impatient when it comes to reading restaurant reviews I had picked this one with my eyes closed from the list on Time Out and I was pleasantly surprised when the restaurant turned out to be a fantastic pizzeria hidden from tourists and their attractions. (What's with this dilemma of not wanting to see any tourists around when you are one of them?) 

When I asked the concierge to reserve a table at "La Gatta Mangiona" he seemed puzzled and started shaking his head sideways implying that a restaurant's name can't be "The Greedy Cat". If the concierge of a hotel at the heart of the downtown haven't heard of our only preplanned destination's name, this could be nothing but a good sign. The taxi driver too thought that he had misheard me or that I was mispronouncing. My expectation mounted further as he started driving us out of  downtown to a strictly residential area. Yes! My pick was definitely going to be a success!

La Gatta Mangiona 1-The pizza maker 2- walls are decorated with cat figures, just like our home 3-tiramisu: not the most good looking dessert but certainly the creamiest 4-the list of white pizzas on the menu 5- he charming fat cat figure on the menu cover 6- Pizza Bufala e Pomodorini: one of the basic pizzas of La Gatta Mangiona with tomato, basil and mozzarella

When I read the restaurant review on Time Out I confess that I was more drawn to the originality of the decorum than I was to the title of their pizzas as the world's best. If you have the slightest idea about what kind of things I like from my earlier posts, you would understand what I felt like when I entered into a pizzeria whose walls were decorated with all kinds of cute cat drawings and figures. The ambiance was very casual as "pizzeria" in definition suggests, with typical check board table covers and florescent lighting and to my satisfaction every table was packed with local families. There was everything I could ever ask for: pizza, red wine and cats.

Their menu was illegible and only in Italian so it would take us ages to decide if it wasn't for mom who suggested to randomly order. But I kept scrutinizing the menu until the end of our dinner, regretting we didn't order this or that, watching every plate coming out of the kitchen on waiters' palms. I still long for the focaccias ve calzones we didn't taste. Nevertheless all four pizzas we ordered and quartered were all top notch. After every bite of pizza, everyone around the table expressed their gratitude to me, their leader, their guide, for bringing them to a place like that. I was proud.

Santa Lucia  "Fettuccine al tartufo nero"

My last day in Rome was crowned with not only sunny weather but also with a dish so simple and exquisite that I had a chance to taste during lunch. We were heading towards the much recommended Il Convivio until we found out that it was closed during the day and threw ourselves to the shady patio of Santa Lucia Ristorante just around the corner. I ordered "Fettuccine al tartufo nero" and pulled a long face when a boiled pale fettucine was placed in front of me. The waiter appeared with the black truffle and a grader, graded the whole truffle to a big pile on top of the fettucine and transformed it to one of the best pasta dish I had ever tasted.

TartufiBlack truffle salsa, white truffle paté and graded black truffle over fettucine

From then on I kept myself busy contemplating the pasta I was going to make as soon as I got home: combining the colored pasta I bought in Campi di Fiori either with the black truffle salsa or the white truffle paté I bought in a charcuterie. I started wondering how to use them to achieve something as good as the one I had in Santa Lucia Ristorante, then figured as long as you have truffle you don't need a recipe, whatever you do, it will work out delicious. Boil the pasta (preferably egg pasta) al dente and combine with a generous amount of truffle salsa or any other truffle sauce you might have handy. And enjoy one of the most delicate flavors that mother earth has blessed us with... 


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