Pre Vinitaly 2014 – Roundup #1

Apologies for the short update

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Things are a little crazy at present, covering more ground over the last two days than I have driven last calendar year. From Rome, we belted across to Abruzzo and had some amazing dinner at a defiante starter if you ever find yourself around Chieti – Ristorante Ferrara (Via Orientale, 39 Bucchianico)

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Pay your €25 and head downstairs into the cantina where you have your selection of a fantastic array of cured meats and cheeses

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And roving appetisers that will make you question whether you are in the basement of a restaurant, or simply in heaven.

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BUT, don’t fill up – because after an hour of that with all the bubbles you can shake a stick at, head upstairs and get into the local cow.

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From Abruzzo, we made a 5 and a half hour stint in the car up to Veneto, to a little town called Vittoria Veneto where lives our Prosecco producer Le Vigne di Alice.

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From here we took a drive into the mounts of Belluno, to a restaurant we were told, has not dropped below a single Michelin star since inception – Dolanda (Via Dolanda, 21 Plois d’Alpago). This deconstructed Carbonara Nuova was simply sublime, done so, we were told, so that you can see how the sum of the parts comes to be. Toss the lightly poached egg into the hot pasta and carve what appeared to be Capocollo and dig in. Amazing.

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We also had their take on Costoletta alla Milanese. This entailed remains from what only could be a Brontosaurus (As you can see by the enormous bone). This was again a dish to be in awe of.

So that’s in for now – Today we head to San Daniele, no doubt to throw another couple of points onto the end of my cholesterol reading.

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Armando al Pantheon, Roma, Italy

When in Rome..

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Blah blah, you know the sayings. But possibly the one that holds the truest, is that one should avoid restaurants adjacent to any tourist destinations like the plague; ‘less you want to wander into one of hundreds of Rome’s honeypots of trap destinations. Menus with half a dozen languages, wait staff hawking business Lygon St style and fusion classics such as Hamburger and Pizza featuring on the same menu are also usually giveaways. However, what if there was a restaurant that flew in the face of  everything you were taught?

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And that’s where Armando fits in, because it’s been here a million years, serving Roman classics such as Amatriciana, Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe and Scaloppine to scores of locals and tourists alike, and it’s within a stones throw of its namesake. It’s the sort of place, that, even before it’s facelift in summer last year (I know this first hand because I was here in August and went to dine only to find it completely gutted) remains a ‘no reservation, no chance’ sort of place.

Truth be told, this was only my second outing here.. And honestly I didn’t rate it the first time. So, with a helpful dose of skepticism in we went to quench our 31 hours of transit time famine and thirst.

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The wine list is fairly comprehensive. Whether your after local regional wines from Lazio (we never are), or from greater Italy you will find something suitable to both your palate and budget. We had a ripper Barolo from Cavalotto, and amongst an at-capacity restaurant, we set in.

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My fiancé, despite having Napoli origins makes once of the best Carbonara sauces I’ve tried, and this was almost identical. Crisp, al-dente Spaghetti thrown into some fine olive oil and crunchy pancetta, tossed through a couple of runny eggs at the end and sprinkled with a liberal dose of both black pepper and Parmesan. Heavenly

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I finished off with the quintessentially Roman veal Scaloppine with a white wine reduction, crisp prosciutto and sage. Easily the best I’ve had, and Australian restaurants please take note: leave the soggy ‘Gnocchi alla Romana’ I have to fork aside anyway off the menu. If I want a pasta, I’ll order it.

So there we have it. A fantastic evening capped off at one of only two ‘must eat’ restaurants for me in Rome. A delicious meal, and an even better foray into our pre-culinary antics for Vinitaly 2014

And that was that. So then, Armando is perched amongst, for me, one of two real must-stop destinations when visiting Rome. Just make sure you have a reservation.

Armando al Pantheon
Salita dei Crescenzi 31, Roma, Italy