Ostia is small ancient Roman city similar to Pompei, with old Roman streets and rows of commercial, public and residential buildings. The city was founded in the 4th century BC as a port and trade center for Rome and was abandoned in the 5th century after Rome had been sacked a few times and malaria drove the rest of the inhabitants away.
Some of the more interesting structures include the amphitheater, thermal bathes, café or bar, fish shop, and the latrine. It’s a great place to walk around on a pretty day and is easily accessible from Rome by a metro-train combination.
Pizza for lunch. Well that’s what we wanted after being told time and time again in Sicily that they did not serve pizza at lunch. I had white pizza with squash blossoms and anchovies. I had seen the flowers in the markets and been wanting to try them. Why not on pizza? The blossoms tasted like a bitter green and went well with the anchovies and white cheese – no tomato sauce. Don ordered an anchovy crostini, not pizza at all, but slices of bread with lots of salty anchovy and more white cheese. Fabulous if you love anchovies.
Fountain of Trevi and Spanish Steps
More strolling and gawking at the vast quantity of tourists. This time around the Fountain of Trevi and Spanish Steps. We hit the fountain at just the right moment when the sculptures were lit from the late afternoon sun, as did about a thousand of our fellow tourists. At this hour on brisk but clear Sunday afternoon it seemed all of Rome was out, tourists and locals alike taking advantage of the pedestrian only streets. We wandered past the Spanish Steps, a sea of people as if there was some sort of event to be seen. No, just people out strolling through some of Rome’s most elegant streets.
Sunday evenings many restaurants in Rome are closed and we thought we would take our chances on a little restaurant, literally, Piccola Roma, on Via Uffici del Vicario next door to the fabulous gelateria, Giolitti. The classic menu and the restaurant window display of old wine bottles, prosciutto, a checkered table cloth and fake grape leaves promised that sort of peasant home cooking that can be just what you need when you are craving something familiar.
The dining room is upstairs, bigger than I had imagined with the familiar rustic style we so often saw in Sicily – high wood beamed ceilings and white walls lined with shelves of wine.
Our waiter was a typical old school sort, formal and friendly. He first gave us English menus, but I quickly asked for a menu in Italian, not only because I like to read the Italian but also the names and descriptions in English can be weird and unappealing. For example, instead of the Italian ossobuco, the English version said “marrow bone with meat”. Descriptive, but most people who eat Italian food know the classic dish by its Italian name. The other thing we’ve noticed with different language versions of the same menu is the choices are not the same. An item may appear on one menu and not on the other version as was the case with the mussels and clams I wanted to order.
We ordered the linguine with seafood – a simple dish with the perfectly cooked pasta that the Italians do so well, and a variety of well cooked shellfish in a light tomato broth. One of Don’s favorite dishes of the entire trip. My mussels and clams were also well prepared.
For our second course I ordered one of my favorites, ossobuco, a dish you can’t overcook, but it turns out you can undercook it. The idea is that you braise this otherwise inedible piece of meat long enough that the tenuous meat melts into flavorful morsels that fall off the bone. I was shocked that the pieces of meat on my plate, covered in a mildly vinegary red sauce with peas, were so tough that I literally couldn’t eat but half the meat on my plate. The bone, fortunately, was as it should be with heavenly marrow in the center. I was even more astonished that the young man at the table just in front of us, who had also ordered this most unfortunate dish, had in a matter of minutes cleaned his plate leaving only a shiny white marrow bone on his perfectly white plate. Was it me? Is this really Roman ossobuco? I certainly hope not!
Don ordered a Roman style chicken that was well cooked – probably longer than my ossobuco – with a divine red pepper sauce. Now this was the quintessential Roman home cooking that the window display had promised. Don had also ordered an impressive wine, Cerraia, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Geografico, that was not the most assertive on its own – mellow tannins with a long finish – but was lovely with the food.
Our astute waiter brought with the check a choice of grappa or limoncello on the house. A very kind gesture that I suspect arose out of choice of wine and the pile of discreetly spit out gristle left on my plate. Thankfully this would not be my last Roman ossobuco.