For Food Network Canada

An impending trip to Rome left me immersed in daydreams of Tortellinis and Tiramisus.  The only thing I could do between ticket-booking and take-off was browse the endless Food blogs on the Internet for some tips and recommendations. Surfing one afternoon I came across this sentence. “Every Thursday mama makes pillow-like gnocchi.

When in Rome

When Thursday in Rome finally arrives, my travelling companions and I wander around the Campo-Di-Flori neighborhood looking for the Trattoria. What we found was not what we expected. No large glass windows framing happy patrons lingering over wine. No ubiquitous sandwich boards with the menu in a selection of languages under multi-coloured flags. No, really, anything to distinguish this building as a restaurant at all, except for the small sign adorning the front door.

I anxiously rang the doorbell.  A man opened the door a crack and we got our first peak inside. A few Tables with white linens, a small servery and in the back the entrance to a white marble kitchen. Communicating in a combination of broken Italian and when resorted to.. Charades – we asked to be served. He pointed to his watch and told us to come back after 7:30. We did. And there was Gnocchi.

When in Rome

I later learned that Thursday is the traditional Gnocchi day in Rome. On Thursday mornings, many restaurants in Rome make fresh potato gnocchi from scratch for the Lista Del Giorno . Often, they will serve a semolina flour version during the remainder of the week. This particular restaurant is a family-owned, no frills, and serving traditional casalinga (homemade) style fare. These family style restaurants use the fresh, local and seasonal offerings at the market, and create Roman specialties based on the day’s purchases.

As our luck would have it, they had typed an English menu specifically for us. My dining companions and I selected gnocchi, Boiled vegetables, grilled meatballs and “Genovese”, which is a dish typical of Naples, a pork roast cooked with onions.

Painstakingly trying to avoid attention, and inevitable attention I refused to use flash to take pics of each dish. And as for running to the window to utilize the natural light, no hopes as the windows were completely covered in film. In this case I had zero choice but to sit back, enjoy the food and let the evening unfold. I snuck a couple low-quality photos from beneath my napkin fold whenever I thought I may get away unseen.

Recalling my past experience making Michael Smith’s gnocchi, I had tremendous respect for the soft, not glutinous, cushions that greeted me from my fork. Light, Buttery, melt in your mouth and covered in thick fresh-made tomato sauce.  It really was the star of the show.

When we were finished with our meal, we went to thank the owners, Nona emerging from the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron. We gave her a hug.  Even though we could not at all communicate beyond “Bellisimo!” “Bella” and belly rubbing, I think that our delight was not at all lost in translation. These intimate, casual, family run restaurants are often found in Italy if you know which doorbell to ring. It was a truly memorable experience.

When in Rome

Settimio al Pelligrino (via del Pellegrino 117 near Campo dei Fiori ) 00186 Roma, Italia 066 8801978