Wednesday, October 21, 2015

GF in Rome

We didn't know much about Rome when we picked out our hotel, but the choice was serendipitous. We stayed at the Grand Flora on the magnolia lined Via Vittorio Veneto, right at the edge of the old Roman wall in North Rome and just outside of Villa Borghese, a beautiful park with museums, a zoo and theaters. We were in walking distance to the Spanish Steps, Piazza de Popoli and Piazza Bernini.

We had dinner at five different restaurants – all within walking distance. I'm very sad that our hotel restaurant Cabiria rated number five out of five. We ate dinner outside the first night we were there and I had a so so risotto and some shrimp. It was nice being outside, but we were accosted a few times by street vendors. (Yeah, we bought the roses, but said no to the photograph.)

Coming in at number four was Harry's Bar, right across from the hotel and the most famous restaurant in the area if you are not counting the Hard Rock Cafe which is down the street. Harry's was made famous by the movie La Dolce Vita (1960) and was quite a hangout for celebrities in the sixties. The restaurant itself was lovely. The food was okay, and the service was good, but their gluten free bread option was rice cakes. Rice cakes, Harry's? Shame on you. To their credit, however, they brought me delicious little chocolates to go with my after dinner tea.

The bread at our number three choice, Il Viaggio, was excellent, soft and white with a crispy salty crust. I could easily go back there. They had gluten free pasta, and I had ravioli for the first time in a very very long time. If you are celiac and in Rome, do not miss this place. They claim that every dish on their menu can be prepared gluten free upon request. (A caution: I did not see a place to get a taxi from this area and am not sure how one would get back to a hotel that was not within walking distance. One night I did see a couple of private cars with their drivers waiting outside, so maybe that's the best way.)

Our second favorite restaurant, Doney, was just down the street from our hotel about a block inside the Westin Hotel. It was a beautiful modern place with big windows overlooking the street and had excellent food with large portions. I over ordered, even sharing. They had an actual personal loaf of gluten free bread, second best after Il Viaggio's, but not terrifically memorable. I left more than I would have liked of an appetizer of prosciutto and brie, but did finish my entree of seafood skewers served on sauteed fennel.

Il Fellini is a small restaurant at Via Sicilia 156, around the corner and a few blocks away. The walls are lined with oversize black and white photographs. We went there twice and both meals were special. Hands down, they had the best food. The first night we were there, I had only a single course entree and shared a very large spinach and orange salad topped with pine nuts. When you have ordered though, they bring a little amuse bouche, both nights for us it was a very thick and tasty soup (one night pea soup, the other tomato) as well as a small glass of sparkling wine. The first night I had an incredible fish dish that had me nearly licking the plate. The fish was dentex (sea bream) and the taste was exquisite. None of the ingredients was definable, but the total effect was marvelous.
Cathy at Il Fellini Restaurant

On our second night at Il Fellini I had the risotto with scampi as a first course, and for the second, my only non fish entree of the entire trip. It was a pork fillet covered in a wonderful sauce containing chopped pistachios. Definitely la dolce vita!


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