Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rome: Taverna dei Fori Imperiali

We were steered towards this restaurant by one of the Frank Bruni articles I linked to in the previous post. In it, he lavishes praise on this low key, family run restaurant. To be sure, this is a very quaint place. Located on a quite side street in an otherwise busy part of Rome's touristy center, Taverna dei Fori Imperiali's serves it's patrons in a cozy, brightly lit dining room filled with tables covered in the somewhat cliched red and white checkered table cloths.
My take on this place? It was good, but inconsistent. If you happen to be staying near this restaurant (as we were), this makes a nice place for a casual diner. I wouldn't trek across town for it, though. I'm not saying this place was bad, I just don't quite understand why this, of all the restaurants in Rome, received so much praise on the "Diner's Journal" blog. I would not rank this as one of the more memorable meals we had on our trip to Italy.
We started out with carciofi alla Romana (Roman style artichokes) and a plate of prosciutto and mozzarella. The artichokes were good, better than the carciofi alla giudia we had for lunch the day before, but nowhere close to Volpetti's artichokes. Than again, I will never again have an artichoke that compares to those. The prosciutto and mozzarella also just gets an "OK." I thought they were a bit stingy with the cheese, and the prosciutto was cut too thick. This dish is also best when served with a bit of olive oil, which they failed to do.
Next, we ordered two pastas. One was a ravioli in a red sauce with salt cod. It sounded good on the menu, but it wasn't as great on the plate for a couple reasons. First, the flavor of the fish was a bit lost in the red sauce, and, second, the pasta used to make the ravioli was just too thick.
The other pasta dish we ordered, papparedelle carbonara was truly a standout dish. While I thoroughly enjoyed the carbonara from Alfredo's this one was notably better. It included a better portion of guanciale as well as a healthy dose of black pepper, which I'm always a fan of. This dish is a must have if you dine here.
We still had a bit of room after the pastas, so we ordered their provaleta. This was one of our favorite things to order when we visited Buenos Aires, so, perhaps out of nostalgia, we jumped at the chance to order this. Provaleta is basically just a big, cooked, piece of cheese. Not much you can do wrong with that. The key to this dish, though, is to get a cheese that will not melt completely when you cook it. In Argentina, they often cook the cheese over the grill, but here, they cooked it "a la plancha" to get a nice, golden crust. They also added a bit of truffle oil to the cheese. I wouldn't say this is the best dish ever, but if you're a fan of big hunks of melted cheese (and who isn't?) , it's a solid choice for an appetizer.

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