Nuff Nang

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Al Pompiere

Via S Maria dei Calderari 38, Roma

Last November, my girlfriend AS and I spent a week in Rome. Our obsessive compulsive tendencies meant that we spent weeks thoroughly researching our trip, mapping out our week's itinerary (including good food hotspots) down to a very militant 'T'.

Although Rome is an expensive city, you cant eat well and cheaply if you know where to go. This entry marks the first of our culinary adventures in the Eternal City.

On our second night in Rome, we trekked all the way to Jewish Quarter to a restaurant that had been recommended to me by an old friend. BB is a food connoiseur if there ever was one and any recommendation of his was certainly worth trying out. I spent a week in Milan with BB not so long ago and was pleasantly surprised but all together delighted that a non Malaysian could be such a keen and refined foodie. In Milan, BB successfully converted me to the world of risotto with a very local and a very authentic Risotto Milanese. This was quite an achievement considering risotto had always been one of my culinary pet peeves. It just confuses me somehow - not quite rice congee but hardly fluffy rice. Call me a Philistine, but I confess I struggled with the concept. That is until, an evening in Milan.

So there we were in the dark and cold, AS and I, traipsing from crooked street corner to crooked street corner in a quiet, somewhat dingy neighbourhood and wondering very much whether we should turn back. However, from our disastrous dinner the night before, having arrived late in the night, tired and hungry, and dining at the first place our B&B owner recommended round the corner, we were determined to rid ourselves of that memory by having a good meal. We arrived at Al Pompiere, Via S. Maria dei Calderari 38 just as we were about to give up. It was one of those places you would never have found unless you knew it was there.

Inside, the place looked slightly daunting. There was a a sweeping staircase leading up to the main restaurant and it looked expensive. We nervously examined the menu on the far wall at the bottom of the stairs and were pleasantly surprised to find that the prices were reasonable.

Upstairs, the decor was charming and slightly quirky. Old fashioned street lamps adorned the walls right next to quirky oil pastel art. I really like the exposed beams on the ceiling and the tables were simple yet tastefully decorated. Everything was spotlessly clean and we were welcomed more than graciously.

Once seated, we were promptly served with a freshly baked bread basket and breadsticks. We thought it was a nice touch until we realised at the end of our meal that they billed us EUR4 for it. I would suggest leaving this basket well alone unless you fancy paying the extra.

For starters we had:

Fiore di Zucca Ripiero (Fried Squash Blossoms) EUR4.00

This Roman speciality was absolutely delicious. The batter was crisp and crunchy contrasting beautifully with the light but flavourful cheese and blossoms inside. It was melt-in-your-mouth divine and you cannot dine at Al Pompiere without trying this house special.

We also had:

Bresaola con Rughetta (Carpaccio of Beef with Rocket) EUR9.00

The Bresaola was nicely done. AS doesnt like rocket which meant that I was in charge of the greens. This suited me just fine as I love rocket! Is this partnership made in heaven or what? The beef was of excellent quality, delicately sliced but generously served. Our starter plate had approximately 10 slices. It went really well with the rocket and the olive oil was premium. All together, it was subtle yet delicious.


Taglioline al Limone (Taglioline in Lemon Sauce) EUR12.00

This has to be, by far, the most sublime culinary experience I have ever had. The pasta is freshly made in house and had such a delicate yet 'perfectly right' texture. Without a doubt, tagliolini is now my favourite type of pasta. Forget the spaghettis/linguines/fettucines of the world - tagliolini is the way forward. The creamy cheese sauce was light, silky and smooth (no scrambled eggs here thank you very much!) and the lemon added such a lovely zestiness and freshness to the dish that made it compelling. I have to confess that I guarded my plate quite jealously that night and would certainly not have passed the test for the "Sharing is Caring" campaign poster girl.

AS had Tonarelli con Carciofi (Tonarelli in Artichoke Sauce) EUR10.00

This dish, in many ways, was almost the complete opposite of our first pasta dish. The flavours were full and earthy and almost bordered on being too rich and too flavourful. A real treat for artichoke lovers, the artichokes were plentiful and extremely tasty. Very delicious and once again, very generous on the ingredients. Definitely top quality here. My only gripe would be that the pasta was served on the extreme side on al dente but as we understand it from our hosts tonarelli is served just so in Rome.

Then it was time for Dessert!

Tiramisu della Casa (House Speciality - Tiramisu) EUR7.00

This is very likely the best Tiramisu I have ever had. Ever. Melt in your mouth texture made with excellent quality Italian coffee that leaves a lovely, dreamy aftertaste in your mouth. The zabaione mascarpone cream was a genius twist, and this dessert was light but rich and I greedily tucked into all of it with only a half hearted attempt at sharing. All Tiramisu's should be made this way.

AS had a glass of prosecco at EUR3.50 which is perfectly decent pricewise and tastewise too.

Although Al Pompiere might not be the cheapest eat around, it compares well to London prices and is excellent value for money. Really authentic Roman fare, excellent service and ambience. Such a bonus that this place is so discreetly located and well away from tourist traffic. I certainly got the impression that only 'Romans-in-the-Know' patronise this establishment. You can dine here in the smug knowledge that the majority of your fellow tourists would be stuck dining on insipid Menu Turistico's roundabout Termini Station.

After examining our empty plates, I certainly did!

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