Procacci

Procacci opened its doors in 1885 on the prestigious via Tornabuoni. The interior is all original workmanship and has a very Art Noveau feeling throughout. These days, Procacci is part of the Antinori  group (Fork’s absolute favorite vineyard. If you have not had an Antinori wine, you must).

From the beginning, Procacci was known for their truffled sandwiches. How were we to resist the lovely art noveau interior, truffled sandwiches, Antinori wines, and a recommendation by dear friends?

Simple answer? We could not possibly pass up the opportunity to stop into Procacci.

When you walk through the doors you are instantly transported to a quieter more gentile time. Small tables for 2 line the left side of Procacci, a counter to the right and a wine bar across the back. Procacci may be very small but everything packs a huge flavor. Procacci is permeated with the small of truffles. The entire experience was amazing.

We ordered 2 of the truffled sandwiches – truffle pieces and butter spread on a small, delicate roll. We also ordered 2 prosciutto cotto and olive spread sandwiches. Prosciutto cotto is the cooked version of prosciutto crudo – which is what we in the USA just call prosciutto.  

The truffle and butter was amazing. The truffle was earthy and rich. The butter sweet. The 2 worked in perfect harmony to make your taste buds stand at attention.

The ham was salty and sweet at the same time, the olive paste salty and briny. Again, a perfect combination.

The bread used for both was fresh and soft. Very delicate and subdued in flavor so as to be an understudy to the starring role of the fillings, especially the truffled butter.

Spoon has become addicted to apricot juice and chose that to go along with our feast. Fork on the other hand could not pass up an opportunity to have a glass of Antinori wine – or, more precisely, prosecco. Delightful.

A perfect oasis in the insane sea of sightseeing! If you’re in Florence and need a little ‘somethin somethin’ in the middle of the afternoon, Procacci will surely help you to understand the meaning of la dolce vita!

If you folks are travelling anywhere, Knopf makes wonderful guidebooks called Knopf MapGuides. They break down whatever city you are travelling to by sections. With each section there are recommendations for restaurants, bars, shopping and when you open the map page it highlights sights not to miss in each section. Totally fabulous! Procacci was listed in there.

Also, we would have been lost going through sites and streets without Rick Steves! His books are wonderful. Self guided tours through most major attractions with not to miss things inside each. He is funny insightful and keeps any trip full of fun and information!

Procacci ~ Via de’ Tornabuoni, 64 ~ 50123 Firenze, Italy

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Sora Margherita

Tucked deep inside Rome’s Jewish Ghetto is a wonderful hidden gem of a restaurant.  So hidden, in fact, if you didn’t know what to look for, you would not know where to find it! Off the Via del Portico d’Ottavia is the Piazza delle Cinque Scole. If you approach the Piazza from Portico d’Ottavia make a hard right at the Piazza and there is a doorway. In the summer it has red chenille streamers hanging in the doorway – the kind to keep out the flies. In the winter a plain old doorway – perhaps a chair in front, and what may have been a neon flower above the door to the left and the number 30 above the door to the right.

Wait! Let’s start again! Sora Margherita is not a restaurant. It is a cultural association. You must join the association when you arrive to have member benefits, which include eating at the ‘club’. Apparently, a number of years ago the restaurant was shut down as being too small and cramped. The solution? Become a cultural association and feed your members! Makes perfect sense to me!

 The no-frills Sora Margherita started as a cheap kitchen for hungry locals, but word spread – and compared to the other restaurants in the ghetto is still a place for an inexpensive – but fantastic – meal. There can be very long lines here, but you will find hearty pasta, Roman-Jewish dishes such as the Torta di Ricotta and Carciofi alla Giudea, and a rowdy Roman atmosphere.  Sora Margherita is closed weekends in summer. The reason? According to the sign ‘ tutti al mare ’ (everyone is at the beach).

The tables are nailed-together unfinished wooden tables with plain paper tablecloths. You may not expect much when you sit down, cramped quarters, plainly decorated, the menu written on a piece of brown butcher’s paper. But the carefully prepared and beautifully plated food is a surprise and culinary delight.

Our quest in eating in the Jewish Ghetto was to try Carciofi alla Giudea. Artichokes prepared in the Jewish style. We had been hoping to try both the alla Giudea and alla Romana at the same time for a comparison but Sora Margherita only had the alla Giudea when we were there.  What arrives is a beautiful fired artichoke, served on a square of paper for the oil to drain. There is nothing fancy needed in this presentation, the artichoke is the star. The outer leaves are crispy like potato chips. The inside still tender and moist. Fork, watching around the room, followed suit and ate the entire thing, choke, stem and all. Spoon on the other hand, was far more demure and skipped the choke and the stem!

Next, Spoon ordered the Fettucine Cacio e Pepe e Ricotta. The Fettucine was fresh, made that morning. A giant tumble of beautiful hand made pasta.  The pasta was simply dressed with pecorino romano cheese (cacio) and fresh cracked black pepper (pepe). As if this simple, but delicious, dish needed help, it was then topped with fresh ricotta. A huge portion. The flavors all melded together for an amazing pasta dish.

Fork and our lovely tour guide for the day, Antonella, had the Baccala Fritti. I don’t normally like baccala. Might have to do with the manky way Nonna prepared it for Christmas Eve dinner. Antonella said it was delicious and if I liked fish to try it. Glad I listened. The baccala (dried cod) was plump and crisply fried. The squeeze of lemon over the top gave it a fresh flavor. The down side were a few little bones, but certainly worth it. I do have to admit, though, I have never understood baccala. Catch a fresh fish, dry it out, and before cooking, reconstitute it. Huh? But this was very good.

Antonella also ordered the Aliciotti. Fresh anchovy dressed with lemon juice and olive oil with a simple salad of finochio (fennel) and olives. Fork does not like anchovies. You know, those horribly salty, hairy, brown little beasts they put on pizza? Yuck. But these were small, delicate and fresh. A very mild flavor that balanced well with the lemon, olives and finochio. Fork was pleasantly surprised by these wonderful little fish.

Dessert posed its usual problem. What to get, do we share. Those of you who follow along know the drill! Antonella, with the sweet tooth, insisted, we must have both the Torta di Ricotta e Cioccolato and the Torta di Ricotta e Ciliege and split them!   One was studded with chocolate chips, the other had pieces of cherry throughout. Light, delicate, not overly sweet, the perfect ending to a perfect lunch.

Sora Margherita, Associazione Culturale ~ Piazza delle Cinque Scole, 30 ~ Tel:06 6874216

Er Buchetto

Literally translated – hole in the wall – and it is. But is the best hole in the wall you will ever come across.

Er Buchetto is located minutes walking from Termini Station in Rome and down the street from the National Museum of Rome Palazzo Massimo (some of the most beautiful mosaics and frescos and statues you will come across. And, if you are a numismatist, this is absolutely the place for you!)

Er Buchetto is small and unassuming. Only 3 tables that will hold up to 4 people each. One person working. A hairy boar stands guard at the back left corner. In the back right corner is a large fridge, the top part filled with meats and cheeses the bottom simply has two spigots “rosso” and ‘bianco’.

There is a menu hanging on the wall, but there is only one true reason to come to Er Buchetto – PORCHETTA. This was an absolute must for Fork and Spoon. You would expect that a region that has the reputation of creating porchetta, of advancing it, would have more porchetta around. NOPE!

This is fabulous, cheap eats at its best. This is not fancy by any stretch of the imagination. It is clean. The service is friendly. Most importantly, the porchetta is fabulous! You can have a panino to go (2.50€) or to stay (3.20€). You can also have a porchetta plate (4.00€).

Spoon and Fork walked in and the first thing we saw was the porchetta.

No need to ask or pretend to think of anything else – porchetta panini, please, and white wine.

One bite and you swooned. The meat was tender and delicious. Slightly salty, lots of herbs, fall apart tender. The bread was crispy on the outside and very tender inside, soaking up anything that dripped onto it. To top the sandwich off were little bits of the porchetta skin. If you could put perfection between bread, this would be what it looked and tasted like.

They are cut fresh. As they are sold, more panino are assembled.

While we sat and ate, happily munching, we watched passerbys stopping and grabbing a panino. Before we left, all the seats but one in this very busy place were full. Not much talking – this was too delicious to interrupt with a lot of small talk. Spoon and I were content with ‘YUMMMMM!’.

So much so that we asked for 2 more of these delights to take with us on the plane the next day! Beats the heck out of Continental’s ‘cuisine’

So 4 panini, 1 wine, 1 water all for under 20.00€ ~ can’t beat that with a stick! They are open from Noon to 3:00pm and then again from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. If you’re in Rome and need a quick lunch, we beg you, go here!

Er Buchetto ~ Via del Viminale, 2F ~ Rome Italy