Hostaria Isidoro

Nestled betwen the Colosseum and San Giovanni in Laterano in the heart of historic Rome is the wonderful Hostaria Isidoro.  After a morning of scaling the Santa Scala on your knees and visiting San Giovanni in Laterano, San Clemente and Santo Stefano Rotondo, you need sustenance to steel yourself for the upcoming trip to the Colosseum. By the way, all three churches are completely amazing and need to be visited. 

The staff is wonderful and friendly. The decor cozy. The menu outstanding. The worst part of this restaurant is trying to narrow down what to eat – everything looks and sounds amazing. They do have a pasta tasting on the menu. You can choose to taste 3, 4 or 5 pasta dishes – the downside? You cannot choose the pasta dishes. You can let them know if you are allergic to something or do not care for a particular ingredient, but it’s chef’s choice. A group at a table nearby ordered this special and they had red sauce, red sauce and squid ink sauce. We decided to go a la carte.

As an appetizer, Fork and Spoon chose a simple Garden Salad. Beautiful greens top with shaved carrots, tomatoes, olives, corn and walnuts. Cruets of wonderful olive oil and balsamic vinegar were on the table. And bread, let’s not forget the bread. The bread was wonderful. Warm, fresh, rustic, perfect.

As Spoon did with almost every meal in Rome involving pasta, Amatriciana was a necessity and was ordered as one of our mains. An Amatriciana overload was called for on this trip.  Fresh tomato sauce, perfectly cooked pasta, nice hint of heat. Really, really good.

Our second asta dish was Pasta with Artichokes. Tagliatelle with artichoke hearts in a wonderful thick cream sauce. Again, everything super fresh, seasonal, and delicious.

There wasn’t much of a choice for dessert. Spoon adores Tiramisu, Fork not so much. We knew we could only manage one dessert. Tiramisu it was. It wa an amazing choice. Like no tiramisu Fork has had outside someone’s home. It was creamy, yet not gloppy. the strawberries added a nice texture and flavor. THe espresso soaked savoiardi were not mushy. It was a perfect ending to a perfect lunch!

Another great suggestion, Dad!

Hostaria Isidoro ~ via S. Giovanni in Laterano, 59/a ~ Rome, Italy

Laboratorio Lambiase

We were exhausted. We were excited.

It was the end of our first day in Rome! We had seen the Trevi Fountain, had a little lunch, taken a ridiculously long nap, had a wonderful dinner and now were wide awake and in need of an adventure!

The flat we were staying in was a block from the Church of Maria della Vittoria. We had done a lot of reading trying to gather up as much foodie intel as possible.

In reading, we came across Laboratorio Lambiase. There were raves about this place.  Cars double parked up and down the street, the crowds until the early morning hours, the fantastic smells and tastes. How were a Fork and Spoon to resist?

 

The pastry was supposed to be amazing – particularly a calorie laden pastry called Sorchetta Doppio Schizzo. The name of this pastry alone made this place a necessity.

So we wandered. Took pictures at the Piazza Repubblica, wandered down Via Cernaia, and were beginning to think we had gotten lost, when our noses picked up the most heavenly scents.

This is one of those places if you weren’t looking for it you would never know it was there. Deserted street, no real signage, down the stairs – but once you find it – well, WOW comes to mind.

Down the stairs, a very plain room with 2 tables and along counter. There are a couple of display cases with some sad looking cupcakes, and you think this cannot be right or they must be closing. Raise your eyes, peek into the next room – the bakery – and there is tray after tray after tray of amazing looking pastry.

We had to order the Sorchetta Doppio Schizzo. A sweet pastry filled with whipped cream and smothered in chocolate. It was good. The name is better!

Spoon had a hot chocolate. Fork a Diet Coke (some habits just cannot be broken and besides their small cans had a cute drawing on the side).

Spectacular were the Sfogliatelle! Crispy, crunchy, still warm, creamy inside. Perfect. May be the best either the Fork or Spoon has ever had.

Their pizza must be pretty good as well, at least 2 dozen people walked in and out while we were there buying pizza to go.

There were at least 10 other pastry that needed to be tried, but try as might, we didn’t get back again. This will be the first place we go when we head back to Rome!

Laboratorio Lambiase ~ Vis Cernaia, 47A ~ Roma

Sostanza

This is, by far, my favorite restaurant in Florence. Fabulous food, friendly staff, fabulous food, unpretentious … did I mention the fabulous food?

Sostanza is located Santa Maria Novella. Fork and Spoon took the train from Rome to Florence, visited Santa Maria Novella and Farmaceutica de Santa Maria and realized we were starving. We could have walked to our wonderful B&B Casa dei Tintori (wonderful B&B, by the way, if you’re looking for a great place to stay), but – and this should be NO shocker to our readers – we were hungry!

You know, as we planned this trip, restaurants and places to eat were as important as sites to see, museums to visit, fountains to throw coins into, etc.

Sostanza has been one of Fork’s absolute MUST GO places for years and years, so when Fork convinced the Spoon to run away from home for 2 weeks, this place was definitely going to be on the short list.

Trattoria Sostanza was in 1869 as a tavern, wine and food store. Sostanza is also known as “i’ Troia”, which is the nickname of Guido Campolmi – one of the early owners and a very famous chef who would greet his customers with a hearty slap on the back. His hands were always greasy and sticky from working in the kitchen and his clients would say “ma tu sei un troiao” – “what a slob you are”.  And the nickname was born!

In 1977 the original owners leased the restaurant to their employees. The second generation now manages the restaurant and it has stayed pretty much unchanged.

Sostanza is not a large restaurant by any means, it’s down a windy street, with a very plain front, small interior, and a simple menu. The inside is very much a simple trattoria – wooden table and chairs, tables covered in paper, large marble counter in the front. The kitchen is open and you can watch the chefs going to town.

It’s not a large menu. It’s handwritten and slipped inside a plastic sleeve. Fork and Spoon are pretty sure the menu has not changed much in the 100+ years Sostanza has been in business.  And, as simple as the menu may be, the food is over the moon good.

We asked our wonderful waiter what the most popular dishes were in Sostanza and he said that while Sostanza is widely known for their bistecca, the Pollo al Burro is as popular. We already knew this was a dish we needed to try. When I tell you, that this dish could make you weep, I am not exaggerating. Butter is browned in a skillet, the chicken is floured and then egged and then put into the butter. The chicken is bathed in the butter as it cooks. A hit of salt, more butter at the end and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice as it is being served. The nuttiness from the browned butter, the freshness from the lemon and that salty hit – mama mia this was like nothing We had ever had before.

We were invited to come back and watch the chef make this dish, but sadly only had 48 hours in Florence and wanted to fit as many different places to eat in as possible. I would go to Florence just for Sostanza and just to eat this dish! Dad, really, 20 something years and you have never tried this? I have tried to recreate this dish at home and have come pretty darn close! Dad, next time you go order it, you’ll thank us!

Most people know for their Bistecca alla Fiorentina. When you peek into the kitchen, there is a GIGANTIC piece of beef standing there. You could see that this beautiful slab of Chianina beef was recently slaughtered. Pretty daunting, actually. We couldn’t come to Sostanza and pass up the Bistecca. The steak is perfectly charred on the outside. The meat fresh and flavorful, seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper. It didn’t need it – it was spectacular. By the way, you can see the beef and the wood burning stove and the cooking going on while on your way to the rest room – you have to walk through the kitchen to get there!

As we were relaxing and smelling and oogling everyone else’s plates go by, we eyed what you see above walk by. We showed a huge amount of restraint by not running over to the table next to ours, forks in hand and begging for a taste. We did, however, ask our waiter and he told us it was a Tortino di Carciofi. Couldn’t resist ordering this dish. What arrived was a delicate egg dish – not quite an omlette and not quite a souffle, certainly not as simple as scrambled eggs. Nestled inside this egg nest were quarters of tender artichoke hearts. Totally amazing.

We were stuffed. Totally and completely stuffed. But, we had to have dessert. After all of that rich food we needed something sweet (at least that’s how we convince ourselves!) These lovely little strawberries were the perfect choice. Sweet, light, spring-like, tiny. Spoon ordered them in cream, Fork in red wine. The perfect ending to the perfect welcome to Florence meal!

If you visit Florence Sostanza is an absolute must!

CASH ONLY!  Dinner has 2 seatings – 7:30 and 9:30 – and you MUST make reservations. Lunch easier than dinner, no reservations are required. Sostanza is open Monday through Friday.

Sostanza ~ Via delle Porcellana, 25 ~ Firenze (Florence), Italy

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