So after a whole day spent by myself, unpacking, settling in Rome, lunching and gelato-ing. I was pooped. I was also excited for Roomie to arrive, since her flight was right around dinnertime, so I went back to Roma Boutique Hotel to take a nap and wait in anticipation for her arrival.When Roomie arrived and we began walking the streets, it was already dark outside. Since it was still the holidays, there were Christmas decorations strewn everywhere, even a Jewish menorah was set up by Via del Tritone.
Since it was Roomie’s first time in Rome, and Italy for that matter, I wanted to eat somewhere close to the main tourist attractions within walking distance from our hotel. Earlier today I did some research, and a friend encouraged me to try Piccolo Buco, or the “small hole”.
At first, I was hesitant to dine here since it is about 20 steps away from the Fontana di Trevi, which means it is in the perimeter of Tourist-Trap central. Whenever a giant monument or a tourist landmark gets mobbed by the thousands daily, expect the nearby establishments to hike up the prices, serve menus with pictures and “english”, and basically rip you off of a decent meal. I was really skeptical because Piccolo Buco was thisclose to the Trevi… I would rather eat by a sidestreet and get local fare.
But the Ristorante looked very homey and warm. Not a lot of “touristy” signs out and lots of bottles of vino as wall decoration. That would definitely do the trick to entice. I was ready to give it a go. Aside from the fact that most of the diners spoke Italian, which means that locals patronize the pizzeria. Another good sign of a non-touristy restaurant since Italians are notorious for keeping their favorite restaurants exclusive to locals, unless you attempt to charm with by “trying” to speak, and be, Italian.
What a good dinner decision we had made. From the get go, we were greeted cheerily by Luca, the owner’s son and also serves the tables. His name was on my “to remember” list as my friend said you can guile him into pouring you some limoncello (lemon liquer). I was appreciative that even at 10pm, he still had enthusiasm when getting our orders.
Said bread and many kinds of pizzas are hand tossed and cooked in their wood burning oven. I was excited to add Pizza to the menu after trying the bread.
ToT & Roomie Reunited after a looong dawy and lots of airplane time. Since we were planning on ordering something meaty, we decided on a bottle of Ruffino Chianti 2009, nice and mellow. Ruffino is always a good choice for wine that even Peter Luger’s in New York serves their Chianti Classico.
Prosciutto di Parma e Melone
Wafer thin slices of Parma ham with sweet and juicy sections of melons. The prosciutto was delectably cured and had a slight saltiness to it, which was beautifully complemented by the sweetness of the melons. I could eat this everyday.
While we were waiting for the rest of our meal, this adorable old man came near us and played some Italian tunes on his mandolin. At first he creeped me out, but his music was actually quite enjoyable we didn’t mind him next to us and even gave him some euros.
Fettucine al Tartufo
Highly recommended by my friend. It was an intoxicating plate of freshly made fettuccine (you can tell from the texture and mouthfeel) and a creamy, yet light, truffle cream sauce. Although truffle’s aroma can get overwhelming, we could taste the real thing and realized that the irresistible factor of real truffles is more sublime than synthetic oils just “flavored” with truffle flavor. It was not heavy at all, but coated the pasta nicely like edible crack that you just can’t quit.
Whenever you order pizza in Italy and see a variety of toppings, don’t be surprised if the pizza arrives looking compartmentalized. That’s how they like it. Italian food is about simplicity, and piling on too many toppings on the very thin dough will just end up a mess. So, mushrooms, olives, prosciutto & ham, and artichokes are placed in their own quadrants. The pizza was paper thin, yet still had a nice chewy center to it. Believe it or not, we could not finish the pizza, but it was fantastic nonetheless.
As we finished, we caught the Mandolin Man still entertaining the rest of the locals at the restaurant. It was such a good deal pricewise as well as location-wise, who knew that a gem or a ristorante could be found literally a stone’s throw away from a major monument?When we bid adieu, Papa and Luca gladly posed for photos, and even remembered my friend from her last visit, “the big group of Filipinos?” Yes, that’s how we are known. We vow to come back and visit them when we return to Roma.
I wanted to eat at Piccolo Buco for a very specific reason, so I can show her the Trevi Fountain at night.During the day, the Fontana di Trevi is a complete tourist nightmare. Loads of people, lots of street vendors, and too much ruckus. At night, it is beautifully lit up, only a handful of brave passersby. I was a bit defiant of being a tourist in Rome since I’ve been there so many times, but I said I would play the part since Roomie is seeing Italy with fresh eyes I decided it would be great to experience these landmarks from a different perspective.Aside from our Roomie Reunion, another reason why I was excited to see Roomie was because she was carrying with her boxes of cashmere goodies which I bought online just for the trip, and to replenish my pilled sweaters. So I was warm and fuzzy wearing my cashmere sweater with another cashmere cable-knit sweater topped with my cashmere scarf. I even wear cashmere in Manila during the summer!I made Roomie do the mandatory coin toss to the fountain. I told her to toss 3 coins to return to Rome. Apparently there are over €3000 tossed in the Trevi daily, and we wondered what those coins finance for Rome. When we did some of our history refresher, we found out that 3 coins tossed meant marriage. Let’s see how that pans out.And lastly, we walked towards Piazza di Spagna to see the Spanish Steps at night, all lit up, and almost empty. It was a beautiful sight since the Spanish Steps are remembered more fondly as the place where almost the entire world sits down to stare at other people in the Piazza as well as in Via Condotti, the main shopping street. It was quite serene and very nostalgic with very few people.
Via Condotti is normally impossible to take a photo of where you can see the windows. Shoppers and gawkers alike flock this famed street for some of the most high-end shopping available. At night, it is just a peaceful street lit up with beautiful Christmas lights sponsored by Mercedes Benz (if you look closely, their symbol is hanging under all the lights). It was a beautiful walk back home to our hotel, in Rome, with my Roomie. The meal, and our first night, was the beginning of an amazing trip together.
Ristorante y Pizzeria Piccolo Buco
Via Del Lavatore 91,
00187 Rome, Italy