What Makes a Great Restaurant? Notes from the Ghetto

Anchovies with curly endive at Nonna BettaIt’s fun hanging around with people who know and love food. Martha and I recently enjoyed lunch at Nonna Betta in Rome with Elizabeth Minchilli, author of the Sutro Media mobile app Rome Eats. We all agreed that the food at Nonna Betta was good, but not anywhere close to great. Martha had the iconic Roman Aliciotti con indivia, Anchovies with curly endive, which you see in the picture. It was good, and prepared in the traditional manner.

But my punterelle were soggy with way too much dressing, and granted it was the end of the season, but green limpness prevailed, as if they had been sitting in the dressing waiting way too long for some sucker to order them.

Our pastas were good, but nothing jumped out at us, announcing “hey, this is gonna float your boat!”

But then again, Katie Parla, a food writer I respect very much, loves Nonna Betta. “This Kosher restaurant in the Ghetto serves some of the best Jewish Roman cuisine in town.” Hmmmm.

Perhaps we were there on an off day. Perhaps lunch is when the staff don’t pay as much attention to detail as they might at night. You never know.

But then we had dinner at Al Pompiere. It’s also in the Ghetto. I ordered punterelle again, just to check and because if you don’t get it in winter you just don’t get it. It was crisp, fresh, and sang of the promise of spring; there was just enough anchovy and olive oil to make it all come together. It was a simple, 5 Euro triumph. Yes, I know that’s a lot for a small salad, but when something elevates your spirit, its value goes up tremendously, at least for me.

And that’s the thing. Picture this: here we are in a restaurant with formally dressed couples, business men in suits and ties, working men in jeans, tourists in colorful and inappropriate tourist garb, with waiters running around gently slinging dishes onto crisp, white tablecloths and plopping open bottles of wine on the tables and I’m digging into a hunk of maialino (suckling pig) that’s crisp on the outside and deliciously tender and porky on the inside and so absorbed I almost don’t notice the clamor in the restaurant ramping up in proportion to the wine consumed and the happiness in the place is so thick you could cut it with a butter knife and sell shimmering slabs of it in the campo de’ fiori and folks I’m tellin’ ya this is what a good restaurant is all about.

I think.


Katie Parla writes passionately about Roma and food, the quote above was taken from the post: Eating in Rome on a Sunday and offers some great advice.

If you want to know how to prepare the dish pictured above, Anchovies with curly endive, here’s a recipe in pdf form

What Makes a Great Restaurant? Notes from the Ghetto originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , updated: Nov 05, 2017 © .

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