My friend Ellen came to visit a few weeks back, sent here by her wonderful husband Eric as a combination birthday present and penance for the fact that he’d just made her move from LA to the Isle of Man. I’m kidding about the last part. The Isle of Man sounds very interesting, if a bit blustery. Looking forward to getting over there sometime soon.
Ellen and I lived together in New York, where we used to get up to a good many hijinx. I hadn’t seen her for ages and it was great to catch up. As you would imagine, we spent a great deal of time eating wonderful things. Ellen was quite interested in visiting the Ghetto so, on her last day here, off we went. Unfortunately, it was some sort of holiday and the museum/synagogue was closed up tighter than a tick. We never did find out what holiday it was. Ellen’s Jewish and she didn’t know. I certainly didn’t know, nor did any of the security guards hanging around the place. One guard unhelpfully noted, “There are lots of holidays around here and we can’t keep up with all of them.” Rude.
Disappointed, we were forced to settle for a nice long lunch at Gigetto instead.
Gigetto al Portico D’Ottavia is a miraculous thing: a restaurant that’s featured in nearly every guidebook/website on Rome that you can find and that is always crawling with tourists but has not compromised on quality. At least in my experience. It’s great for the Roman classics and, as the number of places that can say that is rapidly shrinking, it provides a much appreciated respite from fancypants food when such a respite is desired.
Gigetto is best known for its carciofi alla Giudea (Jewish artichokes) and that’s where we started (if you don’t count the batter-fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy and the olives stuffed with sausage).
Fried stuff is always awesome but the artichokes are a revelation – the outer leaves are crunchy and salty, almost like artichoke flavoured potato chips; the inner leaves and the heart are deliciously tender. For a special treat, here’s a video clip of my friend Elizabeth’s visit to the restaurant. Next I had what appeared to be an entire leg of lamb.
Ellen had cannelloni, which she loved. The service is super attentive, the view is right onto the portico and very pretty it is too. After a short chat with some friendly tourists from California at the next table, we staggered off in search of ice cream.
We had nearly made it out of the Ghetto when we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of a beautiful cheese shop. Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi (Beppe and his cheeses) has been open about a year and although I’d been hearing about it, I’d never managed to get there. Owner Beppe (short for Giuseppe) Giovale is from Piedmont and his wife is French and the loooooong cheese counter is devoted equally to French cheeses and cheeses from the Piedmont region.
There’s a big refrigerated case in back filled to the ceiling with cheese.
And lots of different prosciuttos, spicy sausages and other piggy delights (for us piggies). Despite the fact that we’d been eating pretty much non-stop for 4 days, Ellen and I could hardly turn down all the tastes we were offered, now could we? I bought a robiola, something that could pass for cheddar and whose name I forget, and a runny brie with truffles, which was amazing.
The front room is filled with wine and there are some little tables if you’d care to take a load off over some cheese and wine.
Ristorante Gigetto al Portico d’Ottavia, Via del Portico, 21/A . Tel (+39) 06 6861105
Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi, Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9A/11. Tel: 06 6819 2210