Eccolo {Rome} / 13 Gobbi {Florence}

A couple of weeks ago I went to see the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. Alert: multiple spoilers ahead. My friend Jane says that these movies are pure fantasy and should be given a break with regard to continuity and making sense and such like. But I still feel that there should be a modicum of attention paid to logic and follow through. For example, James Bond killed hundreds of people and caused the destruction of most of London, Istanbul and some place in Scotland. Despite all that, he failed in his mission but he was still welcomed back with open arms. Would that have really happened? And what about the hard disk? Where did that go? First, retrieving it was a matter of international peace and security and then, meh. Having said that, I love the new Q. And Javier Bardem is brilliant. He needs to keep on acting with the bad hair props – they seem to inspire him. Daniel Craig is a thug.

After the movie, we ducked into a nearby pizzeria with a promising facade. The Ristorante Pizzeria Eccolo was warm and cozy. The menu looked great — lots of interesting fish dishes — our waiter was handsome and attentive. What could go wrong?  The starter course was terrific and we found ourselves growing more and more excited. A new restaurant find! Across the street from a movie theatre that sometimes shows films in English! Not too expensive! Handsome waiters! I had a sort of Tuscan mixed starter with some bits of fried dough and eggplant, various porky meats and a warm liver pate. Very tasty and homey.

Tuscan omnibus

The Upstairs Vegetarian had a whipped cod mousse, which was delish.

Cod mousse tastes way better than it sounds.

Jane had a plate of big fat shrimps with beans and caramelized onions. Also yum.

Big fat juicy shrimps

At that point, a large noisy group of thirty-somethings came in and we basically never saw our waiter again. Nor were any of the other waitstaff remotely interested in taking up his slack. We sat for nearly an hour waiting for our next course. Not patiently — there were many sighs, glares, hand-wavings and ‘yos’ emanating from our table, most of which were ignored (the odd waiter passing by, having been grabbed by the scruff of his neck, promised to return soon; he never did). My pizza finally arrived (without the onion I had requested).

My pizza wasn’t bad after they added the onion, although it was cold by the time it arrived back to me. I did have a Proustian flashback to cold pizza for breakfast in college.

About 20 minutes later, the rest of the food showed up: Jane’s fish plate and the U.V.’s very boring bowl of lettuce with a few bits of smoked salmon draped on top. My pizza was fine, although cold, and the U.V.’s salad was as expected (boring). Jane’s fish was very nice and super fresh. But there are plenty of spots to get good fish in or near Rome without being completely ignored — like this place. So I’d go there  instead.

Nice fresh fish, but not worth the wait

An extraordinarily ordinary salad with a side of herby butter for some reason

Now, I realize that dining experiences are by their nature highly subjective and often shaped by the luck of the draw. Restaurants have off nights and perhaps I should be more forgiving about this place. But I’m not going to be. The fact is that our waiter made a clear decision to completely ignore our table after the arrival of a younger, hotter table. The fact that things had started out so well made the rejection doubly painful. I have included the contact information for Eccolo below but you are strongly advised to steer clear unless 1). you have nothing better to do with your time 2). Daniel Craig has a gun to your head.

The next day, I hopped a train for Florence to meet my old pal Linda, her French husband Francois and daughter Laurence. I’ve known Linda since I was seven years old and even though she lives in nearby Paris, it had been years since I had seen her (or, for that matter, Paris. Must rectify). I arrived around lunchtime and, armed with my friend Elizabeth’s Eat Florence app, we headed off to catch up over a fine meal. I had my eye on Trattoria Sostanza, which Elizabeth gives a very enthusiastic review and we wandered around the back streets of Florence for awhile before tracking the restaurant down. Although I had read the review with care (butter chicken, ermmm), I had missed the bit about the restaurant being closed on Sunday. Oops. Since it was getting late, we ducked into the closest place that was open: 13 Gobbi. And suddenly my faith in humanity was restored.

The restaurant is split into a number of cozy rooms and decorated with all matter of goofball stuff — old radios, random photos of old movie stars, cartoons of Superman —  which automatically predisposed me to like it. My house looks like this. The mix seemed to be about 1/2 Italian 1/2 tourist but we were never made to feel like second class citizens. We sat for hours enjoying our meal — in a good way and not because it took hours to arrive. The service was friendly and polite. We only had to glance at the waiter for him to come rushing over. And did I mention that the restaurant was fully occupied?

13 Gobbi is split into a number of rooms and is super cozy. Cozy is very important this time of year.

13 Gobbi by the way translates as 13 Hunchbacks. I have no idea why the restaurant has this name.

Shaved raw artichoke and parmesan salad

Gnocchi, zucchini and bits of lobster. This had an amazing taste.

Spaghetti with bottarga (dried fish eggs – very marine-y)

My tagliata with rosemary was fantastic.

Francois enjoys a Bistecca alla Fiorentina that’s as big as his head.

Fried chicken and veggies

Very indulgent ricotta cheesecake

Pear cake with melted chocolate

And then they gave us a bag of free cookies for good measure!

13 Gobbi’s somewhat eclectic decor

Ristorante Pizzeria Eccolo, 16 Bergamo, Rome.Tel: 068414136

Ristorante 13 Gobbi, Via del Porcellana 9, Tel: 055 284015

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7 responses to “Eccolo {Rome} / 13 Gobbi {Florence}

  1. What a wonderful place we found! The afternoon was thoroughly enjoyable and we will have to do it again one day! Take care! Linda

  2. I keep meaning to get to 13 Gobbi! Hey, maybe I’ll just cut and paste this into Eat Florence? 😉

  3. LOL – “unless 1). you have nothing better to do with your time 2). Daniel Craig has a gun to your head”

    You forgot number 3 – you are under 30 and the waiters will find you VERY attractive 🙂

    Although I really did laugh out loud, I am in agreement in that a) I would never go back and b) you should not give it a chance. For a restaurant, one chance is enough imho.

    p.s. the hard disk was given to Javier Bardem who was using it to ‘destroy the world’.

  4. Sorry, more precisely, to kill agents and, in particular, cause Judi Dench some heartache

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