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.
The Upstairs Vegetarian had a whipped cod mousse, which was delish.
Jane had a plate of big fat shrimps with beans and caramelized onions. Also yum.
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).
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.
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 by the way translates as 13 Hunchbacks. I have no idea why the restaurant has this name.
Ristorante Pizzeria Eccolo, 16 Bergamo, Rome.Tel: 068414136
Ristorante 13 Gobbi, Via del Porcellana 9, Tel: 055 284015