My college roommate Joanne came to visit for three weeks and we pretty much spent most of the time eating. As a result I am sadly behind on the blogging front but — on a positive note — I have a lot of new stuff to write about, which I hope to do over the next week or so. One night we went to Lungo Il Tevere, a summer-long festival along the Tiber (which is precisely what Lungo Il Tevere means). There are shops, bars, restaurants, boutiques, poetry readings, films, etc. I’ve written about it before so I won’t repeat. Just to say that the programme is only available in Italian this year so tragically we will miss the glories of previous editions, which were Google-translated into the sprightliest of English: Our main purpose…is informing citizens and tourists about the existence of a place that offers the possibility to enrich their own personal culture in a free way throughout fixed appointments – both cultural and of entertainment- addressed to study in detail themes about the tradition and the future of Rome.
Things seem somewhat subdued this year with fewer things going on along the river than heretofore and hitherto (two words that do not get used often enough in my humble estimation). But there are still lots of restaurants to choose from. Joanne and I chose the intriguingly named Giuda ballerino for dinner.
The real Giuda ballerino (as opposed to the Tiber Island pop-up place) is near Cinecitta’ (Rome’s major film studio, established by Mussolini for use in making propaganda movies and, after the war, home to about 3000 refugees for about 2 years. More recently, Cinecitta’ was the shooting location for one of the greatest bad movies of all time: Cleopatra). It has a Michelin star and features both a restaurant (modern and creative according to the Michelin people) and an osteria (rustic and regional, ditto). I’ve just looked at both the restaurant and osteria menus and they are actually fairly similar.
The Tiber version of the menu was definitely creative, some would say mad. But before I get into that, I need to explain the name. The restaurant’s website, which you see below, features a number of scary cartoon characters. The guy in the chef’s hat is holding a page from a Dylan Dog comic book. Apparently the owners are big fans. Now bear with me for just a moment. Dylan Dog is an Italian cartoon character based in London who works as a nightmare investigator (l’indagatore dell’incubo), which probably is the reason for the Frankensteins and Freddy Krugers on the home page. (Betty Boop makes an appearance on the menu, which I can’t easily explain). Dylan’s sidekick is an ex-Groucho Marx imitator named Groucho and his favourite expression is Giuda ballerino, which translates as Judas dancer. The expression is sort of a jumping Jehoshaphat equivalent and apparently comes from the fact that Judas hanged himself so, you know, he danced at the end of the rope. Ick. And since I am sure you are wondering, Jehoshaphat was a biblical leader whom God helped to win a big battle. Opinions differ as to why and when the jumping happened.
Remember that time on Friends where Rachel made a Thanksgiving trifle, only two pages of the cookbook stuck together and she ended up combining the trifle and shepherd’s pie recipes? That’s a bit what the menu reminded me of. Except delicious. I had an antipasto of fat prawns wrapped in shredded phyllo pastry and served with a mortadella foam dipping sauce. Mortadella, in case you live on the moon, is the classic Italian pork sausage from Bologna and the inspiration for its decidedly inferior poor cousin, baloney, which in turn inspired this excellent television moment. It sounds insane but OMG as the kids say, it was unbelievably delish. The foam was light and not too foamy or piggy in flavor, not that that’s a bad thing. I could have eaten many more helpings but chose to move on.
I moved on to ravioli stuffed with burrata, topped with mussels and sauced with candied lemon peel and bright green parsley oil, which nicely cut the richness of the burrata and mussels. Very fresh and summery.
Joanne had a foie gras burger with caramelized red onions. As in the burger was entirely made of foie gras. It looked awfully good and she assured me that it was fantastic but I only have her word on that since she gobbled it down before I thought to ask for a bite, nor did she offer.
Lungo il Tevere runs until 1 September. Judas dancer is on Tiber Island. The rest of the year you can eat visit Dylan Dog and his friends at:
Giuda ballerino. Largo Appio Claudio 344,348 00174 Roma. Tel: +39/0671584807