An Italian (foodie) Experience

Grace Pai, a third-year Public Policy major, has kept a detailed blog of her time abroad and shares with us an excerpt about her foodie experience during Rome's Restaurant Week 2012.

After spending the summer in Seoul where she studied intensive Korean with support from a Foreign Language Acquisition Grant, Grace flew to Italy to participate in the Rome, Antiquity to Baroque program. She will soon head to France to participate in the Paris: Social Sciences winter quarter program.

Iiiiiiiiiiit’s Restaurant Week in Rome!!

More than 80 restaurants in Rome (and its surrounding area) are offering lunch and dinner set menus all week (Nov. 5-11). Most are 25 euro, with a few at 35, and Michelin-starred restaurants at 40 and up. Of course, I started researching the restaurants and browsing menus as soon as I found out about it. Our time in Rome this week is limited, so I knew we had to make a reservation ASAP (we’re all heading to Florence on Thursday for a class trip, and most of us will stay in Tuscany for the weekend). Five friends and I made a reservation at Colline Emiliane, a small, family-run restaurant that specializes in ‘classic Emilian cuisine’, for a late lunch on Tuesday, as they were fully booked for dinner.

Tagliatelle alla bolognese and pumpkin tortelliniTagliatelle alla bolognese and pumpkin tortellini

Our set menu included three courses:

  • Starter/first course: Composto da un misto di tortelli di zucca e tagliatelle alla bolognese (A combination plate of pumpkin tortellini and tagliatelle alla bolognese)
  • Main course: Choice between (1) Giambonetto di vitella con purea (slow-cooked veal with mashed potatoes) or (2) Il brasato di manzo con purea (red wine braised beef with mashed potatoes)
  • Dessert: Mousse di zabaione servito con lingue di gatto (eggnog mousse with ‘cat tongue’ cookies)

It’s the same menu for lunch and dinner, so we definitely got our €25 worth. We had heard that some of the participating restaurants aren’t actually very good or worth your money, so we made sure to look around for specific recommendations from food bloggers and the like before making a final decision. The menu sounded delicious, so I had some high expectations…and Colline Emiliane exceeded them!

Pumpkin tortellini  Pumpkin tortellini

The homemade pasta was amazing, though I should note that I’m partial to tortellini and pumpkin/squash fillings in particular. I could really taste that the tagliatelle was homemade – you just can’t achieve that consistency or texture with dried pasta. The best way I can describe it is chewy with a hint of firmness and a little stretch. The leaf of basil with the tortellini was the perfect touch – it added a nice flavor (almost a little sweet, too) and a slightly different texture. Simply delicious.

Slow-cooked veal with mashed potatoes – Colline Emiliane’s specialty Slow-cooked veal with mashed potatoes – Colline Emiliane’s specialty

I chose the veal as my main course (veal in general is really popular in Italy). The waiter said it’s their unique specialty – apparently you can’t find this dish anywhere else in Rome. It’s slow-cooked in milk for hours (I can’t remember how many but it was impressive), rendering incredibly tender meat. I don’t think any of us actually needed our knives.

It was by far the best veal dish I’ve had so far. The only thing that would’ve made it better is if I was less full from the first course. Alas.

Eggnog mousse and ‘cat tongue’ cookies Eggnog mousse and ‘cat tongue’ cookies

Last (and unfortunately least) was dessert – an eggnog mousse with cat tongue cookies. I’ve tried eggnog maybe once, and I don’t remember my impression of it. This dessert just didn’t suit my palate, though it did grow on me. It had a wonderfully light and creamy texture, which I loved, but the combination of the egg, lemon, and strong alcoholic (maybe white wine?) flavors ruined it for me. I really wanted to like it. On the other hand, the cookies were great! Crispy and buttery goodness.

That wraps up my Rome Restaurant Week adventure! I guess I need to take part in Chicago’s next year.

Photos courtesy of Grace Pai, '14.

Rome, food