Sunday, July 27, 2008

Italy, Day 2, 6/16/2008

  • breakfast: cappuccino and brioche
  • lunch: spinach and mozzarella sandwich
  • dinner from Ristorante Ernesto: plate of local cured meat; lamb with saffron and artichokes; saffron pudding; fruit

On the metro as we were going to the bus station, we saw a large family speaking Hungarian. After a few minutes, I got up the courage to talk to them in Hungarian. They were bemused by the sight of two Americans speaking Hungarian in Italy. Two of them turned out to speak excellent English, which made communication easier. They were actually from Transylvania, not Hungary. Their summary of Rome compared to eastern Europe: "It's a different world here."

We bought our bus tickets and sat down in a cafe for lunch. I got a sandwich with beautiful cooked spinach and mozzarella. The spinach had some red pepper flakes mixed in with it. Giovanna had a sandwich with prosciutto, pecorino romano, and lettuce, which reminded me that pecorino has plenty of uses besides grating.

We spent the afternoon walking around L'Aquila on the routes designated by our tourist map, which were designed to show us all the sights. These were mostly churches from the 14th-16th centuries, along with a lovely 13th century fountain.

The Fountain of the 99 Spouts

We started dinner at Ristorante Ernesto with a wooden tray of cured meat, including a dense, black liver sausage that tasted alternatively bad, good, and then bad again, as Giovanna said. Our next course was lamb in a lemony sauce with saffron, rosemary, and artichoke hearts, which tasted as good as it sounds. Alongside this, we had beautiful tomato wedges, pink tinged with green, served with olive oil and basil. My dessert was basically panna cotta that was bright yellow, with some currants on top. The fruit plate wasn't great. But besides it and the liver sausage (which I'm sure some people would have liked a lot), everything we had was terrific.

Ristorante Ernesto
Piazza Palazzo, 22
67100 L'Aquila (AQ)

Italy, Day 1, 6/15/2008

  • lunch: pizza with zucchini; pizza with mushrooms and sausage
  • dinner from Fratelli la Bufala: stewed buffalo with arugula and mozzarella; pasta with a creamy tomato-basil sauce and two kinds of buffalo milk cheese

The most exciting part of our day's transportation was the taxi ride from the Fiumicino airport. On two-lane roads, our taxi driver invented a third lane for himself. Whenever a red light stopped the flow of traffic, he used his imaginary lane to skip to the front of the stopped cars. When the light changed, he sped ahead of them.

After we saw the ruins at Ostia Antica, which were so extensive we got lost in them, we went to a pizzeria for lunch. They sold their pizza by the weight. Our two slices were covered with nicely charred mozzarella. One had zucchini on it and the other had mushrooms and sausages. Neither had tomatoes. The crust was thin, oily, and crunchy. The pizza wasn't especially good for Italy nor was it especially fresh. Nevertheless, it's probably better than any pizza you could find in Hungary. The vegetables in particular were delicious.

A mosaic in Ostia Antica

A mosaic in Ostia Antica

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. The neighborhood didn't have many restaurants, but we found one that looked nice whose specialty was water buffalo. All the meat on the menu was water buffalo; all the dairy came from water buffalo milk, including the ice cream. The stewed buffalo meat was lean but still tender, with a flavor like beef but stronger. Apparently Hungarians like it too, though I never saw it available there at any butchers or restaurants.

When I looked up the address of Fratelli la Bufala, I discovered it's a big chain that even has a location in Miami. See, even chains are good in Italy!

Fratelli la Bufala
Via delle Antille, 41
00121 Rome