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Monday, June 16, 2008

A Tale of Three Tastings in Rome: Tasting #2 La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali

By Terry Carter*
La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali** was casually recommended to us by our guide, Petulia, from Context while we were on our way to visit some bespoke shops, and it was another memorable stop. A modest, old-fashioned trattoria, we were instantly taken with the casual nature of the staff. ‘Dad’, who appears to do the cooking, walked through the restaurant wearing the kind of apron that generally makes the rest of the family giggle, but the food was delicious, as was the wine selection. We ordered off-menu as this generally translates to the ‘specials’. In good Italian restaurants ‘specials’ don’t mean the stuff from the back of the walk-in refrigerator that’s well past its prime, it means the dishes that are made from what was bought fresh from the market that day. We had a beautiful freshly-made caponata (a 'salad' comprised of cooked eggplant, olives, pine nuts, celery, more than a little sugar, vinegar and olive oil, with some wonderful buffalo mozzarella on the side), followed by some handmade pastas, of which a veal ragout with late-season truffles was an aromatic delight. Even a neighbouring table’s comments*** that they had to keep drinking wine to "drown out the garlic taste" of the same dish* couldn’t deter us from fighting over whether our ‘half-half’**** rule applied.

* Photographer-writer Terry Carter is my husband and co-author

** at Via Madonna dei Monte 16
*** Notes for our neighbouring table (while desperately not trying to sound like a food snob): it was truffle, not garlic that was giving off the strong aroma (costs much more, smells very different); ‘al-dente’ means ‘with bite’, this is how pasta is cooked, although the ‘bite’ varies depending whether the pasta is secca (dried) or fresca (fresh); and ‘Dante’ was a writer, so asking if a pasta is ‘chewy’ because it’s cooked ‘Dante’ is like asking to be sent to the Inferno.
**** our ‘half-half’ rule is what we use when we have two dishes we both really want to try. We eat half and then swap plates. Conditions apply and there is often a little cheating. As when one person is faking that their dish is ‘just OK’, but is secretly having a food orgasm. This is generally easily discovered by noting the facial expressions of the cheating diner.

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