All things Pasta, Pizza, perfection and Coffee – it can only be Rome

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As I sit sipping my beer, I watch a group of Italian men who have settled at the counter in front of me. All of them look like they have just stepped off the catwalks of Milan. With their dark hints of stubble, classic olive skins, and designer sunglasses they could all be models. Clad in sleek suits, they line up at the café’s bar, downing shots of espresso. You rarely see a young Italian sit to drink his espresso. They have coffee drinking down to a classic art form, possibly because again, coffee is another obsession they are all passionate about, and therefore their coffee is also sublime. There are very few nationalities that look cool just drinking a coffee. I feel I should have quite liked being Italian! I watch them as they finish their shots and push their bodies away from the bar, heading out on to the streets – their own personal Rome catwalk.

I also decide it is time to move on, this time in search of food. Minutes later, I am walking down another cobbled street. There is something about Italy that is calming, even after my backstreet horror movie moment earlier, I feel at peace here. It feels safe and open and sociable. People call out to each other on the streets in welcome, jokes are thrown between friends hovering in the air. Lovers’ kiss and laugh, and car horns beep, but usually more in recognition of a friend than in anger. It’s a bubbly, romantic, effervescent city and feels nice to wander and hear all the sounds in the air. You almost feel part of something, even when you are alone.

I continue to wander, as surprisingly, I am struggling this evening to find myself a plate of pasta. Strange perhaps, but true. I am in Rome. Italia, heart of all things pizza and pasta and, I can assure you, this is not through lack of trying! I am breezing in and out of numerous establishments on my quest and, although I’m met with handshakes and back slaps, none of them can offer me what I am looking for! Finally, I see a cute little restaurant lit up by twinkling lights twisted into a trellis above their outdoor tables.

“You have pasta?” I try, my stomach desperate for a positive response.

“Si!”

“Great, I’m in!”

“Sorry, we are closed. We open at 20.00.”

I don’t have a watch on me but I know it was around six when I began my quest. I have barely eaten all day and am now positively craving pasta, yet everywhere I try is closed.

“What is it with this town? I came here in search of the pasta and all of you are closed. Is it a law that you open only at half seven/eight?”

Apparently it is! The Italians, they tell me, delight in long late lunches, then they head back to work and decide to go for dinner later in the evening. Unfortunately, other than the main tourist restaurants, (my nemesis), it is almost impossible to find a local Italian restaurant set up to serve at this time of day. He tells me there is a small 24/7 business open on the nearby corner. In fact everyone had told me to go there and I decide that they cannot all be wrong. They are allowed to be open as they sell to take away customers. I head straight there, worried I am going to pass out from extreme hunger! I am in luck and they do in fact have a few tables. I give my order to the rather portly Proprietor then sit back comfortably looking forward to whatever it is that turns up, she looks like she eats well so that could be a good sign!

The plate comes out and I am salivating…but then a cold pasta salad is placed in front of me and my heart drops. I explain to her that it’s my first night in the city and I am desperate to have freshly cooked pasta with tomato sauce. I put on my most pleading face and she capitulates and says she will suggest the chef whip me up a fettuccine. These Italians are so accommodating!

Within minutes, I am served a steaming bowl of freshly cooked pasta, none of the pre-made packet stuff that most establishments around the world tend to serve. That they made this especially for me, on the spot, is simply incredible. It is easily one of the best pasta meals I have ever eaten. I taste the egg, it melts in my mouth and is cooked to perfection. I devour it and ask for another dish of the same! This, together with a small carafe of red wine, sets me up perfectly for my next stop. Generally, I have a small appetite, but tonight, pizza is the next thing on the menu. I pay my ridiculously inexpensive bill, leaving extra for their kindness, and I am back into the night on the search of pizza!