Edible Shots and a 5-course “breakfast”…

Posted on February 27, 2011

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Dear Aperitivo,

Americans will recognize this as something like “happy hour” but in this Italian tradition the aperitivo is much, much better! Instead of getting a deal on cocktails before dinner you pay a normal price for a fancy hand-made drink AND get free food! That is right, free mini bites and as much as you want as long as you purchase at least one drink. Last night we went to a well-known place called Freni e Frizioni. I had an amazing concoction called El Diablo (Yes, the Devil!) that had tequila, fresh blackberry, ginger ale, and some other ingredients that made me smile with delight in each sip. The dishes were the fanciest that I have seen, so far, I have been to maybe three other places that offer this “apertivo and buffet.” There were sliced apples, fresh beets, couscous, curry rice, cici-bean salad, polenta with red sauce, a fennel salad, some other vegetables like cauliflower and zucchini and fresh perfect bread! Yes, all these amazing little tasty bites for free. I went through the line two times and filled my little plate til it sank in the center! The first time through the line I became so excited about the beets that I literally got all the way back to my seat without my drink! I rushed back to retrieve my Devil drink and asked someone (in Italian) to hand it to me since I forgot it! I was drinking this cocktail slowly since I was enjoying it and since I knew that we were going some other places so I didn’t want to spend all the money there. About 9 of us huddled around a tiny table outside and enjoyed our food and drink with conversations in both English, Italian and a little Spanish. I reached for my drink and again it was gone! What the hell? I knew that I brought it over to the table…then there is Frances Ford lost in a conversation with her friend finishing my drink by mistake! I alert her and we have a good laugh since she was thinking that she didn’t remember her drink tasting like this…! And I thought I had some drinking issues!? She was having a hot orange prosecco and juice. I was having a hot purple tequila Devil…NOTHING similar whatsoever! Oh well. She offered me her drink but I am not really into the sweetness of prosecco late in the night. I enjoyed my beets and practices some more Italian with the group. One of France’s friends complimented me and said that either I was a really good student or Frances was a really good teacher because even though I don’t speak much I understand almost EVERYTHING that is being said around me. If I am not sure how to answer in Italian I just answer in English but they are always surprised that I knew what they were talking about. Frances and I agreed that it was 50/50 (cinquanta/cinquanta!) and that we were both just smart people that care.

We moved on to the next place in Trastevere. I have heard about this area being “the place to be” at night for people around my age. Either I am getting old or since the drinking age is only 18 I am part of an underpopulated age group! Laughter, cursing and cigarette smoke filled the air in the tiny streets. I still am in shock when I see people drinking on the streets but it is totally legal here and acceptable. Places close around 2 am so by midnight everyone is feeling a pretty good buzz that everyone can witness. I only had about half a drink (thanks Frances!) so I was ready for these chocolate liquor shots I had been hearing about all night. This little tiny place has a line out the door and everyone is smiling and laughing at the menu board. All of the shots are named from “Kama Sutra”  from what I understood…I still have yet to interpret all of them but for the price and taste we were very satisfied with our choices. This little treasure of a place is called Rivendita Libri-Cocciolata e Vino. It is literally a mini bookstore with a tiny bar that serves edible shot glasses made of chocolate then poured to the brim with alcohol then topped with whipped cream!

The menu. The creation. The smiles. Cin cin! Messy but so tasty! The one that we chose was called “Scappatella” which had hazelnut liquor that we all know as Frangelico. I can totally create these at home minus the dirty names! Pretty much a “Scappatella” is an escapade. Also known as a “short get away” or a “dirty weekend!” Sex-capade I suppose. Dirty Italians and their chocolate sexual shots in a nice little bookstore?! That’s right. Never a dull moment. Us three girls have some serious laughs when we are together. Once we moved on from our dirty yet delicious shots we found another location and had one more drink before the night was over. Frances and I have similiar tastes in drinks, besides the fact that she drinks my drinks, but the last few times that we have gone out we end the night with a “GodMother” cocktail. A “Madrina” is vodka and amaretto with a little slice of fresh orange. The contrary is Padrino which is manly scotch and amaretto. This drink is good for the end of the night since you only allow yourself one because not only it is strong as hell but it is also sweet so one is all you need! Pure alcohol with a few cubes of ice…cinquanta/cinquanta of vodka and amaretto…these bartenders skim on the ice so you know that your drink is worth it.

My phone dies halfway through our drinks but luckily Texa lets me use her phone to get a hold of Mickey (mio raggazo) so that we can meet him next. He tells us to meet him at Campo de Fiori so we start walking across the river to find him through a massive crowd of (in my opinion, underage…) drunken people. Cobble-stone and cocktails are deadly. We make it across the river and recognize how sober we are compared to these kids! I love that the only places that are open for food after 1 am are gelaterias that have crepes and ice cream! If you are drunk in the states you do not rely on ice cream and super thin pancakes slathered in Nutella or some other delicious sweet something to “sober you up!” Texa and I get in line at a Blue Ice for a Nutella crepe, even though we don’t need sobering up, just another chocolate shot to the face. We have had better. Taking a seat on a bench outside the Blue Ice we people watch and wait for Mickey and his friends. One bite in he is standing in front of us saying hello and telling us that those crepes are not that good and we should have waited for him to take us somewhere else! Always. He does know the best but we hardly have enough patience to wait for him! He meets us after 1 am and we find his friends and order some wine at a pub. He is picky, like me, and announces that the wine “sucks” (che schiffo) so we don’t drink it but make his friends finish it. Once the place calls “last call”, pretty much, “we are closed get moving!” we make our way to his car that is parked FAR away from where we were. Perhaps it just seemed far since I walked ALL day already. I walked for 5 hours already then about 3 more while out. If I had a full-time job of walking I supposed getting 8 hours a day in of walking is pretty good. This is precisely the reason why these Italians stay thin; they walk a lot! I believe that if I continue to walk as much as I am now I will come back thinner…this is the goal. I think that for all the pasta and pizza that I get to eat walking is doing just fine for me. I eat pasta once or twice a day and still have managed to lose a few pounds. Seems unrealistic but it is true for some crazy reason this pasta/pizza diet is working for me. At home I would never have thought that eating this much “carbs” would help me lose weight.

By the time that we took everyone home and got to bed it was almost 4 in the morning. Sunday we get to sleep in since he doesn’t have to work until 4. His mother always makes us a huge lunch and is so sweet to us during “our morning hours” even though it is late “afternoon.” She tip-toes in and slowly opens the window to let in the light every so often until we are fully awake and not fighting to get more sleep. She even kissed ME on the forehead and said “buon giorno!” It is like the nice version of my father’s way of waking me and my sister up. My father would just open the door and switch on the light then say “get up!” while walking away so he didn’t hear our groans from the vicious flash of wattage! Once the sunlight forces us to get moving we go out to the kitchen for the feast. Since it is our first meal of the day I still think of it a “breakfast.” It is only us three but she cooked enough for a table of 6. She tells me that I can sit where I like so I choose my seat. When he comes out he stops in the doorway and gives me the “you are in MY seat!” look. “Do you want me to move??” I ask him ready to trade him seats. He tells me that it is fine but I think that he was just “being nice.” We begin the feast with spaghetti with meat sauce and then two different baked vegetables dishes. All very good and must have taken her all morning to prepare! Next, some sliced and cubed beef with some  secret “sauce.” I only have one piece since I am not really into meat since I have been here. I prefer fish and white meat versus beef and other animals I am unsure of. He knows this too and reminds his mother that I don’t prefer beef (for next time?) Once she places the vegetable dishes on the table to serve us he looks at me from across the table and tells me that “this is food for girls!” I laugh and look away shyly and take a sip of my water. I like “chick food.” I am full before I even try either of the vegetable dishes but I know that I must eat it all. One of the dishes  is  a mini baked three layer tower of fried onion, eggplant and tomato. They are very pretty; it was like I didn’t want to ruin the presentation of the towers of “chick food!” The other dish is thin sliced eggplant lightly fried then served with a mini halved tomato and some fresh white sprinkle of cheese and basil. We “spray” a little balsamic on this one to enhance the flavor. The tiny bottle is literally a fancy spray bottle so that the amount is controlled! He offers me some and I tell him “only one spray please” with a laugh. His mother speaks a little english but mostly Italian but we understand each other so it is good. She will always laugh with me. She offers me some wine and I tell her that I will drink with her. “You don’t have to drink with my mother you know,” he tells me while pointing towards her with his fork. I remind him that I am “off work” today so I can drink with his mother if I want to. “Brava!” she tells me and pours me a glass with a wink. Just when I think that this meal is over she says “dolce..dolce!” and pulls out another plate of tiramisu and babas! Baba is a desert like puff dipped in rum then filled with vanilla cream. Sounds better than it tastes. The only liquor I prefer with sweets is chocolate. I enjoyed a tiny piece of tiramisu. He says out loud what I was thinking, “This is not true marscapone. This is more like whipped cream it is not the same…” I agree and call him a food snob in my mind. We thank her for the fabulous lunch and are saying goodbye. She kisses my cheek and offers me some fruit to go. This woman! I cannot eat anymore! She puts her hand to my stomach and asks me what kind of “sports do you make?” for such a flat stomach? I tell her that I exercise in the park and try to run when I can. He shakes his head at her and explains that I also do Pilates and I used to be a teacher back at home. She is instantly interested and gets her laptop to “search Pilates” and learn more. Half way home his phone rings and it is her. She wanted to know how long I have been “making the Pilates” for. Almost 6 years I have been “making Pilates!” She is very interested since she likes the idea of the “mind and body” working together as one. She gets it. And I didn’t even have to explain or have him translate better yet. I may have a new client in Rome.

Jessica

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Posted in: When in Rome