Table of Contents
- 1 Destination: Rome
- 2 Mode of Transportation: Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
- 3 Monti Neighborhood
- 4 Like a Fellini Film
- 5 19th Century Buildings
- 6 Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
- 7 Home Kitchens
- 8 La Carbonara in Monti
- 9 Povera Cucina
- 10 Roman Cookery
- 11 Brenda’s very short travel guide to Rome:
- 12 Getting to Rome:
- 13 Travel Books:
- 14 Hotels we like in Rome:
- 15 Where to eat Spaghetti Alla Carbonara:
Mode of Transportation: Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
The doors of the Nerva Hotel opened onto Via Tor de’ Conti. The feeling was akin to lifting a large garage door to one of the movie studio sets in 1960’s Cinecitta, as the City of Rome unfolded. This studio set of the great city was replete with ancient columns, marbled streets, and rotundas as the background. The main focus of this setting is in the working class neighborhood tucked behind the Roman Forum named, Monti.
The neighborhood is filled with sloped, cobblestone streets that are filled with energetic people speaking at a pitch a touch louder than you would hear on the tourist paths. This is their neighborhood and they lay claim to it by simply being themselves. As if it were contrived for my viewing, there was a group of elders sitting along the fountain in one of the small piazzas and children kicking around a well-worn soccer ball.
Like a Fellini Film
I couldn’t help but feel as if I were part of a scene in a Fellini film, say 8 ½, as I sat in one of the cafes having a Negroni looking out the window spotting someone looking very much like Claudia Cardinale. Turning away from the window and trying to refocus on reality, I found both my wife and daughter sitting across from me also seeming as if they were part of the movie themselves, wearing their shades and cotton scarves.
19th Century Buildings
The Monti Neighborhood was one reason for our return to Rome. It is always a wonderful feeling to find true localness in a big town. Visually I found the neighborhood strongly resembling our New York Neighborhood of NoLita. With 19th century buildings, Monti felt as if it were the template used to build up our very heavily Italian influenced neighborhood back home.
Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
We were excited to experience a vibe of something inherently real, more about the inhabitants rather than the grand structures. One way of accomplishing this was to stay and dine in the neighborhood; and because we are food bloggers, and we were in Rome, our quest was to find the best eatery for the quintessential Roman dish, Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.
There are many theories regarding the origin of the dish, ranging from egg and bacon ration distributions during post-WWII, to a dish created out of necessity by hard working coal miners that had a healthy appetite for coarse black pepper. I’d like to think, however, that some version of it always existed in the Italian kitchen and Monti seemed to be a neighborhood where eateries are just extensions of home kitchens.
La Carbonara in Monti
After having gotten input from the very helpful desk at our hotel, who themselves were neighborhood locals, the consensus was, in fact, a small but popular place just a few blocks from the hotel aptly named, “La Carbonara”. This “La Carbonara” is not to be confused with the establishment by the same name on the more traversed area of Campo de Fiori.
This humble Hostaria is located on an inclined street and has been dishing out fantastic Roman Specialties since 1906. The sight that greeted us was not what anyone of us had expected. You won’t find a corpulent grandmother wearing a moo-moo dress under her apron, cooking and serving you here. The establishment may have been here a long time, the aesthetic rustic, and the dishes “Povera Cucina” inspired, but the approach is sophisticated and a reminder that what’s old can be done in a way that feels new. Monti is Rome’s first ward, and through its food culture, experiencing a Renaissance. La Carbonara was leading the march.
There was music playing in the background, not Puccini, but Blondie; a bar filled with an attractive crowd of all ages, the de rigueur being a fitted polo shirt with high-waisted cropped pants on the men and belted cotton dresses on the women.
The decor was that of wooden tables and chairs lined against walls ladened with graffiti and framed black and white family photos. The arched entrances that separated the rooms made every table feel cozy. The vibe was that of a local tavern, nothing necessarily chic about it. But there was something somewhat “sexy” about the place.
With a good mix of formality and casualness, the young staff clearly knew their stuff and showed their knowledge by going through the menu without any mental pauses and going from table to table without any pens and pads to take orders. The approach gave one the impression of cool professionalism.
On the menu were the classic fried and offal offerings that true Roman cookery is known for, but we were here for the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. My daughter is the expert in carbonara and we were all waiting for her review. According to her, and I concur, their version is legendary. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente; the egg, heavy and still a bit runny to the fork, the Pecorino aged and perfectly salty, the coarse black pepper grounded heavily, and the use of guanciale gave it a heartier and more earthy finish as opposed to the use of regular bacon.
If we were Knights in Arthur’s Court, this would have been the equivalent to finding the Holy Grail. It was the Roman landscape on a plate – elegant, robust, and soulful.
This was the set to the final scene which had us seated at a table with our friends, lots of sound surrounding us from other tables, slurping pasta up into our mouths, pouring wine almost haphazardly, laughing, gesticulating and having a good time. The scene ends, doors close. Ciao, Roma!
Stay tuned for Feast Friday for Andrew’s recipe for this Spaghetti Alla Carbonara so we can all transport to Rome together.
Brenda’s very short travel guide to Rome:
Getting to Rome:
Getting to Rome is really easy almost all airlines fly to Rome direct, the last time we traveled there, we took SAS, with a stopover in Copenhagen. The flight was about $600 round trip. We normally use Skyscanner or Google Flights to scan for the best prices and airfarewatchdog to alert us on some deals.
We are big fans of Rick Steves and buy his books whenever we travel to Europe. Make sure to also download his free app, it’s very useful. Our daughter likes Lonely Planet’s “not for parents” guide books.
Hotels we like in Rome:
Hotel Nerva – As mentioned above in the first paragraph, we loved the Hotel Nerva because it was situated in Monti and is a neighborhood close to all the sights and at the same time, is where actual Romans still live. So many of the restaurants are frequented by locals. We loved the Nerva because she had a small adjoining room with a single bed, which is tough to find for a family of 3.
Hotel FortySeven – We stayed here when Bailey was just 2 years old and the hotel was quite new. This hotel equally convenient and is walking distance from all the major sites. It also faces Temple of Vesta and is magical at night when it is lit up. We stayed there in the summer and had a great view of Rome while having drinks at the rooftop restaurant.
Intercontinental De La Ville – During our time working at the House of Valentino, we were fortunate enough to stay at this luxurious hotel above the Spanish Steps, right next to the legendary Hassler. After our time at Valentino, we also opted to stay here a couple of times. If you want old world luxury hospitality, Intercontinental De La Ville is the place to stay.
Where to eat Spaghetti Alla Carbonara: