Rome is known as the Eternal City but that is not to say that it never changes and, whilst there may be one Rome for the Romans, for the visitor or casual resident there are as many Romes as there are times that you have been there.
For me, my Rome is the Rome of the late fifties. I had been in Florence for three years studying art and experiencing the delights of the Cucina Tuscana”. I had decided to set up a studio in Rome and it was at this time that I first met Betty, Gordon and their young family and together we joyfully investigated our mutual interests in music, the Etruscans and most importantly, the celebration of good things to eat.
The latter took us all of the Tavolo Calde, Trattorie and even Ristorante, of our area and Betty was chief investigator lifting lids in the kitchen, questioning the Padrona and making shrewd guesses (when answers were not forthcoming). In thoses presupermarket days I spent many hours in the early morning watching the market vendors bringing in their carts and setting up stalls. The noise, the smell, the colors, the light, the people, are unforgettable. Betty loved it too and rose to the challenge becoming expert at selecting the freshest and best produce that Rome had to offer. She had already learnt to bargain in the markets of Paris so the vendors on the Via Bocca de Leone didn’t stand a chance and in her own kitchen she tested and recreated the dishes she had tried. There was no stopping her enthusiasm for the Roman specialties. Our enjoyment was endless.!
M.F.K. Fisher maintains that “There is a communion of more than bodies where bread is broken and wine is drunk…” I agree, especially when the bread is the big round flatish loaf of the Campagna Romangna and the wine is the slightly sulphurous, very raucous Frascati from the hills above Rome. Through these pages I think you will find what is really eternal about Rome.
Bon Appetito! Leonard Creo
My road to Rome began at an early age. I think about ten. Because it was the radio era, I listened to the Metropolitan opera on Saturdays. The Italian ones were always my favorites. My father had an Italian friend, Franco, who invited us for spaghetti Sundays. I dreamed of becoming an archaeologist and being invited to help in some Roman forum “dig”. Of course I wanted to visit Italy.
Eventually I grew up married and went to Paris with my art student on the G. I. bill husband. Now there was two of us who were wild about ruins, opera and Italian food.
Winters were very cold and grey in Paris. We visioned ourselves in sunny Italy. This voyage was simply not possible on our government check of $105.00 per month. When school finished we returned to our home state California with our Paris born baby son. It was possible to build a house in Hermosa Beach on the Cal-Vet bill. We added two daughters to our family and settled down-except the Italian idea never went away.
Several years passed. We had the thought that if we sold our comfy house and belongings we could go live in Italy until the money ran out. Gordon could paint, we could visit the ruins, it could be a unique experience for the children and I could learn about Italian food.
All the sales and disposing of odds and ends worked out and in the Summer of 1958 we found ourselves in Perugia. Our Italian language skills were meager. Perugia has a “University for strangers”. You can while living in this ancient Etruscan hill town go to the university and study Italian. We did this for the Summer taking turns caring for our three children.
That Fall we all took the train down to Rome with suitcases and art materials. It was a Roman heat wave. The neighborhood around the Spanish steps was known as the artist’s quarter. This seemed like a good location because of the art galleries and the Borghese park near by. We stayed in a hotel on the Via Sistina and searched for a place to live.
Finding a spot to rent was difficult. In our quest a meeting with a local artist suggested we go see Irma. This lady lived in a tiny apartment on Via del Baubuino. She greeted us at her door in a lounging robe, cigarette in her mouth and a wine glass in her
hand. “You are artists and I will help you,” she said.
Irma had come to Rome from Finland on a bridge tournament. During the tournament she met Edwardo. He was kind and adored her even though he always spent Sundays with his mother. Irma did not want to return to the cold Finnish town and her cool husband and family. So she stayed in Rome and helped artists and Finnish visitors.
It was with the help of Irma that we did find a bachelor from England, Timothy. He had to return to England and needed to sub-lease his tiny attic apartment. Though it was small it was well located on Via del Corso and had a balcony overlooking the villa Medici and Roman pine streets. We lived here for almost two years.
It was because of Irma that we met Clare, an American widow living on her pension in Rome. She introduced us to Leonard Creo. Leonard was an American painter. He and his family wanted to explore the ruins and spend Sundays eating Roman food and sipping wine. We would all (4 adults and 6 children) pile in his small Fiat and head off for Roman adventure.
The time in Rome went fast. I cooked and shopped. Gordon painted and had several exhibits. Slowly the money slipped away and with boat fare remaining we all came back to California.
Luckily, we have been able to return to Rome for short interludes. In the Fall of 1987 we returned. I did more work on my recipes and completed my notes. Gordon did the sketches. We tossed some coins in the Trevi fountain so that we will return.
Hermosa Beach 1988
SCAMPI ALL GRIGLIA
(Broiled or grilled shrimp)
Romans have a sensible attitude towards shell fish. It should be kept simple to bring out all the delicate sea flavor. This treatment of shrimp is a perfect example.
1 lb. jumbo shrimp (about 15 to a lb.)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
lemon wedges and parsley for garnish
Shell the shrimp. Mix the remaining ingredients and stir. Marinate the shrimp in this at least 1 hour or longer. Place in a flat. Drain shrimp reserving the marinade. Divide between 2 skewers. Place the skewers over a baking dish with at least 2 inch sides. This is to collect the marinade. Broil and turn a couple of times until the shrimp are cooked and rosy pink. Don’t overcook. As you cook, baste them with the marinade which will collect in the pan. Use it all up.
To serve remove shrimp from the skewers and arrange on a warm plate with the marinade poured over them. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
This will serve two.
SALMONE ALLA FORNO
(Oven baked salmon)
Pliny the elder, that famous Roman naturalist and writer wrote nearly 1,900 years ago that the salmon from Aquitane surpassed all fishes. It was carried to Rome from this French province and known as “King of the fish”. Salmon is still a special Roman treat.
2-3 lbs. of salmon steaks
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white wine juice from one medium sized lemon
parsley and lemon wedges for garnish
Place the olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish. Put the salmon on top of the oil. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the salmon. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes until the salmon is pink and cooked. Remove from the dish and dribble some of the baking juices on the top of each piece. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.
This will serve four.
APPETIZERS AND SNACKS (Antipasti)
MARINATED ROASTED PEPPERS, OLIVES AND MUSHROOMS, Peperoni arrosta e olive anitpasto, CHEESE IN A BREAD CARRIAGE, Mozzarella in carrozza, ROMAN PIZZA, Pizza Romano, ITALIAN SPINACH OMELET, Frittata di spinachi, ROMAN GARLIC TOAST, Bruschetta, RICE CROQUETTES, Suppli, MELON OR FIGS WITH PROSCIUTTI, Melone fichi con proscuitti
ROMAN VEGETABLE SOUP, Minestrone alla Romano, PASTA AND LENTIL SOUP, Zuppa di pasta e lenticchie, ROMAN CHICKEN SOUP WITH LITTLE RAGS, Stracciatella alla Romana, ROMAN STYLE BROCCOLI SOUP, Zuppa di Broccoli Romana
EGG NOODLES IN ALFREDO STYLE, Fettuccine all‘Alfredo, ROMAN STYLE LASAGNE WITH MUSHROOMS, Lasagne alla Romana con funghi, TUBE PASTA IN A FURIOUS SAUCE, Penne all‘arrabbiata, PASTA WITH CLAM SAUCE, Pasta con vongole, D‘AMBROSI FAMILY RAVOLI, Ravoli di famiglia D‘Ambrosi, MACARONI WITH BACON AND ONION SAUCE, Bucatini all‘Amatriciana, SPAGHETTI COAL STYLE FROM TRASTEVERE, spaghetti alla carbonara di Trastevere, SEMOLINA CAKES BAKED WITH CHEESE AND BUTTER, Gnocci alla romana
MEAT AND POULTRY (Carne e pollame)
LEAP IN THE MOUTH VEAL WITH PROSCUITTO, Saltimbocca, VEAL MARSALA, Scaloppine al Marsala, VEAL SHANKS, Osso bucco ROMAN BEEF STEW, Il Garafolato OX TAIL STEW, Coda di bue alla vaccinara, ROMAN ROAST LAMB, Abbacchio, LAMB STEW HUNTER‘S STYLE, Abacchio alla Cacciatora, SAUSAGES AND PEPPERS, Salsicce con peperoni
CHICKEN ROMAN STYLE Pollo alla Romana
HUNTER‘S STYLE CHICKEN, Pollo alla cacciatora, BREAST OF TURKEY WITH LEMON AND CAPERS, Petti di tacchino piccata
FISH AND SEAFOOD (Pesce e frutta di mare)
SOLE ROMAN STYLE, Sogliola alla Romana, OVEN BAKED SALMON, Salmone alla forno STUFFED SARDINES, Sarde tortiera, GRILLED OR BROILED SHRIMP, Scampi alla griglia FRIED SQUID, Fritto di calamari
EGGPLANT PARMESAN ROMAN STYLE, Melanzane alla Parmigiana Romana, GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATO COOKED IN A FRYING PAN, Fagiolini e pomodoro a padella, SAUTEED MUSHROOMS, Funghi trifolati ROMAN STYLE BROCCOLI, Broccoli alla Romana ROMAN STYLE ARTICHOKES, Carciofi alla Romana TOMATOES STUFFED WITH RICE, Pomodori ripieni di riso, SPINACH ROMAN STYLE, Spinachi alla Romana
ROMAINE LETTUCE SALAD WITH NUTS AND GORGONZOLA, Insalata di Romana con noci e gorgonzola, ITALIAN BREAD SALAD, Panzanella, TUNA AND BEAN SALAD, Insalata di fagoli e tonno, ITALIAN PASTA SALAD, Isalata di pasta, CAULIFLOWER SALAD, Insalata di cavofiori
RICOTTA CHEESE PIE, Crostata di ricotta, TORTINO MACAROON AND CREAM DESSERT, Biscuit Tortino, TWICE BAKED COOKIES, Biscotti, ENGLISH SOUP TRIFLE, Zuppa inglese SPANISH CAKE, Pan di Spagna CUSTARD WITH MARSALA, Zabaglione ITALIAN ICE, Granita