This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand:
Rome is a fantastic town, as all know, but as is the case with most of the major cities in The Boot, when you are going out you have to know where to go to avoid crushing disappointments. And if you turn to fish things just get worse, especially if you're not in a seaside town.
This is why I am so pleased to be able to discuss a restaurant that opened a few months ago, under a banner that leaves no doubts as to its devotion to fish: Tre Moscadini - Osteria del Mare (The Three Curled Octopuses - Seaside Inn). Itàs located at 25 Via Gallia, in the Appio-Latino district just a few paces from the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, and is also open for lunch, something alas ever rarer except in the heart of town and the neighborhoods with many office buildings.
Certainly, as Jimmy, a native of Palo del Colle (Bari) who began managing the hall with considerable taste and tact a little more than two weeks ago said, "It's an experiment; since we are newly opened it makes sense to see if there are enough customers to justify opening for lunch." The odd thing is that there isn't a hard-and-fast rule; some days the place fills up and others it stays empty. The area is densely populated with no office buildings, and in the five months they have been open they have come to realize that their patrons are primarily local.
Jimmy made an immediate impression upon me thanks to his ability to quickly and easily settle into a role that I have always thought just as important as work in the kitchens. Relationships with patrons are fundamental, and at least as important as the goodness of the dishes being prepared; the food may be fantastic, but if the atmosphere in the hall is unpleasant you're not likely to return.
This is I Tre Moscardini's first strongpoint, the way they make you feel truly welcome, and it doesn't matter if you're cantankerous (as I discovered first-hand; the people at the next table were not particularly nice). Education, courtesy, and the proper balance between serving professionally, and understanding the personalities of those at the tables.
In the kitchen? Collaboration reigns. Chef Paolo Anelli, another Pugliese (I was pleased to discover that among his prior experiences is the "Uno e Bino" bistrot, which under the direction of my friend Giampaolo Gravina, who has since crossed the divide, becoming a wine & food writer, set the standard for the San Lorenzo district for many years), who has always been at the stove: "I started cooking at the age of three, at that age I knew how to cook pastina, boil an egg, and make coffee for the growups. In short, I knew what I had to." But he isn't alone: Deba, who is from India and was hired to wash the dishes, also contributes significantly, as I found from a the perfect degree of doneness of the mezze maniche seasoned with swordfish ragù I had as a first course, which came on the heels of an antipasto consisting of red tuna sticks dredged in sesame seeds and fried, accompanied by a bell pepper salad seasoned with balsamic vinegar.
The origins of I Tre Moscardini? Dante and Michele are old friends, and while Dante studied ICT (Information and Communication Technology), Michele has long dedicated himself to food, opening and running restaurants throughout Italy. Dante and his wife Barbara had always dreamed of opening a good restaurant, the goal being to find a dimension tastier than virtual reality, and last summer the idea of I Tre Moscardini took shape. The goal is in any case to offer tasty dishes that draw from Italy's rich culinary heritage, preferring substance to appearance, and keeping prices reasonable.
The winelist is more than adequate, obviously concentrating on whites because they are better suited to fish. I chose an old favorite, Marisa Cuomo's Costa d'Amalfi Furore Bianco 2010, which was still very young but with a rich bouquet, and intense savory notes that worked very well with both the antipasto and the pasta, and especially my second course, a tasty grilled calamaro with olive sauce and a potato tart.
Knowing that I'd be taking a walk before getting back into the car, after an excellent strawberry and cream crostata and coffee I treated myself to a couple of grappas, one from Gewürztraminer and the other from Kerner, both distilled by the Cantina di Novacella.
An auspicious beginning, in short, and this certainly won't be my only visit, considering that there are many other exciting dishes on the menu.
Just a few days after my visit Paolo Anelli was joined by Michele Nama, who will be taking his place this week. Michele's professional roots are in central Italy, where he has worked primarily in the Marche, in prestigious hotels including the "Hotel Emilia" in Portonovo and the "Hotel Monte Conero" in Sirolo, two resort town in the Province of Ancona. "I like honest cooking: fresh ingredients and passion at the burners are the only ingredients of a good meal." With this, I'd say another comment from the Tre Moscardini is a must!
I Tre Moscardini - Osteria del mare - Via Gallia, 25 Roma
Hours: Lunch 12.30-14.30; Dinner 20.00-23.00
Tel. 06-64821164 / 331 9461441
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.
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