Sunday, May 9, 2010

Party! Pizza Party!

  I felt compelled to write about pizza since I live in the land of pizza.  Many people ask me, "How can you be vegan when you live in the land of pizza?"  I tell them, "It is easy."  A lot of my friends back in the States think I must have the hardest time in Italy as a vegan.  I guess this goes back to their own traveling experiences here and maybe it was difficult for them because they did not know how to order in Italian.  I know my own transition to veganism in Italy has been relatively seamless.  Sure, I get the odd, "You don't eat Mozzarella?" But, I don't mind.  I know my pizza options and they are not that limited, in fact, they are vast.  
Since we do not have a real kitchen currently, more like something that resembles camping equipment, we have been eating our fair share of pizza since we moved.  And I have been having a string of bad pizza luck, culminating in the worst place I have ever eaten at in Rome, a place called San Marco on Via Sardegna, near Via Veneto.  I guess it is hip because they have DJs, but their pizza was more or less cardboard and the vegetables on mine tasted like rubber.  I felt bad because we were there for a work party, which I am sure was chosen by one of my colleagues.  Such a shame, too, since the guest of honor isn't in Italy all the time and was likely excited to eat good food.    I personally thought I could trust his taste, because he is attending wine school, but let me just say, wine school does not equal good taste.  Some people just do things because of the money involved.  And I should have known better when he  said, "Hey, what do you think about ordering the house wine? It is just like Brunello."  "Um, ok,"  I say to myself,  "I guess that sounds, good, you've been here, and you must know about food and wine since you are taking an 18 month wine course."  Wrong!  Ladies, never let some boasty guy who talks endlessly about how cool he is because he DJs and does wine tours tell you how to order wine when you instincts tell you to listen to yourself!  I don't know why I lack confidence when it comes to food and wine.  Ettore thinks I feel guilty about it.  I do know I learned a lesson.  I order the wine and food and I chose the places.  Whenever someone says, "Si Magna Bene,"   or, One eats well here in Roman dialect, I should always know I am in for a tasteless evening.  
  It turns out what they mean with that phrase is that one eats a lot for less.  So it is a phrase of quantity, not quality.  Ettore and I have started calling it the Si Magna Bene culture.  It is a good label for people in their late 20s and 30s who frequent hipster places where they eat a ton of food that doesn't cost a lot of money and yet has absolutely no quality, so then macho guys pretend to be throwing around cash, like in a rap video.  Sure, you can have a 4 course meal with wine and water for €10 a person, but, you'll regret it for days afterward.  Well, at least I do. Make makes this whole situation worse is the fact that this guy is from California!  I should have clued in when he ordered the most expensive dish on the menu.  He was making a show for us the entire evening.  He wanted us to know he was a regular there, he knew the wine list, he knew the most expensive things, etc.  MACHISMO at its absolute worst.  
  Which brings me back to pizza.    I wished that the party could have been in Genzano.  Our favorite place to get pizza is amazing, and also quite inexpensive.  We also don't have to be victim to bad DJs and their horrible techno music.  We go to the very old Genzanese RISTORANTE TIGELLINO where I always order a focaccia ortolana or a white pizza with vegetables.  See, here in Italy, it is not unusual to order a pizza without cheese.  Many pizzas automatically do not have cheese,  and some do not even have red sauce.  At Tigellino they are very generous with the vegetables, which are all sourced locally.  Each vegetable is cooked perfectly, with great texture and incredibly rich flavors.   Usually there are grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini, chicory or spinach, rocket, cherry tomatoes, roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary, all topped with amazing olive oil.  The crust is also out of this world.  The crust is perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside, but just tender enough to be scrumptious and to hold in flavor.  The crust has a lovely texture because they have a long levitation, which makes the pizza dough easier to digest.  So...yummy, crispy, and with the perfect amount of salt.  
  I think we'll get pizza tonight! 
19, VIA SARAGAT G. 00045
Tel. 069396741