Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rocca Massima: Locanda dell'Arcangelo

Narrow streets of Rocca Massima

     Yesterday I barely moved from the sofa because it was so hot and humid here.  Poor Ettore had to work under the hot Roman sun, and when he came home it was much cooler than what the Romans feel in the summer, but still deathly hot for me.   We live in the hills outside Rome, the Castelli Romani.  The air is cleaner, fresher, and cooler during the summer, which is why on weekends, loads of Romans come up here to eat, cool off, and take a swim at the Lake near Castel Gandolfo.   We Castelli residents need to cool off as well, and we need to escape the loads of nasty porchetta eaters in Ariccia.  Last night,  Ettore and I headed up to the hills to a small little town called Rocca Massima.  It was a lovely evening.  We could see the Castelli from a bird’s eye view, and gaze from the top of the town that overlooks the sea.  Rocca Massima is very close to Cori, and has pre-roman roots.  Like many towns in Lazio, it is a small medieval hilltop town built on the foundations of a previous culture.  Rocca Massima belonged to the Volsci, which is also the same people of the town of Velletri, and many argue that the greatest emperors of Rome had Volsci roots, as they came from these towns. 

Tuscany's new rival?

     We hoped into our car and drove through fields that could easily compete with anything I have seen in Tuscany.  I went a bit wild with my new camera’s panorama setting! 

     We escaped the heat of Genzano, and of course ran into a bunch of Genzanese people with the same idea.    The difference for us and a Roman meeting another Roman in the Castelli is that we all actually know each other.    There was a local food and wine festival going on which had an itinerary that led visitors all around the town.  We didn’t come for the festival, though.  We came to have a relaxing dinner with a nice view.  

Locanda dell’Arcangelo

     We decided on a cute little B&B at the very top of the town called Locanda dell’Arcangelo.  They had a wonderfully descriptive menu filled with local treats and a wine menu that had a fantastic selection of wines from Lazio.  Everything was very inexpensive.   Ettore and I love going to these old towns outside the Castelli and outside Rome.  Latina is a province in Lazio that I think is the place to watch.  We eat fresh and seasonal vegetables, we try new wines by winemakers that have a passion for the history of their land, and we learn about cultures of the region.  What I love about Lazio, besides the food and wine, is the fact that for us, a drive of about 20 minutes took us to a completely different place.  Homogeny doesn’t seem to exist between towns once you escape the province of Rome.

View from our table

     Another delightful point:  Lazio is one of the easiest regions to be a vegan.  The kitchen is loaded with incredible vegetables.  They are also extraordinarily diverse.   We always order an antipasto of vegetables, and every place we go outside the province of Rome  has their own selection of locally available goodies.  
In Rome and the provinces of Rome it is always the same plate of boring grilled vegetables.  Outside the province of Rome t
hey are sometimes what the family has growing in their garden, what was available at the market that day, and sometimes what they find in the field. 



    Locanda dell’Arcangelo  had an enticing antipasto di verdure which included grilled eggplant, stuffed eggplant, lightly roasted carrots with thyme, cipolline in agrodolce(sweet and sour pearl onions),  Gaeta olives, insalata d’orzo(Barley salad) , bruschetta, and zucchini.  The bruschette were inedible.  The bread was at least a week old and they didn’t add any salt.  Everything else was fine.  The pearl onions were especially delicious.  We ordered a bottle of Marco Carpineti  Capolemole Bianco 2009.  Carpineti is the winery I want so much to succeed, and I wrote about in an earlier blog.  The wine had a lovely hay yellow color, lovely floral and fruity aromas, with a hint of bread, but it was someone flat and lacked acidity.  

Gorgeous Pasta

     For my first dish I ordered an absolutely scrumptious pasta con zucchini, radicchio con olio, aglio e menta(pasta with zucchini, radicchio, oil, garlic and mint). It was a well balanced plate of heaven.  The radicchio and zucchini were perfectly cooked, the pasta wasn’t loaded with oil, the aromatic flavors from the garlic and mint were utter perfection in my mouth.  And despite the wine’s lack of freshness, the aromas and fruitiness paired well with my aromatic dish.  I was very happy.  And full. 

Super greasy radicchio ;(


Of course we ordered everything at the beginning of the evening when our stomachs were empty from not eating lunch earlier(too hot to cook) and we both had a case of eyes are bigger than the stomach, but we did not cancel our contorni of vegetables we ordered.  We ordered grilled radicchio, cicoria, and French fries (say what you want, they were delicious).  The radicchio was grilled and swimming in oil and Aceto Balsamico  that tasted artificially sweet.  We only took a few bites.  The cicoria was nothing special, but at least it was cooked well and not dripping in oil like I tend to see in Rome.  The French fries were homemade and perfect.  Almost as good as the perfect plate of fries I once had at the Madonna Inn many years ago. 
          Cost for two people with starter, first, sides, a bottle of wine and a fantastic view? 

I love Latina.