Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ristorante Alle Fratte Di Trastevere

  We made Christmas Day lunch reservations at Alle Fratte Di Trastevere because of all the positive reviews we'd seen about it. Plus, it was pretty close to our apartment, another bonus seeing as it was only our second day in Rome and we had no idea what would be open during the holidays.
 Alle Fratte Di Trastevere is run by a husband/wife team from Naples. Both of them speak excellent English (the wife told me she'd lived in New York, and I can't remember if her husband had too, but they have at least one child in the US, if my memory serves me right).
 We were warmly greeted by the owner upon arrival at 12:30, and much fuss was made over Keila. Italians really do love babies! The interior of Alle Fratte Di Tastevere is very cosy and classic, with lots of pictures on the walls (especially of Naples).
 Service was wonderful and very prompt, even when the restaurant started to fill up towards the end of our meal. (Tip while in Italy: eat early at the good restaurants unless you want to wait for a table). The owner even came over several times throughout the meal to make sure we were enjoying everything.
 To start, we had a lovely marinated seafood salad (Antipasto di Mare), and a plate of grilled veggies (Verdura Mista del Giorno). Yuki proclaimed the salad too 'sour' but he really doesn't like anything that's even slightly sour, so I got lucky in this case and ate almost the entire plate. Mmm.
 We were hoping for an authentic Neapolitan pizza as part of our main course, but unfortunately pizzas weren't being made on Christams Day for some reason. I'm guessing they may have been a bit short-staffed in the kitchen due to the holiday, although you honestly couldn't tell it based on the superb service and quality of our food.
 Instead, we shared a shrimp and artichoke risotto (Risotto Carciofi e Gamberi) and some eggplant pasta (Penne Alla Siciliana). Both dishes were solidly good, but not the very best I've ever had. They were probably some of the best pasta we had in Rome, however!
 For dessert, we had homemade tiramisu and (again homemade) chocolate cake. These were amazing! Definitely save room for dessert if you go here.
 Our bill came to around 55 or 60 euros, not bad at all if you consider that it included: 2 starters, 2 main courses, 2 desserts, a bottle of water, a coffee, and some house wine. Really not bad when you also consider that you're eating in a popular tourist neighborhood.
 So when in Rome....visit Alle Fratte Di Trastevere if you'd like some solidly good pasta and simply excellent service. I would definitely recommend this restaurant!

 Alle Fratte Di Trastevere
Via delle fratte di Trastevere, 49

 Antipasto di Mare (8.50 euros)

  Penne Alla Siciliana (8.50 euros)

Risotto Carciofi e Gamberi (10.50 euros)

House Tiramisu (4 euros)

Homemade Chocolate Cake

Keila digging into the homemade cake

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

CoYo Coconut Yoghurt (Yogurt)

  Quick break from posting about Rome to review this awesome coconut yogurt we found at Whole Foods a few weeks back. I hunted it down after getting a tip from a friend that coconut yogurt was in existence. I'd been wanting to find a dairy-free soy-free yogurt for some time. Enter: CoYo! Their motto is: “Heaven in a mouthful” and I have to say that I'd agree! The first time, we just bought a tub of the natural coconut yogurt. And it was amazing! No sugar added, but very sweet and incredibly creamy. Just a tiny, tiny sour aftertaste (it is yogurt after all).

 The rest of the product description is as follows:
 vegan coconut milk yogurt, 100% natural, 100% dairy free, 100% gluten free and 100% guilt free!

I'd have to disagree with the '100% guilt free' bit, however. One medium-sized tub contains 2.5 servings (250 grams), which I could probably easily eat in one go. However, 1 serving has almost 13 grams of saturated fat, more than half of your recommended daily amount. Ouch. I realize that virgin coconut oil/fat contains medium-chain triglycerides, which may/may not pose the same health risks as other saturated fats, but until there are more studies done, I'm not going to stuff myself full of it. This yogurt is definitely in the 'treat' category as opposed to the 'daily breakfast' one.

  The second time we purchased CoYo, I got one more natural tub, and also a small (100 gram) tub of the chocolate CoYo. This time for some reason, the natural tub, while still good, was less creamy and more of a cheese consistency?? No idea why but it was really like a hard cream cheese. You couldn't really spoon it out, but it tasted ok spread on rice cakes.
 As for the chocolate CoYo....let me say right away that it was disappointing. Unless you happen to like sour chocolate. Because I can't think of any other way to describe the flavor. It definitely had more of a sour taste to it than the natural one. You could easily tell that it contained chocolate, but in this case that wasn't really a good thing. Not awful, but I won't be buying it again.
 In summary....CoYo natural yogurt is AMAZING! Just remember that it should probably be a treat instead of a daily staple if you're concerned about health and your saturated fat intake! (Oh, and one final note....CoYo is not cheap. I think we paid almost 3 GBP for a 250 gram tub on sale. Ouch).

CoYo Coconut Milk Yoghurt (Yogurt!!). Amazing stuff!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pasticceria Valzani in Trastevere, Rome

We happened to stumble across this little gem of a pasticceria in our neighborhood the night we arrived in Rome, Christmas Eve. It was well past 7 pm when we went by, but they were thankfully still open!
 Valzani is more of a chocolate/sweet shop than a pasticceria, so don't go there looking for a good pastry. But do head over in search of some marzipan, cannoli, and cute chocolate pieces!
 I don't think that Valzani's interior has been updated since it opened, as it still retains its somewhat dated 'old-world' appeal. But it's quaint, and everything was quite clean.
 Service isn't the friendliest, at least not for us non-Italian speakers. The grandmother-type woman who runs the cash register doesn't speak any English but was kind enough. The younger granddaughter who did speak some English was a bit surly both times we were in. Not sure if she's that way to Italians too, though. On our third and final visit, another younger woman was working who also spoke some English and was very slightly nicer than the first woman. Oh well. Pretty sure they don't need great service in order to continue attracting customers!
 The first night, we got a cannoli and some marzipan fruit. And also a chocolate-covered marzipan, if I remember correctly. Cannoli was amazing but Keila scarfed most of it before I could get more than a couple of bites. The fruit marzipan were slightly bitter on the edges due to whatever coloring was used. Pity, since the interior was quite tasty. Chocolate marzipan was equally delicious.
 The second time we stopped back in was simply to get Keila a piece of butterfly milk chocolate (they have all sorts of chocolate shapes for sale). Surly woman #1 really didn't seem impressed that we were only buying 1 piece. The grandmother was again quite kind, though, especially after my bungled attempt to tell her Merry Christmas in Italian.
 For our third and final visit, we bought a small chocolate ganache-covered torte (a Sacher Torte, which I'll explain in a minute),which cost us 14 euros. Ouch. But we did the math in advance and figured since it was going to last 2 nights, it was about the same price as we'd pay for dessert both nights anywhere else. And on holiday, I eat dessert every night!
  Unfortunately, this lovely chocolate cake was somewhat marred by a apricot puree layer in the middle. I am simply not a fan of chocolate/fruit anything. Bummer. I still suffered through it, but it could've been so much better! My better half declared it 'Ok but way too sweet'. No disagreements there; I just happen to not mind large amounts of sugar! Overall consensus: not the best cake I've ever had by far, berries or not: it was a bit drier than we'd been expecting, and while the ganache was solidly good, it was not amazing.
***Side note...we didn't realize this at the time, but the original Sacher Torte is Viennese. Had we know what exactly a Sacher Torte was, we would've realized in advance that it had apricot filling inside. Why Valzani is selling a Sacher torte, I'm not sure? I also just read that it's reputed to be the best Sacher torte in Rome, beloved by a famous Roman film director. Yes, it was good...but I won't say it was THAT good! Perhaps I'm just more of a French-style pastry fan, however..***
 Final verdict for Valzani? Go if you can! It won't be life-changing chocolate (unless you really like Sacher tortes!), but the cannoli is pretty darn good, and their other sweets won't disappoint by any means.

 Pasticceria Valzani. Via del Moro 37b Rome, Italy 00153

   Valzani's display window on Christmas Eve

            Tree inside Valzani

   Cannoli and marzipan fruit from Valzani

     Valzani's famous Sacher Torte

  It looked so good...and then those apricots showed up!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Alberto Pica Gelateria In Rome

  Pretty much the first thing we did upon arriving in Rome and dropping our bags off was to head out in search of a gelateria. The main reason being that I'd somewhat stupidly told Keila that we would have ice cream in Rome and see lots of statues. So needless to say, all we heard about on the plane ride over was 'ice cream ice cream ice cream'. I wasn't about to disappoint the girl, and everyone who knows me knows I'm not terribly opposed to having some gelato, either.
 Luckily for us, Alberto Pica was relatively close and also open on Christmas Eve! This gelateria has been open since 1960, and Mr. Pica himself is usually present somewhere in the bar. There are quite a few awards on the walls (I think he is or was president of the gelato association, but don't quote me on that). The bar itself has a very old-fashioned feel to it, and I'm guessing it hasn't been updated since it opened. Which is a good thing, in this case!
 Besides at least 18 flavors of gelato, the bar also serves some yummy-looking pastries, coffee, etc. But definitely go for the gelato.
 While Alberto Pica's gelato isn't the best I've ever had (Perche NO! in Florence still holds the gold), it was pretty good nonetheless. Keila got a chocolate the first time that we were only allowed a few bites of, but it was quality stuff. Enough to keep her up half the night afterward. I think we also got a hazelnut chocolate that was good (Yuki said 'too sweet') and pistachio, but my favorite was the seasonal Christmas pannetone gelato. Sweet, yes, but I loved it!
 The second time we went back (yes we went twice), I got Keila a rice gelato, not knowing that Alberto Pica is famous for rice gelato. Keila didn't really take it, and once I tasted it we figured out why--there are actual semi-hard pieces of rice in the gelato. Sort of like a frozen rice pudding. I loved that one too, but I can see how little mouths wouldn't want those random hard bits. I'm told there's also a cinnamon rice gelato at Alberto Pica, but we didn't see that one so didn't get to try it.
 So when in Rome....while Alberto Pica isn't the best-ever gelateria, they're solidly good and also somewhat cheaper than their counterparts across the city....go if you can!
Oh, and one more note if you do get to drop by Alberto Pica--pay for your gelato at the register in the back first, then give your ticket to the man behind the counter. No ticket, no gelato! The gelato man behind the counter will kindly tell you this, but save yourself the trouble of finding out and just go pay first. There's no need to wait any longer than necessary for good gelato.

Bar Pica (Alberto Pica)
Via della Seggiola, 12 Rome Italy

                            Blehhh! Rice in ice cream?? Keila much preferred the chocolate. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Keila's 26 Month Update

  I've got a TON of posts about Rome coming up, along with some product reviews to do whenever there's a free moment. For now, since it's the 6th of January already, here is Keila 26 month report.
 1. Keila is putting more complex sentences together. She said her first full-length sentence a few weeks ago, something like 'I want to eat cookies'. That wasn't it exactly, but you get the idea. Really should've written it down. She's been saying a lot of 'No want to' and 'WANT to's lately, we have a very determined little girl on our hands. Naming colors, reciting people's names, and counting are also fun verbal activities.
 2. One molar to go. It's nowhere in sight, so we'll see when it decides to show its face. My bet is it's waiting until she actually starts sleeping through the night, and then it'll make its painful debut.
 3. Yeah, sleep. STILL waking up at least once a night! Keila did ok in Rome for the most part, but then again she got to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed the whole time. She did have one night terror while there, look them up if you aren't sure what they are. Frightening and frustrating for Mom and Dad, too!
 4. Keila loves all kind of pretend play: she makes 'coffee' for Daddy and carrys around a glass of 'beer' for him sometimes, too. I'm often offered toy tomatoes or potatoes that she's carefully microwaved in her toy kitchen. When she doesn't think I'm listening, I can hear her having conversations on her toy phone or talking to her dolls. Tonight, she put on her mittens and told me we were going on the airplane to Rome again in the morning, so she had to get ready. This kid loves travel. She even had her little toy animals flying off to Italy on a book a few days ago.
5. In place of the potty training category, I'm going to try for a quick story every month. This month's: In Rome, Keila was repeatedly stuffing pretzels into Yuki's mouth one evening. I mean, really forcing them in. She'd yell 'OPEN! Mouth open!!!' if he tried to keep his mouth closed, and she wouldn't even let him chew before shoving more in. He tried to tell her no more, but she wouldn't give up. Luckily the bag was nearly empty, so after he'd suffered through the last one being stuffed into his mouth, Keila turned to me, shook the empty bag, and gleefully exclaimed 'HUNGRY BOY!' Priceless.
6. Keila's lost a bit of weight due to our food poisoning fiasco on holiday, but hopefully she'll regain it soon. She's eating like she has a hollow leg, so I'll be sure to weigh her for next month! Until then...