Rome is a wonderful city. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit several times and I never tire of it’s charms even as I visit some of the areas time and again. The streets, nooks, and piazzas that form the neighborhood around the Pantheon are home to some of my favorite places to dine, enjoy a Spritz and unwind. The subject of today’s article is no exception.
In the Roman style, we had 8PM reservations but arrived in the Piazza around 7:15 to enjoy a drink and watch the world go by. In the picture above you can see how empty the restaurant was at that hour. By 8:30 it was full. Besides the wonderful food, there are two things I especially like about Fortunato. First, they are the only restaurant in the area with outdoor tables in view of the Pantheon. Second, you can see in the far right corner of the photo above, the plants and glass partition that separates the diners from the passersby on the street. This is crucial if you don’t want to be interrupted or flat out accosted by pan handlers, trinket salesmen or gypsies peddling roses. Ahhh Roma! Immediately adjacent to Fortunato is the new wine bar that they opened just a few years ago. It’s a wine lovers paradise.
We had a lovely outdoor table (next to the James Dean drawing) and the evening started impressively. The staff speak broken English and are patient and attentive; even complimenting my Italian. What’s more, our waiter was gracious and even intuitive. One of my biggest complaints about Italian dining is the almost universal issue of red wine being served way too warm in restaurants. On this trip, I was determined to correct this problem, so when the waiter brought the bottle of wine I ordered I was prepared. “Scusa, possiamo mettere la bottiglia di vino in ghiaccio?” Excuse me, can we please put the bottle of wine in ice? Before I finished the word “mettere” – the waiter interrupted me; “Il vino e caldo si?” He knew. And immediately returned with an ice bucket.
The Primi pictured above was simply sublime. The symphony of flavors ran the gamut. From the salinity of the octopus, the smokey char on the meat, the herbaceous nature of the rosemary and the creamy texture of the puree, this was one of the best Primi I had on the trip.
For our Secondo, we both chose the Carbonara. I’d been waiting for it all day and Fortunato kicks their version up with some fresh shaved truffle. It was worth the wait, even if we had to wait twice. Yes, there was a slight hiccup here. In all my life, I think I have sent food back in a restaurant once or twice. When this pasta was presented, my wife and I both tasted it and then she says “what do you think?” I knew she thought something was wrong. I said, it’s incredibly salty. She immediately agreed which is saying something because she has much more tolerance for salt than I do. This was salty, really incredibly, very salty. I called the waiter over and without hesitation he scooped the plates up and re-fired the pasta. When he returned he explained that they would prepare another dish and this time “meno pecorino” – with less cheese. I’ve had Carbonara all over Rome and never have I had it that salty. I’m convinced someone accidentally salted the water twice. They corrected the error with a smile and I think they were appreciative of my apologizing for the inconvenience. Well handled by both parties!
Once the wine had reached the desired temperature, we removed it from the ice and left it on the table. It was the perfect accompaniment to the Carbonara. The 2013 Michele Satta Cavaliere is 100% Sangiovese hailing from Maremma. The wine is a single vineyard that undergoes extensive green pruning – so much so that yield is limited to 2 bunches per vine. Manually harvested, the wine is aged for 24 months in one passage French barrique before 6 months bottle rest.
In the glass, the wine is a medium ruby color that displays an iodine colored rim very reminiscent of Brunello. In fact, from previous discussions with Michele Satta, I know that he makes this wine in that style. On the nose, the wine is fresh, with notes of flowers, chestnut, crushed cherry and Mediterranean herbs. Elegant, fresh and structured on the palate, the medium to full bodied flavors of cherry, earth, and tobacco plump nicely against the fat of the egg and guanciale while the truffles accentuate the earthy notes of the wine. Lovely persistence, the elegance here really made the pairing excel. 91 points. $60 Euro from the wine list.
After an espresso and Fernet, it was off for a passegiata. Stay tuned, there is so much more coming! 0
Want to try Cavaliere? Go here: Wine Searcher