Carbonara: Osteria Morini or Tasting Rome

Russ and I love Italian food.  There are few things that we can agree on whole heartedly without hesitation, and Italian food is one of them.  Last spring we spent some time traveling around Italy.  We ate in Rome, sightsaw in Florence, kayaked in Cinque Terre, tasted wine in Tuscany, wandered around in Venice, and shopped in Milan.  It was an amazing time and an eye opener to what true Italian cuisine is like.  I fell in love with the culture of food (which happened to be a love affair that my pant size was not fond of).  In my very first post I mentioned we tried our hand in cooking with cooking classes. Aside from the language barrier, it was one of the highlights on our trip.  When we came back home we tried our best to incorporate what we learned in our cooking.

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This week’s To Cook or Book Challenge, we reviewed Osteria Morini and Tasting Rome. The original Osteria Morini opened in NYC’s SOHO in 2010 by chef and owner  Chef Michael White.  The D.C location is headed by executive Chef Bill Dorrler.  Located along the waterfront in SE D.C,  Osteria Morini faces towards a beautiful view of the D.C Harbor.  Unfortunately it was an unusually cold April day so we couldn’t be seated outside.  The restaurant was packed.  Servers were running around and the bar was bustling. Even with all the chaos however, the service was prompt and helpful.

We started the night with some wine and polpettine.  As expected the wine menu is extensive and the cocktails were refreshing and inventive.  Our first dish arrived surprisingly fast.  With such a busy restaurant I assumed that the service would be forced to slow down.  The polpettine was a generous helping of light and flavorful meatballs composed of pancetta and mortadella.  I will say that I am not the biggest fan of meatballs.  Russ on the other hand would probably have meatballs every day if he could.  So we were both surprised at how much I enjoyed these meatballs.  They were moist and light.  The sauce was flavorful and highlighted the meat.  The bread was a little chewy but was a nice twist to your standard garlic bread.

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We ordered two types of pasta dishes, Gnocchi alla romana and the Gramigna. The gnocchi was not your standard gnocchi.  The dish itself was made of just two large pieces bathed in lamb ragu.  The result was a beautiful dish filled with complex flavors and textures.  This isn’t your mum’s gnocchi for sure.

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As the main star of this week’s challenge.  I was very excited for the gramigna.  With handmade pasta and a generous serving of pecorino, the dish was devoured way too fast.  The sausage was packed with flavor and added a delicious savory component to the pasta.  I wouldn’t consider it to be the most authentic pasta dish, but it was incredibly flavorful and hearty.  I knew that I had to really step up if I wanted this week’s challenge to be fair.

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Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City is a beautiful cookbook by two Americans who fell in love with the city (and who wouldn’t?).  With stunning images, and a simple, clean layout, Tasting Rome is a beautiful journey delving into the evolution of classic Italian cuisine and the influence of modern culture. With help from some of the most authentic chefs and mixologists from Rome, authors Katie Parla and Kristina Gill have created a wonderful cookbook filled with intriguing and drool worthy recipes.

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The recipe is simple and easy to follow.  There were two options for cooking, the Zabaione Method and the pan method.  Unfortunately I don’t have a double broiler so I used the pan method.  The ingredient list was short and sweet, the overall cook time was 30 minutes.  The original recipe called for guanicale which can take several days to cure so I substituted the guanicale for pancetta.  The end results were fantastic.  The sauce was flavorful and the perfect consistency.  The pancetta added texture and complemented the carbonara sauce.  We inhaled our bowls and even reached for seconds.  We were left full and in a pasta coma.

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To cook or book?

Once again I had a tough decision on my hands.  Osteria Morini served a pleasing and delectable dish that left me satisfied.  Tasting Rome also served up carbonara that kept me wanting more.  At the end of the day, Tasting Rome transformed me into an Italian cook.  Flavor wise, Osteria Morini may have had a slight edge however, Tasting Rome guided me to a restaurant quality dish that could be (dare I say) compared to carbonara dishes we had while in Rome.

Has anyone else tried Tasting Rome? Or have a go to Italian dish?  I’d love to hear from you!

Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City
Author:  Katie Parla and Kristina Gill
Hardcover: 197 pages
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0804187185

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