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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Cacio e Pepe: Cravings or Lupo Verde

I”m so excited to be writing my first post!  If you ever want to know why I decided to blog my cooking/eating adventures you can read it here.  Almost as excited as the prospect of eating Cacio e Pepe for dinner.  I first came across this dish last spring, traveling around Italy.  We came across a bustling restaurant in Trastevere, Rome whose most popular dish according to our server was their Cacio e Pepe.  Now I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, where the restaurant was, or basically anything else that was on the menu.  That’s how mind blowing this dish was.  Before Cacio e Pepe slurped it’s way into my life, I had a severe cheese aversion.  Now I sneak slices of Parmesano Reggiano as “snacks” throughout the day.  That’s how life altering Cacio e Pepe is for me.

The first recipe is from Chrissy Tiegen’s newest endeavour, Cravings.   I’ve been looking forward to this book for quite awhile now.  Mostly because Chrissy Teigen is the supermodel that you envy but would love to be BFFs with.   Mind you however, Cravings is not for those hoping to learn Teigen’s bombshell bod secrets.  It’s exactly as it is titled: it’s all about craving those delicious foods that really hit the spot.  The photos are nothing short of beautiful and mouth watering.  The recipes are rich and decadent, to a point in which I find myself constantly saying “I want to try that”.  As soon as I saw a recipe for Cacio e Pepe I asked my boyfriend if he was in the mood for the dish tonight and was answered with an unfaltering “of course”.CRAVINGS_ChrissyTeigen_highres.0

Slight disclaimer though, we decided to make our on pasta from scratch.  Part of our time in Italy was spent learning to cook and soaking up the culinary culture.  Since then, whenever we have pasta we try to make fresh noodles if we have the time.

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The recipe itself was simple and straightforward.  The ingredients are easy to find and the instructions were clear and concise.  The predicted cook time is pretty accurate to the actual cook time (sans pasta making).  The results were incredible.  Chrissy adds fresh lemon juice giving the dish a lighter feel (regardless of the TONS of delicious Parmesano Reggiano I grated on to my noodles) and the mixed greens added some depth both in flavor and aesthetics.  There was some kick to the dish which was also different from the Cacio e Pepe that I’m used to  but paired nicely with the parmesan cheese.  We devoured our dish within minutes of plating, even sneaking in seconds (guess we won’t need food for lunch tomorrow).  First recipe was a success.

Final product

Final product

Now forgive me for not actually taking a photo of the restaurant take on Cacio e Pepe (rookie mistake I know – I promise it’ll never happen again).  We decided to go to Lupo Verde along the 14th St corridor.  Located in a previous row home, Lupo Verde popped up in the neighborhood two years ago.

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With a great little outdoor seating area that is perfect for people watching, Lupo Verde provides a cozy, rustic Italian atmosphere seating up to 100 people.  There is a bar on each floor of the two story row home and is surrounded by beautiful exposed brick and dim, romantic lighting. The staff are pleasant, even during the insane Saturday dinner rush going on.  We could tell our server was spread too thin but she nevertheless checked in on us regularly and made sure we were always satisfied.

We ordered the Cacio e Pepe.  Decently proportioned, though slightly steep in price.  The dish however fell flat compared to our homemade version.  The pasta was fresh and quite tender.  The taste on the other hand was bland and unimaginative.  Maybe it’s because I prefer my Cacio e Pepe smothered in Parmesan Cheese (and who wouldn’t?), the dish didn’t make me jump up and sing to the pasta gods.  It also lacked in the pepper department and could have used a couple of more turns of the pepper grinder.

To cook it or book it??

Another celebrity cookbook can and will cause eyes to roll but Tiegen’s Cacio e Pepe knocks it out of the park.  Unfortunately, there was no creativity or uniqueness in Lupo Verde’s version.  Easy to make with wonderful results, Cravings brings a fresh, lighter twist to an Italian classic.  When you have to tell your boyfriend to stop picking at the leftovers  you know you have a winner.  This time around, I’d choose to cook it.

Cravings
Author:  Chrissy Teigen
Hardcover: 197 pages
Publisher: ClarksonPotter/Publishers (2016)
Language: English
ISBN-ebook:9781101903926

 

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