A great start to a week in Rome at Armando al Pantheon

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I am in Rome and it’s time to get back to doing what I love to do. I can’t believe my last post was in February. No excuses, just real life getting in the way. It’s not that I’m not eating well, I just have a hard time wanting to post in my real life. In Vancouver, there always seems to be distractions pulling me away from fully enjoying a meal. That and I’ve realized that when I dine (with others) in Vancouver, I get pulled into being critical about my dining experience. I expect more from a dinner out at home (perhaps because I know I could, for less money, make an excellent meal myself). I shouldn’t be this way, but I am. I have come to understand that I have the ability to enjoy food more when I’m away. Traveling makes me happy. I am more relaxed when I am exploring the world. I am less distracted when I am away from my real life. All of these things make for enhanced dining experiences. Eating well has become my reason for travel. So when I’m on vacation, life is grand. Vacation Sus’ words to live by. But back to Rome… I was in Rome for 3 days, 15 years ago, as one stop of many on a month-long trek through Europe. I still describe it as one of the worst stops on the trip. Not for the sites, because those were all amazing, but the sweltering heat was unbearable, the food was not memorable (and for me that’s saying a lot) and the accommodations still rank as “the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in”. I’ve always known that I was cheated on my experience in Rome and so when it came time to book a week away to fully explore another city, Rome came calling. All of my careful planning to get to Rome as quickly as possible from Vancouver was thrown out the window with an airport fire at Fiumicino airport a few days ago. Fortunately, we were able to rearrange the flight to arrive in Rome on the same day, but what was supposed to be a “short” 14 hour transit turned into a very long 26 hour one. Not wanting to have any questions in my mind upon arrival, I had arranged dinner for the first night in advance. I guess I was lucky that the only reservation I could get was for 9:30pm. I thought there would be time to explore the area and rest up before dinner, but instead it was a quick change and a hustle to make the reservation in time. I chose Armando Al Pantheon because it was close to where I’m staying and I could reserve online. Well that and it was recommended by a few of the food writers of Rome that I’ve been following since I decided on this week-long trip to Rome. I thought a typical Roman meal would be the perfect (re)introduction into Roman cuisine. I have a list of must eats (as much as I can) while in Rome. At home, I stay away from eating copious amounts of carbs, but thought I’d give myself a free pass on vacation. I decided any cured meat was on-limits. Buffalo mozzarella? Well of course. I knew of the 4 “must try” Roman pastas: Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana, Carbonara and Gricia. I knew gelato would become a “two a day” exercise. Roman-style pizza would be found. Glasses of Prosecco would be imbibed whenever I could and I would also get to know Italian wines better. Above all, I was excited that it was artichoke season and that I’d be seeing them, fresh on the menus. Yes I know it’s odd that in the list above that artichokes are at the top of my list. But I love vegetables. I was happy to find that many of my musts were on the menu at Armando’s. I knew it was going to be a great meal.

Buffalo mozzarella and carciofi  Romana (braised artichoke) – When one of the specials of the evening combined 2 must haves, I was sold.
Spaghetti alla Gricia - made with guaciale (cured pork jowl) , pecorino romano and black pepper.
Spaghetti alla Gricia – made with guaciale (cured pork jowl) , pecorino romano and black pepper.
Eggplant parmigiana was another special for the evening. While it was good, it wasn’t a highlight of my dinner.
Abbacchio a scottadito – meaty lamb chops prepared simply with salt, pepper and olive oil. Picture is a bit blurry as I was well into the wine at this point.

Dinner at Armando al Pantheon was a wonderful re-introduction to Rome. I swooned over and over at the simplicity of each dish, made so special because the ingredients were so flavorful. One meal in and I knew so many of these flavors would be engrained in my food memory. I was giddy at the prospect of the week ahead. One of my favorite things about traveling is the wander home after dinner. I’m usually so full, that the walk is a great way to settle myself before bed. After getting to the restaurant was such a rush, it wasn’t until after  dinner that I realized this sat in shadow of the great Pantheon. Rome Panthenon I was exhausted from the day of travel, and could only think of putting my head on the pillow, but of course the evening ended with a gelato.

Random gelateria found on the walk back from dinner. Not on my
Random gelateria found on the walk back from dinner. Not on my “list” of gelaterias to try, but delicious nonetheless.

 Armando Al Pantheon -Salita dei Crescenzi 31, Roma

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