We sit at Mario’s, a small Roman-Italian restaurant since 1933 in Traverstere.
While most of the restaurants in this leafy neighborhood cater to trendy tourists indulging in lettuce-covered plates of ordinary bruschetta amid crowded cobblestone streets, we chose a local shop recommended to us by a local. Anna, an Italian woman whose family was born and raised in Rome over the span of three centuries, mentions she visits here weekly.
It’s a small cave-like restaurant with old, exposed bricks and old Italian paintings lining the walls.
I head to the restroom to wash my hands after the long travel day from Cinque Terre and pass the kitchen – five portly, elderly Italian women with short, curly hair and long, white aprons cooking up a storm! They seem to be in their natural element – talking expressively with quick, rapid movements and hands wildly flying as they sing.
After we order our feast of caprese, artichoke and spaghetti al pomodora, I take in my surroundings. “Authentic” and “local” do not even begin to describe this place. Musical Molto Bene‘s and Bellissimo‘s fill the air. Two wooden tables in the corner sit a group of old, Italian men – bald heads, tan leathery skin, and peaceful gazes stare focused on the paintings across from them. In between these contemplative moments, they gesture wildly with their hands to the rest of their party, loudly speaking Italian that is too quick for Alex and me to catch.
You can tell they’ve been here forever: in Italy, in Rome, in Marios. They are the true Romans, for the ladies in the kitchen come out to chat and pat their backs. “Cafe?” she smiles warmly. “Non,” they all reply peacefully.
They sit leisurely for another hour. Bel Far Niente, means the art of doing nothing. It is a phrase I immediately think of when I imagine Rome – the true essence of Italy.
The spaghetti, while hearty and delicious, is simple. The artichoke head is drowned in olive oil and I eagerly consume it, soaking in each delectable bite. I catch the old man absentmindedly gazing at me; I slow down and leisurely taste each drop of oil and slice of basil with the chunky, soft pillows of mozzarella.
2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and a pitcher of red wine. And it was the best Italian food I’ve had.
Restaurant: Tirimisu Roll at Il Maritozzo Rosso Cucina
June 1, 2019
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