"I accidentally ate the whole thing."

"I accidentally ate the whole thing."
A journey through food

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Da Augusto - Trastevere, Rome, IT

Last Saturday was the best day I have spent in Rome so far. A co-worker at Fare Restaurant in Philly had put me in contact with a friend of hers who is from Rome. My roommate, Gina, and I met up with him for a wonderful evening. He brought us around to different sights of Rome that we have not yet been to, took us to an Italian bar for aperitivi (a drink with tapas style snacks), and introduced us to some of his friends. We got to experience Rome from the perspective of a native. The best part for me was the fabulous dinner we had at the tiny, authentic trattoria, Da Augusto.

Da Augusto is located on a tiny back street in Trastevere, a popular section of Rome with lots of great restaurants, bars, and shops. It is one of the more trendy parts of the ancient city. On the street just behind the tiny trattoria are several bigger restaurants with fancy lights and outdoor seating areas. They certainly look like fine places to dine, but our new roman friend, Andrea, explained to Gina and I how they are establishments aimed at tourists. He revealed that you get better food, and nearly twice as much of it, for half the price at the smaller restaurants located on the back streets, like the one we were going to.

We arrived at Da Augusto at precisely the right time. There was not yet a line for a table (which there was by the time we left) and we were able to snag some of the last seats open in either of the two little dining rooms. The feel of the restaurant was cozy and simple. It was not trying to be flashy or cool; it was simply doing its own thing. The white walls were not overly embellished, only slightly decorated with a few framed pictures and maps. The tables had only a paper table cloth over them which the waiters used to write the orders down on (at the end of the meal, they tallied up your total right in front of you- I really liked this idea, though I’m not entirely sure why).

When we got situated in our corner table, our waiter came over, dressed in a casual hoodie, jeans and sneakers (matching Da Augusto’s casual and comfortable vibe), and told us the options for the first course (the pasta course). Well, really he told Andrea, who then translated for us, since the waiter said everything in Italian (another sign that this place was not a tourist location). I ended up getting the house-made ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach in a red sauce, and both of my fellow diners got rigatoni amatriciana, a red sauce with guanciale (pork that comes from the pig’s cheeks). We also got a carafe of the house red wine and a bottle of water.

The pasta dishes were fantastic. Andrea said that our silence said it all since we didn’t say a word once the food hit our table. We were too busy eating, and fully enjoying, our pasta. The portion size was just as spot on as the taste. It was significantly smaller than any plate of pasta Italian restaurants in the States serve, and yet I wasn’t left wanting more. And since I managed to stop myself from scarffing down all the bread before our pasta arrived, I had some to sop up the remaining sauce with. It was extremely satisfying.


Since the second course is usually a meat dish, I had to break tradition a bit by ordering two sides of vegetables instead, however, no one had any problem with this. I was ordered the broccoli dish and the chicory dish. Andrea and Gina got the chicken and the rabbit dishes to share.

I was thrilled with my veggies. The broccoli was actually green cauliflower, something that I only see rarely back home but that is quite common in the markets of Rome. I enjoyed it very much. The chicory was also a vegetable I have not had very often but that Andrea says is very popular in Rome. It had a richly bitter taste to it, and the speed at which I ate it gave away how much I liked it.

The meat dishes were successes as well. Both Gina and Andrea agreed that the chicken dish was the better of the two. It had been cooked in a red sauce that made it so tender that Gina said it melted in her mouth.

Although we were full, Gina and I had both gotten a peak of the house-made tiramisu and knew that we would be getting a piece. I have never been so happy with a decision. The dessert was just right. It was not overly sweet and the taste of espresso was perfectly subtle. There was more custard than cake to it, which made the tiramisu creamy and rich in a light way. Even Andrea, who had only planned on having one small taste, had to go back for another bite.

To end our meal, Gina and I also shared a limoncello and a Vecchio Amaro Del Capo. The limoncello was strong and sweet and could have been a dessert on its own. I enjoyed the Amaro Del Capo better. It had a warm spiciness to it, almost like spiced rum.

After our waiter tallied up our bill, we each paid 20 Euros and then left 1 Euro extra for a small tip. Given how full I was and the excellent quality of our meal, I would gladly and without hesitation pay it again. My only hope is that next time I am at Da Augusto’s I will know enough Italian to be able to order my food myself.

2 comments:

  1. Laura,
    Ah yes, green cauliflower. I know it as broccoflower. It's often found at farmers' markets and Price Chopper too! Yummy. I know chicory as endive. Great in salads. Now, pig cheeks? I don't think we've crossed paths yet. Sounds like you enjoyed a great meal at a restaurant with a great vibe. Keep the updates coming. I love reading about your experiences.
    Aunt Marilyn

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  2. Yeah, really. I could pass on the pig cheeks, although it reminded me of how my mother use to put pigs' feet in the "gravy" (spaghetti sauce) she made on Sunday afternoon. I'm sure it gave the sauce so much flavor, but I never took a liking to the pigs' feet or those pigs' knuckles, either.

    xxoo

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