Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gianni's with Charlie Q & Southern Bella

Before reading any further: go to itunes and download a podcast called Rome Review.

Two years ago, during my first trip to Rome, we ate at this charming "restaurant" in Trastevere. Prior to that trip I had read about it New York magazine, which did not give the address, and, believe it or not, it was on our street in Rome (of all the streets in Rome!). I use the term restaurant loosely, because it is, in fact, operated out of the chef and proprietor's (Gianni) apartment. There are tables in the kitchen and in the street, and, it has become popular enough to require a reservation for a table.

After that first trip to Rome, I found Charlie Q's podcast and website called Rome Review (imagine a Zagat guide for Rome, plus more). I wrote him an e-mail, asking if he had heard about this restaurant, and if there is an underground restaurant scene in Rome. He is an authority on all this Roman, except for this topic. He had never heard of it, or anything like it. Well, flash forward two years, I am back in Rome, and lucky enough to meet Charlie Q and his girlfriend, Rome Review podcast's very own Southern Bella, in person. Two of the nicest people in the world, they generously hosted me around town: lunch, gelato, nighclub, drinks, sushi, more drinks...and I showed them Gianni's.

Surprisingly, the menu hadn't changed much since my last visit. We were started off with the same appetizers: squash puree, bruschetta and beans. Then we had a couple of options for pasta, I choose the carbonara, but I should have ordered the cacio e pepe instead.

For the main course we had the option of squid or chicken, and we all got the chicken. Juicy, tender chicken with rosemary, olive oil and balsamic vinegar on a bed of greens.

For dessert (the same as before) macerated strawberries and limoncello. The price fixed at 25 Euro, worth it if you take advantage of the limoncello bottle left at your table.

Not the cheapest meal in town, but certainly unique. Now, everyone go to itunes and download the latest Rome Review podcast: I recorded a segment with Charlie Q about our experience at Gianni's. Also, coming soon, our podcast segment about sushi in Rome.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Vinoteque: Parte Due

There were a couple of openings in Culver City I eagerly awaited – and they all opened while I was out of town! Father’s Office, M Café de Chaya, and Vinoteque. I have been to new M Café several times, and it is just as good as the original location. We tried to go to Father’s Office, but at 7:00 on a Tuesday night the place was full, and no one was budging. On to Vinoteque.

In the former Synergy Café space on Sepulveda, an unlikely locale (which is good because there is lots of available street parking), Vinoteque is a wine bar/restaurant with live music nightly. We arrived on a weeknight around 6:00, and by 7:30 or so the place was full. They have seating out front, and two dining rooms. One by the bar with high seats and tables, away from the music, and the other larger room with low slung couches and tables, with the stage in the rear. Cool modern design, with empty wine bottles nestled in the ceiling – the only drawback is that couches have low backs, which mean you either sit up straight, are sit way, way back.

The menu consists of small plates to enjoy with their eclectic wine selection. Each menu item lists a suggested wine pairing. If you order the accompanying wine, you get a bit of a price break. My friend and I wanted the wine pairing, but we wanted to share the glass, so they split the serving and we each had our own flight. They seem to be game when it comes to playing with the menu and creating options. I love it when the staff encourages this.

We chatted up with one of the proprietors, Adam, whom I know from his days at Bottlerock, and he generously gave us some Nero d’ Avola and a sherry to finish. Ok, on to the food.

We started with their bar nuts, a sticky, sweet, salty blend of nuts laced with rosemary. Definitely share these. Then, on to the bacon wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates, another rich, sweet-salty combo.

Then they grilled halloumi cheese, with roasted pepper and olive salad. The salad added a refreshing, light touch to the cheese.

All paired beautifully with a Rose, Muscadet and Chardonnay. Definitely pick the wine they suggest. It creates what my friend DJ calls, “a home run in your mouth.” When we moved on to the red wine we shared the lamb kefta – two ground lamb sausages on housemade pita. Nice, fatty, juicy lamb with the pita to soak it all up.

The jazz band that played that night was perfect for sipping wine by. No avant garde weirdness, just nice, classic jazz. My favorite.

4437 Sepulveda Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Lardo. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. I saw it many places in Florence. Check out those blocks, with salt and rosemary, waiting to be sliced. It is very rich, and very good. It just melts in your mouth.

Monday, May 19, 2008

M Cafe de Chaya Culver City

Now open. Same great menu, just a little bigger (and better parking) than the Melrose Original.

M Cafe de Chaya
9343 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Missing Rome

I just got in to LA last night, after 5 long, wonderful, weeks in Rome (and a few days in Florence). There is a lot to miss about Rome, and I will name 3 of them here. The coffee. There are coffee bars on every street. A couple times a day I would pop into one and order my favorite, caffe macchiato for about 70 cents.

The water fountains. All over there are these water fountains, with fresh, clean, cool water. Combined with the coffee and wine, one will never go thirsty in Rome.

The gelato. Some places are better than others, but Della Palma near the Pantheon takes the cake. A ton of flavors, including several mousses (also known as semi freddo, basically a frozen whipped cream). Soft and billowy, pick any flavor and you can never go wrong.