First off, many thanks to all our friends who sent e-mails and left comments – mille grazie carini!
We hadn’t planned anything special for our anniversary, though we were married last year we’ve been together since 1978 so the big celebration will be for our 30th on November 23. However as always here in Rome, serendipity stepped in: our friends Robert and Walter gave us a call to ask what we were doing. They are back in town between a business trip to London and a vacation trip to Budapest and this would be our only chance to see them until mid-August. So dinner was proposed and gladly accepted.
We headed downtown to meet them at one of their favourite Enotecha (wine bar/store) Il Vinaietto di Marco e Giancarlo in the Largo Argentino area. As we approached the shop a sudden yelp that could only come from a stepped on daschie (we use to hear that sound occasionally) assailed our ears. “Oh that’s Freda, you’ll meet her,” Walter said. And meet Freda we did. She’s not quite a foot tall, has a lovely shiny black coat and soulful black eyes that just tell you that no one has ever petted or looked after her in her life - I swear daschies learn that look at their mother's teats. She owns the place and Giancarlo and Marco run it for her comfort and entertainment. Patrizia, a full-figured Mexican lady, is nominally Freda’s owner, as if a daschie could ever be owned!
The shop itself is a hole-in-the-wall that has recently been extended through to the hole-in-the-wall next door. No elaborate displays of gilded grapes and coloured pastas - just shelves of wines, a stand up bar and a few high bistro tables with stools. Robert first went there almost 20 years ago so its been a neighbourhood fixture for a good while. Clients are mostly locals and everything was done with an air of jovial familiarity. As bottles are emptied they are pitched, with a resounding tinkle, into large bin at the end of the bar. A few friends stood joking at the bar, people wandered in for a refill and then back out onto the street to enjoy their wine and a cigarette. Yes smoking is forbidden in Italian restaurants and bars - which is why terraces are so popular. In one corner a besandeled gentleman sat on a step-stool enjoying a glass of red while he read his novel - another gentleman came in to have two plastic bottles filled with wine obviously intended for the home dinner table. It was friendly, quirky and fun. And the wine - yes I fall off the wagon on occasion and this was an occasion - was a pleasant white from Sardegna.
After a few more tummy rubs for a poor neglected Freda, we headed off to a traditional Roman trattoria where Robert and Walter have been eating for some time. Da Sergio alle Grotte is just off Campo di Fiori but again is aimed at locals in the area. A mixed antipasti platter, a shared linguine with mushrooms, veal steak with salad and a black current tart made for a more than reasonable anniversary dinner.
As we strolled back into the Largo to catch our bus we passed a gelateria advertising Mint and Celery gelato - though the combination was intriguing none of us were up to gelato at this point. Guess it means a trip back to see Freda and try that gelato.
22 lulgio - Santa Maria Magdelena