Those of you who grew up in Coos Bay remember the umbellularia californica, the rare species of myrtle tree found only on the southern coast of Oregon and the northern coast of California. Myrtlewood factories along the southern Oregon coast sell furniture, tableware, art, jewelry, and trinkets made from the beautiful wood. Although the West Coast Indians ate the leaves and berries of the myrtle tree, have any of you ever done so? I haven’t. Last Friday at Il Drappo, a Sardinian restaurant near our apartment, I not only ate food prepared in myrtle leaves (from the myrtus communis shrub that grows along the Mediterranean Sea), I drank a yummy myrtle liqueur. Hmmm, could this be a new business opportunity?
Michael and I thought for a while that we might not have dinner at Il Drappo, even though we had reservations, because when we got there, we couldn’t open the door! We could see the door, and we could see people seated at tables inside the restaurant, but we couldn’t figure out how to get there ourselves. Finally one of us noticed a small doorbell hidden in the shadows. Michael pushed the bell, and the door magically opened. It was like going into someone’s house! And the restaurant was sort of that way, too.
Il Drappo wins the most romantic restaurant in Rome award hands down (so far). It is gorgeous! Il Drappo means “the cloth,” and white cloth billows across the ceiling in the Sardinian style, according to the restaurant’s owner, Valentina Tolu, who looks just like a younger version of Michael’s grandmother (although he didn’t tell her so). The restaurant has two rooms, and our table was in a room in which one of the walls was a mirror, so the effect of the draped cloth was even more stunning. People eating in Il Drappo were much more dressed up than the people we see at other restaurants. Rome is pretty casual, but at Il Drappo, most men had on suits or jackets, and women wore dresses or very nice pants suits. I felt a bit underdressed, although I was in a corner, thankfully, so no one could see what I was wearing.
The food at Il Drappo was delicious. We decided to have the chef’s tasting menu, and the server said we could choose either fish or meat. Although I adore roast suckling pig and it was on the menu, I ordered the fish, and Michael chose the meat. The waiter recommended a Sardinian wine, Dolia’s Cannonau di Sardegna, a light red blend that was perfect with both courses.
For antipasti I had anchovies marinated in olive oil (so good) and Michael had beautiful and delicious prosciutto di cinghiale di Nuoro (wild boar prosciutto from the Sardinian province of Nuoro). For our secondi piatti Michael had a wonderful, simple, fresh-tasting pasta with a light tomato sauce, and I had fregula with clams, a type of Sardinian pasta that looks a bit like couscous on steroids, which was also tasty.
For our primi piatti, Michael was served the suckling pig roasted in myrtle leaves—killer! It was so fabulous, as were the roasted potatoes that accompanied it. He mentioned to Signora Tolu that I love roast sucking pig, so she brought me an extra plate so that Michael could share his with me. So cute! And he did. I had a filet of grouper cooked with tomatoes and olives. The flavor was good, but the fish was so bony that it was hard to eat. A green salad accompanied my secondi. Dessert for both of us was a delicious Sardinian cake.
At the end of dinner the waiter brought us each a small glass of mirto, which is made from the berries of the Sardinian myrtle plant. Mirto is a divine, dark, rich, brown liqueur that tastes like crushed myrtle leaves smell. It is wonderful! If any of you Coos Bay natives see a bottle, buy it and give it a try. You’ll be hurled right back to the Oregon Coast, I swear!