October 31 – Happy Halloween! We saw lots of witches and devils trick-or-treating here last night, but their bags were miniscule (aka normal-sized) compared to the huge bags kids in the United States use. In Italy kids say “dolcetto o scherzetto.”
November 1 – Happy All Saints Day! Today is an Italian national holiday honoring all of the saints, so Michael’s working from home. I don’t usually see much of him during the week, so I like that!
November 2 – Happy All Souls Day (Catholic’s commemoration of the dead) and happy birthday to two friends: Kate McKenna, who’ll be spending two weeks here at the end of November, and Marilyn Haliski, with whom I went all the way through school and college when we were growing up. I’ll celebrate by having lunch with Ellen Jacobstein Gilmore and her daughter at Armando al Pantheon. I haven’t seen Ellen in many, many years. That’s one big advantage of living in Rome—we never know who’ll pop by next! Location, location, location!
November 3 – Happy National Sandwich Day, or, since we’re in Italy, Happy Panini Day! I knew I could find something to celebrate. I can’t have an unhappy day this week, you know.
November 4 – Happy Kate Is Here Day! Our younger daughter arrives for a week (and brings my new computer!). We’re so excited.
November 5 – Happy Birthday to Michael (and Roy Rogers)! We’re heading about an hour north of Rome to Casperia to spend the three-day weekend.
November 6 – Happy Sue in Rome Day! This should be a daily celebration, because I’m happy all the time to be living here!
November 7 – Happy Eid al Adha, an official IFAD holiday that celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.
Now that’s a lot of happiness, and a celebration was certainly in order. Much to my surprise, when Michael called me from the stop at which he catches the last bus in the evening, he asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner. We don’t usually go out during the week, but you won’t be surprised to learn that I said yes. First we walked up to Piazza Farnese and had a glass of prosecco. Then Michael led me up my new favorite street (north of Campo de’ Fiori), which I found only a couple of weeks ago, to see what restaurants we might find. He stopped in front of restaurant and enoteca (wine bar) Al Bric. I’d been wanting to try it, so we stepped inside to see if any tables were available. Yes! This seemed like a great place to celebrate happy week.
As we walked through the first room, we noticed a selection of about 50 beautiful cheeses in the window. This was a good sign, because we both love cheese, and we thought a cheese plate for dessert might be just the ticket.
Lids from wooden wine crates are inlaid into the walls of Al Bric, giving the restaurant a sort of bricky feel that makes it warm and inviting. Two huge gleaming copper heating vents ran across the ceiling, adding to the charm (although I, of course, had to wonder whose job it was to shine those puppies each day!).
The menu wasn’t extensive, and it had a strong emphasis on meat. I saw only a couple of possible fish dishes, so if you don’t like meat, Al Bric probably isn’t for you. As we were choosing our food, the server brought Michael the most enormous wine list I’ve ever seen (the server smiled and called it the Bibbia—Italian for Bible)! It was the size of those huge art books that look so beautiful but are so heavy and difficult to read. Michael was in heaven! I thought we might never get fed, because the server kept passing our table but wouldn’t stop until Michael shut the book, which he finally did. After we’d placed our order, Michael asked the owner to select a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for us, and he recommended a really nice, moderately priced one—Toni 2006.
Michael’s antipasto was a beautiful baked apple stuffed with foie gras surrounded by small apple gelee cubes. It was served at room temperature and was simply scrumptious. My antipasto was tame by comparison but also yummy: thin slices of polenta topped with green peppers that were sort of like jalapenos but more mild. We both chose primi piatti for our main courses. The servings were fairly small by Rome standards, but both pastas were so rich that I couldn’t have eaten more. Michael had an agnelotti-like pasta (whose name we can not remember) stuffed with ricotta cheese and served with guanciale (a meaty type of Italian bacon) and black truffles. Fabulous! I had pappardelle (my favorite pasta) with cinghiale (wild boar) and sausage sauce. Heaven! These woodsy, bold dishes were perfect for fall. I can’t wait to see what this restaurant does in winter, spring, and summer, because we’ll be back to try them all.
For dessert we had one of the best, most gorgeous cheese plates I’ve ever had. We requested a selection of Italian and French cheeses, but we could have put together any plate we wanted, including choosing our own cheeses from the display in the window. The plate had generous servings of six cheeses. The only cheese we could understand was an Époisses, which I usually like but which was my least favorite last night. My favorite was a goat cheese with an amazing thick ash “rind,” which looked like a blue-topped mushroom cloud. Sensational!
Now that’s a happy way to celebrate this happy week!