Seeing as they don’t take reservations, we figured showing up at SPQR on a Sunday at 5:45 would be easy enough – after all, who eats at such an hour? Well, turns out that SPQR opens at 5:30 and people actually line up beforehand. So every table was full and all had just been seated. But, as luck would have it, there were two open seats at the bar – not only did we have a lovely dinner, our server Natasha was the greatest, pointing us to some really great wines.
Natasha recommended several whites under $45 from the all-Italian list and we chose a Northern white (whose name escapes me) that we both really liked. It was dry and crisp, but with a just hint of oily mouthfeel.
We had two antipasti: the cauliflower fried up with capers, parsley and lemon – little nuggets of crispy golden-brown cauliflower with a creamy interior, the capers and lemon lending a fine accent to all; and Romano beans (kind of like wide flat green beans) sauteed with chili and mint – very spicy, with the mint providing a cool undertone. We made fast work of both…
By now we’d finished off our first bottle of wine and I wanted a glass of red to go with our pasta. This time Natasha had me try Vicari Rosso Piceno, a combination of Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Lacrima di Morro. It was fantastic – medium-bodied but still with some pronounced tannins, and an underlying note of frankincense. Chris liked it too and decided we should get a bottle – and far be it from me to object this course of action.
I had fusilli con ragu alla Romana – a simple and very tasty pork-and-tomato sauce topped pasta. The pasta was cooked just right and the sauce was very good – though I thought it was undersalted. Chris had rigatoni all’Amatriciana – which I know is a tradtional Roman pasta made with guanciale, tomato, onion and pecorino, but I have never tried. I didn’t expect it to be so simple – with tomatoes taking center stage while the rest of the ingredients added their flavors and textures. This dish of pasta was one of the best I’ve ever tasted – the rigatoni were cooked to perfection, tender yet chewy. And the sauce, besides being delicious, had a wonderful almost-creaminess to it, clinging to each bite of pasta. Both pastas were delicious, but Chris won.
At this point, it seemed disingenuous to even pretend we weren’t getting dessert – and I won this round with riso budino served with strawberries and pistachios, which resembled risotto made with cream – it was barely-sweetened, each grain of rice distinct and nestled in a warm pudding. The macerated strawberries added a subtle sweetness and the pistachios a perfect crunch. Bellisimo! Chris had a lemon semifreddo, with basil syrup. I loved the flavors together, though it was bit difficult to navigate, as it was pretty much completely freddo… Oh, and we managed to swig down a couple of dessert wines. Chris had a really fantastic Roberto Zeni Moscato Rosa, wonderfully sweet and floral. I don’t quite remember what I had (how surprising…), but it was a light and bubbly rosso.
Of course, now we had to stumble off to a hair show at diPietro-Todd up the street. Fortunately, the show was on “hairdresser time” and we had a good half-an-hour to cut through the fog of wine. (BTW, the show, Fiona and Angel’s graduation soirée, was amazing… Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera – but every model coming down that runway had a great hairstyle – flattering, tasteful and modern, all demonstrating amazing technique… But I digress…).
So, a few glasses of cheap champagne later, it was time to call it a night… But as we passed by SPQR again, it seemed silly not to have nightcap – so we did. Just a glass of wine each and then it was really time to call it a night.
I had such a splendid time at SPQR. I spent most of Sunday afternoon putting together the beginnings of our Rome itinerary – so dinner eaten like a Roman was a perfect end to our weekend.