da Alfredo e Ada,
Rome, Italy, tasted on March 18, 2004 — We'd landed just a few hours
earlier and needed to go somewhere for dinner in Rome. With ten short
days in Italy I'm not one to leave anything to chance. (OK, even
when we spent a month in London I planned all our meals ahead.) I'd
heard through folks that there was this tiny little unmarked
restaurant run by a pair of grandmother's. I heard the kitchen was
tiny, cooking was done on hot plates, and they stopped accepting
customers when the fantastic home cooked food ran out for the night.
This was the place for me.
Alfredo e Ada was a significant challenge in itself. And
surprisingly, it wasn't because I'd never been to Rome, or the taxi
drivers drove like maniacs down the narrow streets. It was because
no sign in front of the restaurant. The light was warm as we
entered and after we confirmed that we were in the right place (in
our broken Italian) we were immediately seated at a long table.
Within seconds a cask of the house-made wine showed up. I'm not
entirely sure how to describe this wine. It was like someone made
wine from concentrate. I almost imagined that after I took a swig
might burst through the far wall. The wine was a weak white wine,
that tasted slightly diluted, but was served cold, was slightly
acidic, and actually ended up being a good balance with the food we
Speaking of the food, it started coming. Big plates
with heaping portions of pasta and meat. There were no menus so we
waited for the night's dishes. First was
Macaroni con Itsubo Involtini. (I apologize if I spelled it
wrong. In my eating frenzy, sauce and cheese flew in all directions
including the spot I wrote down the name of this dish.) Basically it
was big rigatoni in a super light tangy sauce. It was super cheesy
and studded with big chunks of a fatty (in a good way) meat.
While we were eating
Ada darted around the restaurant moving from the kitchen to
various tables making sure everything was running smoothly. As best
I could tell the
Alfredo in "Alfredo e Ada" had passed away. But Ada didn't miss
a beat. She had help from two other women,
one who also looked like somebody's grandmother, and a younger
woman running food out to customers. As we were waiting for the next
course, Ada caught our eye from across the restaurant and waved to
DebDu to come to the
kitchen. Debdu made her way over and
returned with her plate of food. One by one we all went to the
came back with our dishes and big smiles on our faces.
Half of us got
Veal with Pork Sausage, Kale, and Peas. The other half got
Beef Brisket Roulade with Red Beans and Red Sauce. Given how
rustic the dishes were they were surprisingly light in touch when it
came to flavor. This is not to say they didn't have flavor. They had
plenty. It's just that the flavors were surprisingly lithe in the
dishes, dancing around each other distinctly. The veal was (as they
say) like butter and almost sweet. The sausage had a slight and
enjoyable spiciness on the finish. The red sauce on the beef was the
same as we had on the pasta and we were happy to see a repeat
performance. The dish had interesting islands in its own complex
While the pseudo-professional responsibility that
comes with this food blog was certainly a factor, I was really just
dying to really check out where all this great food was coming from.
Sure enough, the
kitchen was tiny. And yes, there were
hotplates in the corner. Tell that to people who need Viking and
Wolf ranges in their houses. The night's
food sat in the kitchen waiting to be served. And there wasn't
much left. We were lucky we got there when we did. Three women made,
served, and cleaned up 30 dinners. Wow.
Finally, Ada delivered some
sugar ring cookies to the table. She demonstrated that we were
dip the cookies in our wine. The combined flavor was sugary,
crispy, light, and yummy. DebDu said it was like dunking graham
crackers in apple juice. Ada came and
wrote the bill on the "tablecloth" along with what appeared to
her trademark caricature of herself.
Is it too much to ask that grandmothers' across the
United States open up small, unmarked restaurants where they serve
their wonderful homecooking honed over decades of making people
happy to happy customers? American diners are way too concerned with
the "scene" and mojitos.
It was our first meal in Italy and I was happy.