One of the challenges that stands in the way of expats is the sense of detachment from the known and the community they used to belong to. Some will leave everything behind and will blend in the new place in no-time, while others will hold the past as tight as possible and keep close to their roots, especially if they know that they will go back to where they came from. And most people, even the total misanthropes, will stand between those two and choose their level of att/det-achment.
I. and N. are a couple I thank to whomever there's to thank - especially them - for the chance I've had to share my life in Rome with. A couple that I can truly say are my friends. For their expected yet regretful leaving the city, we decided to visit one of the oldest places of Testaccio quarter. Such an old place that made it all the way to switch from one for locals to a tourist restaurant and back.
In the name of solidarity with the public transportation drivers that showed me the meaning of "Italian strike" (which in Italy is called "White strike"), and also since I had no other chance, I was already pretty late when I got to the restaurant after a fast walk from the station. Lucky me, I. and N., besides being good friends, know how Roman public transportation works, so they greeted me warmly, and I thanked them, the traditional and less-traditional gluten-free grissini that were served while they were waiting, in order to ease the atmosphere.
The Perilli family has been running its trattoria for more than a century after Bernardo and Irene established it in 1911. Today it's already the fourth Perilli generation who runs it, and that night Maurizio paid attention that everything would work as it has been along the years.
A brief look at the menu made us wonder a little since the pasta prices went easily above 10 Euros each, the same and in some cases even more expensive than the main courses. This is an unusual pricing for pasta in Rome, although together with the main courses would made the total price of the meal just a little more expensive than other restaurants around the city. If you add the quality and history as ingredients - the pricing makes total sense.
After giving the menu a closer look I was happy to find out that the place serves Rigatoni with Pajata. Rigatoni are the short and rigged tubes - and here is the time for my more sensitive readers to skip the next paragraph.
Is everyone still here? Well, Pajata (the Roman dialect for Pagliata) are calf intestines which nutrition is based only on milk and were tied in a form of a ring while holding the milk inside. Now you can grill or bake them as they do along the Eastern coast of Italy and especially in Ancona, or like they do in Rome - boil them and add them to pasta with tomato sauce. In any form the heat cooks the milk inside the intestines together with the rennet enzyme which is already inside them, amalgamating the two to a delicate and lightly sweet cream.
After the "Mad cow" plague had erupted, in 2001 the European Union health commission (that might be named with not so nice names around Europe), banned the selling of pajata due to health risk and regardless of any Roman tradition. "Mad cow" or not, no Roman was mad enough to stop eating the dish and around the web there are evidences that "whoever wanted it knew where to get it". Luckily for everybody, after the plague was eradicated from Europe the ban was lifted in 2015, so now you can find it around the city, even if it's still not as easy to conceptually digest as the other traditional pasta dishes.
The milk is already inside
N. and I. ordered such dishes - carbonara and cacio e pepe, respectively - and they both received their compliments. The cacio e pepe dish was "peppery as it should" and diagnosed as "not different from any other pasta dish". It might not seem such a compliment, but since it was also gluten-free - not very common in a traditional restaurant - it was an excellent choice. And maybe we better thank also the large amount of Pecorino that was added. The carbonara carried the title as the best one in the city of the magazine Roma Today of 2015 and proved that such title suits it.
A fourth member around the table was a bottle of Vermentino from the Tuscan Banfi vineyard. Tuscany is not the home region of Vermentino, but the Maremma area along the Tuscan coast provide about the same conditions in the neighboring island of Sardinia. The wine was light and dry as expected, and after a short rest in the ice bucket was even better.
As main course I chose a nice piglet, potatoes and rosemary that lay together in the oven, my almost regular pick in traditional restaurants that proved itself also this time. It wasn't a big portion and can be considered even as a medium dish for larger or hungrier people, but you could find a wide range of textures in it: the meat, part baked and crispy and part moist to melt, slipped off the bone and the spots of fat weren't aggressive but caressed it here and there; the potatoes served as a homey supplement and efficiently absorbed the juices that oozed out of the meat.
Not a genius dish, not a special one, but one that fit exactly the atmosphere of the dinner and the period of time I've known I. and N.. No dramas, no pressure and without the obligation of trading gestures and feelings, but just to sit around the table with food and wine and recollecting memories from our joint travels around Italy - in which we ate and drank, don't you worry.
For dessert I ordered a panna cotta for the three of us. It's true, not a chocolate one! It took me some time to understand that especially in Rome is better not to get adventurous: pastries and extraordinary venues aside, chocolate dessert are average at the most. Chocolate is more complicated to handle while panna cotta is much simpler (thank you, gelatin), and anyway in a place like Perilli you won't get an Instagram star dessert. Not here. It was a textbook panna cotta: simple, shaky (again - thank you, gelatin) and even not that sweet - but tasty.
Thank you, gelatin
When we said goodbye for almost the last time I looked at the wall around the corner from Perilli, and there I spotted a plaque that was placed by the fans of AS Roma football team to commemorate their comrade Fabrizio "Ozzy" who got killed in an accident in 2008. On his memorial webpage you can see "Ozzy" together with his teammates in their childhood and his four-legged friends when he is already an adult. A true friendship.
"To Fabri 'Ozzy'
Our best friend"
Thank you I. and N. for great years, for travels and conversations, for dinners and memories, and like we said - see you soon!
To friendship! Per l'amicizia!
Via Marmorata 39, Rome