So Far So Good

January 26, 2015 / Food & Wine
Ponzano Romano, Lazio

…this new year’s resolution is officially alive and well despite a close call.

While exploring another corner of the countryside outside of Rome this weekend, we almost failed to honor it. (A healthy picnic was planned of all things. The horror.) Instead, the temperature was quite a bit colder than expected, the picnic was doomed from the start anyhow (I mean fennel and apples… really?!), and evil hunger pounced before we could locate one of the usually ubiquitous porchetta (roasted pig) trucks for a sandwich.

It didn’t help that the guardia parco (park ranger) of the Riserva Naturale Regionale Nazzano Tevere-Farfa, an avuncular fellow if there ever was one, somehow managed to seamlessly weave a local fauna vs. invasive species discussion in with numerous culinary references about the superiority of local Nazzano fare. Darwin would have been proud.. ? Before we knew it we were walking back to the car to drive to the trattoria he had mentioned. Jedi mind-control tricks no doubt… the picnic be damned.

“Did he just mention the migration of mallards and ragu di castrato (lamb sauce) in the same sentence or am I imagining it? …huh.”

The trattoria was a locals only countryside place if there ever was one. Abutting a concrete pylon supporting the highway someways up the hill, it afforded a nice view of the Tiber river valley below. We entered despite the physics defying nature of the building, consisting of a patchwork of numerous materials, building styles and eras.

IMG_20150125_150552
IMG_20150125_132922

Inside there was the usual steamy kitchen run by uber-chef signora (she also ran the till), and her brace of 20-something children ferrying food at lightspeed to the extended families getting together for Sunday pranzo. The average table size was about 15, with cacophonous kids playing pickup games of tag in between. Decor? Think “your nutty aunt meets 1970s garage sale” chic.

And sure enough, the ranger was right… for home-grown Lazio cucina povera (farm cuisine) this was as good as it comes. The polenta was the real deal, the slow cooked type, delicious in both the sausage/ribs variety as well as alla padellaccia (lit. the worthless pan style, ie. a hearty dish of lesser pork cuts).

IMG_20150125_140451
IMG_20150125_140435

The antipasto really took the prize however… pizza fritta (fried pizza dough) topped with erbette (chard), verza (cabbage), prosciutto, and (the winner of the day) lardo. Yes, that would be fried pizza topped with lard, buonissimo.

Phew… good thing this new year’s resolution is “Eat more pork.” That was close.

Directions: Sorry, but this is as good as it’s going to get. Pretty much taken from their business card, which by the way says to call them if you have trouble getting there, except the card doesn’t have a phone number on it. Gotta love it.
The restaurant is in the Localita’ Prim’are of Ponzano Romano. If you’re on the Via Tiberina, coming from Nazzano, go through Torrita and then Ponzano Romano too, drive down the long hill. Before the IP gas station at the bottom of the hill, there is a normal looking trattoria/tabaccaio on the left. That is not it. Go another 50 meters, and enter a driveway on the left that leads to a rickety building set back from the road that looks like a wooden shack. That’s it. Park in their yard/field.
If instead you are coming from the A1 Roma-Firenze highway, exit at Ponzano/Soratte and head towards Ponzano. After the IP gas station but before the normal looking trattoria/tabaccaio, there is a driveway on the right that leads to a rickety building set back from the road that looks like a wooden shack. That’s it. Park in their yard/field.

IMG_20150125_134256
IMG_20150125_134337

IMG_20150125_145253

GB

by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

14 Responses to “So Far So Good”

  1. GB, How do we find this place??? Can you give us more details? Did you scan their business card? Did she have a business card? This will be your best kept secret.
    Did she serve the food on wooden planks? Is that common?
    I’m hungry now.

    Reply
    • GB

      Yep, those wooden planks are what folks used to eat off of. It’s called a scifo (pl. scifi, pronounced SHE-fo, plural is SHE-fee). They’re slightly concave, hence the name, from the Greek skyphos, which was simply a shallow receptacle, often with two handles on each side. Nowadays, pretty much only polenta is served in them and believe me, you wouldn’t want Polenta served any other way, it really does make that much of a difference!!

      Reply
  2. I second Roseann’s request for the name/location. We live 4 months a year in nearby Casperia, and we are always on the lookout for good new restaurants.

    Reply
  3. Dear GB, that was very funny. Lardo is truly one the foods of the Gods. It all looked scrumptious. D. Gemignani

    Reply
  4. Ahh, and my New Year’s resolution was to lose weight — I gained about five pounds just looking at all the yummy polenta and sausage!

    Reply
  5. Maureen Hogan

    Can you please tell us the name of the restaurant you visited in ponzano Romano. Thank you

    Reply
  6. What a priceless gastronomic adventure! I’m sick in bed with the flu and the thought of another trip to Italy will certainly cure me!

    Reply
  7. GB

    Hi folks, I added the “directions”. I would add more but there’s no address or even phone number on their business card. Gotta love it!

    Reply
  8. I can only dream of days off the beaten patch but have 2 questions: 1. how do you fry pizza? are they small pieces of dough? 2. would a solo travelers who stops at the trattoria be considered ODD? so difficult to meet and eat at the local’s spots when you chose to travel solo….

    Reply
  9. Lisa giuliano

    I cant wait to go back to my home town of Capodimonte (Rome) and to find this quite homey yet exquisite trattoria it sounded lovely. I am molto fame!!!

    Reply
  10. I just love the surprises Italy offers in these off the beaten path discoveries. Thanks GB for mouth-watering details and pictures!

    Reply

Leave a Reply