Originally Alfredo

When one thinks of Italian food, several staples come to mind: spaghetti, lasagne, fettuccine alfredo, and, of course, tiramisu and espresso. This is a tale about all of these except spaghetti and lasagne.

In the lead up to our Italy trip, my boss’s father, Philip, casually mentioned that we had to go to Alfredo alla Scrofa. I knew we didn’t have a lot of time in Rome, so I told him we would try. Not satisfied with this answer, he explained “but you must. It’s where fettuccine alfredo originated.”

Mi scusi?

He smiled, knowing he had hooked me. “Yes,” he continued, “it’s where fettuccine alfredo originated and simply must go there. It’s what you do when you go to Rome—you go to Alfredo’s, you eat alfredo, and then maybe see a few historical things. Please promise me you’ll go.”

I triple promised and then checked with Ann & Cait to see if they were on board—and of course they were because hello! fettuccine alfredo!

On our first full day in Rome, we spent the morning exploring the Vatican and St. Paul’s cathedral. Realizing we were only about 20 minute walk from pasta bliss and looking for a late lunch, it seemed like the perfect solution. We wound our way down the cobbled streets along the Tiber, amongst the street vendors, and surrounded by the ancient grandeur that is the very essence of Rome. The good news: we found it! The bad news: they were finishing lunch and were in the process of closing until dinner. We felt disheartened, but conveyed to the gentleman at the door we came all the way there to try to alfredo and would definitely be back when they opened for dinner.

In true Italian hospitality or perhaps sensing we might burst into tears right then and there, the gentlemen ushered us inside. Since we were there for the alfredo, he was insistent that we stay for lunch. We thanked him profusely and asked if we might get some vino as well. He laughed, assured us vino was always available, and showed us to our table. He explained alfredo was served family size, which we told him was perfect and deferred to him about our wine selection.

He returned a few minutes later with chianti and promised us that food would be out shortly. True to his word, soon a huge platter of pasta came out. We watched the server expertly mix the sauce into the pasta, and then served us from the platter.

It was, quite simply, one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The fresh noodles were cooked to al dente perfection. The sauce was creamy, buttery, and silky, but had a lightness about it that I had never tasted in an alfredo.

Somehow—probably on a pasta high—as we were finishing the last of the pasta and trying not to lick the plate, we took the waiter up on his offer of tiramisu and espresso.

While the alfredo was definitely the star of the show, the tiramisu was heavenly as well. It was the right balance of layered coffee, chocolate, and cream. It paired oh-so-well with the espresso.

Alfredo. Plus wine. Plus tiramisu. Plus espresso. Plus amazing friends. Plus history of the restaurant. Plus ambiance of being in Rome. Easily, one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.

Our only regret was that we didn’t make it back before departing Italy.

Therefore—if I can piggyback and expand onto Philip’s advice—when you go to Rome: go to Alfredo’s, eat the fettuccine alfredo and the tiramisu, maybe see some historical sites, and enjoy la dolce vita.

And in case you want to bring that delicious goodiness back home with you to eat any time, the restaurant offers cooking classes to make pizza, alfredo, and pastries. https://www.alfredoallascrofa.com/cooking-class

buon appetito!

Highway Robbery

As I mentioned eons ago, last October I went to Italy.

When we started researching and telling everyone about going to Italy, it seemed the one overall theme was thievery. Horror stories about people being pickpocketed and overcharged and taken advantage of at every turn started popping up everywhere and by everyone we told about our upcoming trip.

We planned and re-planned and over planned about how to deal with this and even had back up plans if this would happen or that would happen. We obsessed over travelers insurance, which handbags to use, how to spread out our cash, where to keep our passports and credit cards, and fastidiously reminded ourselves not to leave anything in the rental car. In hindsight, I think know we (all of whom have lived in New York City at one point), spent way too much time overthinking it.

Not once in our 10 days were we pickpocketed or overcharged and never felt taken advantage of–except once. By our rental car company.

Yep. Our rental car company. Ironically, I decided to go with Avis because of all the car options we were presented with while booking, it is one that I use quite frequently here, so I thought it was the “safe” choice. They offered a great rate and when our reservation had to change literally 2 days before the trip they were very accommodating.

Once we were there, the overly friendly Avis front desk man explained to us that we needed additional insurance for the car to “cover accidents and theft.” I thought insurance was included in the quoted price but of course, it was in the middle of the night in the USA when we landed in Italy, so I couldn’t get a hold of anyone to confirm exactly what my reservation included. We opted for the additional insurance, partially because we were in a foreign country and partially because we were still in the throes of assuming everyone was out to get us (yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds but trust me, the horror stories plus the jet lag plus the 9 hours of airplane coffee had us a little on edge!).

We pick up our tiny little car. TINY. TIIIIIIIIIINY. After a bit of finagling of luggage because only 2 suitcases fit in the “trunk,” we were off!

Thankfully our tiny baby car was perfect for navigating our way through Rome, where the driving style is best described as “just go, try not to hit anything, and hope for the best” (aka a chaotic clusterfuck). You think I’m kidding, but I am not. We encountered numerous intersections without any signage or lights and one lane exit ramps with five rows of cars across it.

Our tiny baby car, whom Cait named Luigi, wasn’t so great with the Tuscan hills. And by not great, I mean we couldn’t keep up with the locals taking the uphill curves at breakneck speeds. But we made it! Sometimes with a lot of encouragement for Luigi, that he could, in fact, make it to the top of whatever mountain summit we were trying to reach. And not without a fair bit of panicking and near-death experiences. Also, may I suggest not looking down the side of the mountain to see how far you’ll drop if the car suddenly careens off the road?

After 10 days of laughing, cursing the GPS, and a lot of u-turns, we safely returned Luigi back to Avis before boarding the plane back to New York and saying arrivederci to Italy.

And then? Then we got the finalized bill, which was nearly triple what we originally quoted. I called Avis to ask about all the additional charges, and discovered that the additional insurance was nearly double that of our actual rental charge. And was further informed that no, we didn’t actually need it, we had basic insurance that would have covered everything but the additional insurance just meant that we wouldn’t have a deductible. Since we agreed to the extra insurance at the counter there was nothing she could do to reverse the charges. I tried arguing that we were told that we didn’t have coverage and it was required. Had we been told it was just an upgrade from our already included insurance we would have declined, but she wasn’t budging.

Fine. We paid the additional insurance. Not that we had much of a choice, since it was already charged to the card. But we bitched about it at length and then chalked it up to a very steep learning curve.

Six short weeks later, I got another charge from Avis along with a letter in the mail stating that we received a traffic citation and [wait for it], Avis was charging us $50 in order to process the citation and they would kindly keep us abreast of how much the citation would be when it was processed.

JUST TO BE CLEAR, AVIS CHARGED $50 JUST TO PROCESS THE CITATION, NOT FOR THE CITATION ITSELF.

Yep. True story: you can’t make up this bullshit. Incidentally, we’re still waiting for the actual citation and fees associated with it. So after all the worrying about the thievery in Italy, the only time we came across it was with our American owned rental car company. Define irony.

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at least the views were spectacular…

Counting Down

It is always a bit surreal when a plan comes together.  I’m not talking an impromptu meeting of friends for Friday Margarita Happy Hour.  I’m talking about a big trip.  Like one to Italy.

At this very moment in just three short weeks, I will be at JFK airport, flashing my passport, handing over my ticket, and boarding a plane to Rome.  And in a rare occurrence for me, I thought I’d share this information with you beforehand rather than waiting months or even years (apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks!).

It’s been a few years couple of decades since I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the land of pasta, vino, leaning towers, and big fashion houses.  So I dusted off some old photo albums and found a few pics of my last trip.  My apologies: I’ve never been a great photographer, especially in the archaic times before digital when you just had to take the photo and hope for the best (at least that was my method, which probably explains a lot!).

Excited by the prospect of updating my photos and adding more cities to my list, my Italian bucket list was soon about 3 pages long–and not small notepad size, but large legal pad size!  Sadly, some hard cuts had to be made.  Although, to be honest, we’re still trying to finagle how to squeeze in a few more things because it’s just so damn hard to not want to do absolutely everything.  I know, I KNOW that’s not possible.  I’m always lecturing visitors to NYC not to over pack their schedules and leave some room for flexibility.  But here I am overpacking left, right, and center! The finalists are Rome, Florence, Venice, Parma, Bologna, Chianti, and a tiny little hat making town called Montappone.

At this point, I’m not sure what I’m most excited about–it keeps changing minute by minute.  I have always longed to see all the delights that Rome has to offer, but then there’s coffee and wine and pasta and gelato, and also a coastal drive along the Adriatic Sea, winding roads through Tuscany, a hotel with canal views in Venice, and we’re taking a parmesan cheese tour in Parma!

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Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Plus we have booked what might possibly be THE CUTEST Airbnb in the Chianti Hills for three nights with Giovanni, who promises to greet us with homemade wine and olive oil.   HOMEMADE WINE AND OLIVE OIL! I may have been stalking Giovanni’s Instagram, but I mean, really, look at this:

On my very first visit to Tuscany 24 years ago, I called my parents and joked that I wasn’t coming home.  I have a feeling this time, it might not be a joke…

Ciao for now!