*Our recent trip to Rome had many highlights, one of which was one of the best meals we have both ever eaten. A reader recommendation, we were lucky enough to snag a table at Metamorfosi, a Michelin starred restaurant where they serve Modern Italian dishes as pretty as works of art. And what is modern Italian? Read on to find out (along with where to get great pizza and pistachio gelato). *
A few years ago I saw a friend of mine just after she has visited Italy. She warned me before we met up, "I look a bit different." I wasn't sure what she meant but she meant that she had put on quite a few kilos (not that I really noticed). "I just couldn't stop eating, if there was pasta one place, then there was pizza and gelato the next!" she explained.
I totally understood where she was coming from. It was only day two in Rome (after a week long cruise) and my clothes had started to pinch and yet I was hungry. Hungry to eat as much as I could. Our first stop one afternoon is the Pinsere Rome about 15 minutes' walk from our hotel, M Gallery Hotel La Griffe Roma. I figured it would kill two birds - we could get a bit of walking in and then stuff ourselves with pizza.
It was the first pizza during our whole time in Europe and Italy. It had to be good and it had to count. Pinsere's pizza is legendary and ridiculously popular and the queues prove it. Still, the staff are incredibly good natured and welcoming and when I hesitate at the door, two of them beckon me over and welcome me in to choose a pizza. These pizzas are Roman style with a thicker, puffier crust than Neapolitan style pizzas.
Under a glass cabinet sits a range of about a dozen pizzas all about a personal serve's worth. You pick the pizza that you want and they bake it fresh in their oven and then slice it up for you. Outside there are tables at which you stand and eat your pizza. It's a short wait until they pass over my pizzas. The prices are very reasonable at €4.50 or so per pizza depending on the topping.
Mortadella, ricotta e pistacchio, Pumpkin, prosciutto and broccoli, anchovy and olive €4.50 each
We sink our teeth into the first pizza with pumpkin and prosciutto. The crust is wonderful - light, crispy and puffy. The toppings are all fantastic and it is hard to choose a favourite but the mortadella with ricotta and finely ground pistachios is great and the mortadella is thinly sliced and flavoursome. The broccoli pizza, one that we see ordered quite a bit is also interesting and especially good when you get a bite with olive or anchovy. But it's perhaps the pumpkin and prosciutto with a light but perfectly balanced topping that we both adore.
We walk past people in coffee shops, many busy Romans take their coffee while standing and talking. We go in search for the Pasta Museum just near Trevi Fountain but there is bad news - it has been closed for a few years now.
Checking our map we find Sant'Ignazio Church or Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, one of the most wonderful Baroque jewels in all of Rome. While the city is replete with treasures this church is often missed because it doesn't appear on the top sight lists.
Built between 1626 and 1650 one of the biggest draws is the intricately painted optical illusion ceiling by Jesuit brother and painter Andrea Pozzo where the images appear as though in 3D using a technique called "quadratura". Every part of this stunning church is worth taking a look at.
There is a gold disc in the centre of the church just behind the pews that is said to give you the perfect perspective of the church. From there the dome appears real and is also the ideal spot to observe the church and its remarkable ceiling from.
We cross over to the Via Del Corso for a spot of shopping. This does include a copy of what has come to be known as the "hot priests of Rome" calender. Yep it's a real thing and we bought one. For Miss America ;)
Heading back to the hotel we stop in to Verde Pistachio, just across the road for a gelato. In Australia, often pistachio gelato is an exercise in disappointment. It tastes like almond because places use the less expensive pistachio flavouring that contains mostly almond. Still we try a medium sized cup of gelato in pistachio and hazelnut and chocolate. These are kept cold under metal lids to preserve the texture. They also don't seem to offer tastings as easily as other places.
The pistachio is wonderful, eaasily one of the best pistachio gelatos I've ever had. It's smooth in texture and yet the flavour of roasted pistachios clearly shines through strongly. The chocolate hazelnut, such a classic Italian sweet combination is also good with small pieces of hazelnut studded through it.
That night for dinner, we continue with our unwitting "eating the best of Rome" stroke of luck. We visit the upstairs bar at the MGallery with a wonderful view of Rome before we go out to dinner. We have a table at Metamorfosi, about ten minutes by taxi in the Lazio area via Giovanni Antonelli. With one Michelin star it was reader @Goldia_s who recommended it based on her visit there a couple of weeks earlier.
Metamorfosi means metamorphosis and the focus is on creative modern Italian food. For Australians, the concept of Modern Australian is not new but for a country like Italy and in a city like Rome, whilst incredible dishes can be had, Rome is an essentially conservative town in terms of food. Which is why I was more than intrigued to try Metamorfosi with Colombian born chef Roy Salomon Caceres. But what I didn't expect was one of the best meals of my life.
We are given a warm welcome from when we set foot in the door. We are the second table in the restaurant - it opens from 8pm to 10:30pm and our booking is for 8pm. We are shown to a banquette table in the very modern dining room and every single person on the floor is warm and deferential. They bring us some seasoned crackers, delicate and salty and we nibble on these.
We are given English menus and there are several choices which you can also see on their website. There is the classics menu for €90, a “neither fish nor meat” (aka vegetarian menu although I'm sure I didn't need to point that out) or the Assaporando menu described as "A sequence of nine free-hand creations for who is willing to explore in depth our gastronomic intentions" for €110. Or you can go a la carte.
The choice is devilish in its complexity and consequences. While the Assaporando sounds intriguing, the classics would undoubtedly be full of perfected dishes. In the end we go a la carte choosing many of the classic dishes but also with some personal preferences thrown in.
An amuse bouche arrives and it's quite a complex and substantial course for an amuse bouche. It's a bowl of potato foam, lobster, celery, black squid ink powder finished with two extra virign olive oils, one infused with marjoram and the other with saffron. It's light, perfectly balanced and absolutely delicious. We cannot wait for the rest of the courses.
They bring out a warm round of bread that is smoked to add additional flavour. It is crusty, chewy and lightly seeded and comes with an "ice cream of extra virgin olive oil." It is a creamy spread of olive oil.
Red prawns “carpaccio” oyster emulsion and avocado €23.00
Our entrees arrive and the first one is a carpaccio of red prawns, thinly sliced with fine slices of avocado curls, lobster mayonnaise and tiny mint, coriander and dill leaves. It's absolutely sublime in texture and it's a dish that you just wish could go on forever.
Carbonara egg 65° €20,00
This is a two part dish made to recreate the flavours of carbonara sauce. In the main vessel is a 65C cooked egg with an oozy, bright orange yolk and guanciale as well a foam made with parmigiana and pecorino cheeses. On the other part is three curled pieces of deep fried pork crackling. You add these to the lusciously creamy soup to create a textural sensation - the crunchy crackling against the unctuous egg yolk and savoury foam.
I know that Italians love their bread and that no meal is complete without it. But here at Metamorfisi they have a dedicated bread baker to bake all of their breads. They bring out a tray of three types of bread: a white sesame roll, a potato, lemon and caper roll and my favourite, a slightly sweet and dense chestnut roll. And when we finish these they bring out another tray without asking. My god I could just move in with these people!
Spaghetti Masciarelli mussel powder and perfumes of the sea €23
After a short break they bring out our second pasta courses. See how they just managed to slip in a new type of course with just pasta? I am so on board for that. The Spaghetti Masciarelli is a brand of pasta made in Abruzzo. It is served with an oyster cream, a green mussel sauce and a little sprinkling of red pepper powder for a little spice if needed. In the centre is a single leaf of oyster herb from Holland which is absolutely intriguing. They suggest that we start with the leaf which at first bite is refreshing but then morphs into the flavour of an oyster. The spaghetti is perfectly al dente and I resort to eating it strand by strand to prolong the whole eating experience.
Contrasto black pasta, shrimps and sweet pepper €24,00
What lies beneath...
Looking inky dark and mysterious this was a sublime squid ink egg pasta that was latex thin and silky in texture. Under it lies a bed of prawns, celery and green tomatoes and is finished with a toasted smoked breadcrumbs, mayonnaise and red pepper salt.
Charcoal grilled lobster, fennel and olives €36,00
The lobster arrives on the log of a chestnut tree with some hot stones in the hollowed out cavity. The wood gives the dish a wonderful earthy aroma. It's a two parter dish with the tail of the lobster cooked at a low temperature. It is served already separated into individual morsels with a lobster mayonnaise and tarragon leaves. The pincer meat is served in a separate salad with finely shaved fennel, mandarin and finely sliced black olives. The lobster is lusciously textured and creamy while the salad is refreshing with plenty of lobster and salad.
Pluma of iberico pork, prune and chipotle chutney Potatoes and roasted seaweed €28,00
Mr NQN's main is the famous Spanish Iberico pork served with French potatoes and two emulsions. The green emulsion is made with parsley, mint and nori powder while the purple emulsion is made of plum and chipotle with onion and coriander leaf. The pork is lusciously cooked and melts in the mouth and goes well with the potato and the green herb emulsion in particular.
White chocolate lollipop
They bring out a gorgeous little lollipop between savouries and dessert. It's a white chocolate lollipop filled with creamy Blu del Monviso cheese, an absolutely sublime cheese that I am now seeking out with religious fervour. It is then dipped in a port jam. The sensation of the creamy, lightly salted blue cheese and thin, sweet shell of white chocolate and sweet port jam is incredible and to think that this is just an in between course!
White chocolate with caramelized bananas and Armagnac €19,00
The signature dessert is the white chocolate bowl where they lift the top of the bowl and an aroma of cherry wood envelops the table. The dessert is a white chocolate mousse with an almond crumble, mint and Armagnac jelly. Underneath the mousse are pieces of caramelised banana while the smoke is there to break the sweetness of the dessert. It is one of those desserts that you could eat all night long because it is so light and creamy.
Apple, pine nuts and jasmine blossom €19,00
The apple dessert is finely sliced apple curled around and filled with red and golden apple cream, pine nuts and vanilla. There are also two dabs of apple and cinnamon marmalade and apple dabs. It is finished with dill powder and sprigs of dill. It is such a light, refreshing and pretty dessert it seems silly to even ruin it by disassembling it.
The maitre'd calls us a cab and then slides a plate of petit fours on our table with a smile. "Just in case you have a long wait for the taxi," he says. As everything else this night has been, each mouthful is perfection from the buttery, vanilla cookie with the redcurrant in the centre to the citrus pate de fruit to the chocolate and coffee lollipop. It's seems almost a shame when our taxi arrives but we are ushered out the door with as much care and grace as we were treated during the whole meal. I could live here couldn't I?
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever tried Modern Italian cuisine? Which dish appealed to you the most? And sometimes are you reluctant to eat or cut into a dish because it is so pretty?
NQN travelled to Europe as a guest of Azamara Cruises and stayed in Rome as a guest of Accor and MGallery La Griffe Rome. All food in this post were independently paid for.
La Griffe Roma MGallery Collection
Via Nazionale 13, 00184 Rome, Italy http://www.mgallery.com/gb/hotel-9075-la-griffe-roma-mgallery-collection/index.shtml
Via Flavia, 98, 00187 Roma, Italy
Phone:+39 06 4202 0924
Via Nazionale, 239, 00184 Roma, Italy
Via Giovanni Antonelli, 30/32, 00197 Roma, Italy
Phone:+39 06 807 6839