Thursday, July 12, 2012

Trattoria der Pallaro – Rome, Italy

Most everything seems to be about a stone’s throw away in central Rome – restaurants, outdoor markets, Roman antiquities. Located near one of Rome’s most famous markets, Campo di Fiori, is a simple, rustic restaurant, Trattoria der Pallaro.
A pilot recommended this restaurant to a flight attendant on our crew, swearing up and down anyone she took there would love it. He emphasized being hungry on arrival, since plate after plate of food is brought to the table. Patrons eat what is brought to the table, which seems to be the restaurant’s traditional fare. The three of us from my crew were the second patrons to sit down, and the last to leave that seating general seating of patrons, pacing ourselves through the multiple plates of food that continued to arrive.

Within moments of sitting down on the enclosed terrace, we were asked, “Vino rosso or blanco?” Vino rosso!  And immediately arrived a pitcher of red wine, with sparkling water.  Then the food started: the ubiquitous basket of fresh baked bread, sliced fennel in vinegar and salt, green olives, sliced prosciutto and salami, a bowl of lentils, arancini rounds and Italian falafel, fresh mozzarella balls, pasta with pancetta, sliced veal au jus, and after all this – handmade potato chips.
To cap it all off, next was a slice of baked lemon cake straight from the black, cast-iron pan, an ideal dessert for a Roman dinner in the summer, accompanied by a shot of Fragioli, a wild strawberry liqueur.
Serving everyone was “Momma”, the essence of Italian grandmother (might have been great-grandmother in this case), who looked the throw back to WWII Italy – a little rough and poor, but with a gregarious and infectious smile of happiness and joy of life that dispelled any other notion.  With a kerchief on her head and apron around her waist, smiling broadly, she was giving friendly hugs and pats to the mostly local crowd of diners.
I thought I was going to roll right out of the restaurant at the thought of so much food. But the servings were not of copious amounts, and shared amongst the three of us, and pacing ourselves, I was able to have a little bit of everything, and feel satiated. Was this the best restaurant I have been to in Rome? No. But it is good? Absolutely. And you can’t beat the local Roman ambience, including the framed picture of the Pope over the bathroom door.
When the bill came, we each paid 25€. Trattoria der Pallaro is tucked away, but is worth finding when you want to feel like part of the neighborhood.

(Originally published on June 22, 2012)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Coffee, Chocolate & Churros – Barcelona, Spain

Getting a good cup of Spanish coffee at Buenas Migas the afternoons of layovers is a standard for most of my fellow crew members; the coffee shop is out the back door of our crew hotel. But, like Americans who can’t live a day without their skinny, grande lattes at Starbucks, the price of this expensive layover coffee starts to add up. My alternative has become the coffee at the local Caprabo grocery stores’ bakery for just 1€. It doesn’t come in a fancy labeled cup, but it is good, and that is what I want. The bakery has a tempting selection of pastries in the cases and fresh baguettes in the baskets behind the counter. I pair my cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat, and I am set for the afternoon. With three other flight attendants on my last trip to Barcelona, after we had coffee and pastries at Caprabo, we headed for the Barri Gothic, the original city of Barcelona.

I was quickly detoured by the inviting, old world entrance of a chocolate shop in the old quarter of Barcelona. Walking through the doors ofFargas, the smell was of truffles, and cocoa powder. One of the other flight attendants Diane, and I, each picked out some truffles – it was a quaint selection, but it filled the tiny glass cabinet. The proprietor wrapped our individual pieces in small bags, smiling broadly, not understanding one word of our English. I couldn’t wait to try mine, and as soon as I stepped outside, I plucked one of the truffles out of my tiny bag and stood there amongst the crowds thinking how much I love the Spanish for their love of chocolate.

It didn’t take us long to be detoured once more by a small gem deep in the Barri Gothic: an box of aXurreria on Carrier dels Banys Nous tempting passer-by with smells of hot bread and melted chocolate. Seeing the churros piled up in a tiny window was temptation enough, but locals popping in and out with a fixed determination of destination was conviction enough for us, this was where we should eat churros. Behind the small counter, the owner was scooping up the fried dough out of the deep fyers and plopping them in paper cones. With a quick twist of his hand, he threw sugar over the hot churros before handing them over. Piping hot, perfectly formed, and sprinkles of sugar – we dived in, and just as quickly they were gone. It didn’t take but two seconds for one of us to get out another5€ to get a second order.  Standing out front of the Xurreria, we knew we didn’t want to ruin our appetite for our dinner, but as far as we were concerned, it would have been well worth it!  These churros were deliciously fresh, and plump in size; the best I have eaten in Barcelona.
An afternoon in Spain sipping and savoring coffee, chocolates and churros. !Buen apetito!