Rome’s eating dining culture is perhaps known for naval gazing rather than innovation and many local attempts to modernize the city’s cuisine either fall flat or feel forced. There are some recent exceptions to this rule, some of which have the common thread of looking to the distant past for inspiration. I stopped by Heritage Radio Network today to chat with Linda Pelaccio on her show “A Taste of the Past” about how Roman food–and brewing–culture is looking back to old recipes and heritage grains, often with outstanding results.
Chef Arcangelo Dandini’s dining room at his restaurant L’Arcangelo in Prati has a shelf containing volumes of Apicius, Bartolomeo Scappi and Maestro Martino. Dandini draws inspiration from ancient, medieval and Renaissance recipes like braised artichokes with pennyroyal and cane sugar, foie gras and almond brittle with garum.
Lazio-based brewer Birra del Borgo derives inspiration from its recent release “Etrusca” from the ancient Etruscans. This so-called “archeobeer” employs the ancient Saragalla grain, hazelnuts, honey, resin and raisins. The beer is fermented in terracotta amphorae.
Roman Baker Gabriele Bonci is single handedly responsible for raising the profie of triticum monococum (Enkir). This ancient domesticated grain is cultivated and milled in collaboration with Mulino Marino and forms the basis of Bonci’s famous pizzas at Pizzarium and bread doughs at Panificio Bonci, Open Baladin and no.au.
Gelataia Maria Agnese Spagnuolo of Fatamorgana borrows from the Kamasutra for her honey/licorice/fennel gelato, a combination that is said to provoke sexual vigor. She calls her “Dukkah” gelato, made from a hazelnut, sesame, cumin and coriander paste, “Egyptian Nutella”.