October 14, 2008

Favorite Trattorias + a contest

Ok, better late than never. It is the final hour in a sense, of the name of the blog that is. I need a new name and FAST! So please help, dear readers, with your creative ideas and input.

I have already heard from a few friends and am keeping a list of the possible new names that will give my blog that little something that it needs, that something that will identify me and call out to readers in a way that only a good name can do.

It would be nice to keep Joy in the name somehow, though not necessary. And, since my propensity is Italian in all things, it would seem logical to keep it in that vein. Italian speakers out there, give me what you've got.

Some of the names in the running are:

Joy Cooks
Joy of Taste
Joy of Appetito
In my kitchen
kitchen (not so) confidential
Fig jam
Cooking Schoolhouse

If you like, you could vote for one of these, or just add your own using the comments section at the end of this post. I wish I could say the winner would recieve a trip to the famed Tazza d'Oro caffè in Rome for the best granita di caffè in the world (see above), but alas the winner will actually receive a thoughtful gift certificate that a foodie would love.

I appreciate your help and will be unveiling the new name and look in the coming weeks... so stay tuned.

Next up:

My favorite trattorias of Italy

It is often said that it's easy to eat well in Italy, no matter where you go. But if you've been there as much as I have you know the truth: that you can eat badly in almost any city if you don't know where to go --even in Italy. So I always stick to the well-known, reliable and always interesting family-owned trattorias that have been serving the same old tried and true traditional dishes for decades. These local dishes are classics and for good reason, just like the places that serve them.

Like this simple lunch at Trattoria 4 Leoni in Florence of tripe with tomato sauce and a side of sauteed spinach. Those of you who are not fans of tripe out there (and you know who you are) you haven't tried it the way the Florentines prepare it. The sauce is the thing here. It's tangy and garlicky and such a perfect foil for the rich, meaty intensity of the stuff. They must cook it for ages, as it has none of that rubbery consistency that gives tripe its bad rap. You'd never know it wasn't just a good bolognese meat sauce with beef or pork. In Florence a favorite breakfast or mid-morning snack is this tomato-based tripe on a roll, a 'tripe panino' if you will.

But Florence's trattorias are high-brow compared to the rustic charm of Rome's many unassuming places where traditional Roman cuisine is served up in a humble, no-nonsense environment for those who are willing to wait. The wait is usually because the places fill up so fast at lunch and dinner with diners in the know--locals and a few tourists, power brokers, construction men, families and celebrities--that cooking everything made to order sometimes can take a while. Enjoy the wine and just wait. It'll be worth it. I promise.

I had this satisfying and delicious plate of 'pasta alla gricia' at my favorite little unmarked spot in Rome near Piazza Navona for lunch one day. This is a classic Roman dish of rigatoni with sharp pecorino cheese, beautiful and plentiful chunks of crispy pancetta, olive oil, and lots of black pepper.

And shared this 'secondo' of coniglio (braised rabbit in olive oil) and cicoria --spicy bitter greens typical all over Rome. Served with 'vino della casa' and big, puffy, hollow rolls called 'rosette,' it was the perfect repast during a long day of sight-seeing.

But this was probably the best trattoria meal we had the whole trip: at Il Portico in the Jewish ghetto in Rome where typical fare includes 'carciofi alla giudea' (crispy fried artichokes, the Roman way), 'spaghetti all'amatriciana' (below), or 'coda alla vaccinara' (oxtail - another Roman delicacy).

While most trattoria menus boast the same primi and secondi that everyone knows, I thought this was a particularly creative and tasty pasta that surprised me: potato gnocchi with baby clams, arugula and porcini mushrooms. An unlikely combination that really, really worked. Absolutely delicious, and it looked beautiful too.

When in doubt, find a trattoria. The more non-descript, loud, chaotic and busy, the better. You'll spend little and eat like the Romans do.


  1. I think your blog should be named "Gioia Joy"

  2. i like the idea of naming it just "gioia' or cucina gioia or something like that

    kinda cool...

    kitchen (not so) confidential is totally cool but i LOVE my tony...

  3. Hello. And Bye.

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