Saturday, June 09, 2007

Travel Dish: Discovering the `Drunken Grape’

This is the second of three reports from my friend David’s gastronomical escapades in Italy. Today he discovers an Italian wine bar (which is actually perfect for solo travelers because it’s very casual and you might meet a local or two at the counter).
Before we arrived in Italy for our two-week vacation, my wife and I vowed not to go to one of those touristy restaurants. Yes, we were tourists. But why travel thousands of miles somewhere just to eat mediocre, overpriced food?

So we prepped. While killing time at LAX looking at magazines during our journey we spotted an article in the latest issue of Condé Nast Traveler, their annual restaurant “Hot List.” We scribbled down the name of one of the three choices for Rome: L’Acino Brillo.

To say L’Acino Brillo is far from the touristy areas of Rome is an understatement. We traveled by tram, underground train and by foot to find this tiny restaurant in a piazza in the very local Garbatella neighborhood. We got a bit lost, but when we asked two women for help they not only gave us directions but walked with us about five blocks to make sure we could find our way (my wife’s Italian definitely came in handy!).

When we finally saw the restaurant, it was like we had discovered an elusive pot of gold. L’Acino Brillo (“The drunken grape”) is actually a modest little wine bar. We navigated the menu, written only in Italian, of course. These were the highlights of our meal:

** Potato and asparagus-filled pasta
** A nouveau shrimp cocktail topped with a fava bean puree
** Seared salmon encrusted in sesame seeds with a side of perfectly cooked green beans
** A dessert tart and cookie sampler that was so ungodly large we only ate half

In terms of the food, we liked the dessert the best. I can’t say the cuisine was the tastiest of our Italian trip, but I admire what the restaurant does considering its tiny staff (only two on the night we were there).

But I digress. Our adventure was only just beginning. Our dinner lasted nearly three hours (common for European meals) and like Cinderella we rushed to the subway station to make the last train at midnight only to discover we were too late! Not able to get a cab anywhere, we trekked two miles to the nearest cab stand. We were never so grateful to step into a taxi.

We were exhausted, but this was one culinary adventure we won’t soon forget.

— David

The bread basket
The restaurant’s two-person staff.
The wines were from every Italian region.
Seafood cocktail
Potato and asparagus-filled pasta
Seared tuna
Dessert sampling

Next: Our culinary highlights in Italy.

Photos courtesy of David Kligman. All rights reserved.


Chef Ben said...

David, did you eat that whole dessert sampler? No wonder dinner lasted 3 hours! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Ben, on David's post he said he only ate half: "A dessert tart and cookie sampler that was so ungodly large we only ate half"

Chef Ben said...

In the picture, it's hard to judge the scale. They almost look like petit fours. I would have attempted to eat at least half the sampler, just for the benefit of the review. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Amazingly, this was the actual portion for one dessert! Needless to say, we barely made a dent. But we had fun trying. -- David

Alison said...

Reading your accounts made me re-live Jason's and my trip to Italy three years ago. Such an amazing place...the people...the art...the landscape...the antiquities...the shoes! And the food. Ah, the food. Like Ben, I can't wait to go back but have so many other countries on my list before then. Lani and Kathy are going to Rome in two weeks and I'll make sure they read this before then.

The Cooking Ninja said...

That dessert plate is oh so delicious looking and that seared tuna too.