One Of My Best Meals Of 2019: Pianostrada Laboratorio di Cucina
Keep your friends close and your friends with excellent restaurant recommendations closer. Isn’t that how the saying goes?
Earlier this year when I was creating my itinerary for Croatia and the Amalfi Coast (more to come on the blog about that) I realized that I would have just enough time in Rome to enjoy dinner before boarding the train to Naples. Even though I’ve visited Rome before, my list of sites, restaurants, gelato shops and, cocktail bars continues to evolve.
Having a list of places that could fill an entire week and only a handful of hours available presented quite the predicament. Rather than trying to cull through my list, I decided to reach out to one of my dear foodie friends who lives in Florence for advice.
Within a few hours, I received an emphatic email insisting that I try Pianostrada and sit at the chef’s counter.
I thought to myself, that’s one place that isn’t on my radar, but my dear friend knows me well and I knew she wouldn’t steer me wrong. Quickly, I opened up my laptop and made reservations but I wanted to be surprised by the dining experience so I didn’t do any additional research, which is very unlike me.
Given the number of planes, trains, and automobiles, we barely made our 10 p.m. reservation. Words simply cannot express how ravenous I was after a day filled with travel and schlepping, not to mention the time difference. To say that I was excited for a glass of wine and authentic Italian food would be the understatement of the century.
Guests can find Pianostrada located on Via delle Zoccolette which is a bit off the beaten path only adding to its charm and character.
As we made our way to check-in for our reservation, I couldn’t help but notice the infectious laughter and smiles that filled the restaurant. I knew then it was going to be an incredible night.
Seated at the chef’s counter, we began to watch dish after dish carefully crafted and taken to guests. The tantalizing aromas of the kitchen were unlike any other and I am not just saying that because I was starving.
As we perused the menu, we added dish after dish to our order and our server began to laugh at us. Clearly, she could tell that we were hungry but also ordering enough food to feed a small army. After reigning us in, we opened a bottle of wine and the dishes started arriving.
Arriving first was the Tortino Di Melanzane Grigliate which is a grilled eggplant tart. The layers of grilled eggplant combined with the stracciatella cheese and basil were simply out of this world. Even though we shared this dish, it disappeared in a matter of seconds.
I’m often asked why I enjoy sitting at the chef’s counter when I dine at a restaurant. This opportunity allows me to interact with the chef and the staff but I also love watching organized chaos of the kitchen. It’s a perfectly choreographed dance routine.
Sipping wine in between courses, I had the opportunity to observe chef Paola Colucci who’s at the helm of the Pianostrada kitchen. As a spectator, I watched as dish after dish leave the kitchen. I could genuinely see the sparkle in her eye when it came to the detail and preparation of each entrée. She is truly a food enthusiast.
Of course, I was curious about her story so I began doing a little digging when I got back to the hotel. Chef Paola Colucci worked for many years in the finance sector and it wasn’t until she was home preparing dinner for friends, one of which would ultimately become her business partner, that she realized her true calling and passion. No one could have imagined that a dinner of this nature would result in a business partnership with her best friend and a drastic career change. Chef Colucci now has two restaurants, Pianostrada and Pianoalto, and has the good fortune of working with her two daughters and her best friend. Talk about #girlpower!
I went into Pianostrada craving one of my favorite Roman dishes, Cacio e Pepe. Even though this girl can survive on a diet of wine and Cacio e Pepe, I thought it would be wise to explore a few other dishes before I buried my head in a bowl.
Our next dish was one of the daily specials: Spaghettoni Freschi | Pomodoro Freschi e Infornati + Ricotta Mustia + Limone + Parmigiano Delle Vacche Rosse E Basilico. For those not so familiar with Italian, imagine fresh spaghetti tossed in freshly baked tomatoes with a touch lemon topped with ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. (Confession: I am salivating as I write this. Take me back to Rome ASAP!) Some of you might be thinking, “ wow, this is a really small portion.”
You’d be correct. My partner in dine and I shared all of our dishes so we could experience as many flavors as possible.
Cacio e Pepe was on my radar for the evening and I was excited to see that Chef Colucci served her interpretation of this classic Roman dish. Typically this dish is served with spaghetti and the noodles are coated with the most delectable concoction of butter, cheese, and pepper. Such a simple dish but filled with such flavor. That evening I had Cacio e Pepe Tortolloni topped with lemon, wild pepper, and artichokes. This dish was reminiscent of one of my favorite bites at Alinea, the Black Truffle Explosion. Rather than the flavor coating the pasta, guests experienced a burst of flavor as they bit into the pasta. What a rush!
Finally, what good meal doesn’t end with dessert? With an assortment of swoon-worthy sweets, it was hard to choose just one. So, we did what any good guest would do, we asked our server to choose for us. As we watched several desserts prepared, we couldn’t wait to find out which one was ours. Which one was brought to our table? None other than the Ygritte. This was the second dish of the evening that reminded me of a dish at Alinea, the final dessert.
This dish was a beautiful composition of raspberry sponge cake, yogurt-pistachio ice cream, and granola. For those of you wondering, yes it tasted as wonderful as it looked.
Chef Paolo Colucci is making absolute magic at Pianostrada. If you are looking for a local and authentic dining experience in Rome, this is the place. Pianostrada’s menu changes often depending on the seasonality of the ingredients. Their menu is filled with mouthwatering dishes with a cocktail and wine list to match. Reservations are tough to come by, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Tariff: Daily specials ranged from €21-€30 while desserts were between €10-€14.
Can’t Miss: I could easily say order the entire menu, but I’ll spare you the the insane caloric intake. If it were left to me, I’d order the Tortello Homemade Cacio E Pepe and the Spaghettoni Freschi. One thing we ordered but not featured (because it was devoured) was the daily focaccia. This along with the burger comes highly recommended by locals and tourists alike.
Potential Pass: I rarely leave this section blank because I am always scheming on how I could have improved my experience, but this time everything was absolutely perfect. I only wish I had more time.
Until Next Time!