Roman Around – Day One

Surprise! We’re in Rome!!

I woke up with mixed feelings. Sad to be leaving Greece but also excited for what lay ahead. I’ve been to Italy before but it was too many years ago and hubby has never been at all so this was going to be something new for both of us.

It was sad to leave the rest of our travelling buddies who were going back home today. After being with the group for so long, it a little strange to just be on our own. I kept thinking we were missing somebody.

When the group got to Athens airport we saw that we were departing from different gates and had to go through different security screening areas. We asked the security officer if the gates meet up on the other side as we wanted to know whether we were saying goodbye now or if we would have more time together.
The guard said in a heavy accent “No, it separate. Say bye-bye here”
It was just cute.

The goodbye was too quick and too sad…

The flight from Athens to Rome was only 2 hours and it seemed to go fairly quickly. I had last minute anxiety about speaking Italian so was reading the Italian inflight magazine for most of those two hours in the hope it could increase my vocabulary.

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Hubby and I had researched it and decided we would take the bus to our apartment which is pretty close to the train terminal in Rome.
I tried to take some pictures as it drove along but that never works.

Some of the streets were so pretty with green trees shading us but the buildings are all full of graffiti! We saw the same thing in Greece. What is it with these places and graffiti!

We kept driving and then… out of nowhere, out jumped the colosseum!! I think the whole bus exclaimed at the same time!


It looked pretty impressive. I’ve seen it before but it was still a thrill.

Our apartment is just a short walk away from here and we just fell in love with the building as soon as we saw it!! I was so happy that it was as nice as the pictures we’d seen online. Maybe even better than the pictures.


The picture top right is the ceiling in our apartment. It’s curved like that. Looks pretty good! And the ceilings are so high! It feels like were in a palace. I love this place!!

We were going to rest and take it easy but got caught up in the atmosphere and immediately went out exploring. I snapped at things without knowing what they were. Tomorrow is the “proper” sight seeing day. This was just a bonus walk.

We stopped for some dinner. We really wanted authentic pizza but not sure we got that. The place was ok but not amazing.
We also ordered a bottle of wine for both of us. Although I drink often, I don’t drink a lot and a whole bottle between two… well I can tell you my Italian was flowing after that.

The first picture above is the restaurant we stopped at, the second is our wine, third our meals (pizza and calzone) and last is the complimentary limoncello the owner brought out! How nice was that!
We passed a million tourist shops and lots of them sell these things. I haven’t gone in to see what’s in them, but I’ll just leave the picture here for you to see. Try explaining that one to your kids.

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Without looking for it, we came upon Fontana di Trevi,


It was pretty impressive. Much more than I remember when I was here last.

We are going to go to these sights again so we didn’t linger. In any case, it was absolutely littered with people. We were here in the evening and I’m sure there’s people here all day long but probably especially busy at night.

pain_web_1280x720.jpgI accidentally dropped my phone on a young girls head while trying to take an overhead shot of the fountain.
I still feel bad about that but it probably would have been a little funny watching it as an onlooker.

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I joked to hubby that if we kept going the way we were, we would see all the ancient sights before we even had our first night’s sleep!

We passed by the Pantheon and again, that was quite by accident.

We saw a sign for Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) and decided that would be our last stop before heading back.
It was starting to get dark so I couldn’t take many photos. I was telling hubby how when I was here last there were vendors selling chestnuts at the bottom of the steps and they’re still there! You might see some chestnuts in the picture on the right.


Very weary but I want to show you the fabulous parking that people do here. Why stick to one direction when you have one of these cars?

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Backwards, sideways, parallel. It all works!

Arriverderci readers!

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Gusto Ristorante

Today on the Dining Diaries…

Authentic Italian food soothes a raging craving,
Noise levels make it hard to communicate and
Befuddled servers amuse.

gusto-ristorante-norwood-restaurants-9aa4-938x704.jpgDiners today we are at Gusto Ristorante on the very popular Norwood Parade.

I tried to search for a website but couldn’t find one which is surprising as it’s a popular place and the server told me they’d been around for about fourteen years.

I may not have looked well enough though…

It was Friday night when we dined and most of the tables were full of people chatting and generally having a good time. We were shown to a table and given a couple of menus.

The wait staff seem pretty friendly although it did take them a very long time to come back and take our order.

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The first thing I noticed as I entered Gusto’s was the noise level. Maybe that has something to do with my age but it was difficult to speak over the noise of everybody else.

The decor seems simple but elegant maybe even semi industrial as there were exposed wires and cables here and there.

There didn’t seem to be anything overt to suggest we were entering an Italian restaurant, although there were pizza signs out on the street.

While we waited for the waiter to come back for our order, I couldn’t help but look at the food on other people’s tables and most of it looked so good! The serves were very generous (the pasta dishes in particular)

Finally our server returned and we were able to place an order. He dutifully took it and off he went.  About ten minutes later, another waiter comes and stands awkwardly at our table. He’s looking at a folder in his hand, then looking at us, then steps back, then steps forward again. I realised that he was holding someone’s bill.
“Did you ask for your check?” he asks timidly.
“No we haven’t eaten yet” I said smiling. It was a pretty funny moment.

We wanted to sample the food from their wood oven but didn’t particularly want a pizza so hubby chose to have the Calzone. Unfortunately I didn’t get the menu description because it was on the “Specials” menu.

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This picture probably makes it seem smaller than it was as the calzone was quite a decent serve. I tried some of the dough as that is my favourite bit and it was beautifully spongy and doughy on the inside, yet toasty and crunchy on the outside.
The server asked hubby if he wanted any chili’s with it and she brought it out in a bowl with olive oil.
fullsizerenderI hadn’t seen it presented like that before and hubby just fell in love with it!!

It was a great addition to his meal. He said the chili really enhanced the flavours that were already present.

I didn’t try any of the filling but hubby said it was just perfect. I could see that the filling was actually a substantial amount. Sometimes when you order a calzone you end up getting more air inside than filling.

It was satisfying and delicious and just what a calzone should be.

Being a good Italian girl I love my pasta but decided to step away from my usual go to of Fettucini, and ordered the Cannelloni di Ricotta, Spinaci e Zucca – Layers of House Made Pasta Sheets Filled with Pumpkin, Spinach & Ricotta Cheese Topped with Napoletana Sauce & Fresh Basil

fullsizerender1My picture does not do it justice at all. It looks like a mess of tomato sauce but honestly, this dish was just so divine!

I have to say though, the stars of this dish were the pasta and the pasta sauce.
The pasta was cooked beautifully and the menu states that the pasta is “house made”.
I specifically asked the waiter about this because it was so impressive and she told me that the owner’s mother makes all the pasta.
My little mind started ticking over thinking, if she’s making ALL the pasta on her own, for all the business this restaurant does, she must never do anything else in life than make pasta!!!
Later on another server told me that she only makes some of the pasta, but that they get the rest, including the pasta they use for the Cannelloni, from another supplier.

The sauce was a beautiful distraction also. I say distraction because I really didn’t notice the filling. I’m not sure I could taste it, there wasn’t that much of it there, but it didn’t matter to me as every mouthful of that pasta and sauce was enriching my Italian soul.

I’ve read a few reviews of Gusto’s and felt perhaps some were a little harsh. Based on my own experience I would have no hesitation in going there again.
It’s still a very popular place and I figure people wouldn’t keep going if they didn’t like what the restaurant had to offer.

Give me a good wine and a nice plate of pasta and you’ll find one happy woman!

Have you been to Gusto’s?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below!

Till next we chow…

Jimmies

Today on the Dining Diaries…

Cracked wooden boards that give us the heebeegeebees (and hopefully nothing else)…
Fries that excite and
Raw dough and serves that make me want to cry.

Today diners we were at the famous Jimmies restaurant in Crafers. It really is in a gorgeous spot in the Adelaide hills but good luck trying to get parking there!

It was a sunny but frosty day in Adelaide but the restaurant was deliciously warm as we walked in. It was quite full and I was trying to get a sneak peak at other diners plates as we were led to our table.
We were seated by a window which gave us a nice view

It was nice to sit there sipping some wine and any chill we may have felt soon was gone.

FullSizeRender (12)FullSizeRender (16)I noticed they had decorative birdcages in just about any corner and in fact also had a feature wall with bird wall paper on it. I would have liked to have known if there was any connection to that and the name because there didn’t seem to be any.

Because we were seated in a room around the corner with only a few other tables, it seemed like we were pushed out of the way however I couldn’t see any other way they could have sat us in that place. Still, the view was nice…
It just felt like the room was not as special as the menu sounded – if that makes sense…

So onto the food! I chose one of the specials – Blue Swimmer Crabs Linguine with tomato sugo, cherry tomato, baby spinach, basil, garlic and chili.
Hubby chose a Lamb Calzone
We also ordered some fries to share while we relaxed with our drinks.

I believe Jimmies is primarily a pizza place because there were a lot of pizza’s on the menu and in fact, looking around at the two large tables next to us, they all had pizzas. The pizza’s were served on wooden boards.
I’m not a fan of wooden boards as I can just imagine all those little germs growing between the cracks and waiting to attach to any food I might eat.
The pizzas we saw were very thin crust so if you like that kind, you’d be happy here. I prefer a thicker, airy crust myself.

IMG_6654The fries looked pretty good when they came! I mean, fries are fries right? But these were presented nicely and they looked really fresh.

That paper they’re in is made to look like a front page of a newspaper and was titled “Food Review” or something like that, with cute little articles about food.

Those sauces the fries came with were amazing!!! I can’t remember how they were described on the menu but the tomato based one seemed to have a Mexican taste to it and the other seemed like a mayonnaise with garlic aioli and perhaps some other seasoning in it. That one was my favourite!

We did have to wait a little while for our mains though.
The server came up at one point to tell us they weren’t far away now but it would have been nice if she’d offered us another drink for our patience or something like that.

FullSizeRender (14)I couldn’t help but be disappointed with the size of mine when it came.
It just looked like a little heap on a big plate.
The taste however, was something else. Every ingredient in there was fresh and bursting with flavour. The sugo was delicious. Although I couldn’t see a lot of crab, the taste was strong throughout.

Unfortunately I also got a bit of shell in my dish which really spoiled it for me.
I’m normally weirded out by seafood but really wanted to step out of my comfort zone by ordering this dish and that shell didn’t do much for my bravery! However up until that point I had really been enjoying it.

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Hubby was really looking forward to his calzone as it had been a while since he had one.

Yes, it was served on a wooden board. You can’t see it in the picture but there was also a large crack on it – that’s where the germs live – at least, that how I saw it.
To make things worse, an ant came up out of somewhere, crawling along the edge of the board.
Those are the type of things you have to put out of your mind when you’re hungry.

As for the taste… the filling was delicious! The sugo was divine! the pastry? Well that was uncooked. As soon as I saw it I could tell but I tasted some also and it just tasted like completely raw dough. Now THAT was disappointing for a place that is supposed to be serving quality food.
I’m not sure if it’s able to be seen in the photo I took but that is absolutely raw dough.
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They had made us wait for that food and honestly I would have waited longer, that would have been ok, rather than have food that is not cooked properly.

Although it sounds like I’m having a big whinge, there were lots of things I liked about Jimmies. I think the chef is on track, he, or whoever  is preparing the food, just needs to pay a little more attention to detail. The quality of the ingredients and food is undeniable but shell in your food and raw dough is unacceptable.
I hope this doesn’t put you off going there though and I’d be inclined to revisit in twelve months or so to see if anything has changed.

Have you been to Jimmies?
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments below….

Till next we chow….

 

Villa Romana – Cairns

Today on The Dining Diaries,

A bruschetta dish suffers an identify crisis while bacon plays hide and seek (and wins)
Pizza dough so light we barely thought about the calories and,
A restaurant so noisy and bustling, we were spared having to make polite conversation.

photo-4.jpgThe Spoon You Fork Me team were in Cairns back in February and Villa Romana was a place we had walked past at least once a day.
We always intended to try it out but it just never worked out that way.

Four months later and we were back in Cairns and this time, we were going to stop in!
This place seems to be perpetually full of people and it was no different tonight with a triathlon on this weekend. Every restaurant in Cairns was exceptionally busy and so was Villa Romana.

When hubby and I walked by, there were no tables available and our host gave us the option of waiting at the bar but we decided to come back later.

Thirty minutes later and this three hundred plus seat restaurant was still completely full but we decided to wait and it wasn’t too long before we were shown to a table.
The menu was typically Italian although I did spot an interesting salad I wanted to try.

We ordered the Capricciosa Pizza, a Bruschetta and Insalata di Spinaci which was a salad of baby spinach, sliced apple, roasted walnuts, crispy bacon and zesty lemon dressing.

Surprisingly, although the restaurant was full, food was coming out quite quickly.

The table behind us ordered a calzone and it looked enormous as it was brought to the table. When it was cut into, it soon deflated however I could still see lots of cheese and filling in there.
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Our food came and I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed when I saw my bruschetta.
It was on pizza dough.

The menu didn’t say it would be on pizza dough.
I was expecting it on toasted continental bread.
If I’d wanted a pizza, I would have ordered one!

The only difference between hubby’s pizza and my bruschetta were the shape and the toppings…

However, the dough was SOOOO fresh and light. They have wood ovens at Villa Romano and you can taste that wood oven taste in their pizza’s. Smoky, crisp and delicately light, topped with quality toppings.

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This place knows how to do pizza!
My bruschetta was good. I got over the disappointment of how it was made. I really love basil pesto and that was prominent on this bruschetta however in places it was heavily salted and that was a bit disappointing too.

IMG_6379The salad was exceptional and definitely my favourite. Such a wonderful combination of foods!!
I had to read the menu again though as I was sure it had said crispy bacon but I couldn’t taste any. It was either so subtle I couldn’t taste it, or not in there at all.

I’m not a bacon lover though so it didn’t disappoint me that there was potentially no bacon. I really loved this salad. The spinach was fresh, the walnuts were crunchy and the apple brought a delicious sweetness. Everything worked so well together.

Hubby had no complaints about his pizza. I tried a bit and yes, his dough was definitely the same taste as mine.

FullSizeRender (34)All in all we had a nice time here. It was good to be in a busy, bustling place but it was hard if you wanted to actually have a conversation because it was just soooo noisy! I’d hate to be here on a first date.

Hubby and I ended up people watching and communicating the way most people who have been together many years do, with minimal conversation.
Next time we’re in Cairns I want to try their breakfast buffet as that has caught my eye once or twice in the past!

Have you been to Villa Romano’s?

What did you think?

Let me know in the comments below!
Till next we chow…