Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Cordon Du Chap: Tell me more, tell me more, tell me Al Moro!

Al Moro 

Cordon Du Chap (out of a possible five) : ❁❁❁❁❁❁ (I have broken my own rating system, it was that good!!)

There are a few places in Rome that are well kept secrets for a reason, they are the places that the city financiers and political elites like to go for a quite lunch to discuss whatever major deal or policy initiative might be in the offing. Al Moro is such a place. Tipped off by an executive friend of mine as one of the best places to eat in the heart of Rome I was expecting big things as I had heard that restaurants in Rome can either be excellent or distinctly mediocre… I was not disappointed. 

I had added pressure a very important family member - who incidentally was treating me to this holiday - to their 60th birthday meal and I  wanted to make sure that I had chosen somewhere worthy of such an important milestone. 

Set in a backstreet just off the Trevi Fountain, Al Moro looks rather unassuming and you would be forgiven for walking past it if your were unfamiliar with its fabulous food. However, should you go do be warned that you might want to wear a jacket and tie. Luckily my companion and I were able to feign the ignorance of British tourists and got away with our polo shirts and jeans - but I think that our excellent (if canny) waiter, Vincenzo, realised that we were going to be spending a bit of Monday. 

We were seated in the dining room, which was starting to fill up with all manner of besuited business men and women looking forward to their lunchtime repasts. After the obligatory Campari and Soda, beautifully prepared with a mere splash of soda and a slice of blood orange, we moved onto the Gavi de Gavi (a pleasantly dry Italian white - this one was excellent) and our starters. 

To begin with I had a plate of expertly sliced Culatello di Zibello, which had a beautiful balance of sweet and salt, working well against the Gavi. My dining companion had a comprehensive plate of antipasto misto. For all those uncouth individuals that think this fist course rather unadventurous, antipasti done well is a different beast in Italy compared to the rather uninspiring collations served up to punters in the UK. I tried some of the Corollina salami and I must say it was one of the best examples of the sausage that I have savoured. 

We moved onto the primi piatti and on this we took the recommendation of the house, their take on the much abused classic, spaghetti carbonara. Let's just say that this was the best Carbonara that I have ever had, and I do not exaggerate. Succulent pancetta played against perfectly al dente spaghetti coated in a delicious combination of parmesan and egg yolk. A cleverly sized portion merely whetted the appetite rather than extinguish it. 

Double veal followed, my dining compadre had a sumptuously decadent Osso Bucco Bianco with creamed potatoes. In a rich vegetable sauce the slowly cooked shin of veal literally melted in the mouth and the scant scoop of bone marrow was a taste sensation - it was shared with great reluctance! For my part I had an excellent plate of veal escalopes with thinly sliced artichokes in a faintly lemony sauce, each mouthful was more delicious than the last and it was with great sadness that I finished my plate. We accompanied this hearty and filling food with a great Niebollo (don't ask me what it was, but needless to say it was delicious and perfectly matched the meat). 

By this stage I was feeling almost full to the rafters, but I have always been someone who likes a challenge and when my guest suggested a half-bottle of Amarone and a plate of Italian Cheeses I found it hard to resist. A 2007 Masi Contasera - I am sure the expert critics are rather particular than I am - was excellent and coped well against the strong cheeses offered. To be honest, by this stage I was nearing the end of threshold and I could feel my stomach trying to compete for space with the button on my jeans! 

The meal was rounded off in true style with a generous glass of grappa (for those of you that are not familiar with it, this a rocket fuel-like liquor from Friuli made from the skins of the grapes used in the wine making process) and a fortifying double espresso - my milk-loving companion had a Macchiato! 

We staggered out of the restaurant under the sheer weight of all the food we had consumed, but we were contented and the portions had been just the right amount on each plate. We were happy and satisfied rather than bloated and disappointed. I can, with much confidence say that this is one of the best meals that I have ever eaten. And, whilst on face value the bill was on the large side, it was worth it for the excellent service, the fabulous food and the true atmosphere of a country that still knows how to appreciate a good business lunch - even if they find the occasional tourist to happen upon Al Moro as a minor inconvenience! 

On a final note, I have left the Address block blank on this occasion as I fear that to reveal the precise location would be to spoil the slightly secluded air that this place maintains in one of the busiest tourist districts in Italy's capital. They do have a website, but you will have to investigate this yourself... I have already said too much! 

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