Our first night in Rome, given we were out in the well-heeled northern suburbs, we asked the very amicable hotel concierge for an idea of where to eat. He directed us, and pretty much everyone else in the hotel around the corner to Pepe Verde – but more on that in another post.

Suffice to say, we weren’t entirely taken by the suggestion, so when we needed a venue relatively close by, Greedy Girl took to her own research. She discovered Il Gatto e L’Uva (the cat and the grape) a reasonably direct 20 minute walk. Perfetto!

Wanting to stay out of centro storico, needing a little bit of peace and quiet in the evenings, we were in the Nomentana district of Rome. It’s home to a lot of embassies and, being Italy, there’s a bar or restaurant every few metres. We walked down the busy via Nomentana, past Villa Torlonia and easily found a bustling little strip. The restaurant is on a corner, in a residential neighbourhood. We crazy Aussies were the first to arrive (at nearly 8pm) but by the time we were done, the place was packed.

All the staff speak English and there’s also an English menu. Italy has changed a lot since Greedy Girl’s first visit, ahem, more than 30 years ago, where English was a lot harder to find. The EU has virtually made English everyone’s second language and it’s a virtual necessity now for hospitality workers and shop assistants.

The custom in Italy is appetisers, first plates, second plates and dessert. Again, they don’t bat an eyelid when the tourists order a starter to share and then a pasta dish each. Our waiter opined that would be plenty of food. He was right. We ordered one of Greedy Girl’s favourite wines, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo and sat back, but first up was the restaurant’s customary greeting – a glass of Prosecco and a piece of fresh tomato and basil bruschetta. The tomatoes in Italy, particularly this time of year, are utterly awesome; this is the ultimate in simplicity – crunchy crostini topped with chopped tomatoes and a few basil leaves, dressed with really, really good olive oil – and man, it was good! We polished it off in record time.

Next up was the dish pictured at the top of this post, called ‘Chopping’ on the menu. It’s basically the ultimate antipasto platter. With a basket of bread on the side and a bottle of olive oil on the table, it was a starter on steroids and would have easily satisfied four people. Luckily Greedy Girl had gluttonous husband over the other side of the table.

The platter is heavy on meat and cheese, but there are also artichokes and peppers, both stuffed with tuna. Greedy Girl usually despises cooked tuna but this was amazingly good. Among the meats (too many to remember) are the ubiquitous prosciutto, speck, various types of salami and mortadella. The cheeses ranged from a smoked mozzarella (the orange mound you can see in the middle of the picture) to various hard varieties, to an incredibly ‘stinky’ variety which was gooey and very ripe and an incredible goat’s cheese which started off tangy in the mouth and finished with black pepper. Amazing. There was also a dish of a mixed berry jam (mainly blackberry we estimated) that went brilliantly with the cheese.

The wine worked perfectly and we took the best part of an hour getting through this amazing spread.

There wasn’t much room left (especially having been to La Pergola the night before) but we both had pasta to come. We both chose comfort foods. Gluttonous husband took rigatoni all’Amatriciana. This was a very attractive plate of food but it was very salty. The chef had no doubt added salt along with the combination of parmesan and bacon. Even for Greedy Girl, who’s a bit of a salt fiend, this was too much.

Where to eat Rome: Il Gatto e L'Uva

Rigatoni all’Amatriciana

Greedy Girl went for penne all’Arabbiata. Again, the quality of the tomatoes made this dish but it wasn’t as spicy as she expected. Sadly, she barely made it through half of the serving.

Where to eat Rome: Il Gatto e L'Uva

Penne all’Arabbiata

And we were done. We paid the bill (the restaurant also very generously waved the cover charge) and the wait staff and the owner lined up at the exit to shake our hands and wish us a good night. This is hospitality.

A note about dining out in Italy. Eating is a convivial business so big families eat out together, as well as groups of friends with kids. The kids have been, in the main, amazingly well behaved. The notion of how to sit in public at a table seems to be part of their upbringing; there’s very little evidence of kids running riot in restaurants that we see elsewhere in the world. Forza Italia!

Il Gatto e L’Uva

Via Savoia, 68

Il Gatto e l'Uva Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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