Via Crescenzio 13, Rome
Lunch on Oct 9, 2004
The “degustazione” mission was accomplished at last. I'd visited all the “bib gourmand” eateries listed by the Michelin, all 4 of them in Rome. And with the food I had in Da Cesare, I thought I had the happiest ending possible for my gourmandize crusade.
Just two blocks’ away from the Castello di San Angels, Da Cesare is a discreet and laid-back place to enjoy a good meal. Despite they only have their wore-out leather covered, dog-eared menu printed in Italian, ordering in Da Cesare is really simple. Choose the “degustazione toscano menu” on the front page and you’ll rest in safe hand. With E32, you can have the standard set to savor some of the best produces from Tuscany. If you paid double, you can taste the top-notch “Menu Degustazione i sapori del bosco” with pretty much the same fare plus the godsend white truffle risotto and better choice of wine.
The starter of the degustazione menu was a selection of salami, beef liver on toast and lardo di Colonnata (lard from Colonnata). All of them were from the local farms in the Lazio region except the lard, which was from the Apuane mountains. The salami selection was sublime with very rich flavors. The beef liver, long stewed in Roman style, shared the spotlight with those I tried in the La Taverna di Jewish Ghetto, too bad the portion was only limited to the tip of a toast. It was the kind of food that made you became too selfish to share. The highlight of this dish, however, was the lardo di Colonnata. Mama Mia! Can you believe I was eating a delicacy made of a thing people usually discards, something made of hog fat? I could sense this thin slice of smoked fat was from the hog of the highest pedigree. You know, this animal had its pride and class. And its pride and class, seasoned and smoked, was well reflected in my mouth now. Santo, santo, santo my pig, you can rest in peace. I am eating your lard, but I could also sense the your dignity when you're chopped. Thank you and you are yummissimo, my lard.
The next thing to come was the minestra di giorni (i.e., soup of the day). This soup of chicken peas was obviously long simmered as I could see clearly the fine residues of the chicken peas. There were some pasta in the soup to light things up a bit too. Just a mild touch, not too heavy to let the lightness of this soup be spoiled.
The main course was the fillets of Chianina beef with rocket leaf. I guessed Chianina to Italian is what Kobe to Japanese or Angus to American as there were a lots of coverage about these listed on the menu. The beef was first marinated lightly with red wine, then gently grilled to make its outside just a little bit crusty, yet the inside was still very raw, tender and extremely meaty. If you were fans of beef, this is the dish you came here for. The beef also paired perfectly with the Chianti Classio house wine I was having. A dream of a match, in fact.
The dessert was also spectacular. House-made cookies on the side of the plate with a glass of dessert wine as centerpiece. The cookies were as crunchy to munch as one could imagine, with generous portion of walnuts. Sadly, I forgot to ask what kind of dessert wine it was (I guess it was the famous “Vin Santo”). But the taste was very velvety, sweet without being too strong. To me, it was a way more hearty choice for dessert than the boring pannacotta or tiramisu from the fridge. A perfect ending note for such this marvelous lunch.