Via del Savelli 12 (nearby Piazza Navona)
Dinner on Oct 4, 2004
I went pass La Montecarlo a couple of times during the week and was never able to sit there to enjoy. Julia from London said that she fancied some pizza and prego, I took her out to one of the most famous pizzerias in Rome, La Montecarlo. The outdoor of this eatery was always packed with bustling crowd carving for their great pizzas and pasta. We were lucky that night that we didn’t have to wait long for a table.
The service of La Montecarlo has been described as faster than it is polite by the USA Today Traveling column. To me, it was indeed very swift. And to cut cost and to make the fare cheaper, they didn't use tablecloth. Instead, they covered the table with poster-sized plain paper. The folk and knife, alas, were not place properly in front of their clientele like those elegant hangouts. They just put them in front of you in a pile and you have to help yourself. However, don't be intimated or beguiled by all these. The good news for all pizza and pasta devotes is that their food is luscious and their portion is colossus that it is always enough to feed an army.
I was amazed when I saw the menu: for an outlet of this size, I thought they have one of the best and most considerate translation squad in Rome -- the menu was translated into English, French, Germany, Spanish and Japanese. I guessed very soon they'd also have a version in Chinese, giving the rising of Chinese economy and hence the inroads of travelers from China.
In the menu, there was not starter or main course section per se. Since this is not one of those fancy restaurants but a homey eatery we are talking about, there was really not much difference between which and which. Besides, their starters' portion, allow me to mind you, are more generous than those of most restaurants' main courses in Rome. I guess the only way to tell which is which is by what you order to start first. Anyway, the starter I ordered was the spaghetti alla salmone, spaghetti with fresh salmon. In the spirit of honesty, I must say that this was by far the best pasta I have had in Rome this far, this one outdid even the chefs from those bib gourmands of Michelin. The flavor of the salmon was sensationally fresh and succulent. And man, this pasta really set the footnote for the word al dente. It was the kind of pasta that makes you become forgetful to all the pasta you have had in the past and judgmental to all the pasta you will have in the future. I was trying to be a gentleman by inviting Julia to try some, but the devil of me really wanted to take the plate away from her as I witness her flirt with the pasta. I was really being a hypocrite pig when I asked her for second time if she wanted some more. Because I was looking at the pasta as I asked her and I would not give her any of it one way or the other. Oh Julia, forgive me…
The pizza we ordered was the signature one named after the restaurant, pizza Montecarlo. It might as well be the most picture-perfect pizza I have ever came across. There were mushroom, some thinly sliced beef, black olive and some onions. But the finest touch for this masterpiece was the fresh egg placed right in the middle atop the pizza. It was neither over-cooked nor under-cooked. I was very positive that it was placed on the top of the pizza with less than a minute (or even less) before finish. It was baked very gently and lightly that the yolk was still runny. Which place serves better pizza in Italy? Naples or Sicily? The jury is still out and it is not for me to tell. But I must say, against all major myths, that this is one of the prettiest and the best pizzas I have had in Italy this far. I was deeply impressed by this kitchen.
With bellies as full as ours, we really paid laughing from ear to ear. A pizza and a spaghetti, plus a bottle of aqua only cost E15. This is the place I would definitely come back whenever I visit Roman.