Speeding through the busy streets of Rome, with a Formula One-style taxi driver at the wheel, we finally slowed down to thread our way through the early evening crowds. Craning our necks to find the address, we arrived at a suburban apartment block, said ‘buona sera’ to our wannabe racing driver and scrambled out onto the footpath. Ringing a bell, we were buzzed into a large courtyard and followed directions to a building where a small lift awaited to transport us to the fifth floor.
On arrival we were greeted warmly by the owner of the apartment, Maria Laura, Roman born and bred, a qualified sommelier and a home chef.
And what a pretty apartment!
A glass of sparkling wine was pressed into my hand and I was then introduced to her fellow chef and long-time friend, Amanda, a lovely English lady who was born in Italy and has lived here for most of her life.
We were in Rome for a blogging event: Winter in Rome. This was organised by Linda Martinez, who runs the friendly Beehive Hostel near Termini Railway Station. The event was a gathering of bloggers happy to promote the various activities that are available to visitors to Italy’s beautiful capital city.
On our first evening we were invited to ‘dine with a local’. This innovative service is provided by a company by the name of BonAppetour and gives visitors to Rome a unique opportunity to meet local Romans and eat in their homes.
All the other bloggers were there already, enjoying the antipasti of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, caper patè and cheese bruschetta.
The wine flowed, the atmosphere in this sweet apartment was warm and friendly and Alexandra Bruzzese of Bon Appetour stood up and chatted to us about all the various activities that her company organises for travellers to Rome.
Alexandra told us that the idea for these eating tours was born when some visitors discovered that they had nowhere to eat one winter’s evening and felt that they would have loved the opportunity to meet up with some locals, perhaps sharing a meal and getting to know Rome more intimately. So BonAppetour was born.
Quite apart from the ‘Dine with a Local’ experience, BonAppetour organises pizza making classes, where one can learn the art of pizza making in a wood-burning stove. Cake design, handmade pasta and tiramisu-making classes are also available with local chefs.
Another interesting tour is their ‘Aperitif and Shopping in Monti’. Monti is described as ‘a little town in the heart of Rome’ which is artsy, bohemian and glamorous. A local fashion guide will take you around the quaint designer boutiques and vintage market for a three-hour born-to-shop visit, finishing up with an aperitivo.
And how about BonAppetour’s ‘Food Photography Workshop’ teaching you how to style and light your food, which has become such a popular pastime!
Our dinner menu was typically Roman. We started off with Amanda’s Primo (starter) of Pasta con Carcoifi (pasta with artichokes and parmesan cheese) a recipe inherited from her mother-in-law. Or ‘ex’ mother-in-law, as Amanda informed us.
Next, for secondo (main course) we ate succulent polpette (meatballs) in a white wine sauce, with patate e spinaci torte al forno (oven-baked potato and spinach pies), served up with stir-fried winter broccoli and an absolutely delicious insalata di finocchi, arancia e olive (fenell, orange and olive salad).
Dolce (dessert) was whipped ricotta cheese – really light and fluffy – with pears, steamed in red wine, with a warm dark chocolate sauce. As I am probably quite mad, I don’t like chocolate so my dessert was kindly prepared separately by my kind hosts, who knew of my eccentricity in advance.
We drank sparkling rosè, red and white wines, followed by a sweet Passito di Pantelleria to go with our dolce.
Maria Laura and Amanda also hold cookery classes together for a maximum of 10 people during winter in this pretty, eclectically decorated apartment.
In summer they told me that they get together in Amanda’s home nearby to cook and eat under a gorgeous Linden tree.