Ever since this NYTimes article hit the cyber waves last April, there has been a low rumbling buzz about Home Food twitching at the lips of many of my hungry comrades. I signed up immediately and dragged my friend, MH, along for the ride.
This October, we finally managed to attend a Home Food evening at the lovely home of C and E. We really had no idea what to expect and chatted excitedly on the bus as we headed up north-east from Testaccio. Our excited chitty chattys were quickly muffled as we were pressed against angry, smelly commuters. Uff. The joys of public transportation in Rome. Still, our enthusiasm and anticipation of the night quickly rose again when we approached the quaint and quiet neighborhood of C and E.
The concept of Home Food is really, quite lovely. For a minimal fee, members have the opportunity to be invited into the homes of Italians throughout the peninsula and taste their regional “home” recipes. It is not your normal home dinner party, nor is it a restaurant. The beauty of this program lies within the delicate and almost surreal experience of being in a stranger’s home, with a group of others, and enjoy a family-style meal of delicious food over fun conversation and discoveries.
Menus, which are pre-approved by the organization, represent traditional cuisine of the region, with a personal touch, such as a grandmother’s recipe or home-made liquor. The menu must also include at least two certified DOP products from the region.
Menu Profonda romanità
Cuttlefish with peas
Chard with tomatoes and sardines
Ricotta and sambuca tart
For starters, we had marinated sardines. Unlike the average marinated sardine you will find in a trattoria, C’s sardines were very delicate without an overbearing flavor of the vinegar. The trick? 50% wine vinegar, 50% dry white wine. Dressed and marinated in olive oil, garlic, and fennel seeds for 24 hours.
Our first course was an old family recipe from C’s grandmother. A thick tomato and endive “risotto”. The quotations are there because it wasn’t a risotto in the traditional toasting-of-the-rice-adding-the-butter sense. Instead, once the brothy sauce is made, C pours the rice into the pan and cooks it all together until it reaches a very thick consistency. As so. I think this dish was the perfect example of a nonna-recipe. There was something so accessible and warm about it.
Our main course was a Roman classic, cuttlefish with peas. Normally, this is cooked in a tomato sauce but C opted to add diced tomatoes at the end as he prefers to not mask entirely the flavor of the cuttlefish. Another hit.
Just as I was patting my tummy in sheer satisfaction (though MH whisperred to me that she could totally go for thirds of the marinated sardines…) they brought out another Roman classic of (swiss) chard cooked with garlic, anchovies, and tomatoes. The anchovies are completely dissolved in the oil and garlic, leaving only a hint of the salty aroma. A hit and a hit.
E is in charge of desserts. She made a beautiful ricotta and chocolate chip tart with hints of sambuca. The crust was so good, MH asked if she could have mine. I asked if she had eaten lunch. She had. “I don’t know what it is, Tina, but I can eat SO much when I’m at another person’s home! Buuuooono!” Ha.
As we passed the guest book around the table, C brought out the final ooh-aah homerun of the evening. A series of home-made liquors bottled lovingly in gorgeous glass bottles, labeled beautifully in E’s elegant handwriting. My favorite was the cherry liquor which is actually a fortified wine made with cherry leaves. A generous C shared this special recipe, which we fervently scribbled in our menus, and I can only imagine how many more magical recipes and family secrets are stored in that treasure of a book.
We blew kisses to our wonderful hosts way past by bedtime and our cab ride back was a quiet meditation of the fabulous experience of the evening. I yawned and a contact lense popped out. I barely noticed this as I slowly drifted into a blissful food coma. Squinting into the night, MH and I parted ways with a sleepy wave and a final “buooono”.
For more information on Home Food, click here