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Fellini: sixty year of dolce vita

A film, an icon, the profile of an Italy exploding between cultural rigidity and frantic change. Sixty years ago, La dolce vita by Federico Fellini appeared in cinemas, and in popular culture. Just on the night between 2 and 3 February 1960 at the “Cinema Fiamma di Roma”, today closed, there was the premiere.

 

The Film

We are in the glamorous Rome of the ’60s, where Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), a scandal journalist, spends his life through a purely Hegelian drama, that is: between having to be a scandal journalist and wanting to be a novelist.

Through the character of Marcello, Fellini unveils to us lights and shadows of the Capitoline society of the time, such as: the arrival of a Statue of Christ headed to the Vatican aboard a helicopter; Marcello’s continuous betrayals that lead his girlfriend Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) to the attempted suicide and the will of a man who, after the escaped tragedy, decides to throw himself headlong into his job accepting to follow the famous Hollywood star Sylvia (Anita Ekberg). Through her, Fellini takes the protagonist and the spectator into the complex meanders of a society that changes, rebeling quietly and finding itself devoted to beauty as if it were sunken, festive and luxuriant in the Trevi Fountain. And, in an instant, it is as if that “Marcello come here” was an invitation addressed to all that ” dolce” Italy.

 

“A Small World” in Via Veneto

Like a current that crosses a river from Porta Pinciana to Piazza Barberini, Via Veneto is the place where Italy changes, Neorealism flakes and is tinged with a golden filigree, a new light.

Located in the beating heart of Rome, a stone’s throw from Via Veneto, the visceral soul of the freshness of the style known as “dolce vita”, the Il Piccolo Mondo restaurant is a witness to an inexorable change of the guard, becoming a cradle of change and home to the likes of Federico Fellini.

 

Federico Fellini and the evenings in via Veneto

Federico Fellini walked along Via Veneto like an ante litteram flux of Roman sociology. Born in Rimini and moved to Rome to study, he made the city his second home, so much so as to make it the inspiring muse of his greatest films from Roma to La dolce vita. The capital took on new facets for Fellini: a protagonist with a thousand faces, told in a prosaic way as one does of a woman one admires and loves so much.

In an interview Fellini said: “In the evening we went to Via Veneto”. And it was precisely this little glimpse of Rome that became a corner of home for the director, a place to live, made up of nineteenth-century facades, crowded hotels and beauties immortalized by a flash. Here, the “painter” Fellini admires his masterpiece that moves and turns from “dolce vita” into “daily life”. Via Veneto could not, therefore, fail to thank that great master. Crossing the Aurelian arches we arrive in largo Federico Fellini, dedicated to the man who made Via Veneto “the theatre of the Dolce Vita”.

 

Federico Fellini and food

A table laid and a family reunited. Speaking of Fellini, one cannot help but think of one of Amarcord’s scenes, but it is also the scene that comes closest to his life experience in terms of food. Son of a parmesan representative, he tells of how he grew up “with that smell under his nose”, as he said as an adult. However, his favourite dish remained, without a shadow of a doubt, the English soup prepared by his grandmother and enriched with a very special meringue. At the time, in fact, since there were no piping bags, his grandmother used to put the mixture of egg white and sugar inside a cone made of newspaper. And it was precisely this detail that made that meringue so special, which took on an aftertaste of newsprint impossible to reproduce, because the newspaper in question was now out of print. He loved first courses, as not to mention one of his famous phrases: “life is a combination of pasta and magic”. In an interview he revealed that he loved to eat alone during filming. Voracious but too anxious to sit still, he said that having lunch with the film crew would distract him.

We, however, like to imagine him like this: sitting at one of the tables of the restaurant Il Piccolo Mondo, in front of a steaming pasta dish, watching life flowing outside and a new idea running through him.

 

Puntarelle: the vegetable symbol of traditional Roman cuisine

Many people love puntarelle (chicory tops) for their crunchiness and unmistakable flavour.
Often we see them on the market stalls and supermarkets already trimmed, with their characteristic curled shape that makes them unique. But what are puntarelle? They are the shoots, called “talli”, of a variety of the so-called catalogna chicory; the leaves surrounding them are green, with the side parts serrated, and have white ribs. Even if it is sold all year round, the seasons in which this vegetable grows spontaneously, and therefore its taste can be best appreciated, are winter and spring.

Now widespread throughout Italy, for a long time this vegetable has been cultivated in only three regions: Apulia, Campania and Lazio. In particular, the salad of puntarelle alla romana, with garlic and anchovies, is a fresh and tasty side dish typical of Lazio and some areas of Campania.
In addition to being good, puntarelle are also good for your health! Let’s see together why…

 

Beneficial properties and nutritional values

This vegetable with its unmistakable flavour is rich in fibre and vitamins (groups A, B and C). and minerals. Although some people like to eat it cooked, to ensure the best of its It is preferable to eat it raw, in a salad. One of the fibers contained is inulin, which has a purifying effect on the body and helps the liver work better. Let’s not forget also that the bitter taste, which some people particularly appreciate, has the advantage of making this vegetable an excellent ally of the digestive system and blood circulation.

The high water content makes it a low-calorie food, which can therefore be consumed with peace of mind even by those who want to keep their weight under control.
It is always a pleasure to know that what we eat, besides satisfying the palate, also is good for you. So let’s give space in the kitchen to this delicious vegetable!

 

The puntarelle at the dining table

One of the advantages of the catalogna chicory is that you can eat all parts of it.
As they say in Rome: “Don’t throw anything away!”. With the green leaves that enclose the shoots, you can prepare a tasty side dish, blanching them and frying them in a pan with garlic, oil and chilli. The leaves can also be used as an ingredient in soups or making savory pies. The thing that requires a little more effort, and above all patience, is to cut the shoots into strips, with which to prepare delicious salads. The secret to curl the strips and make them more crunchy is to immerse them in very cold water. The puntarelle can also be eaten steamed and seasoned with olive oil, lemon or vinegar and salt, or sautéed in a pan with garlic, olive oil, chilli pepper and anchovy fillets.

If you love puntarelle and Roman cuisine, we are waiting for you at the restaurant il Piccolo Mondo where you can enjoy the classic salad of puntarelle with garlic, oil and anchovies, to be associated as a side dish to the typical dishes of the tradition.
For reservations please contact us at 06 42016034.

Pasta and its many varieties

Pasta, like pizza, has made Italian cuisine famous throughout the world. In Italy there are many kinds of this product and they differ in ingredients, shapes, processes and methods of cooking. In addition, each recipe uses precise formats, so as to create a perfect combination of pasta and ingredients.
The types of pasta vary from one region to another, but also from one location to another in the same region, some over time have had a national spread, or international as spaghetti, while others have remained the exclusive heritage of their places of origin.
Among different processing methods and more or less bizarre names, the world of pasta is rich and varied, let’s discover some of its characteristics together.

Processing methods

A first fundamental difference concerns fresh and dry pasta. The first must be kept in the fridge and consumed within a few days, the second, the classic dry pasta, if stored at room temperature in the pantry, can last for several months.
Dry pasta can be stored for a long time because, thanks to the drying method, it is dehydrated during processing, thus preventing the proliferation of bacteria. Even if for convenience we tend to prefer dry pasta, we also allow ourselves the pleasure of eating fresh pasta sometimes, making sure, however, that it has been prepared and preserved with care.

There is an infinite number of shapes of pasta on the market with different costs, how to find your way around? Surely you should prefer products that are bronze drawn, a process carried out at low drying temperatures to preserve the nutritional properties of the ingredients.
The products made by artisan companies offer a higher quality both for the raw materials chosen, both for the attention they pay to the processing methods. The work of the pasta makers is based on an ancient art, which is handed down from generation to generation. Even if they continue to apply these consolidated techniques, some of them do not give up trying to distinguish themselves by combining traditional products with alternatives that capture the attention of consumers.

Each ingredient has its own pasta

Have you ever wondered why there are so many shapes and sizes of pasta? First of all to arouse the curiosity of consumers, small or large, and then because not all shapes are suitable for every ingredient. Let’s take a few examples:
1) Let’s say: Cacio e pepe, we are implying the use of long pasta, spaghetti or tonnarelli, because they blend better with the creamy sauce of this dish, typical of the Roman cuisine. A simple recipe, but extremely tasty, which includes only three ingredients: salt, black pepper and pecorino romano.
2) Spaghetti and clams are inseparable by tradition and to ensure the right creaminess to this dish with only few ingredients, long pasta is the best choice.
3) And what about the Amatriciana? Bucatini or spaghetti are the perfect shapes! This ancient recipe, born in Amatrice, was originally without tomato and had the name of Gricia (typical dish of Lazio cuisine, still very popular today). The addition of tomatoes to the other ingredients, peppery guanciale (cured pork cheek) and pecorino romano, is subsequent to their being imported from the Americas. For both the Amatriciana and the Gricia, rigatoni are a valid alternative to spaghetti and bucatini.
4) If we move to the south of the boot, in Puglia we find the orecchiette with turnip tops (also called “strascinati”). The recipe requires that the pasta is cooked with vegetables and sautéed with garlic, oil and anchovies, the orecchiette are perfect to ensure a good result.

The pasta, as well as for its shape and production, also differs for the flours used in the dough. For example, Tacconi, originating in the Marche region, has wheat flour and broad bean flour in the dough; the gnocchi are prepared with potatoes, flour, eggs and salt.  Rice, buckwheat and corn flours are some of the flours used to produce gluten-free pasta.
The shapes and recipes that characterize this traditional dish of Italian cuisine are numerous. You are spoilt for choice between tradition and innovation!
If you are passionate about pasta, and in particular the typical dishes of Roman cuisine, il Piccolo Mondo is the restaurant for you, we are waiting for you!
For reservations please contact us at 06 42016034.

The octupus: from the sea to our tables

Not only does the octupus often feature on the fish menus of Italian restaurants, but it is also found elsewhere. This is due to its easy availability, its tastiness as well as its versatility in the kitchen.

To enhance its taste, all you need to do is take some precautions during the cooking process and pair the octopus with ingredients that do not overpower its unique flavor. Because of its nutritional properties, also suitable for low-calorie diets, experts suggest including a portion of octopus in our weekly diet. Throughout this article we will analyse its health benefits, also thanks to the collaboration of Dr. Domitilla Grasso, a biologist and nutritionist.

 

The beneficial properties of octopus

Besides being a highly intelligent animal, the octopus is tasty and healthy. It contains mineral salts (calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus), which are useful for both the bones and the mind; moreover, it provides a good dose of vitamins, including vitamin C, which is excellent to boost our immune system, especially when the weather changes due to the alternating seasons.

Thanks to its low-fat content and protein intake, it is also recommended in low-calorie diets. As it contains, compared to other large fish, lower concentrations of methylmercury, a substance which is toxic to our body, you can also consume a large portion of it.

 

Some tips to best enjoy it

If we buy fresh octopus, it is always advisable to freeze it before cooking since, thanks to the variation in temperature, its fibres can break more easily. It can be cooked both in a pressure cooker or in a saucepan, in which a vegetable broth has been previously prepared with aromatic herbs, such as wild fennel; its taste will be even richer.

To check the state of the cooking process, just insert a toothpick into the part between the head and the tentacles: if it comes out easily, then the octopus is ready. Once cooked, it can be eaten simply with the addition of a drizzle of oil and lemon, or used as an ingredient for other recipes.
Thanks to its intense yet delicate flavor, it can be combined with different ingredients as well as accompanying sauces, and can also make an excellent filling for tasty sandwiches.

At Il Piccolo Mondo Restaurant, where the quality of the raw materials is always guaranteed, you can enjoy a delicious octopus salad with potatoes, green beans and pesto, or try the octopus in other delicious variations occasionally proposed by the chef, such as octopus with couscous of pulses and seasonal vegetables.

 

 

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Eggplant: a summer vegetable that’s good for you!

Did you know that eggplants, besides being good and suitable for the preparation of numerous recipes, are also healthy?
There are different varieties of this typically summer vegetable, and they differ in shape, color and flavor, which can be more or less decisive. There are eggplants with an oval, round or elongated shape. The colors are dark purple, violet or a lighter color with purplish streaks.

The dishes that can be prepared are numerous and range from first courses, to second courses if used to prepare tasty meatballs, to seasonal side dishes. Let’s discover together the characteristics, the properties and the different ways to eat them by preparing appetizing summer recipes.

 

Properties

The eggplant is rich in nutrients and fibers, which have numerous advantages including reducing the absorption of sugars by the body, promoting intestinal transit and making this vegetable easily digestible. The eggplant also has a low-calorie content, gives a feeling of satiety so it is advisable for those preparing for the “bikini test!”.
It is rich in potassium and other minerals and the high percentage of water makes it a purifying food. It contains several antioxidant substances that are good for the heart and brain. These include chlorogenic acid, which helps to reduce LDL cholesterol, which is harmful to the body, and counteracts the action of free radicals.

 

But the properties of eggplants do not end here…

Would you ever have said that this vegetable is also good for bones and for those who have anemia problems? Yes, it is! Eggplants contain some phenolic compounds that promote bone density and are rich in calcium and iron.
After the quick reference to some of the many properties of this plant, let’s find out together how to enjoy it in the kitchen.

 

To each of you, your own recipe…

For eggplants lovers there is really an embarrassment of riches! The ways in which they can be prepared are numerous and suitable to satisfy all palates.
An appetizer, fresh and inviting, is the eggplant carpaccio prepared with grilled eggplants and marinated with an emulsion composed of olive oil, lemon juice, mint leaves and basil, garlic and black pepper.
As seasoning for an excellent first course you can prepare them by cutting them into chunks and after frying the garlic and onion in a pan, pour the eggplants and brown over low heat for about ten minutes. Then add fresh tomatoes peeled and cut into pieces, basil, salt and chilli and complete cooking.
They are very good as a side dish grilled in the oven with zucchini, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, parsley, olive oil, salt and breadcrumbs.

These are of course just some of the many recipes that can be prepared with this versatile vegetable.
If you love it, in the restaurant “il Piccolo Mondo” you can enjoy the traditional eggplants with parmesan cheese, prepared with an emulsion of basil, or a side dish of the season in which the eggplants are accompanied by zucchini, peppers and mushrooms. Seasonal dishes that will give you a fresh summer evening.
For reservations please contact us at +39 06 42016034.

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Cacio e pepe: the four most common errors

Cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper) embodies the true essence of Roman cuisine. In the capital, pasta is a religion: Roman cuisine is based on poor first courses, those made with few ingredients, but good and nutritious. Let’s talk about Carbonara, Amatriciana, of its tomato-less variant, the Gricia, and of the Cacio e Pepe. And it is precisely about the latter that we will talk about, giving you suggestions that will help you to prepare it as well as possible.

 

 How and when does Cacio e Pepe come into being?

This dish with ancient origins was born in the pastures during the period of the transhumance, i.e. the seasonal migration of flocks from pastures in the countryside Roman to the mountains. During these long journeys the shepherds brought with them caloric and long-life foods, including: dried spaghetti, pecorino cheese and black pepper grains. And it is precisely from the union of these three simple ingredients that Cacio e Pepe is born.

The choice of these foods was not random, but dictated by precise needs. Let’s see together such as:
– the pasta was used for its caloric and carbohydrate intake;
black pepper was used to counteract the cold, because it stimulates the heat receptors;
– the pecorino guaranteed the protein intake and having a long shelf life, it was not was never missing from supplies.
This traditional dish has continued to fascinate the Romans and over the years has also won over tourists visiting the Eternal City. Its fame over time became international.

Four mistakes to avoid

Although it is an institution in Roman cuisine and seems to be easy to prepare for its few ingredients, the Cacio e Pepe is not without risks at all: the mistake is always around the corner…

Here are collected the four most common errors which you can make during his preparation:

1) Using any type of pasta: the tradition dictates the use of the long pasta, spaghetti, or better yet, tonnarelli. Over the years other types of pasta have been used, such as rigatoni, tagliolini, etc. Let’s give space to alternatives, not forgetting, however, that you should not choose a type of pasta excessively porous, because it risks absorbing too much of the seasoning, which instead must maintain the creaminess that distinguishes it.

2) Cooking the pasta wrong: the pasta for the Cacio e Pepe must be drained very much al dente. The cooking must be completed over a low heat in a frying pan along with the previously roasted pepper. Once the cooking is complete, add the
creamy cheesy sauce, prepared separately in a bowl with pecorino cheese and pasta cooking water. Only now is the pasta ready to be put into the dishes. Draining the very al dente pasta will guarantee you doing all the steps without risking to
to overcook it.

3) Putting cream to give creaminess to the dish: the ingredients of this dish are three and that’s all! The secret to making the pasta creamy lies in preparing the creamy sauce by gradually pouring grated pecorino cheese and cooking water (rich in starch released from the pasta) in a bowl, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming. It’s wise to use
cooking water to make the dish creamy and not by adding others ingredients such as oil, butter or cream.

4) Having the wrong kind of cheese: the cacio of “Cacio e pepe” is nothing more than Roman pecorino cheese. Although it is a generic term that indicates any sheep’s milk cheese, in the Roman cuisine and tradition for cacio they mean Roman pecorino cheese.

Put these suggestions into practice and your Cacio e Pepe will be impeccable! If the dishes of the Roman cuisine are your passion, at restaurant Il Piccolo Mondo you can enjoy them prepared according to the dictates of tradition. We are waiting for you!

For reservations please contact us at 06 42016034.

Artichokes: a typical vegetable of the Roman cuisine

The Roman artichoke, also called “mammola“, is just one of the different varieties of this good, healthy vegetable, which is used various preparations in the kitchen. The most common varieties cultivated in Italy in addition to the Roman one are the Sicilian, violet in colour, and the Sardinian, which, unlike the mammola, has thorns.
The fruits of the artichoke plant can be harvested from October until the end of spring, but their best yield is reached during the winter.
Let’s discover together the characteristics of this vegetable, which for centuries has been part of the traditional Roman cuisine.

The artichoke is not only tasty, it’s also good for you!

The properties of this vegetable with its particular shape are numerous and range from the high fibre content which, among other advantages, help to reduce cholesterol and lower blood sugar levels. And what about the high content of antioxidants that in addition to combating aging prevent cardiovascular disease? They also have a high content of iron, copper and a high diuretic action.
This vegetable is usually eaten cooked, but can also be eaten raw, to make the most of its beneficial properties, cutting the inner leaves into thin slices and seasoning them in a salad with olive oil, salt, lemon and, for those who like, black pepper.

Artichokes in the kitchen

The recipes that can be prepared with artichokes are several and range from appetizers to first courses and tasty side dishes.

At Il Piccolo Mondo restaurant, where traditional Roman cuisine is at home, you will find many delicious and inviting dishes that will make you appreciate the best of this good and healthy vegetable. You can start your meal with classic and tender artichokes “alla romana” (cooked slowly in a pan) or with crispy artichokes “alla giudia” (fried), and then move on to the tasty tonnarelli with lamb ragout and artichokes.
If you’re keen on fish and you want to taste an original and delicate dish, the ombrina with cream of pumpkin and artichokes is the dish for you!

With this vegetable you can also prepare creamy risottos or side dishes such as sautéed artichokes, which go well with main courses of meat and fish.
Let’s say you’re really spoilt for choice!

If you want to taste the artichokes prepared according to the dictates of the best Roman culinary tradition, we are waiting for you at the restaurant Il Piccolo Mondo!

For reservations please contact us at + 39 06 42016034