Ever since I left Rome back in the early 1980’s, every time I return I tend always to go back to the same old restaurants that served my favorite dishes, or were located in my favorite neighborhoods around the city. It is a difficult habit to break – why give up on my favorite Carbonara or the best “scottadito” in town to go out and try something new? The lure of these delicacies and the cozy, warm and familiar locations have always been too much for me to give up. My friends badger me about it every time I come over – “good old John, always going to his favorite, outdated Romanesco dives…”.
But just like the food scene in Rome, I too am starting to expand my horizons. Unfortunately there are not many directions in which to go – good quality ethnic restaurants are hard to come by in Rome despite the latest influx of immigrants from all over Asia and the Middle East. Coming from a city like Los Angeles where ethnic food is king, Rome just does not yet have the flavors down or the quality of what I am used to here at home.
What is changing, is the growth of small establishments offering a new type of cuisine, sometimes based on the old recipes of my past, but offering a new take and a more avant-garde approach to food that I now have found to be an intriguing and delicious alternative to old school Roman cuisine.
One such place is Casa Maestoso, headed up by Chef Marco Maestoso and assisted by his companion and partner, Dalila Ercolani. Located in the Ponte Milvio section of Rome, just north of the city center, it is an area of town where many such establishments are starting to pop up, offering a new slant on conventional cuisine – some hit the mark, others not so much. Casa Maestoso is not only one of the most successful of these establishments but also one of the most delicious, with a menu that offers a variety of creative dishes that are certain to satisfy the most sophisticated palates of young Italians flocking these places and foreign visitors alike.
Casa Maestoso’s head chef sharpened his skills around Italy and in New York City where he worked at The Pierre as well as the Waldorf Astoria and most recently got involved in the up andcoming supper club scene in the city. He has transplanted these skills and his experience to his restaurant in Rome, with exciting and delectable results.
During my last visit I was fortunate enough to try several of his dishes that change with the seasons with recipes that take advantage of what is in season and what forces are working within Chef Maestoso’s creative culinary mind. An example of these delicious flavors are exemplifies in some of his exceptionally beautiful and delicious appetizers such as Quinoa, Goji, Cabbage, Kale, Pomegranate and Raisin Salad – sweet, crunchy, sour and earthy all in one dish – a fantastic way to start the meal. Or try his “Sliders”, a trilogy of New York style mini-burgers featuring three different fillings including salmon, beef and vegetarian.
As a first course I indulged in his Chestnut, Mushroom and Truffle Risotto – a tribute to the products provided by the regional “terroire”. Another delectable option was the Mushroom and Chestnut filled Autumn Bon-Bons, Pumpkin Parmesan Fondue and Mushroom Demi-Glace, a testimony to Chef Maestoso’s delightful creativity and dedication to local products.
My final dish was the Monkfish wrapped in Capocollo, Straciatella and Broccoli Rabe. The sea and earth all combined in one dish and again witness to the chef’s ambition and capabilities.
Desserts were as impressive if not more so, combining intriguing flavors and visual effect measuring up to the standards provided by Michelin Star quality restaurants.
So now, when in Rome, dare to try something new, get away from the same old neighborhoods and the same old menus and indulge in the genius and creativity provided by restaurants such as this – it is not food snobbery nor pretention that is at hand here, but a couple of young individuals who have dared to bring to the people, at extremely accessible prices and highest standard of quality, a new way of looking at food in the greatest food city in the world. Bravi!!
Via Flaminia 508
Ponte Milvio, Rome