Escaping the traffic and pollution of Rome is not a terribly difficult task – a 3 euro train ride whisks you away into the bucolic country bliss of the Castelli Romani, with cheap, tasty wine and enough local specialties to keep you fed all winter long – but every once in a while something a bit more off the beaten path is desired. And so, the next time you find yourself in possession of a car, consider a trip to northern Lazio to the quaint town of Bomarzo and its grotesquely awesome monster park.
Ten euros gains you admission to the Parco dei Mostri – a 14th century estate just outside of little Bomarzo – whose grounds are littered with colossal mythological carvings. The park is a beautiful, spectacular, relaxing, and, yes, a bit spooky attraction worth visiting in its own right, but it is the roadside osteria Nonna Pappa, just a short 10 minute drive away (provided you don’t get lost), makes this beautiful-fall-weekend-day-trip an event worthy of weekly repetition.
This homey spot is run by what looks to be three siblings, at least according to this amateur genealogist. One sister and the brother hold it down in the kitchen, while the other sister is at the front of the house bustling around the 12 tables laid out in an oversized country living room, complete with fireplace. The menu is extensive, well-priced (our four-course feast plus wine came to 35 a head), and, most importantly, well-executed. The indulgent afternoon featured everything from a pear and gorgonzola ravioli to a filet bathed in a truffle/pecorino cream sauce and a duo of cinghiale dishes that each deserve a paragraph unto themselves. But I’ll refrain and just tell you that the spezzatino featured juniper berries and was served alongside toasted bread and shaved pepperoncino. It was like a build your own sloppy joe. But better.
Still…despite the flavor bombs of these decadent dishes, it was a slightly more restrained primo that called out to me, begging to be devoured, discussed, and recreated back home. A fall classic. Tender pasta packets of roasted chestnut. A generous shaving of parmigiano. And for a kick of the acidic, a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. I’m not sure what it was that called to me. The unexpected inclusion of the seeds. The chance to roast chestnuts over an open fire and then roll them into pasta. Or maybe it was just an inspiration that comes from eating a perfect dish, enjoying each bite not just more than the last but more than you expected from this odd assortment of ingredients, and then, as you savor the final bite, a thought hits you, a slight change, a modification, not an improvement necessarily, but a “what if…”
This “what if” turned into a triple-attempt recreation, and if you want the recipe, stay tuned for Part II…
If you go…
Bomarzo Parco dei Mostri
Loc. Giardino 01020 Bomarzo, Italy
*The park is open year-round from 8am-sunset. Admission is 10.
Ristorante Nonna Pappa
Strada Molinella, Km. 1, 01038 Soriano nel Cimino