Monday, November 9, 2009

Hipsters Rome: San Lorenzo and Lunch at Bar a Book

The fun, funky, eclectic Bar a Book in the trendy San Lorenzo neighborhood of Rome is a fun relaxed place that looks like a 1960's recreation room. Walls lined with groovy Scandinavian book shelves filled with all sorts of mid-century modern memorabalia, wine bottles, jars filled with coffees and teas and of course lots of books.

Neil and I went to Bar a Book for their 16 Euro all you can eat brunch on Sunday. Running up and down the center of the cafe is a large wooden table surrounded by mismatched chairs.

The table was set with porcelain coffee pots filled with "American coffee" as described by our waiter. There was also a lovely jug of freshly squeezed orange juice and right by us a wonderful looking chocolate cake.

The savory portion of the buffet which you can catch a glimpse of in the video, consisted of:
pasta e fagioli, a crust covered pizza pie filled with vegetables (spinach, potatoes and most notably roasted red peppers), sliced very well done pot roast with an unidentifiable gravy and little rounds of polenta, and these baked mounds of potato cheese and potato (which were the highlight of the buffet for me - sorry I don't have the actual name for them).

Here's my very uncool take on the restaurant food I've had so far in Rome as was typified by our brunch here. A place that is written up and recommended by our guide books.

The food is plain and heavy and in this instance all room temperature.

The coffee was horrid, undrinkable, tasted like watered down instant, the chocolate cake was boozy and had what appeared to be cooked pears in it, but if you closed your eyes you would never have guessed it was chocolate. The veggie pie was nice enough, but the pasta was boring and, well, tasted kind of like it was out of a can (I'm sure it wasn't, but that's how it tasted to me).

In a country filled with herbs that grow as perennials I don't know why they don't seem to want to use them?

Everything is highly processed white bread with tomato paste on it or some variation. They have such amazing ingredients it's mind boggling to me that they are able to turn them into such boring food.

I had a pasta last night that was the specialty of the house at this local very Italian place that our friends love, it was a flavor flash back, it tasted exactly like the canned Chef Boyardee I ate (and loved) as a kid. It's just I never really thought of it as Italian food, it's not what I expected I'd be served in Italy.

Admittedly I am only having a small sampling of food, but I am going to a diverse and recommended group of restaurants, all of which have been charming and fun in their own ways, but the food is all the same, which is to say for my palate: boring.

I hear tell you can get whole wheat things, but after 4 days of looking I have yet to come across one thing that isn't made from white flour.

Bar e Book had great wine and service and is a charming fun room. It would be a wonderful place to sit over some wine and read or chat with friends. Or to have them make you a real Italian coffee.

However, from a New Yorker's point of view to pay 16 euros (nearly $24) for a lack luster brunch that didn't even include a drink just to sit in a room that looks like it could be on Avenue B where I could get a brunch for $10 that included a Bloody Mary seems like not the best use of my funds here in Rome. But on this day we really wanted that kind of "downtown" (albeit NYC downtown) ambience and we loved being there. So go figure.

Ciao for now, much more to come.


Kurt Brown said...

Yay! Loved seein you and Neil in the vid. Tho food looked just like you described it would taste... kinda congealed looking, like rejects from the Swanson test kitcen.

But hey, you're in Rome so lotsa points just for that :)

Philip said...

Sounds like you need to go over there and teach them how to cook again.

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