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Saturday

Trattoria Monti: a slice of Le Marche on Rome's Collina Esquilino

Trattoria Monti is a busy and welcoming spot, about a 15 minute walk from Termini Station, in the up and coming Esquilino-Monti neighborhood. Monti specializes in the cuisine of the central east region of Le Marche, a food culture that pits the salumi/maiale/lamb triptych mountains versus the offerings of the Adriatic coast, most famously represented by Ancona's rich and savory brodetto. 

It's a bit of a critical and now a tourist darling, in an obscure location, and it's not uncommon to see even Italians clutching city maps as they enter. Monti seems to turn away a lot of walk-ins so it's important to reserve, otherwise it's just going on a walk. 

I really wanted to like Monti, but I realized it was more the idea of Monti than what I actually ate. The insalata mista was just some chopped vegetables (radicchio, fennel, carrots, cherry tomatoes) arrayed on a flat plate. Something about eating a colorful salad in a bowl, with the ingredients pushed up by the contours of the bowl, makes it special. Maybe. Also, the antipasto was a fritto misto of Olive Ascolane, breaded and deep fried and stuffed with veal, prosciutto, egg and breadcrumbs. Those were nice but the advertised fiori di zucca were merely zucchini fried in a tempura style batter. Traditionally, fiori di zucca are the zucchini flowers/squash blossoms stuffed with cow's milk or buffalo milk mozzarella. On the antipasto plate was ciausculo sausage, a soft and savory salami typical of Umbria and Le Marche. The pasta was quite good, mezze maniche (half rigatoni) with grated pecorino di fossa, crumbled house made sausage, and black pepper. The 2006 Rosso di ConerĂ² from Umani Ronchi, a top Marchigiano producer, paired nicely with the meal. 

Service was warm and professional, and that distracted from the culinary shortcomings. That does not negate a return to Monti, but for sure I won't be ordering the salad and the antipasto plate. The red onion and gorgonzola tart is cited in almost every review, but was not on the menu the night I went. Next time.

Trattoria Monti, Via San Vito 13, Roma 00185, 06-446-6573

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