Finding the restaurant proved to be challenging, but after traversing the curvy alleyways surrounding the Piazza del Parlamento, and with the help of a very nice policeman, the guys found the restaurant down a narrow, hidden side street. The small, unassuming restaurant was already packed to the gills despite being half an hour short of the regular lunch hour. They were seated at a tiny cloth-covered table; mere inches from the diners at the next table. Very little Inglese was spoken, but Dom was able to communicate in cobbled Italian.
After a shared order of Carciofi alla Romana (artichokes braised in olive oil and lemon seasoned with fresh mint), both tucked into heaping plates of Bucatini All'Amatriciana (long, hollow pasta strands with a tomato sauce cooked with onions, guanciale and pecorino cheese). They were both so sated that they almost resisted the urge to order dessert, but seeing the tiramisu on another table, they caved.
Having relished their first meal at Da Gino, they decided to celebrate their last evening in Rome at the cozy little eatery. They were seated at the table nearest the kitchen with a full view of the plate preparations. The waiter, having remembered the guys from their first visit, began chatting them up. He recommended the house specialty of tonnarelli cacio e pepe (think long pasta with pecorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper) which Dom promptly ordered and Nic decided upon the carbonara (which we all know is his absolute favorite.)
While waiting for their entrees to arrive, they glanced around at the family photos on the walls drawing the attention of one of the photo’s subjects who explained that the ristorante was completely family-owned. She was the daughter of the chef (her mom) and the manager (her dad). She and her brother work the register and pinch hit as waiters as well. As they were conversing, a plate of something tasty went by and Dom asked what it was; “trippa di Roma” was the response, “have you ever tried it?” Dom relayed that he had not had a good version since his grandmother made it. So a plate of stewed tripe was immediately delivered to the table.
Anxious to see their reaction, the whole family watched as the guys tentatively tasted the dish. Finding it tender and not only edible but delectable, Dom asked for the recipe. They downed every ounce of their meals; mightily impressed with the tonnarelli pasta used in the cacio e pepe and the carbonara. When asked if they wanted dessert, they graciously declined as the basis of being on the verge of exploding. In sympathy, the daughter brought out a bottle of Amaro “to help with the digestion.” Having had such a wonderful time, the guys were sad to leave, but after pictures with the family, headed back to the little rented apartment to pack.
After arriving home, Dom was impatient for another plate of the stewed tripe and thus bought a pound to experiment with. Having imparted the recipe given him by the mama chef, we embarked on our first attempt to replicate the dish. Unbelievably, we prepared a reasonable facsimile on the first try. Here’s what we did:
Roman Tripe Stew
- 1 lb. beef or veal tripe
- 1 cup white vinegar
- Water for boiling
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 bunch parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water (enough to fully cover the tripe) to a boil over high heat. Add vinegar and a generous pinch of salt, then plunge tripe in and allow water to return to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the tripe sit in the water for a minute or two before draining and rinsing under cold water. Pat the tripe dry and lice tripe into 4" × 1⁄2" pieces with a sharp knife, then cover sliced tripe and set aside.
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat before adding onions carrots and 1 stalk of diced celery, and cook until golden, 10–15 minutes. Add tripe and wine and cook until the alcohol has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 4–6 hours, until tripe is very tender.
Add the remaining celery about 1 hour before tripe is done. Add parsley and garlic, butter, and half the Parmigiano-Reggiano about 10 minutes before serving and adjust seasonings. When you are ready to serve, dust the plate with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano and savor an authentic taste of Roma!
Special thanks to our new friends at Da Gino in Rome. If you are ever in Rome, do as the Romans do and go to this wonderful little family restaurant!