The old gentleman at my hotel reserves a table at Il Bucatino in the Trastevere district for me. It’s an easy walk down the hill in the last of the evening’s light. On arrival, I announce myself as “Giacomo da Hotel San Pio,” and find that I have a table with my name on it right by the front door but I don’t mind. I get to check out all of the new arrivals. What strikes me immediately is that the Italian women beat the Germans 10 – 1 in the Unofficial Giacomo Derheim’s International Looks and Fashion Contest. (OK, members of whatever groups and Germans – sue me. I’m a guy, after all and my wife is mostly of Italian ancestry so there)
Dinner is served by spiffy men in white jackets and bowties. There are white tablecloths on every table, but hey – you pay for this. It’s part of the “coperto,” or cover charge. This can range from the outrageous four Euro per head in the Campo of Siena (As part of a group of four we walked away from that dining opportunity a couple of years ago) to this reasonable 1.50 per person at the Trattoria Bucatino. It also covers the bread they bring automatically to the table. I see that this restaurant has also figured out another easy source of income – automatic “I Dream of Genie” shaped blue bottles of water which magically appear on your table – and your bill. What the heck. What do they say, “when in Rome?”
There’s an order you have to follow when eating in Italy. You absolutely do not treat pasta as a main course. To do so marks you as an uncultured cheapskate, or a dumb tourist. You should have an antipasto. If not, then at least drink two quarter liters of house wine. (That’s what I did, finding nothing in the antipasto list which excited me as much as the wine) First course tonight was spaghetti with a nice, uncomplicated red sauce. No grated cheese was offered and I certainly didn’t ask for any. Nor did I ask for a spoon. To do so would probably get me evicted – from Italy.
For my “secondo,” or second course, I chose the “coniglio” (rabbit) and asparagus. I was surprised by the asparagus because it was served cold. However, with some lemon juice squeezed over the top it was just fine. The rabbit was tender and drowning in olive oil. That’s probably how they killed it. Just held its little furry head under the oil until it expired. I had no thoughts of the Easter Bunny as I skinned the bones of all the tender little morsels. I even ate the giblets.
The place really starts to fill with big groups of six and eight as 9 o’clock approaches. You know you’re an American when you start to get hungry at six. Heck, the Italians are still in afternoon siesta mode at six. I doubt their stomachs are even conditioned to accept food until the sun goes down.
Completely satisfied, I’m talked into ordering a “cafe” (espresso) as a finish. Now I’ll have to double up on the Ambien in order to get a decent night’s sleep. But to not have at least a “dolci,” (dessert) or a cafe at the end of a satisfying meal… well, it’s just so “touristy” to pay the check and leave. When in Rome, after all, when in Rome.