Lazio: Italy's Trove of Unknown Treasures

Food and Wine

Here too, Lazio has struggled to make itself stand out from the competition. The delicious red wines like the Barolos from Piedmont, the Sangrantinos from Umbria and the common Chianti from Tuscany are household names in the United States. Typical plates from the north with their scrumptious risottos, polentas, and excellent cheeses all the way to the south with their aromatic fresh pasta dishes, seafood and olives; the other regions have excelled in promoting their homemade specialties.

The one exception in Lazio is Rome, where Roman cooking is quite established. Chicken with peppers, pasta with pecorino cheese and black pepper, and tripe are just a small example of traditional Roman cooking.

Yet, did you know that the small black Gaeta olives cured with citrus rind are from Lazio? To my taste they are the best olives from the dozens of varieties that are found in Italy. South-central Lazio is where the best mozzarella cheese comes from (although the competition from Campania is close) in all of Italy.

This is not like mozzarella in the U.S. Fresh mozzarella is served at room temperature soaking in water and is soft enough to cut with your fork. What about a simple sandwich made from porchetta, a roasted loan laced with spices and served on fresh chewy rolls? The best porchetta comes from Ariccia, less than an hour south of Rome.

Sponsoring an Enoteca

The Region of Lazio has recognized that food is the way to people's hearts and decided that they had better start promoting the best of Lazio food and wine. So they are sponsoring an Enoteca (literally a wine bar) that serves up the best of the regional specialties called Palatium.

Palatium is located near the Spanish Steps on Via Frattina. At first glance from outside it looks more like a hair salon than a restaurant. Set on two floors with a glass-enclosed kitchen it is has a very modern décor that sets it apart in this traditional neighborhood known more for haute couture shopping then restaurants.

The enoteca is run by the Regional Agency for the Development and Innovation of the Agriculture of Lazio – which itself is a mouthful. The restaurant boasts that it uses more than 600 regional suppliers to build its menu and that each is certified to be 100 percent produced in Lazio.

The 310 wines make the wine list not only extensive, but it is also incredibly detailed. It explains the character of each wine as well as the winery it comes from. There are 50 types of extra virgin olive oil that are used or sold separately in the restaurant shop.

The antipasto highlights the cheeses, salamis, and produce that is all produced in Lazio. Even the mineral water is bottled at source in the region.

Because the restaurant uses fresh products the menu changes with the harvest season and the cycle of agriculture production of cheeses and meats. This guarantees that each time you visit Palatium the menu will be a bit different.

For sure Enoteca Palatium is not the typical dining experience that many visitors may be looking for. The atmosphere may seem more New York than Rome and while the waiters were well versed in the products they served, the service was slow and the staff a bit cold. But it is a smart effort on the part of the Region of Lazio to offer its gastronomic treasures in one central location to boost the name recognition of its products.

Enoteca Regionale del Lazio Palatium is located at Via Frattina, 96 phone number 39 06 692 02132

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