Roma Mangia Roma

On July 27th, 2011, THE STREETS OF ROME…

streets of Rome, on our way to the last interview and handmade street signs proclaiming that 'we have all become Americans'

…were savored today on this, my last day living in the city, with last bike rides to last interviews – today near Piramide – for the Roma Mangia Roma book, and a last day biking by the crazy elaborate hand lettered signs of rant/protest which I finally took the time to read today, starting with it’s headline proclaiming/lamenting that “we have all become Americans”.

By Fritz Haeg on July 27, 2011 | Rome
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On July 24th, 2011, TORICELLA IN SABINA…

homemade pasta at a dinner party in the Sabina

…near Rieti in the Sabine hills north of Rome is the location of the country house that our artist friend Emiliano Maggi partly grew up in – and where his mother prepared a feast for about 20 Roman friends this evening – so up we headed to conduct interview #26 for Roma Mangia Roma with Marcella while she was serenely and lovingly preparing the approximately 15 or 20 dishes that would be served (handmade pastas of varying sorts, pasta fagioli, cicoria, maiale, coniglio, abbacchio arrosto, fresh figs from the garden, torts and roasts from the wood oven are those that immediately come to mind) and immediately followed – as apparently is common here, but unheard of in my more mild-mannered Minnesotan upbringing – by raucous music with impromptu a cappaella songs both solo and sing-along plus dancing that went on well after I retired upstairs to bed at midnight.



an old family house hidden in the woods and fields off Rome's Via Appia

…for the Roma Mangia Roma book take us this morning to a house in the most remarkable location on extensive grounds covered with thick woods, picturesque meadows, modest fruit orchards, and casual vegetable gardens, right off the ancient Roman road, where our thirty-something Roman subject grew up, where her parents continue to live on the top floor, where her brother lives downstairs, and where she shares the neighboring quarters with her Japanese boyfriend who used to work in an Italian restaurant in Tokyo (but has now lived in Rome for 7 years, the first few months of which he tried to make Japanese food, but when he realized that the proper ingredients just couldn’t be found, he surrendered and eats a typical contemporary Roman diet now, starting every day with a cornetto and cappuccino) – all of which made for some good talks about food, cities, culture, Rome, Tokyo, and what it means to share a house with your family, grow your own food in the city, and be dislocated from your homeland.

By Fritz Haeg on July 23, 2011 | food, Rome
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On July 20th, 2011, TREVIGNANO ROMANO…

the old rambling structures of Agriturismo Acquaranda

…is the village overlooking Lake Bracciano north of Rome where we traveled this afternoon to interview Massimo at Agriturismo Acquaranda, for the Roma Mangia Roma book, to hear about his experiences with food, in particular with making cheese on the land where his father made cheese (which it turns out that he doesn’t even eat), his recent shift from cows to sheep, his discovery of traditional processes to make artisanal cheeses no longer found, leading him to the slow food movement, kilometer zero, and other ways of approaching food production he had not previously considered.


On July 19th, 2011, SCANDRIGLIA…

road trip with Gilda and Lorenzo to Scangrilia, Lazio for a special lunch with Oretta at her country house

…in the Sabina of Lazio was the destination of our morning road trip to visit Oretta Zanini de Vita (the font of inspiration and information regarding cucina Italiana and staunch advocate for taking food seriously as culture at the highest level) at her house in the country – built in the 70’s with found windows of all sizes, salvaged wood beams, medieval stone fireplace mantels, and other assembled pre-used materials – for a special lunch straight from her garden, a continuation of our March 14th interview for the Roma Mangia Roma book (coming out in the fall in English and Italian from Nero Publications with editor Lorenzo Gigotti), and the opportunity for Gilda Aloisi to take some casual analog photos of Oretta at home and in the kitchen to accompany the story.


On July 18th, 2011, ‘ROMA MANGIA ROMA’ INTERVIEWS #18-21…

the family home on the ground floor of this newish apartment building with underground parking also features a vast hidden orto

…took us to a family of three generations living in a newish housing development about 8 km south of central Rome – still within the Grande Raccordo Anulare, bordered by a few other housing developments, a few isolated farms, and to the east by the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica (the vast greenbelt flowing from the countryside into Rome and terminating at the Circo Massimo) – where they are lucky enough to have the space for a big orto (too bad we don’t have such a specific word in English for the homegrown kitchen/vegetable garden) tended by the definitive cook and oldest member of the family (who grew up Bagheria, Sicily – the picturesque coastal town where the 1988 film Cinema Paradiso was set – in the 1930’s and 40’s in a completely self-sufficient household where they even ate the bread made with wheat grown on their own land) where he is playing out his nostalgic memories of his childhood garden with mammoth Cucuzza Sicilian squash and Sicilian tomato varieties, and at his own family table he is adamant that all are seated together each night at the precise moment that his culinary creations are ready – which his 18 year old son tolerates less and less, as he is out most nights with his his friends (sometimes enjoying quick fast food, that he even convinved his father to try once when they were on a road trip) and his girlfriend of Veneto decent, though in a separate interview acknowledging his appreciation for that one occasion each day that the whole family is together and grudgingly admitting that he will likely require the same of his own family in the future.

By Fritz Haeg on July 18, 2011 | books, food
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On June 24th, 2011, ROMA MANGIA ROMA INTERVIEW #15…

Baruchello in his studio surrounded by framed photos and drawings, including a portrait with his old friend and hero Marcel Duchamp

…conducted yesterday just blocks from my studio on the top floor of a modern Monteverde apartment building was with Gianfranco Baruchello (b. 1924) – the Roman artist whose book “How to Imagine” and 1970’s farm as art project Agricola Cornelia have been a recent inspiration – and we got comfortable in the living area of his studio while unraveling tales of his youth, war years, counter-cultural bohemian days, early art works (time lapse images of a pizza the shape of Italy slowly being devoured) and up to his present daily life as described through food.


On June 23rd, 2011, ‘HUNGRY CITY: WILD ROME’…

Carolyn Steel and Mona Talbott (left) digging into desert on a fig leaf at the end of the Hungry City: Wild Rome dinner for 120 with oily bread bag menus (center) and garden scavenged table goods

…was the loose title for this evening’s marathon of activities that I organized at the Academy – kicking off with a rousing talk by “Hungry City” author Carolyn Steel (narrowly arriving in time from London) about the relationship between food and cities – specifically Rome (wheat mills floating on the Tiber – license for a stone slab fish counter at the market worth more than a house – fake food fed to not quite distinguished enough feasting dinner guests only there to fill seats – Monte Testaccio mountain of discarded terra cotta amphorae…) taking us all the way up to present day Roman and global food and city circumstances (20% of meals in America are consumed in a car, one billion people are overweight and one billion are malnourished globally…), and happily ending at her vision of the future which she refers to as ‘sitopia‘ – after that it was responses from members of the Academy community including scholar fellow Michael Waters, architect advisor Carlo Vigevano, and RSFP chef Mona Talbott – followed by a casual reception in the vegetable garden under ripe apricot and susine laden trees – and culminating in a feast for 120 in the courtyard on one long L-shaped table under the arcade covered with coffee-dyed cast-off Academy bedsheets cum table-clothes upon which were scrawled handwritten food-related quotes from Roman residents excerpted from the upcoming Roma Mangia Roma book, then generously sprinkled and piled (like a forest floor) with all of the various random garden and kitchen detritus I had been gathering all year (pine cones; bean pods and leaves; fruits and seeds; dried sage, bay and rosemary cuttings; tufa rocks; all of my empty glass jars full of dirt and candles), plus big hunks of Roscioli bread (which looked remarkably like the lightweight tufa rocks – in a good way) and various courses served on fig leaves and grape leaf lined terra cotta roof tiles scavenged from out back – all enjoyed to the amplified sounds coordinated to the courses by Paul Rudy, and the lighting and central hanging plant branch daisy-chain chandelier by Giovanna Latis – under which the kitchen staff piled all of the goods related to the meal including a controversial lambs head which I – though vegan – was ultimately all for, since it showed those meat-eaters where their meat was coming from. (plus super big thanks to Ben Barron, Walker Williams-Smith, Sarah Ripple, and Eleonora Recupero, the classy, eager, and efficient foursome of local youth who assisted)


On June 22nd, 2011, IL VASCHELLO…

Il Vascello propietors Angelo and Dorina

…is the friendly, local, slightly hidden, Monteverde trattoria – just outside of the Aurelian wall from us – presided over since the early 80’s by gregarious hostess Dorina and Sardegnian chef Angelo, whom we have come to visit this afternoon for interview #14 for the upcoming Roma Mangia Roma book (featuring interviews with five generation of people living in Rome about food, how they eat, earliest culinary memories, etc…), to hear their stories of growing up in rural areas, coming to Rome, working in a restaurant under a nurturing father-like mentor prankster chef next to the Pantheon, and finally establishing  Il Vascello – by now a familial hang-out for friends, regulars, locals, the film crowd (such as Gianni de Gregorio) and foreign residents like us – Dorina loves America and has memorized the U.S. state capitals by heart, reciting them in alphabetical order when she can’t fall asleep.


On June 17th, 2011, AGRICOLA CORNELIA…

the wheat fields of Agricola Cornelia

…the storied piece of hilly agricultural land within a nature reserve, north of town, off the Via Cassia, and just outside of the Grande Raccordo Anulare, is where I surprisingly find myself wandering the fields of wheat today – after having written about my inspiring read of the 1984 book “How to Imagine: a Narrative on Art, Agriculture, and Creativity” about the Italian artist Gianfranco Baruchello’s experience of farming this very piece of land in the 1970’s as an art project, now home his Fondazione Baruchello – where I hope to return and hang out when I can, now that I have the pleasure of knowing him – and looking forward to our upcoming interview for the “Roma Mangia Roma” book.


On May 20th, 2011, ‘ROMA MANGIA ROMA’ INTERVIEW #11…

Roma Mangia Roma interview #11, off Via Cassia

…this afternoon was a follow up to the interview with 15 year old ragazza Romana last month who recounted her early interest in cooking and cucina Italiana inspired by her grandmother, who is starting to let her into the kitchen when preparing the big holiday meals – so this afternoon we heard her story, tasted her marmalade, got a few of her special recipes, many of which she grew up learning from her mother and grandmother – but she has given each of them her own twist.

By Fritz Haeg on May 20, 2011 | books
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visit to Roman farm off Via Cassia with photographer Gilda Aloisi and Nero editor Lorenzo Gigotti

…this afternoon was with the amazing urban farmer Matteo Amati who presides over an enormous tract of city land where unemployed youth are put to work on the cultivation of the fruit tree orchard, the groves of olive trees, and the rotating fields of strawberries, fava beans, potatoes, tomatoes, etc….and this is giving me some sense of what much of the land just outside the Aurelian Walls must have looked like not so long ago. (Roma Mangia Roma)



Franco & Livia in their Monti neighborhood kitchen

…was conducted this morning with Livia and Franco – who met when they were 14 and have been married for 53 years – in their cozy long-time quarters (inherited from previous generations) in the Colosseum adjacent neighborhood of Monti where he used to own the local newsstand, so it’s hard to walk with Franco more than a step or two down Via dei Serpenti without a friendly greeting – and being a former runner, and living through the war years in Rome surviving on potato milk soup, I was surprised to hear about his very simple austere tastes, eating little meat, mostly dishes like pasta in bianco and very precise small portions (exactly four biscotti every morning).


By Fritz Haeg on April 12, 2011 | books
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On April 10th, 2011, ‘ROMA MANGIA ROMA’ INTERVIEW #7…

his terrace overlooking the landscape of Villa Ada

…of 35 planned interviews with five generations of people living in Rome (about how they organize their homes and lives around food, their memories and current thoughts on Cucina Italiana/Romana, and how things are changing) was a fascinating two hour conversation with a distinguished 92 year old Italian film director who recounted amazing tales of growing up in rural Italy where farmers went door to door selling their homemade goods, including a particular ricotta that he has a strong memory of – but mostly it was the aromas (rather ‘profumo’ in Italian) he remembered, of the various lost foods which he can still smell, but no longer exist as they did when he was young – the tomatoes, the breads, the olive oils, the wines, the potatoes, the eggs – and then later stories of his early days in 1940’s Rome and the shock of all of the strong tastes that his Tuscan palate was not used to – but it was his off-hand remark “Quando mangio qualcosa buona, io sono più buono” towards the end of the conversation that will stay with me. (a bit more on the book)

By Fritz Haeg on April 10, 2011 | books
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On March 16th, 2011, MATING TOADS…

big toad and little friend having a moment

…sitting on a low wall by the sidewalk shocked me on my rainy hike back up the hill coming home from a lively interview with culinarily-passionate Luca Guadagnino (director of last year’s ‘I am Love’ with Tilda Swinton) for the upcoming Roma Mangia Roma book with Nero Publications.



Oretta Zanini de Vita's collection of ancient food and pasta tools

…is the effusive indefatigable lively wise sage on cucina Italiana, the author of the definitive book on the history of food in Rome and the Lazio (previously mentioned here), and the recently released Encyclopedia of Pasta (plus about 30 other books…) which I just started reading this morning in preparation for the interview with her at her home this afternoon (for my upcoming Roma Mangia Roma that I am working on with Nero Publications) which was a total inspirational & revelatory delight – with her animated, articulate, enthusiastic, and at times defeatist ruminations on the past and present state of food in Italy – and now we are looking forward to continuing the conversation in the garden and kitchen of her house in the country, which is apparently where she really gets cooking.



bright happy yellow 1930's fascist Roman housing block in Monteverde

…this afternoon with a young local resident living in cozy top floor quarters of a 1930’s fascist apartment block (previously cheap working class housing, now expensive sought after real estate my Italian friends envy) which he once shared with his grandmother – is the first in a series of 35 profiles we are doing with five generations of Roman residents to find out what and how they eat, and how they organize their days, lives, families, friends, and homes around food, for my upcoming Roma Mangia Roma book to be released this fall with Nero Publications. (and if in Rome, hold the evening of June 23rd in your calendar for a special related event to be announced soon)


By Fritz Haeg on February 26, 2011 | Rome
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