Sunday, 8 July 2012

How to Eat in Rome - Part Three - Pizzeria Ai Marmi

Pizza ain't my favourite meal, but that's mainly because I remember those horrible deep pan things we used to have as kids. They had thick stodgy dough, bland toppings and never, ever enough cheese. And, although pizzas have improved in Britain, they are nothing like the pizza in Italy!

We'd been to Ai Marmi (otherwise known as L'Obitorio, or the morgue, due to the marble tables) on our last trip to Rome as it's listed in David Downie's 'Food Wine Rome'. However Gav had ordered a pizza on the basis that he didn't know what the topping was going to be as he couldn't translate the description fully. It ended up being lettuce, and although the base was good, the topping was not and Gav has never lived his mistake down.

As I felt we hadn't had the true Ai Marmi experience, thanks to that lettuce, I was keen to go back (we'd also had an amazing bean & pork shank dish which I wanted to try again).

I knew that this place got busy so we headed there for about 8pm as we couldn't book and I didn't want to queue. The seating outside had all been taken, but this was fine by us. Inside was deliciously cool thanks to those marble tables and the powerful air-con units.

We start with a couple of snacks including suppli al telefono; balls of risotto stuffed with mozzarella and then deep fried. They take their name from the fact that once you've bitten into these tasty balls the mozzarella spirals out of the centre resembling a telephone cord. We shared one and immediately regretted not ordering more as it was delicious, as was the stuffed and deep fried courgette flower. Again, why didn't we order more? Especially as they were only about €1.50 each!

However, it was probably for the best as the pizza was pretty big as was the bean and sausage casserole we'd ordered (they were out of the pork shank). Pizza was speck, Gorgonzola and mozzarella and although the Gorgonzola was a bit overpowering, it was delicious and a far cry from that lettuce we'd had 3 years before! The base was perfectly thin and crispy; just how I like my pizza. However, despite the lack of a stodgy base, it was still filling.

The bean casserole was really tasty, not as good as I remembered it (we did have it with pork shank not sausages last time, and there is the possibility that I had my rose tinted glasses on too...), but still good. The huge dish was a real challenge though and I struggled to get through a quarter of it, leaving the rest for Gav to finish (he wasn't complaining).

It isn't just the food that's good here, the atmosphere too; relaxed and loud with chatter. Waiters are busy but courteous and they bloody work for their money, as do the chefs who are constantly on the go rolling that pizza dough to perfection (watch them at work here -