Rome, Pasta, Truffles and a Lie

I remember when I first moved to Rome, I used to lie on a weekly basis. At least for the first two months.

Every week, I went to Volpetti, a luscious gourmet food store in Testaccio, down the hill from my flat in Aventino.

My burnt orange-hued flat

Volpetti had fragrant, almost pungent cheeses wrapped in fig leaves; a special terrine of mascarpone and gorgonzola studded with walnuts, which they cut into slices and wrapped into white wax paper; casserole dishes filled with stuffed red cherry peppers in olive oil; and bottles of Barolo and other deep, dark reds.


They also had fresh pasta which they sold in 100 gram quantities.

Whilst pointing to the strands of fettuccine, I would say something in my broken Italian. Invariably, the gentleman behind the display of walnut and olive bread would ask me, “Per quante persone, Signorina; for how many people, Miss?”

And I would always be too embarrassed to say, “Solo per me, Signore; only for me, Sir.”

Instead, I would say, “Per due; for two.” A lie.

But it sounded so sad and pathetic to tell a total stranger that you’ve just moved to a new country and are eating alone at home.

The rest of the fresh pasta would go into my freezer as I sat alone, eating fettuccine with a large spoonful of black truffle in oil I had bought from Volpetti, dolloped on top. I was lonely without my family and I still remember those nights, sitting in silence…but I was eating truffles for no particular reason, living on one of the Seven Hills of Rome, and I was starting a new career and a new life. And very soon, the Romans invited me into their homes and their lives. Much to be grateful for.

Fresh pasta with black truffles always reminds me of those cathartic, beautiful- even if lonely- first few months in Rome.

This weekend here in Toronto, I’d planned a welcome home dinner for my husband who had been away on a business trip. An entrée of slices of glassy, slippery smoked Scottish salmon with red onion confetti, lacquered with Ravida olive oil. And then followed by a second plate of fettuccine with fresh black truffle shavings and a generous dusting of nutty parmiggiano. Rounded off with a sliver of lemon tart, to cleanse the palate.

But alas, it never came to any of this. I had prepared the tarte au citron in the afternoon- and We Polished It All Off.

Yes, all, of it.

And then there was no room for any carb-heavy dinner that night. We went off to our favourite izakaya and had fried oysters (did I say we had no space in our stomachs? well, there is always space for some fried food); roasted, crackly-skinned duck; and sweetened black cod.

The black truffles are still waiting to be shaved onto strands of fettucine, perhaps for next weekend.  After all, I didn’t need a reason to have truffles all those years ago when I moved to Rome; and my husband and I don’t need a particular reason to eat them now…

Every day we celebrate life…

You can find David Lebovitz’s recipe for his tarte au citron here. Word of caution: I was trying to be efficient, so I prepared the lemon curd a day in advance, so when I tried to spread it into the baked tarte shell the next day, it didn’t spread as evenly as I would have liked, so I’d advise you to make the lemon curd and while it is still warm, pour it into the shell. But, as you know, we didn’t mind the unevenness.

Photo credit for Volpetti: Gypsyboy on Flickr

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  1. Fab post Shayma apa. Looking forward to making tarte au citron to add to my ever expanding waist line.

  2. This was a great read — your house in Rome, it looks so romantic, I can just picture you there with your truffle pasta. I love to think about the meals we eat alone, some of my favorite dishes actually — pasta, toasts, eggs; simple, satisfying foods.



  3. Hi,

    Just stumbled upon your blog and i think it’s lovely. Havent yet got a chance to go through all of it.
    Loved a line in this post (and thought I should mention it)…”but I was eating truffles for no particular reason, living on one of the Seven Hills of Rome, and I was starting a new career and a new life”.
    Will definitely be reading you more often. Tk care 🙂

  4. Shayma cara thanks for your lovely story….you reminded me the way to love this crazy country of mine, with the little things in life,details. Love Fra

  5. you made lemon curd as well! Isn’t it great stuff? If I were you in Rome, and I would do the same thing, order for two, only difference being it would all go to my stomach and not the freezer, its sounds so SO delicious! and this looks great as well. Just hopping on to the link, I think its going to be lemon curd again for me 😀

  6. Well, if you are going to eat solo, then I guess truffled pasta in Rome is the way to do it… Sure beats cold baked beans from the tin in a Birmingham flat 😉

    Lovely writing as always, it makes me feel an almost visceral urge to head out and buy some fresh pasta, the ingredients for lemon tart and to find a decent Izakaya all at once.

  7. You reminded me of my times when I was single. Well-written piece bubbling with emotive flavors. Pasta in 100 grams packaging? 🙂

    P.S. I live in TO too. 🙂

  8. Oh you, what a wonderfully evocative story. I couldn’t agree more that we should celebrate every day. It’s one of life’s great lessons – use your good stuff! Beautiful.

  9. I just love the descriptions of this Roman story….Volpetti also remains fixed in my heart and my memory….my frequent visits were to simply feast my eyes on gourmet cheeses and other stuff!! I adore Volpetti’s pizzas!!! Thanks, Spicey for sharing a part of your early phase in Rome…came straight from the heart!

  10. I have not made it to Rome yet, although while in Italy, I always felt at home and at ease with the language and the people; love that tarte au citron, had the same problem too with it, and would have polished it off in one go also!

  11. Shayma, sorry I have not visited your gorgeous blog in weeks, Holidays are always busy!
    Beautiful post, I need to go back to Roma and visit Volpetti! {aaahhh…dreaming}

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