It would be a short trip. Our American friend and newlywed Joyce wanted us to meet her marito romano Claudio. They had moved to an apartment in a Rome suburb with a guest room … an offer we couldn’t refuse.

As with all trips, once we pick the dates, I contact our cat sitter. Tatiana was available … it was officially a trip.

I suggested driving clockwise via Spello, so we could stop at SPORTOLETTI WINERY … swing south to the Eternal City … then back north via Orvieto, where we’d see hubby Carlo at TRATTORIA DA CARLO and wife Giulia at her winery ARGILLAE. (Despite this apparent theme, there are no spouses at Sportoletti … just two cousins and their dads.)

Between the twilight zone that was 2020 and the baby steps of reopening in 2021, we hadn’t seen Fabio Sportoletti, et. al., in a few years. We needed wine and olive oil.

We’ve been visiting them for about 15 years … sometimes with friends, sometimes just the 2 of us … always greeted warmly.

We put suitcases and sandwiches in the car, and headed out conveniently after cappuccino.

Today’s tasting was at the smaller front table, rather than in the large tasting room with a dozen or so long tables. The tasting room where Fabio’s father poured me … the pinot drinking/chardonnay hating gal … a glass of their straw-colored Grechetto. I nervously hoped I’d have at least one positive tasting note. It was light, infused with white fruit and nectar … love at first sip. A gateway white wine, it led to the hard stuff. Falanghina, Fiano … Lugano … Vermentino, Vernaccia.

When the winery closed for lunch, Fabio invited us to enjoy their swimming pool … and that was the lovely, sun-soaked setting where we ate our sandwiches.

On the road again, I sent messages to Joyce about where our car icon was on the map and our ETA. Their apartment is in a residential area, a couple blocks from the hustle and bustle of a sprawling suburban Rome.

We met Joyce through a mutual friend in Southern California. Her visit to us was immortalized in my story, TAKE THE LAST TRAIN TO CLARKSVILLE. We were excited to meet Claudio because he had agreed to make carbonara for dinner. (Did I say that outloud?)

It was delicious!

Served on mostaccioli rigate, it was creamy in that special eggy way, with guanciale that had crispy edges while retaining its porcine tenderness-chewiness, then embellished with melting parmigiano. Che bontà … grazie Claudio.

The next morning, we began with some espresso and some caffè americano. We would drive to the coast … about 40 minutes away … for lunch. Claudio and Joyce had a favorite restaurant on the shore, and it was a beautiful day to bask in the glow of the Mediterranean.

Located in the town of Passoscuro, the entrance to LA LAMPARA is nestled among alleys where the homeowners have painted colorful murals for passersby.

We sat on the covered patio and slowly inhaled the salt air.

Claudio picked a Vermentino from Tenuta Tre Cancelli in Lazio, a slightly minerally wine that paired deliciously with our seafood selections. Both bottles. Everything on the menu was tempting … and given the parade of plates that arrived at our table, we gave in to every whim.

We shared our antipasti

The gently breaded and fried anchovies were crispy and salty, a perfect example of fried seafood.

The mussels al brodo were coveted by all of us, so we ordered two portions. The bivalves were tender and delicious, and the light, savory “soup” was wonderful … whether slurped on a spoon or saturated on a chunk of crusty bread. Glad we got two bowls.

Ah, ahi. Tuna tartare, you tempting treat … meltingly tender, the accompanying basil pesto provided just the right summer flavor.

Burrata topped with Cantabrico anchovies defies the rule about not combining fish and cheese. The milkiness of this king of latticini (a category of fresh dairy products that is close, but not quite, cheese) combined perfectly with the sublime saltiness of the delicate anchovies. The thin bruschetta spears drizzled with olive oil added a nice crunch.

The primi we hoarded …

Two different clams were combined with pasta … how could I choose just one … spaghetti with lupini AND spaghetti with tellina. One might have been sweeter, in the subtle seafood way; the other a bit more briny. But the difference was so subtle … and out of their respective shells (lupini were rounder, tellina longer) … neither David nor I couldn’t really tell the difference or pick a favorite. I loved them both.

Joyce and Claudio had tagliatelle in tomato sauce with mussels and shrimp. And aware of David’s allergy, I was given a shrimp! Yummy.

Claudio opted for a transition before dessert. He said the arugula salad with pears, burrata, roasted almonds, and cranberries was as good as the last time.

Dolci meant a splurge …

Joyce ordered lemon gelato, a palate cleanser [ha!] before more serious [wink] desserts.

The chocolate molten cake arrived overcooked. No lava. Surprisingly and happily, Claudio complained … and 15 minutes later, a lava-filled chocolate cake was presented, oozing in warm, fudgy, gooey goodness.

Tris means trio … and these were mini versions, perfect when one (or four) can’t decide. The tiramisù was delicious, its classic flavors blending smoothly on the tongue … the cheesecake with frutto di bosco, an imposter with scant cream cheese and a fruit coulis more sugary than fruity … the tartlet was a lovely balance of buttery, flaky pastry filled with zingy lime cream.

We lingered at the beach before heading back into Rome.

As we sat on the balcony, Joyce said the fateful words … “Do you know FlightRader24?” She opened the app, which shows all planes in the sky. I’d been looking for that information … I’ve become a country bumpkin, and every time I see or hear an aircraft, I wonder where it’s going. Now it’s my new obsession. And I hooked my friend, Peggy, too. Less than a week later, our addiction was mentioned in the NYT. Apparently, she and I are not alone in our fixation.

Later, much later, we all realized we were a bit peckish. Claudio went into the kitchen … and soon appeared with spaghetti colatura di alici. If you don’t love anchovies, avert your eyes. This dish is a quasi-cousin of aglio olio … a quick pasta with one or two ingredients, meant to satisfy late night hunger, Italian-style. It was simply yummy. We bought 2 bottles of the fish-infused olive oil on our way home, already a pantry staple.

Who needs the Vatican or the Colosseum?

The next day, we bid adieu our hosts and headed to Orvieto.

To be continued …


Olive oil
1 anchovy
4 to 6 tomatoes, chopped … or canned tomatoes
Salt and pepper
2 oz. white wine
6 oz. salmon
1 lb. linguine
Fresh parsley, finely chopped

- In a frying pan large enough to hold the pasta, cook the anchovy in olive oil.
- When the anchovy is melted, add the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover the frying pan.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the linguine until barely al dente.
- Add the salmon into the frying pan … put on the lid so the salmon steams.
- Reserve some of the pasta cooking water, then drain the linguine.
- Add the linguine into the frying pan. Toss well … add a tablespoon or two more olive oil. (The tomatoes should provide enough juice … ise the pasta cooking liquid only if necessary.)
- Serve.