When we went to Europe I thought that I would love Italy the most and yet it didn’t turn out quite that way. I loved Venice until throngs of people arrived, and then I couldn’t wait to leave – and unfortunately, the feeling followed me to Rome – I’m not good in crowds and the tiny maze like streets packed with throngs of people was a little too much for me. I did, however, quite like Rome first thing in the morning (as I did Venice) and late at night but otherwise I was in a constant state of near panic.
I know there are parts of Italy that would appeal to me more – smaller places like Tuscany (or so it was suggested) where there’s less people, and less rush, and there are wineries to be explored and small cafes and restaurants where you can sit for hours reading a book or chatting with people, and because of that, I’d like to get back to Italy but I had made up my mind that I’d probably never want to go back to Rome. But our first night in Rome we stumbled across a little Italian restaurant down one of the side streets, and feeling both tired and hungry, we decided to go in.
Even before going to Europe, Tay was determined to find little family-ran restaurants in both Paris and Rome where the decor was simple, the food good, and the staff friendly. We didn’t find it in Paris, but we found it in Rome, and for the two nights we were there, we ate both our meals at Gino ai Funari.
Both nights we visited there were, from what we could tell, only 4 people working. A suspicious looking hostess who spent most of her time sitting on a stool tallying up bills and watching the customers with a slight scowl on her face; a young dark-haired bus boy who seemed drawn to the english speaking customers and would seemingly use the excuse of clearing the tables to practice his english with those that we’re willing (which we were); the older, robust chef who, at one point, smacked the waiter in the forehead upon receiving our order (I wondered if it was because Tay modified what he wanted on his pizza?); and then our waiter, a short elderly man who whistled while he worked and wrote me little notes* that, when I had them translated by the busboy, made the busboy flush with embarassment (we wondered later if the hostess was either married to the waiter or possibly his daughter). Our waiter’s name was Luciano and he was easily the most enjoyable part of Rome.
Our first night there I ordered the gnocchi with mushrooms, and Tay had a pizza. I ordered a half litre of white wine (only 3 euros) and Luciano teased Tay and asked what he would be drinking since he seemed to think that I shouldn’t need to share my wine. After the meal we were debating a cake dessert but when we asked Luciano his opinion he wrinkled his nose and refused to let us order it. Instead, he took care of the dessert and brought us out vanilla ice cream (which I believe was made with real cream it was so rich), and strawberries lightly coated with sugar. Originally Luciano had wanted us to order the tiramasu but I had refused, mostly because I dislike the soggy texture of the cake or biscuit at the bottom.
We decided as we left the restaurant that we would eat there the next evening and I spent the whole day deciding what I would have for dinner. Even before we entered the restaurant I knew what I wanted and it included the best bruschetta that I’d ever tasted plus my own 1/2 litre of red wine (Tay ordered half a litre of white and to say we both weren’t a little tipsy when we stumbled out of the restaurant 3 hours later would be a lie). When dessert came I told Luciano to forget the sweets, that I just wanted more bruschetta but then relented and decided to order the tiramasu which he seemed so insistent that I would enjoy.
Tay confirmed that it was indeed good tiramasu and it was probably the best tiramasu that I’d had, and while I still didn’t like the soggy part, it didn’t seem so bad when Luciano took the spoon from me, dished up a mouthful and fed it to me while winking at my husband. This was the night that Luciano wrote me the notes and asked if we needed a waiter in Canada perhaps and it was the night where he hugged us goodbye and told us to please come again. It was such a pleasant dining experience that when we visit Italy again, I’m going to insist that we fly in and out of Rome if only so we can go back to Gino’s for the wine, the bruschetta and the comany :).
Notes from Luciano:
“There is no flower so beautiful like you.”
“You are the brightest star of the universe.”
“Beautiful flower of my heart.”
The rest of the Rome photos can be found here.