The Best Dinner of My Life… and a Bad Pork Sandwich
Posted by Andy Steves in on September 15, 2010.
On Friday I had the best meal of my life. I staggered out of the restaurant holding two things in my hands: my belly, and a button that popped off my new suit jacket.
Claudio, the owner of Ristorante il Gabriello near the Spanish Steps, welcomed us down into his subterranean paradise of food. We spent the next several hours there and had two courses of antipasti, seafood, and fruit. Two courses of pasta followed, one with clams, and the other with scampi. Then we had two courses of meat: veal and pork. Each course by itself was some of the best food I’ve ever had. And they kept comin’. Next was two courses of desert: a huge platter of chocolate delicacies and finally my favorite of the night, a platter of fruit. Except this fruit had been hollowed out, gelato made from that then placed back into the shell of the fruit or nut and then frozen together. There were baby bananas, mangoes, tangerines, walnuts, figs, and kiwi. This was a feast of the most epic proportions that I had ever seen--all served by a flamboyant man that clearly loved overwhelming us with the best food we’d ever eaten. By this time, I was deep into my post-meal sleepiness and had to get a café to get myself out the door. I had a hot date later.
After dinner I caught up with Claudia, an acquaintance with sparkling dark eyes, the daughter of a family whose restaurant is in my dad’s book. I got her number a few days before when we ate there for lunch and had been texting her at dinner. I headed over, busted button and all, to a pizzeria where she was finishing, surprise, a pizza with a friend. It was Friday night, and apparently that’s her boyfriend’s dude’s night. So he never hangs out with her on Fridays. I didn’t mind. We headed out to a club with the creative name of Club Red. It was awesome. This place was out in the suburbs so you needed a car to get there. Claudia only had a Smart car with two seats and there were three of us. I expected her small girlfriend to curl up and get in the trunk of the car. But no, she popped the trunk, had me crawl in, and laid my jacket over me to cover up my legs. She explained if we got caught, she would loose her license. So I made myself small on the way to the club. When we got there, I realized I was the only American there so I got to see the Italians in their true form. It was free to get in, but each drink cost €10. I went for a Long Island Iced Tea and got the girls a couple Mojitos. That was my budget for the rest of the night. And the week. So I sipped my Long Island and enjoyed the scenery. On the way back to my place at about 3 a.m., Claudia’s boyfriend called just as we neared my apartment building. Folded like a pretzel in the back, I tried to give her directions but was quickly silenced with her “shut up!” I guess it definitely would have sounded bad if my voice was heard over the phone at this time of night. She eventually got us back to my apartment where she dropped me off.
On Saturday, I said goodbye to my mother and sister. It was great seeing them, and the end of the semester, when I would see them next, seemed so far away.
On Sunday, I met up with my dad in Porta Portese, the huge outdoor flea market just south of Trastevere. There, we walked through the multitudes of rip-off designer jeans and old electronics. For lunch we grabbed a pork sandwich at a stand in the middle of the market. Don’t get pork sandwiches from flea markets. Afterwards, I felt sick for the rest of the day until 7:30 when I just couldn’t hold it down any longer. In the meantime, my dad’s friend Stefano took us to an AS Roma soccer game at the Olympic stadium. Personally, I have a hard time watching soccer. At the slightest touch, players throw themselves around and contort themselves to draw penalty cards. I think they have a greater chance of injuring themselves faking being hurt than actually being injured playing soccer. And immediately after they see a card or not, they get up and act all tough again and get back to playing. I’ve never heard an Italian or European for that matter comment on this, and I wonder if they even see it. Not to mention Gaelic football. Now that’s a sport.
My dad left to go back to the States that Tuesday morning and I began the slow process of shrinking my stomach back down to normal size.
I went to Rome with a few of my friends. Before we got there, our tour guide, Rhianne, sent us plenty of information regarding how to arrive at the hostel, and what our Itinerary would be like. She also made it a point to meet up with people the night before if their flight got in early so students would have something to do. Having a tour guide that lived in the city was amazing. It made me not have to stress about getting lost, and provided many opportunities to eat at the best restaurants, and, most importantly, the best Gelato places. By the end of the tour, I was good friends with each of the 14 members of the tour group, including our tour guide. I definitely recommend taking a tour through WSA because the guides make you feel like they actually care about each person on the trip. I knew that I could just relax, and enjoy my trip.Kyle Cook, Lebanon Valley College ~ Kingston University, London, Fall 2015
Spots are limited!
We keep our groups small, so save your spot now! Check out our Tripadvisor, App Store & Facebook travel love below.
Stay up to date with upcoming tours, deals and discounts through our Facebook page!
Pick a city and go! All new budget guidebook from Andy Steves, Founder and Chief Backpacker of WSA.