The dish pictured above is one of my wife, Laura’s, favorite things in all Rome. Well, it’s truly delicious… and only available for a few weeks in Spring. And, among our neighborhood restaurants, she wants it from only one of them, Nino.
Vignarola is fresh spring peas, artichokes, and fava beans, mixed into an amazingly hearty stew. This is pure, 100% comfort food. Eaten with crusty bread and a nice red wine. Simple, and perfect.
So when we were in Rome last month, we headed to Nino’s, and Laura got the vignarola. I had delicious fried squash blossoms, and a wonderful pasta arrabbiata. But, I must admit, the vignarola was the best on the table.
Nino is a classic, old school, white-tablecloth kind of place. It looks the same today as it did 20 years ago. The same servers, all men, have been there forever, and are professional yet genial, particularly when they remember you as a repeat customer. The diners are mostly locals with a smattering of tourists. The food is Tuscan, as well as Roman. And, it’s always good.
A few months ago, we were watching an older episode of Top Gear (no, not the US one, and not the re-cast version — I mean the real one). Jeremy Clarkson and James May race around Rome in two gorgeous (of course) supercars. Jeremy parks his Lamborghini and runs through the streets to the final meeting spot, a little restaurant. He asks one of the staff there, “have you seen a very long-haired man, an idiot?” The man replies, “here,” and points to where James is sitting in front of the etched glass panel you see when you enter Nino. We recognized it instantly, and it immediately made Laura crave vignarola. Plane tickets back to Rome were booked a few hours later.
So when we were at Nino last month, I asked our server about the Top Gear episode. When he looked a little confused, I quoted the line about the long-haired idiot. The server, clearly remembering now, gave me a big smile and said, “they were two idiots.”