My friend group messaged a few weeks back asking if we were all free to do something a little different for the evening.
Have you ever been in “Fraschetta”? He texted
At first, I thought he was inviting me to Frascati (one of the areas outside of Rome in the Castelli Romani)
This was the first time I had even heard of the word “Fraschetta”. As defined by Wikipedia, it’s a particular type of osteria serving delicacies mainly from the Castelli Romani region. But neither that (nor my friend’s) definition would do the word justice.
The history of the Fraschetta dates back to Ancient Rome, when peasants traveling from the countryside to the capital needed to take a snack break, using the products (and wine) which they were going to sell. The actual name derives from the ancient village of Frascata – today known as Frascati.
However, my first Fraschetta would be in Arriccia, the birthplace of porchetta.
But that is a whole other topic in which I can write a novel about…
The modern menu consists of products typical of the Lazio region – fresh cheese, a variety of cold meats and other antipasti, and of course porchetta. All of which were served to us in abundance.
We must have been there for at least 3 hours… eating for the entire duration. The dishes just kept coming out, one right after the other, but I will try my best to recount…
First came the cheese. There were four kinds: Pecorino Romano, ricotta, mozzarella and some other spicy kind. Then came the meats: salami, prosciutto, and coppiette (Lazio’s version of jerky) – as my friend had promised.
Next, an interlude of bruschetta – topped simply with tomatoes, olive oil and basil.
Then, the star of the meal – the porchetta. This savory dish is synonymous with Rome. The actual process is a little less so. An entire pig I gutted, deboned and then stuffed with liver, various spices and herbs, and all the fat and skin before it is roasted. Traditionally, porchetta is spitted over wood for 8+ hours, but the time varies by establishment.
To use the word delicious would be an understatement. Everything was served family-style and the portions were not small. Our group (of six) struggled to finish the overflowing plates before us. At one point during the meal, I had to sit one of the plates down next to me on the bench - there was no room left on the table!
I was full before the “healthier” dishes came out, but ate them nonetheless. These consisted of: chicory, beans, zucchini, eggplant and peppers lightly drizzled with balsamic vinegar. And bread, bread, bread.
I thought our meal had concluded when they took away the last of our plates. But that would not be the case I soon would learn. Unbeknownst to me, it is customary to order one of the three classic Roman pastas after your Fraschetta. I wish my friend had told me before I started eating! Not wanting to be rude, he went on to order us all three, which we would all share. We would obviously need to ask for another carafe of wine, in order to wash it all down. And the feast continued…
My friends and I ended up closing the place down, feeling beyond full. We said our goodbyes to everyone at Osteria dar Compare (one of the oldest family-run establishments in the area) including nonna, who had been serving us our never-ending dinner.
I couldn’t’ have asked for a more memorable evening for my first Fraschetta.