I am not a culinary expert or a gastronome but I do know good gnocchi when I eat it. Growing up in Canada with two grandmothers who made them from scratch, I’ve developed quite a discerning palate when it comes to these little nuggets of potato-pasta goodness.
So when I lived in Rome for two years in the 80s, I made it my mission to find the best gnocchi place in town – which is harder than you think. First of all, gnocchi was not always available since it was only made on Thursdays, and only in the fall and winter (something about getting the right potatoes), so my opportunities were limited. Undaunted, I made ‘Gnocchi Thursdays” my weekly comfort food ritual, and after sampling bushels worth of these potato dumplings, my search led me to Osteria da Nerone.
This little family restaurant made by far the best gnocchi in town. Nothing ‘gourmet’ or ‘fusion’, just the traditional rich, hearty meat sauce on melt-in-your-mouth homemade dumplings. So good in fact, that I would regularly call the restaurant at lunchtime on Thursdays to reserve the number of plates I wanted that evening (once I was shut out at dinner by an earlier lunch crowd, so I learned my lesson) The staff knew me as the ‘Canadian girl, crazy for gnocchi’, and my Italian friends often indulged my obsession by joining me for a gnocchiata (gnocchi-fest) or to go gnocchiare (my own verb, ‘to eat gnocchi’, that I proudly invented!)
It’s been many years since I lived in Rome, but every time I return I visit this same restaurant, which thankfully is still there, and the gnocchi is as delicious as ever. It’s even available on days other than Thursday. But the real test came 7 years ago when I brought my husband there on our honeymoon, calculating that his Dutch passion for potatoes, and mine for pasta, would make for the perfect marriage. It did.
After almost 30 years, I still give Ostaria da Nerone ‘2 forks up’, and an exhuberant “Gnocchiamoci!” (let’s eat gnocchi!). If you’re ever in Rome, I hope you will, too.
TIP: OSTARIA DA NERONE is located at Via delle Terme di Tito 96 (very close to the Colosseum, on Colle Oppio, one of the seven hills of Rome)