Last weekend’s whirlwind visit to see family in Rome found us indulging in some stunning food and wine in the city, on the coast and overlooking a crater lake. Perhaps the most memorable of the gastronomic experiences was the largest fish lunch I think I have ever consumed, by the sea at Fiumicino, known best as the location of Rome’s main airport.
Amelindra is a monumentally popular fish restaurant and, after negotiating our way through the queues of people waiting patiently for a table (we had pre-booked), we walked through into the vast dining hall past tanks of lobsters and trays of fresh oysters amid a hubbub of Italian chatter so loud that I felt we would have trouble making ourselves heard. Sundays in May are popular days for confirmation ceremonies in Italy and there were clearly several large and excited parties who had come to celebrate such an event.
My cousin and her partner had visited Amelindra before and their suggestion was to go with the set menu which would present us with a variety of seafood dishes that the restaurant does best and no more than ten minutes after we’d ordered, we were off. First up was a squid, salmon and celery salad served with rocket and a dressing of olive oil and lemon. My husband started tucking into the bread to accompany the salad and was quickly warned against it, this turning out later to be sensible advice. The salad was huge and, quite frankly, enough for a light lunch but suddenly there were two large platefuls of “cozze” (mussels) on the table, done simply with garlic, herbs and white wine and the temptation to mop the plate up with more bread was irresistible.
Included in the set menu deal was half a bottle each of local Lazio white wine which was uncomplicated yet refreshing and a versatile option, sitting quite happily with every course on the menu. There was no indication on the bottle as to the grape varieties but I suspect it was a Malvasia / Trebbiano blend.
Risotto con Gamberi was brought to us next, a triumph and probably my favourite of all the courses. Much as I adore risotto, I struggle to achieve the lovely creamy texture that this version had and I am, as we speak, about to dig out my mini-library of Italian cookery books to try and put this right. Back in Fiumicino, risotto was followed by gnocchi with clams, tomatoes, a hint of chilli and handfuls of fresh herbs. Again, the dish was full of flavour but I was starting to slow down by this stage and in the back of my mind I knew there was still a platter of Fritto Misto di Mare to come. Where would I find room for that? Two laden platters of Fritto Misto duly arrived and amongst the very varied offerings we found superbly cooked squid, prawns of all description, fried sole and delicate seabass. I gradually worked my way through a bit of everything and savoured those wonderful flavours of the sea.
And so ended the fish courses. We were then presented with a champagne flute full of frothy, lemon “sorbet” and a straw. It’s consistency was more like a thick, bubbly milkshake and a spoon might have been a better implement, but no matter because this was the ideal complement to our piscatorial discoveries: simple, light and fresh. Finally, after two mouthfuls of very strong espresso, we were off into the sunshine to walk off lunch, gaze at the ocean and reflect on the excellent value of the meal we had just enjoyed – 32 euros per person including wine and coffee.