SPQR – Viva Italia!

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You all know by now I’m obsessed with food and pasta is at the top of the list. Oh to be immersed in pasta! Morning, noon and night, it doesn’t matter. I’m drawn to all things Rome – past, present, and future. From Romulus and Remus to Gelato, I’m  all in baby! From throwing a coin into the vivid blue water of the city’s most exuberant fountain, the Fontana di Trevi, to walking ancient ruins, Italy runs deep through this Food Stalker’s Italian veins.

Honestly though, how many Italian restaurants dare to name themselves after the initials of the Roman Empire, SPQR? What it really means is “The Senate and the people of Rome”, which is the official signature of the Italian government. (thank heavens for the internet is all I have to say). You won’t find a Gladiator-style experience here, but what you will find is tasty modern Italian food with an extensive Italian wine list to match. This place has many accolades: a rising young chef, 1 Michelin star and a great team of people that make SPQR Restaurant what it is; a smashingly handsome venue with an open kitchen and a clean modern interior.

Our super knowledgable waitress, Tai Ricci, laid down The Food Stalker red carpet with lip smacking edible gourmet masterpieces. Husband was on this special diet (they were most accommodating) therefore, I indulged on my own. I know, I know, it’s hopeless. Is this how Gael Greene behaved while out with her man back in the day? Don’t they have a pill for this sort of compulsion? Lordy, until they create one, this Stalker girl’s husband will have to go along for the ride, which, between me and you isn’t a bad gig. (Just saying!)

Chef Matthew Accarrino, hails from New Jersey ( why do all the cool peeps come from Jersey I ask you?) and is incredibly focused on the food. As executive chef at San Francisco’s SPQR, Accarrino’s menu reflects his personal culinary philosophy. His meticulous technique and creativity elevates the Roman-influenced cuisine the restaurant is known for.  Did you know he was recruited as opening sous chef at Thomas Keller’s New York restaurant debut, Per Se? Not his first day at the chariot races my friend.

Matt experienced a traumatic bicycle accident in his teens which forced him to change his dream of becoming the next Lance Armstrong. During his recovery he watched television and was inspired by the likes of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. After watching Emerill LaGasse’s show, Matt sent him a letter sharing what an inspiration he was. Emerill wrote him back and the rest as they say is history.

Although Matt was away the evening we visited, his influence was felt through the hands of Sous Chef Justin Uchtman. The yellow corn soup starter with lime crema and puffed corn awakened my sleepy taste buds. The Antipasta dish of razor clam, smoked potato, black radish taggiasca olive and ink sauce had me  in a clam daze dreaming of the Amalfi coast. Mushroom torchio with mushroom broth, spinach and garden rosemary was like a poem that haunts. * Le Sigh * Can you please overnight some asap? I shouldn’t have had desert but restraint was impossible. Cinnamon bombolini, milk caramel, apricot and elderflower with dollaps of brown butter gelato left me with that satisfied glow. ( You now the glow I’m talkin’ bout!) The luscious torched marshmallows and molded chocolates with oozing caramel centers accented by a plethora of different sea salts that arrive at the end of the meal? Mama Mia!

Everyone in this restaurant seemed part of a well-oiled machine. It’s just a feeling  you recognize after watching an amazing ballet of a dinner service. It’s like dining at the Piazza Navona on a summer night. Matt’s cuisine is original, creative and strikingly personal, leaving you feeling satisfied. He immerses himself in the food creating a cuisine that is all his own and believes cooking by feel is almost as important as using a recipe. If you get a chance, sit at the chef’s bar in the back and watch the action in the kitchen. Poetry in motion. (now if I could just take that slicer home – what a beauty).

I was swept away by Jeremiah Morehouse’s knowledge of wine. He plucked wines from the well stocked wine cellar for each course to perfection. SPQR has one of the most comprehensive Italian wine lists I’ve ever seen and his interpretation of scents, smells and flavors transported me to every corner of Italy. Delicious food and wine, along with a dash of culture and a sprinkling of history for good measure make the perfect marriage.

Look, being The Food Stalker is one of the best job on the planet but let’s get one thing straight, it takes time to develop expert Stalker Skills. Like a lioness in the jungle one must learn to hunt and seize the moment with no fear.  Sure things get crazy, but life is certainly never dull. (Husband knew what he was getting into when he signed up for this. Like a classic Dolce & Gabana suit he will be with me forever, with minor alterations over the years). This Stalker’s urge is like a jungle fever that won’t break until all the flickers have been fired…

Now we’re cooking with gas baby! Saluti!

* Purchase Matt’s Cook Book SPQR – Modern Italian Food”.  It’s not a travel book, yet not a restaurant cookbook but includes elements of both.

With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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