The Big Last Meal at Elle Effe

The last dinner of a trip has to be a special one. I think I remember learning that during my childhood from my parents and I’ve lived by it ever since. I guess most people do.

For our last night in Rome we chose a place called Elle Effe on the petite Piazza Pollarola near the Campo de’ Fiori. Their pretty little terrace has a beautiful view of the Gesu Chiesa lit up for the night. Sitting at the table next to ours was an elderly lady sporting an elegant, golden tweed jacket with big gold earrings, bracelets and rings, her makeup flawless. She must have been in her 70’s. She ordered herself a Pizza Marinara and ate the entire thing, leaving only the crusts behind. She was awesome.

Elle Effe is truly a mom and pop spot, with the menu combining dishes from Mario’s native Sicily and Roman classics from Paola’s hometown, the capital. It’s a rather long menu, divided into antipasti, seafood antipasti, pastas, seafood-based first courses, fishes, meats, pizzas and desserts. We chose to share some things and ordered a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio to pair with what would be a light and pretty meal.

The Castello Ursino is a pair of toasted bruschettas, quite difficult to cut into three pieces and probably better ordered by an individual or a couple who doesn’t mind sharing bites. One comes topped with fresh tomatoes diced into small pieces, dusted with dried herbs and topped with fresh basil. The other is layered with mozzarella cheese, beautiful slices of buttery mortadella and crushed pistachios sprinkled generously over the top. I really enjoyed the combination of pistachio and mortadella, though I think the kitchen made a mistake and put the cheese on the mortadella piece instead of the tomato one. The tomato bruschetta could have used the creamy, voluptuous texture of the mozzarella, as it was a bit plain and watery without it.

Next up, the Colosseum appetizer, which looked pretty plain and boring as it arrived to the table, but was actually a wonderfully executed trio of fried stuff. First, a flaky chunk of codfish cooked perfectly and fried in a crunchy, very light breadcrumb coat. With a squeeze of lemon this was delicious, although I had to pull out several little fishbones while chewing my piece. Next, a fried zucchini blossom stuffed with cheese – a dish I had been seeing all around the city and had been craving desperately by the last day. The batter was quite heavy and the delicate flower inside lost in a creamy sea of delicious cheese. Sinfully delicious no-brainer deep-fried goodness. And finally two dense balls of ground meat and ricotta cheese in a crunchy, golden-brown crust. A great dish altogether, although I’d probably lose the ugly little lettuce garnish if I were in the kitchen.

Next, a Sicilian blood orange and fennel salad with black olives and oregano, a gorgeous combination that I ended up re-creating at home (much to the joy of my boyfriend, who happens to love fresh citrus-based salads, especially when paired with seared salmon). The mild licorice flavor and crunch of the fennel complemented beautifully the tartness and juiciness of the oranges. 

Upon first arriving to Elle Effe, we had spotted a plate of wonderful spaghetti in red sauce and an entire crab carapace hollowed out on the side. We ordered the same. What arrived was the perfect plate of pasta and the perfect last big main dish in Rome. The spaghetti was tender but with a bite. The sauce was incredibly rich in flavor, loaded with tart seasonal tomato and bits of juicy crab meat for an additional sweetness. The only downside of this dish is that our order came with an uncracked claw and no crab cracker, so we couldn’t access the sweet meat trapped in the hard shell. It was okay though, as there was plenty of crab meat in the sauce to compensate. Another beautifully executed Sicily-inspired dish.

As I had never actually had a tiramisu in Italy, I thought it would be a good idea to order one as our last dessert. Good lord… Lady fingers soaked with the perfect amount of very strong and flavorful espresso. The frothiest, most elastic and glossy, beautiful mascarpone I’ve ever had the pleasure of letting melt on my palate. A generous dusting of bittersweet cocoa powder over the top. Just one piece of advice: Don’t order this one to share. Get your own.

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