I'd been to Il Grecale with friends in the past and also taken a stroll around the charming port area of this small seaside town in southern Lazio. That was in the summer and today was quite a different atmosphere. It was a blustery February day and we chose Anzio as we were searching for a delicious out of town meal in an area not too far from Rome...and above all an area that wasn't predicting torrential downpours. Oddly enough Anzio was about the only spot that fit the bill. So off we went, four women in search of fun and good food.
Thelma is my primary partner in crime; she's always up for an adventure and she loves Italy and food just as much as I do. With two other friends in tow we made a perfect foursome.
Our first stop was to the American Cemetery in Nettuno, a half hour north of Anzio. Although Nettuno is not a common spot to visit it's well worth it. The cemetery is filled with over seven thousand white crosses, mostly veterans of the Second World War. The grounds are kept beautifully and we noticed an occasional red rose placed by a few of the crosses. Apparently a local Italian gentleman, now in his 90's, who had fought alongside the American soldiers, comes each day and places a red rose on a few different crosses each day.
Anzio has become almost entirely pedonale, or foot traffic only, so it took us awhile to find our way to Il Grecale. We finally made it and although I'd reserved it was clear there'd been no need to. We were the only clients in the restaurant. Well, not entirely. When searching out the restaurant we'd encountered a young man who'd helped us with directions and then offhandedly told us he'd see us later. He appeared after we'd been seated twenty minutes or so: the owner's son.
Were I in the United States alarm bells would have been ringing loudly: empty restaurant, sparsely (poorly) decorated with tacky handmade Valentine wall decorations. In Italy this all means nothing. Food reigns supreme everywhere and it's a challenge to find a bad restaurant. Il Grecale is outstanding.
We started off with the bite-sized rolls and breadsticks: fresh out of the oven and delicious. We went through three baskets full and begged for more. The owner promised we would each leave with a bag full of freshly baked rolls and she was good to her word.
We tried desperately to extract the recipe from her but she was of a mind to keep this information closely guarded. We managed to ask enough questions about the rolls throughout the meal that we think we can reproduce a reasonable facsimile to feed our new addiction. The rolls are buttery and soft inside, lightly crisp and golden on the outside. Her breadsticks were equally amazing. So thin it's hard to imagine how she made them without breaking. Again crisp, light and buttery. The butteriness in both cases comes from wonderful extra virgin olive oil.
We tried four different pasta dishes, one more delicious than the next. Delicate tomato based sauces with rich seafood flavor that can only come from the very freshest, sea-to-table ingredients. It was unthinkable to move on to second course fish dishes so we closed with a Roman classic that's one of my favorites: seppie e piselli (cuttlefish and fresh peas).
A near two hour drive back to Rome after a meal like this seemed unwise so we decided to spend the remaining hour of daylight strolling along the port. Fishing for the day was done and given the blustery weather we were on our own. All boats were secured firmly in the port and fishing gear tucked firmly away making for a beautiful sight for those strolling by.