People often ask me why I moved to Rome. Is there a big stand-up comedy scene there? No. Oh okay, do you know anyone there? No. Are you going there to write a hard-hitting political blog about the 5 Star Movement? No.
Why did I move to Rome? Gricia. Pasta alla Gricia, to be precise. It is my favourite pasta dish and it is incredible. It deserves to have its own section at the Vatican Museums. The Colosseum should be filled from above with giant Spaghetti alla Gricia. The Fountain of Trevi should be renamed the Fountain of Gricia, and people should close their eyes, toss in a lucky coin, and wish for a husband who is literally just a bowl of Gricia.
If you are ever in a Roman restaurant, don’t even ask for a menu. Get. The. Gricia. If you don’t know how to pronounce ‘Gricia’, just ask for the ‘creature’, and they will probably bring you the Gricia. If you’re a vegetarian, or don’t eat pork, still get the gricia. Some rules are worth breaking. Trust me: I’m a lapsed Catholic.
Gricia is black pepper, pecorino romano, and pork cheek (guanciale). It’s the perfect marriage of salt and fat. It’s a hangover cure that makes you drunk with pleasure. You can have it with short pasta like rigatoni or bucatini, or long pasta like spaghetti or tonnarelli (spaghetti’s cooler, thicker older brother). It is shamefully unknown outside of Italy. The foodies of London cream their pants over creamy ‘Cacio e Pepe’s, unaware that if you add some seriously salty pork cheek to that dish, you have a bowl of pure heaven. I don’t want to start a turf war here because Cacio e Pepe is probably the second best pasta dish in the world. (The first is Gricia, in case that was unclear).
I first had Gricia here in 2016 at a place called Da Enzo but it was only back in London that I truly fell in love with the dish. Luckily I lived two minutes away from Pasta Remoli, Finsbury Park. As far as I’m aware, it’s the only place you can get Gricia in London (and believe me, I have looked – ask anyone who has walked past an Italian restaurant with me and been forced to dutifully wait on the pavement while I check the menu for that magic word).
I became such a frequent customer at Pasta Remoli that I gained a welcoming handshake upon entry and the occasional discount. It was a running joke that I would only ever order the Gricia. Anyone I came with would order the Gricia. If I ever booked in advance for a larger group, the waiter would reassure me “I told the chef you’ll probably all order the Gricia”. I don’t think they knew my name. I can only assume they called me ‘The Gricia Guy’.
Once, I told a waitress that the Gricia was better in Finsbury Park than in Rome. She was visibly offended. “No,” she shouted. “Not possible.” And she’s probably right. If there is a best Gricia in the world, it must be here in Rome. I have found a reason to be here. Do we need more writing from a white Englishman living in Rome? No. But do we need a blog about Gricia? Probably. In Rome, on 23 February 1821, John Keats died of tuberculosis, at the tender age of 25, having written only one poem about Gricia (which he tragically misspelled as ‘Grecian Urn’). So let this semi-regular blog serve as the best love letter we have.