Rome + Bourdain = La Dolce Vita

By Karen

No Reservations is in Rome tonight. Don’t miss it. Period. It’s that good.

Yes, it is filmed in black and white with some subtitles, but they’re sprinkled like condiments, not the main course. The food gets hints of color.

Bourdain fears that fans will hate his foray into Federico Fellini’s style, but if you’ve ever enjoyed a Fellini film, you’ll get it. Tony is justifiably proud of the result and blogged at length about how they achieved it.

Rome is now on my short list of episodes, along with Venice and his very first one in Paris, that I could watch again and again. Bourdain, in suits and ties throughout, channels Marcello Mastroianni, and Ottavia appears in two scenes, the quintessentially earthy Italian. She deftly deflates his ego as only she can, even though she tweeted at the time that she was ill and off her game.

Travel Channel used one of the lamer moments for this promo which, for some reason, WordPress isn’t letting me post, even after repeated attempts, so here’s the link.

This show reminded me why I fell in love with NR in the beginning, and wiped away the ugly memories of Dubai and Kerala.

Australian blogger Lorraine Elliott at Not Quite Nigella did a phone interview with Bourdain that’s the best I’ve seen in a long time. She managed to cover new ground, and Tony confirmed that his next book is a crime novel.

Blogger Cooking for Assholes was thrilled to find himself “validated” by Bourdain during Lorraine’s interview. Look for his August 11 post; they don’t seem to have separate addresses.

Dallas Observer interviewed John Tesar, chef at Dallas Fish Market, and asked about Bourdain’s drinking habits. Calling Tony “Flaco,” Tesar said Tony never passes out, and throwing up is against his religion.

The Show Girl at TVSquad spoke to “Iron Chef” Michael Symon about Bourdain (she’s totally annoying, but it’s mercifully the first clip), and Symon good-naturedly said some catty things about our Tony.

Cats Working reader Morgan found a lengthy November 2002 Q&A with Bourdain in the Washington Post. I don’t remember ever seeing it, but it accompanied publication of A Cook’s Tour and is vintage Bourdain.

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14 Responses to Rome + Bourdain = La Dolce Vita

  1. Adele says:

    Karen, excellent catch on the Almost Nigella interview. It was good to see someone ask more than the usual questions. I must say, I’m a little concerned about the Conrad-esque trip down the Congo, though; there hardly a more unsafe place than the Congo.

    The Rome NR was wonderful in every way. The black and white shooting worked astonishingly well; it was beautifully done.I think my vision of Rome is black and white as well. Tony looked fabulous as the world-weary Italian wannabe in the skinny ties; Ottavia was reminiscent of the young (if potty-mouthed) Sophia Loren, and the food had me drooling. I think I’ll be making Spaghetti Carbonara tomorrow, even though I know I can’t afford cheese as good as they had in Rome. And Rome was the star of the show. I’ve been to Venice, Florence and Milan, but never Rome. That’s something I’d love to correct.

  2. catsworking says:

    You know, Adele, I was thinking Ottavia reminded me of Sophia Loren during that scene in the car. I loved Tony’s fake driving against the phony scenery. Reminded me of Roman Holiday, but I think they were on a motor scooter.

    I had a hankering for spaghetti after watching it, but I’d just made a huge pot of brown rice and didn’t want to overload the fridge with carb leftovers, so maybe this weekend I’ll watch it again and do Italian.

    PS: The Rome episode definitely aroused people’s curiosity. Cats Working had a sudden spike that began yesterday with 4,000 hits.

  3. C from Florida says:

    Mama Mia! The nouveau Fellini that danced off of my screen last night was award winning TV for sure. And the food—-chow bella (pardon the pun). The pasta dish with parmesan served in what looked like a little boat of melted mozzarella was something I never saw before and I wish I could remember the name of the dish. Didn’t you just love the way that the food was occasionally “tinted” in the film to add even more interest? Did you think the scene in the “Angry Cousin” restaurant was staged to look like they really didn’t like being filmed? And–don’t even get me started on Tony’s white suit. There aren’t too many guys that aren’t Italian that can pull off wearing a “First Holy Communion” suit in middle age. Fabulousness! I think one has to be of a “certain age” to really understand the reference to the old black and white “art films” of the late ’50’s. The clown could have come right out of La Strada. What a wonderful homage to Rome and what respect this episode had for the viewer. I will take this over warthogs and Romanian drunks anyday.

  4. catsworking says:

    C, seeing Bourdain standing alone on the shore in that white suit almost brought tears to my eyes. I loved the clown scene as well. It struck just the right note of absurdity. And it was the first episode in a while that I was excitedly INTERESTED in what he was eating.

    Personally, I don’t think the scene in the “Angry Cousin” was faked. They were probably OK, even flattered, to be filmed at first. But when it dragged on for 2 hours and affected lunch traffic, they got pissed and let him know it.

  5. Adele says:

    C., I think that pasta dish is called Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, and it’s spaghetti with black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. According to Michele Scicolone, in 1,000 Italian Recipes(a very good cookbook, btw)it’s just2T salt, 1lb spaghetti or linguine, 2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1T coarsely ground black pepper and 1C Freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Cook the pasta in at least 4Quarts boiling water to which the salt has been added. When pasta is al dente, drain, reserving some of the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the oil, pepper, cheese and enough pasta water to make the cheese melt. And that’s it. This recipe doesn’t give instructions for making the parmesan cup.

    And Tony in that white suit on the beach – fabuloso!

  6. T says:

    I gotta say that food in Liberia had my mouth watering.
    So nice when he took the young guys heirloom back to his daddy and mommy.

  7. C from Florida says:

    Adele, Grazie! I am going to hunt around the net to see if I can figure out how to make the little cup for the pasta. I thought it was mozzarella but parmesan should work too. Thanks to this show I am also going to try my hand a risoto with mushrooms and maybe some shrimp thrown in for good measure. The seafood grille on the beach was mouth watering.I also fell off my chair when during one of the driving scenes Tony gets out of the car while the background traffic footage is still running–hysterical!

  8. karenlee says:

    I recorded and saved the Rome episode. It’s beautiful and so are Mr. & Mrs. TB. I want to watch it again because it’s a work of art. Well done.

  9. catsworking says:

    Welcome, karenlee! I recently discovered the trick of recording No Reservations from Verizon On Demand, where it appears the next day. It runs 45 minutes because the commercials are minimal — with NONE from Chase.

    Yesterday I was reading comments on Bourdain’s blog to get a feel for his die-hard fans’ take on Rome, and much of it was just as he feared — they just didn’t get it. Some of them simply CANNOT watch anything in black & white. Tinting the food with color wasn’t enough; they couldn’t visualize it. And the whole Fellini thing, forget it. Right over their heads.

    But MANY complained about the Travel Channel running some promo across the bottom of the screen during the Angry Cousins fight scene, obliterating the subtitles! Way to go, TC! Sabotage your highest-rated show.

    I saw the episode online with no commercials, so I didn’t realize this happened. Now I hope it doesn’t happen when I do my taping from On Demand or I’ll be PISSED!

  10. Adele says:

    I forgot that Travel Channel did put a promo on the lower part of the screen during the Angry Cousins scene; they should have checked to see if there would be any subtitles in the scene.

    C., I thought all the food looked spectacular and that grill on the beach still has my mouth watering. Depending on where you live in Florida, you might have a shot at getting fish as fresh as they used in NR. Risotto intimidated me for years, but it’s really not hard, just a little putzy. The rice lets you know when you need to add more stock or broth, and without butter, it’s still surprisingly creamy. In cooler weather, when I’m roasting chickens often, I save the carcasses and make my own stock, and the best risotto I ever made, used homemade stock, but packaged stuff works too.

    I’ve now watched the Rome show 3 times, and it’s too bad that Tony’s getting such negative feedback on his blog. Makes me disappointed in his fans. I know if you’re young, you wouldn’t have been exposed to black and white movies much, but I’d think curiosity about life would have led some people to Felini — and I just expected that Bourdain would have more erudite fans. I mean besides the punk music references, Tony makes makes frequent literary and film references.

  11. catsworking says:

    Adele, I think it’s a sign that our boy is growing up. His younger fans will become disaffected and move on, and we’ll be waiting for him, willing to buy his books and let him indulge his more creative flights of fancy. He should be thanking his lucky stars for us. 😉

    PS: You reminded me I’ve got a box of Trader Joe’s mushroom risotto in the pantry that I never remember to make. But I’m just coming off a rice binge and pasta is definitely next on the menu!

  12. MorganLF says:

    Well I loved this one! That is the Rome I grew up seeing in movies and Tony & Ottavia looked the part-comepletely fabulouso! I have to say for such a low budget show the camera work is consistently great. He seems to be at his best in Italy but I can’t wait for Paris.

  13. Marina says:

    I haven’t been able to catch the Rome episode, but I hope to soon because I love B&W and Fellini! So sorry that many of his fans didn’t “get it”…

  14. catsworking says:

    Marina, if you liked Sardinia, you will love, love, LOVE Rome! Ottavia is movie-star gorgeous in the car scene (although she was sick as a dog), and Tony has never looked better. Although many fans didn’t like the black and white, it created a Fellini-esque mood that was perfect. It’s definitely in my top 5 favorite episodes.

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