On a clear fall day in Rome, I was sitting outside at Flavio al Velavevodetto, a restaurant in Testaccio, in a neighborhood that was once the city’s slaughterhouse district and is now inhabited by both older working-class people and gentrifying youngsters. Flavio de Maio, an elegant, middle-aged businessman turned chef, sat across the table from me; a translator sat between us. I had come at the recommendation of a friend, the Rome-based journalist and historian Katie Parla, who told me that if I was looking for the epitome of Roman pasta, this was the place.
I had a question for Flavio: Why did he think that the simplest pastas of all — pasta alla Gricia, pasta cacio e pepe and pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino — were the darlings of Rome, appearing on nearly every menu?
Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here. Photo by Grant Cornett.