Is there an ingredient that you are a little bit obsessed with? A condiment that you can’t live without? A special seasoning that drives you a wee bit potty? For Mr Sunshine and I, this ingredient is the trusty truffle.
So of course, we could not honeymoon in Italy, the motherland of the truffle without making a visit to a restaurant with a menu especially tailored to the “diamond of the kitchen”. Having scoured the internet for reviews, we alighted on the perfect solution and one hot and steamy Tuesday evening in July, we set off in search of a little restaurant tucked away on beautiful Via di Ripetta in the heart of Rome. We were heading to Ad Hoc.
Our evening actually started around the corner from the main restaurant. The owners had invited us to an intimate truffle tasting in their tiny boutique truffle store of the same name.
A little late, due to getting lost along some of the winding roads close to Piazza del Popolo, we joined two couples downstairs in the dark and atmospheric basement of the store.
Here we spent a blissful half an hour, sampling black and white truffle spreads on little squares of bread, and some rich and earthy truffled olive oil, while knocking back as much free prosecco as we could muster.
With tastebuds tickled (and insides a little pickled), we shuffled around the corner for the main show.
Seated in a prime spot by the window, we glanced at the menu and decided in an instant. The black truffle tasting menu, with assorted wine pairings was the only option for a night like tonight.
Our waitress brought us a dish of black truffles, and allowed us to touch and smell them, while she explained their origins and talked about how they would be used in our upcoming dishes.
By this point, I was starving and beginning to feel the effects of the prosecco, so I took a turn around the room to try to distract myself.
The restaurant itself is like a gorgeous treasure trove of exciting treats. Famous Italian wines line the walls…
An ancient station clock hangs from one corner, just below an ancient exposed beam…
And display boxes are stacked in every nook and cranny. The result is something that is halfway between an old museum of artefacts, and my granny’s house, which I think is a rather homely and charming effect!
In no time at all, our first plate of food arrived; an appetiser of truffled pate and beef carpaccio with truffled balsamic vinegar. I am pretty sure we both almost licked our plates clean.
The tasting Hors D’ouvres came next, which included a buffalo ricotta and truffle roulade, beef fillet tartare and truffle oil, and a toasted truffle brioche with duck liver pate and truffles.
I would so dearly love to tell you about all of the elements of these dishes, but frankly I was so hungry by this point that I scoffed the lot without having time to think much about what I was eating. What I can tell you was that it was all incredibly more-ish, and the flavours were incredible!
I can’t tell you too much about the wine either, other than that it was a red, it was delicious, and it was knocked back in a couple of gulps. I’m sure we made for a very attractive picture as we tucked into our food and drink with gusto, barely lifting our heads or acknowledging each other apart from to make an occasional grunt of appreciation!
Shortly afterwards, we quickly polished of these gorgeous Grissini too. I particularly enjoyed the sun dried tomato ones which were crunchy but crumbly, buttery and full of flavour.
Feeling a little more ourselves after some food, we were able to take our time over our pasta course, and really enjoy it. We had two dishes to sample. The truffled carbonara was housed in a crisp parmesan bowl, and the truffle was a beautiful twist on an Italian classic. The tonnarelli with parmesan, butter and truffle was incredibly rich and perfectly el dente. Both were topped with lashings of grated black truffle.
We both really enjoyed our pasta dishes, but the richness of the truffle running through the sauces meant that we couldn’t have managed too much more than the small portions we were given.
However, it was the wine that we had with this course which really stole the show. It was a Montepulicano Abruzzo, one of my favourite wines in the world. This one was particularly smooth, delicate and fruity, and once again slipped down far too easily. I think it was safe to say that we were both feeling a little squiffy by this point, as this photo nicely illustrates.
Our ‘tasting meats’ were duck breast glazed with black truffle honey and roast beef tenderloin with black truffles. By this point, I am ashamed to say that I was experiencing a little truffle overload, and had to pick some of the truffle shavings off the meat. However, without them, both dishes were perfectly cooked, and the subtle truffle taste that permeated the meat still shone through.
One of my favourite things about this restaurant was how truffle had been used so innovatively throughout the menu, with a touch of truffled honey here, a dash of truffle oil there, and lots of pure, unadulterated truffle grated straight from the tuber.
However, this was nothing compared to the selection of tasting desserts that came next, which were all well-known classics which had been cleverly laced with the delicate flavour of truffle.
Our very final plate of the evening was the best of all. Knowing that we were celebrating a very special occasion, the staff brought us each a plate of desserts with a special message to wish us luck in our future married life.
I polished mine off, along with a final glass of dessert wine.
As we paid up, feeling a little wobbly and discussing how we didn’t want to see another drop of alcohol again for at least a few more hours, a paper bag with a special present from the staff was brought to our table ‘for our nightcap’. Catching each other’s eyes, we laughed and accepted it warmly, thanking our waitress. We knew that as soon as we got back to our hotel room, we would definitely oblige.
It would have been very rude to refuse a very thoughtful wedding gift, would it not?!