It’s 7pm, Tuesday 27th December 2016, and we’ve been in Rome for exactly 2 hours. After spending 3 days in Germany, where it was deathly cold, our mission is to look for a few degrees of warmth, to see every single bit of this glorious city (it’s been no.1 on my bucket list of places to visit) and have as much food and wine as humanly possible. Oh, and go shopping for a whole new wardrobe seeing that I will definitely not fit into any of my current ones. As consequences go I’m willing to deal with gaining a butt-load of kgs. I read somewhere that in Mauritania being fat is considered a sign of prosperity so if I won’t be able to get a handle on my weight after his trip I know where I’ll be accepted.
But I digress…so it’s 7pm and after settling into our apartment we’re heading out for a little stroll before dinner. Do you remember that feeling of utter betrayal when you found out that your parents had lied to you about a whole tree growing in your tummy if you accidentally swallow a seed? Well, that is exactly what I’m feeling as we walk down what looks like Rome but feels like Antarctica. The lies….the sheer lies of it all! I was told that it would be warmer. I honestly don’t expect much, just anything above 0 degrees. Nairobians weren’t built for this cold. When there’s one grey cloud we get into our winterboots/coats/hats/gloves, and if we sneeze even one we cuddle up on the couch with a hot water bottle with some tissues suffering from the infamous FLU. So you cant blame me for being confused and heartbroken when in my dream city but I feel like I’m a character from PINGU.
Let the record show that Rome is extremely beautiful even in the dark and the freezing cold. But there comes a time when one has to accept that they are not built for the cold and we’ve decided to seek shelter at this cute restaurant we’ve stumbled upon. Looking at the decor the first thing that comes into my mind isn’t necessarily the quintessential Italian style interior and that’s actually what pulls me in. Have a look at what I mean:
THE CASUAL: ORNELLI RISTORANTE CAFFE
The mistake most tourists make is that they always have a preconception of how things should look or be. Case in point my assumption that every restaurant in Rome was in that pizzeria style that’s in every movie. To be honest I was expecting restaurants with pizza dough flying around and someone screaming “mama mia” at some point. Yes…yes…I know it’s as ignorant as those people who think Africans are living on trees, swinging from vine to vine, having cheetahs as their pets. So I loved the “schooling” that ORNELLI gave me. I loved it’s look with its clean wooden panels and the modern monochromatic touches created by the plain white walls and black frames/chairs/black boards.
For all of you considering installing wooden panels in a space learn from this Ornelli and create some visual interest by placing the panels in different directions. As you can see having some lying vertically and others horizontally creates an exciting pattern.
The mistake most people make is that when they are working with a theme they over-saturate it with every cliche element in that theme. I love it when you take touches of a theme and use it to create your own style as is the case with this space that used exposed pipes to track their lighting. They have definitely succeeded in adding touches of the industrial style without making the room look like the S.I. unit of the style.
Okay so it’s now 8:30pm and we are a decanter, or two (okay…three) of wine in and the hunger is starting to kick in. Yes, we’re fully aware that we’re in a restaurant, but hey, when you’re in Rome you must sample every restaurant at your disposal. So drinks and aperitivo done, now off to the main meal!
The minute we step out the harsh reality hits me that a little food and a considerable amount of wine is not enough to warm me up as the cold actually seems worse than before. Okay, enough with the complaining Jordan, its just a little cold, and you are walking towards the direction of your third love, food (design and travel are on the top of that list), so suck it up girl.
When I tell you that design is about all your senses you should believe me. Because as we are walking down the street I get this aha, angle’s singing, sky parting, moment when I get hit by the smell of food that seems to have been made in heaven itself. To make matters even better it’s coming from a quaint Italian themed restaurant. Have you even seen that moment in a cartoon when a character floats towards food hypothesized by the aroma, well that was me.
THE TRADITIONAL: LA CUCCUMA
The brick finish on the walls and ceiling, the warm yellow walls, the wooden furniture, the arches and the touches of the red and green reminiscent of the Italian flag are the quintessential Italian restaurant style I had been ranting about earlier. I’m so excited to be in a more traditional styled restaurant and its as charming as I had imagined.
I will admit that it is quite crowded but that all adds to the charm because at some point you end up feeling like one big family having Christmas dinner together and whether you like it or not you wont leave without speaking to a total stranger like they were a long lost friend.
I will be honest, I am not a fan of the yellow walls as it seems too mustard-like and doesn’t quite create an appetizing area. I would have preferred having the colour used as an accent in certain areas and have ash white on all the other walls. But hey, I guess it would have killed the traditional charm. All in all I’ve loved the fact that my visual and taste senses have been extremely stimulated and I’ve just been in the town for 5 hours. I can’t wait for tomorrow….
So it’s the 28th and we’re up and about really early just walking around taking in all the sights and sounds before breakfast. We’ve gone to two local parks (Park of Colle Oppio and Giardini Nicola Calipari) and walked a block or two around our apartment to get acquainted with the area. An hour and a half later, at 9am, we’ve decided to give our stomachs their due diligence and I have just the perfect cafe to accomplish this mission.
THE ART DECO: THE GATSBY CAFE
During our walk I had spotted it across the street and literally run towards it like I was in some sort of a trans. A 1920’s Gatsby themed restaurant! It just seemed too good to be true. I felt like the Israelites when they could finally see the Promised Land. So now that its breakfast time there’s no ifs buts or maybes…we are eating here!
Now walking in, I was extremely confused because the interior style is far from the glitz and glam of the 1920’s Gatsby era. Instead it’s a more relaxed 1950’s style café and cocktail bar due to it’s choice of furniture and light fixtures. As I chat with our waitress I find out that the location was initially a vintage Gatsby cap’s store and some of them are actually on display upstairs and at the entryway, thus the reason for the name.
I do feel a little cheated because I was expecting more of the 20’s style but I do forgive them as the 50’s look they went with is actually spectacular. Seeing that they also double up as a jazz club I guess the theme is quite appropriate. What do you guys think of the idea of one choosing a name that’s very different from the decor style? Would you feel cheated if you went to a restaurant called “Africanism” but found out it has a very Australian theme?
But in all honesty, 20’s or 50’s, misleading names or not, The Gatsby is spectacular! Not only for my visual senses but also the food and service. If it wasn’t for the fact that the whole of Rome still had to explored I would never leave.
Now it’s out to the breathtaking sights and freezing weather. The plan is quite simple, to visit every nook and cranny of this amazing city. From the Colosseum, to the Roman Forum, to the Trevi Fountain, to the Pantheon, to the Spanish steps, to every art exhibition and museum, crossing the border to the Vatican…the list goes on and on. As long as its in Rome I shall see it. Nothing shall stand in my way, not the weather, nor sleep, nor hunger (okay, maybe hunger but if the last couple of hours are any indication that’s definitely not going to happen).
It’s 31st, the last day of 2016, and the sun is setting soon. It’s been a wonderful couple of days and I can proudly announce that I have successfully managed to see most of the parts of Rome on my list. Yes I haven’t slept much, I nearly froze to death and I will admit I did unintentionally miss some meals because I was having a blast sight seeing. I’m still in the city for a couple more days but seeing that it’s a celebratory night we’ve seen it fit to go to one of Rome’s most famous bars. If the images I’ve seen online are to go by this bar is amazing.
THE QUIRKY: OPEN BALADIN BAR
Even before I stepped into the space the view through the windows just brought a smile to my face. It immediately looks fun, quirky and extremely inviting.
It’s feature wall uses their main product, alcohol, as decor and I love it. There’s nothing as smart as successfully combining marketing and decor. Displaying numerous bottles of alcohol on a well lit wall behind the counter creates a brilliant focal point that looks more like a work of art than a display. Seeing that they offer close to 200 types of beers this is a brilliant way to display their wide range.
The lights work brilliantly to bring out the quirky theme. Made of felt they hang from different levels from wires running across the bar. What I love most about them is that they are visually light allowing the heavier elements in the room, such as the feature wall and painted walls, to stand out. I am curious though to find out why the heat from the bulbs are not affecting the light felt fabric. If you have any idea kindly comment in the section below because I’d like to try it out.
Metal seems to be a constant theme in the space originating from the metallic beer dispensers at the counter and spreading over to the counter itself, the stools and tables. As colourful as the beer menu is on the wall they have cleverly been able to isolate orange as the main pop of colour in the room through the stools, walls and beer dispensers labels. Let this be a lesson to all of you who want to have a colourful space that isn’t so overpowering.
Now let me say goodbye and wish you a happy new year in advance. Now that I’ve enjoyed every aspect of the decor I want to enjoy a couple of their beers. Don’t worry I wont be having all they have to offer as I do want to live to see 2017. Unfortunately we wont be crossing over to the new year at Open Baldin as they are closing at 9 am. We can already feel the excitement leading to the countdown from the staff because if they weren’t in their uniforms you wouldn’t be able to differentiate them from the customers as they have a ball drinking and dancing like the rest of us. It’s truly a brilliant atmosphere.
As earlier mentioned I’ll be in Rome for a couple more days, and I’ll definitely have to spend a whole day at the Vatican. I will be leaving for the city of Naples after that and I’d love it if you could join me on that journey in my next post EUROTRIP: NAPLES INTERIORS THAT GAVE ME LIFE (PART 1). To ensure you don’t miss out on it be sure to SUBSCRIBE BELOW.
I’d love to know what you think of my favourite Rome restaurants/bars. Which one did you love/hate the most and why? Be sure to tell me in the comment section below.
Till next time…Be inspired, Be you!