Wednesday, June 28, 2017
200 Views of Rome: Er Pesciarolo
I am so excited to tell you about Er Pesciarolo.
Not so much because it's so great, though there is that. And not because this place will lend itself to colorful descriptions, though there is that too. No, I am excited because, as far as I can tell, despite this being a gigantic and endlessly reviewing things Internet, my review here will be the first, anywhere, ever. The Pantheon has been reviewed online tens of thousands of times, the Borghese Gallery counts reviews in at least the many thousands. But Er Pesciarolo? It barely exists on the Internet. The best picture I can find of it is a shuttered doorway. I am on new territory here!
Is it because it's new?
No, for all I know it has been in business doing the same sort of thing for 120 years. It certainly looks like it.
Is it not exactly a real place, like when I reviewed the espresso vending machine at Palazzo Barberini and called it "The Palazzo Barberini Cafe (5 Stars)"?
No. It's real.
I guess I better tell you what it is.
Er Pesciarolo is a fish market.
Oh but it is a wonderful one, and strange, horrifying, and fabulous. I'm sure we would hardly have been likely to find it, in all our tramping about Rome, other than perhaps a charming glimpse or two, but for one piece of outlandish fortune. Er Pesciarolo were more or less our next door neighbors. Well, they were just on the other side of the tailors, who were definitely our next door neighbors. Just a little fish place, two doors down. As far as I could ever see they had no name, no signs, nothing. Just now I sought out their tiny presence on Google. I'm only pretty sure this is the right name, Er Pesciarolo.
It sounds right though.
There on our narrow little street, so picturesque that painters set up in a corner of it to capture its enchanting olde world view of colored tenaments and hanging ivy, charming little bistros, and tiny tradespeople shops of no use to tourists. Step into the fish store. Er Pesciarolo. They open early. Mainly the store consists of a single, open, great display of crushed ice, spread with fish. Oh, not the tidy fish of even the best fish stores you have known. It's much more like rustic fisherpeople took their boat out into some wild, secret part of the Mediterranean, flung their great net, lowered it stealthily to a great depth, and scooped up an outsized sample of the life of the ocean. Then, just before dawn, they raced it to Er Pesciarolo and just dumped it all out on their fresh morning bed of ice. Monsters, strangers, abominations, wonders! These were as much aliens as they were living creatures of my world. Cthulus, tentacled, shelled, writhing, glittering, many legged and toothed and eyed. These are the dazzling psychedelic experiments of God. Anglefish with savage gaping mouths, vampiric squid, spiked anemones, sharks, and bulbous leafy dead things, sprawled, fresh, sleeping.
I'm supposed to eat this stuff?
I assumed so. I don't really speak much Italian. But they were all dead. What else could you do with them?
It took me some days to work up the courage to buy something. Here again is the luxury of a 30 day visit. Day 1: spot interesting fish store walking past. Day 4: poke head in door and first spot fecund menagerie too fabulist to truly process. Day 7: take three fascinating steps inside and flee before anyone says anything to me. Day 9: go look at fish and run away when someone says something confusing to me in Italian. Day 11: walk with timid confidence to fish and take a good look. When someone says something to me, I manage not to run away. Day 12: Walk to counter and ask for a kind of starter fish for beginners. These would be some version of giant shrimp, or mini lobster, gamberini I believe they're called. I get two. I take them home. I clean them, whatever that means. It feels more like I'm eviscerating a tiny monster, messily. I cook it, not too much, in olive oil, garlic, and lemon. It's different than shrimp. More flavorful, tender, the kind of thing where one involuntarily starts to chew more slowly, as if to say "If every shred of my attention is on this every shred of my attention will be rewarded." It was.
And so you're off to Rome, or there already. Should you go to Er Pesciarolo, if you can even find it? On the one hand I've almost certainly exaggerated its virtues and wonders in every way possible here. Also, Rome is a city of wonders and treasures, do you really want to go look at some fish? And yet, on the other hand, Er Pasciarolo currently has an average rating on the Internet of 5.00 Stars! Not even the Pantheon can match that.