Chapel Hill, N.C. — Il Palio's Chef Teddy Diggs is teaming up with renowned author and journalist Katie Parla for a dinner that promises to take guests on a culinary tour of the side street kitchens and hidden hearths of Rome.
The Tasting Rome Feast, planned Nov. 15 at the Chapel Hill restaurant, will include a cocktail reception and classic dishes from Parla's new cookbook.
The focus on Italian cuisine is fitting, since the two first met in Rome for pasta at the acclaimed restaurant Flavio. That meal is the inspiration for next month's dinner.
The two actually have a shared love for cacio e pepe, a quintessential Roman dish that is basically a stripped-down mac and cheese. Cacio is Roman shorthand for Pecorino Romano, and pepe is, unsurprisingly, Italian for "pepper," Parla says.
"What I love about this pasta is that, above all, it’s simple yet challenged. Cacio e pepe is comprised of only four components: pasta water, pasta, Pecorino Romano and black pepper. Despite the simplicity of ingredients, the dish requires skill, technique and attention to detail. Once mastered, however, the process is deeply rewarding, yielding a delicious pasta that smacks of black pepper and creamy Pecorino Romano cheese in the mouth," Diggs said.
The dish has been a staple in Rome for quite awhile. Although the practice is not as common now, it was often served at various stages during a meal, and even at the end, according to chef Claudio Gargioli of Armando al Pantheon.
"Downing a plate of cheese and pepper-covered pasta after il dolce might seem strange to Romans today - thanks to the city's current food surplus and increasingly moderate drinking habits, these hunger-based, alcohol-fed traditions of the past have become a foreign concept," Parla said. "But this retired custom is a reminder that the way we eat in the Italian capital changes to adapt to new circumstances. As the slow evolution of local cuisine continues, gricia, amatriciana, carbonara and cacio e pepe embody the pasta-laden, Pecorino Romano-laced, undeniably savory spirit of Roman cooking."
Tickets for the Taste of Rome dinner are $125 per person and can be purchased by calling 919-918-2545.