Italy in Nine Parts- Fiumicino

Enjoying my last night with a pair of surprises


Fiumicino is located just a few kilometers from Rome, and is home to the local international airport. Now if you’ve been staying in Rome you might not want, or need to move yourself closer to the airport. Getting to the airport from Rome is actually pretty easy, just take the train. But if you’ve been travelling around the region with a car, the last thing you should do the night before your departure is navigate into Rome.

Fiumicino has historically been the stop of last resort, home to many hotels, all of them over-priced and underwhelming. It’s a tough thing to deal with, spending your last night in Italy in a crappy hotel, but there is now a solution: Hotel Seccy. Want even better news? There are also several new restaurants in Fiumicino, one of them is actually worth a detour to visit!

What to expect: Prosecco

Prosecco is a unique grape, as it is almost always used to produce the sparking wine of the same name, in Italy's Veneto region. The wines tend to feature a light orchard fruit tone, recalling white peaches and pears, with bright acidity and light body. Many versions of Prosecco have a touch a sweetness that adds fullness to the feel of the wine, though there is a movement towards producing dryer wines, particularly under the Cartizze denomination.
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The menu is somewhat limited here and is verbal, though I assume someone wrote it down somewhere.

This wasn’t hash good but good nonetheless.

So after much research I chose the Hotel Seccy as my last stop in Italy. This small, modern hotel sits incongruously in a residential neighborhood of Fiumicino. The location is actually excellent, easy to drive to and from and within easy walking distance to the heart of town: the canal that separates the two halves of Fiumicino.

After checking into my room, a spacious, well equipped and modern room, I set out for a stroll around town. Fiumicino is separated into two halves by an offshoot of the Tiber River (fiumicino is the diminutive of Fiume, or river). There is a convenient, if slippery, footbridge that connects the two halves. On the north side, wher the Hotel Seccy is located one finds, an assortment of restaurants, fish shops, stored and bars lining the river front promenade. On the south side there is really nothing on the riverfront, though there are two avenues that come to a point just to the west of the footbridge.

I explored the south side of Fiumicino before searching for dinner and discovered an excellent, and very trendy, wine bar on the Via Giorgio Giorgis called Baroncini. I stopped in for a glass of wine and asked around about dining options. In fact, there is certainly no shortage of wine bars in Fiumicino as I later stopped in several other enotecas in search of dining advice, or course.

Well my meanderings brought me back to the north side or the river and I settled on trying the Ristorante Portvs, located just off the riverfront on Via della Spiaggia. From the outside the restaurant seemed nondescript at best but once I entered I was greeted by a nicely appointed, informal room, and one of the most attractive wait staffs of my trip. I was off to a fine start! And it gets even better, as soon as I was seated I was offered a glass of Prosecco to whet my appetite.

I was offered a choice of antipasto, raw, cooked, or both, settling on both, as well as a pasta and main course. For the pasta I opted for orecchiettewith frutti dal mare and for a main, fried seafood, this is after all the land of fried seafood, fried calamari being a local specialty. I did not know what I was in for.

I took a look at the wine list, surprisingly good with many well considered selections across many price points. I opted for a half bottle of Falanghina, from Taburno. The 2008 as it were. This was a great choice, though not local it’s a wine well suited to seafood. Brimming with smoky peach and apple notes on the palate with a richness cut by mineral tones and refreshing acidity on the finish it was difficult to stretch the half bottle through the meal that was to come, but I made due, with another glass of Prosecco, please.

My first course came, a sweet raw prawn, two sweet shrimp and some thinly sliced swordfish crudo over radicchio were all excellent but the big surprise was when I picked up my lone oyster. Not fully separated from its shell, this big oyster was plump, juicy, and only faintly briny with a delicacy and sweetness that was surprising. Not to self, next time I’m in Fiumicino, get more oysters.

I was surprised that all of my antipasto was raw, perhaps there had been something lost in translation I thought. Well in no time I was proven wrong as a rather significant plate of antipasto was delivered to my table. Here there were lightly curried shrimp backed in light pastry, marinated anchovies, and a fish cake of some sort, dry and tasteless and the only low point of the meal.

And then there were two startlingly fine dishes. A squid stuffed with a light, delicately seasoned mousse type stuffing draped with bright, basil scented tomato sauce which was expertly executed and a potato, cabbage, and salt cod hash that was simply amazing.  Now it may not sound amazing, and it certainly didn’t look amazing, but the flavors were so clear and precise, and balanced. Well, I could have made a meal of just that, but I was not to be so lucky.

My next dish arrived, the orecchiette pasta with mussels, clams, baby squid and scampi. This was a fine rendition. The pasta was firm and perfectly cooked and the seafood all fresh and sweet in a light tomato and parsley sauce.  The mussels were a tad over cooked but otherwise I had no complaints.

My main course was delivered shortly after I finished my pasta. I heard it being cooked as the woosh of frying emanated from the kitchen once my cleaned pasta plate had made its return.  In no time a steaming plate of fried squid, shell on shrimp, and whole fish made its appearance. I don’t mind the crunch of fried shrimp shells, especially when they are on such delicate and sweet shrimp as thee, and chomping into a fried fish head is something I look forward to so my reaction to this plate may very well be quite different than someone who has a different set of sensibilities.

I loved it. Lightly dusted in semolina, the fried seafood was fresh, crisp, and surprising light as properly fried seafood can be. What a treat, and what a way to end one’s final meal in Italy. I did require a digestivo as it were, and made my way back to the Hotel Seccy at a rather leisurely pace. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep. My bed was actually very comfortable and the room quite and peaceful, even with the window cracked open. I highly recommend both the Hotel Seccy and the Ristorante Portvs for a last night in Italy. One can certainly do worse, much worse indeed.

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