Piperno's specialty is the artichoke. It is a Jewish (but not kosher) restaurant in the Ghetto, featuring the dish in which this edible flower bud, found at its best in the Roman Campagna, is (to quote from the menu) "thrown into boiling oil, smooth as a billiard ball," and "comes out like a chrysanthemum with petals open, distilling its pleasant perfume."
Piperno is near the enormous Cenci Palace, where an infamous act of parricide took place in the 16th century, supposedly casting a permanent gloom over the little square on which the restaurant is located. The interior, however, is anything but gloomy, with bottle-green fabric and interesting frescoes lining the walls of the dining rooms where white-jacketed, black-tied waiters do their very professional thing: filleting fish, checking peaches for ripeness when a customer orders one for dessert, inspecting the porcini and taking them to the kitchen to be prepared.
We were encouraged to start with the house specialties, not only the carciofi alla giudia but strips of tender young artichoke in the fritto scelto all'Italiana with variety meats. Even better was the fritto misto vegetariano, which consisted of the artichokes plus supplì; (a rice croquette with melted cheese inside), some chunks of mozzarella, and best of all, the stuffed squash blossoms. You wouldn't believe fried food could be so ungreasy, but you can pick it up in your fingers without a trace of fat. But then the art of frying is said to be a hallmark of Roman Jewish cooking. Run since 1963 by the non-Jewish Mazzarella family, Piperno is generally considered the best but most expensive of Rome's Jewish restaurants. It's worth the money.
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