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Ours Are Better–more hamburgers per piacere

One of our current favorite restaurants in Rimini is Nud e Crud. It’s just across Ponte di Tiberio, the 2000-year-old Roman bridge that takes you from old Rimini into San Giuliano, which is fisherman Rimini (and Fellini Rimini). Nud e Crud translates roughly as plain and raw. The food is simple and consistently excellent. A staple on the menu is piada, the local flat bread you make sandwiches with, and cassoni, a folded piada with a filling that’s sealed inside. Locals would order piada with sausage, radicchio verde, and onion; or piada with sardine, radicchio verde, insalata, and onion; or piada with squaquarone, a soft local spreadable cheese. Yesterday I was startled to see, at the top of the menu, “pidburgher,” Nud e Crud’s hamburger. 

Hamburger? In Italy? Who would order that?

Rimini is a tourist town. Maybe that explains it. Give some of the people what some of the people want. By the looks of it, the hamburger is catching on in these parts.

When I searched where to order a hamburger in Rimini, a lot of places popped up. Some, for the monolingual tourist, in English: Meburger, My Burger, HomeBurger, Old Wild West, Draft American Slow Diner, Porky’s Pub; Malto Craft Beers, Burgers, Dry-Aged Beef. And some for the local clientele: Senza Forchette, Panino Loco, Hamburgheria Energy, Pane Vino Baghino, Sbionta, Il Gatto sull’Albiccocco, Hamerica’s. There are delights–or oddities–to discover here. Il Gatto sull’Albiccocco translates The cat on the apricot. Okay, I’m a little interested. Also a little afraid. And, weirdly, Hamerica’s. What’s with the H?

Our friend Adele, who lives in old Roman Rimini, tells us that whenever she travels, the night before departure she goes out for pizza. She says she tries to sit as close to the oven as she can. She likes it hot. “I have a pizza,” she says, “because I know wherever I’m going, I won’t find a decent pizza to eat.” She might find a pizza she could reason with, but in the end, her view would undoubtedly be “ours is better.” 

Back home, before we travel, Tizi and I do likewise. Only instead of pizza, we have a hamburger. If you asked her, she would say mine are best, done on our grill. That’s nice. But our gold standard, were we to go out for a hamburger, would be Miller’s Bar in Dearborn. It’s a no-frills ground round, a bar burger served on a sheet of tissue paper. You can have a hamburger with cheese. You can have it with a cool, crispy flat slice of onion. Pickle slices, mustard, and ketchup on the table. Don’t ask for anything fancy on it. You won’t get it. And, really, you won’t want it or need it. It’s a hamburger for the Gods. Eating it, you are briefly deified. 

Why, while in Italy, would I want a hamburger? If I ordered one, my view would undoubtedly be “ours are better.”

When I look for the menu at Il Gatto Sull’Albiccocco, this tagline greets me: Wine and Restaurant. And this promise: Il nostro ristorante é una storia d’amore. Romantico, ricercato e legato alla tradizione. Wrong door. Do they mean romantic hamburger? No, they do not. Google flubbed. It’s a seafood restaurant, not a burger joint.

Next stop, Pane Vino e Baghino.

This place serves burgers? Their logo features a pig, a “baghino” is a pig, and so many gustatory delights in Rimini and Romagna appertain to the pig. But on the menu, hamburger comes first, and there are ten hamburgers to choose from. Ten!

These are hamburgers with a local accent, all named in dialect.

È burdél (the kid): hamburger with mayonnaise, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Se furmái (with cheese) hamburger with cheese, Sla panzetta (hamburger with bacon), Bela burdéla (a delicate hamburger for the more refined palate) with white truffle oil, barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato, sweet onion, and brie. Wait, white truffle oil? They’re just getting started. The next burgers get more elaborate, a little more Italian and international. Here’s where they drop the bomb: Tam fe s’cíupè (this one makes me explode), a breaded hamburger fried twice, with tzatziki sauce, barbecue sauce, arugula, tomato, sweet onion, and bacon.

This is fast food–with an accent, with an attitude. The more menus I look at, the more I see–and appreciate–an Italianized hamburger. At Doppiozero (for the double zero flour used to make piada) you can get hamburgers called Boss and Kroc and Factory, all slanting more in the direction of the homey’s taste. A hamburger with squarqueone and arugula, a hamburger with fontina, a hamburger with grilled pork cheek.   

In Pesaro, thirty minutes by car down the coast, is a restaurant called Harnolds. Perhaps there is, or was, a Happy Days connection. Harnolds has been there for decades. Like Hamerica’s, it features the inexplicable H.

Harnolds has hamburgers. 

I’m sure you can find a hamburger in most Italian towns now. Two days ago we had lunch in Mondolfo (population 14,000), a hill town inland from Pesaro. Not a tourist destination. We went for pasta and porchetta. Had we been so inclined, even there we could have found a hamburger. It might have been good, but I’m sure we would have concluded that ours are better.  Eat local. Here in Italy, especially, eat local. And eat well.

One day I will order a hamburger over here. Really, I will.

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