When driving inland from Italy's coastal city of Rimini, one notices a change in landscape as jagged cliffs start rising up. Unless signs are read, it could go unnoticed that technically the country has changed to San Marino, a microstate within Italy that has a happy population of 32,000.
Does anything set the cuisine of San Marino apart from the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna or Marche, the two regions of Italy that the small country touches? While a flight across the Atlantic Ocean is probably a better way to find the answer to this question, we in New York City have San Marino Ristorante, connected to the SoHo Four Points by Sheraton. Glamorous, I know.
I walked into the restaurant entrance an hour or so before traditional dinner hour (four hours before traditional Italian dinner hour). Passing an unmanned bar and down the narrow hallway to the a couple connected and empty small rooms that make up the dining area, I finally found a staff member who confirmed I could sit anywhere. I took a spot at the bar, which is mostly used for hotel guests as a hotel bar, connected to the lobby. While I took a beer and the menu, a couple guests stopped by for a drink before heading out.
A quick search online compared with items on their menu came up with one dish that matched both lists: the pasta e fagioli ($9, below), a bean soup that can also come with bacon upon request. It is not uncommon in parts of Italy as well, but residents of San Marino enjoy this dish around Christmas time.
Thankfully it was cold out and the night was proper for soup. After a dressing of parmesan started melting, the salty beans and pasta had enough texture and substance to be enjoyable. The shallow bowl did not offer many bites, but my kind bartender brought some bread and I continued reading about the wonders of the tiny enclave. It is a stretch to say that I had a Sammarinese experience this day, but sometimes New York City needs a little stretching. At least I learned a little bit.
Please let me know if anyone has leads on the cuisine Holy See or Lesotho, I might be on an enclave kick.