Cacio e pepe

Italy is, to nurture the cliché, the land of endless Epicurean delights. Even the most discerning palates can find satisfaction in spectacular fishes and sea food from the South, or a delightful piece of meat drizzled with truffle olive oil. Tender, succulent prosciutto from San Daniele could tempt the most ardent vegetarian, and for those already of the meat persuasion, a Bistecca Fiorentina is the best thing in the world to hold that latter name. But my favorite dish is also perhaps one of the simpler ones to be found throughout Italy. Cacio e pepe (it literally means just cheese and pepper) has three ingredients including the pasta of your choice - I prefer bucatini, but it's hard to go very wrong), and takes next to no time to make. The only rule of thumb is, as with anything, to use fresh ingredients of some quality. Pecorino romano cheese and fresh ground black pepper won't cost you a fortune, however. That is all it takes; a delicious meal guaranteed to satisfy those in hunger.

It's not altogether unlike Ranieri's Roma. Like cacio e pepe, Ranieri's methods for success have proven to be relatively simple and humble. It isn't the result of an overarching philosophy towards football as a whole (see Pep Guardiola, Louis van Gaal), nor is it as mundane as its parts, its ingredients, suggests. Ranieri has transformed Roma not with delusions of grandeur, not with designs to play in a manner which she simply cannot. There are no attempts to enthrall the opposition into submission like Pep's Barca, there is no acting with disregard for the consequences like Spalletti's Roma. It's simply making the best out of what is at your disposal, and if done right it can be every bit and more as good as fancier attempts with a higher degree of difficulty attached to it.

Ranieri was hired on the first day of September, and that same day I wrote that it would seem almost revolutionary to have a coach that applied less of a futuristic and overly complicated vision of football, and simply played players in their natural positions. I don't want to come across as chastising Spalletti post fact, since he was a coach I admired greatly and honestly believed to have taken Roma to the zenith of its own foreseeable future, but he could do well to study the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Ranieri has, or at least he lives by a quote of the genius: simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Everything Ranieri has done since can be seen as a continuation of that attitude and belief. He said from day one that straightening out the defense took precedence, and once it formed a competent unit the success came. Players play in the position most natural to them and no one is being forced into something uncomfortable, like the proverbial square peg through the round hole. Perrotta is an obvious example; now he plays fifteen meters further behind on the field and has retained all of the good things about his game, while the unnerving ones, the make-you-slap-your-forehead types of misses, are minimized. (Baptista on the other hand sits on the bench full time, which also seems the most natural to him these days.)

Montali, whose job ostensibly is to give awesome sound bites and occult practices aimed to expand Roma's luck, said at some point, when Roma were still 10+ points off Inter's pace that he did believe Roma could compete. He wouldn't be interested in working on a project he thought had no chance of winning, but to win something else was needed. He called it the contest of money against ideas, and that having ideas as your main resource can be more valuable. Roma's idea is cacio e pepe; make the best out of what you got. It'll surprise everyone just how good it can be.