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Anthony Bourdain ‘Parts Unknown’ in Rome: Just the One-Liners

In the season finale, the globe-trotting host offers a lesson about fascism

Anthony Bourdain and Asia Argento at a boxing match.
Anthony Bourdain and Asia Argento at a boxing match.
Courtesy of CNN

The season eight finale of CNN travelogue Parts Unknown in Rome, Italy, cold opens on street performers singing a rather violent-sounding traditional love serenade. Wandering host Anthony Bourdain arrives in Italy’s capital seeking something beyond the traditional tourist attractions. “This is about people, often extraordinary ones, living their lives in the Rome you don’t see much in the travel guides or TV shows.”

What he finds is a city still in some ways living in the specter of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, just as it exists within the ruins of the Roman Empire. Throughout the episode, Bourdain makes not-too-subtle comparisons between Mussolini’s rule and the current populist movements taking place in the United States and Europe today. In doing so, Bourdain taps into Rome’s rich filmmaking community. The host often references the films of director and anti-fascist activist Pier Paolo Pasolini throughout his visit. Pasolini, Bourdain says, “celebrated the working-class suburbs of Rome” and depicted real, flawed people: “Rome’s true heroes.” Bourdain visits a friend in the seaside town of Ostia — connected to the city by an expressway developed by Mussolini and the place where Pasolini was assassinated — for drinks and discussion of what day-to-day life is like in Rome.

Bourdain dines out with American director Abel Ferrara, who’s settled down in Rome and also meets with Italian actress and director Asia Argento. Argento and Bourdain twirl spaghetti at a boxing match, visit Argento’s home for a chat with her kids and sister, and dine at her favorite (top secret) spot for homemade fettuccine. In the Rationalist architecture edifice Palazzo dei Congressi, the pair mull over the strange appeal of fascism and how people often look for answers in charismatic leaders — even if they aren’t the answer. Until next season, here are the best lines from Bourdain’s Roman holiday:

1. While eating prosciutto and artichokes at Osteria dal 1931: “I love this place. I want to die here already, and I might yet.”

2. Bourdain’s advice for eating in an unfamiliar city: “Some people in my hotel asked me where they should eat. Just wherever the concierge tells you to go: Don’t go there.”

3. Slicing into some sort of unknown cheese-filled pasta: “Oh man, that’s so completely awesome.”

4. Watching a Gladiators boxing match: “There is blood and sweat and bitter tears as these warriors face each other in brutal combat, but hey, there’s pasta and a nice cold glass of wine.”

5. On eating while watching a boxing match: “These people are fighting their hearts out, getting brain damaged and I’m eating spaghetti.”

6. Actress and director Asia Argento, on the parallels of spaghetti and violence: “This is violent, too. Looks like someone’s been opened and I’m looking at the insides of one of these guys.”

7. On the bar in Ostia where Bourdain meets his friend and some locals: “L'angolo Degli Amici, or ‘the Friend’s Corner,’ is a bar where everyone knows everybody’s name if they’re sober enough to remember.”

8. On the suburb of Ostia: “Ostia might be described unflatteringly as Rome’s equivalent to the Jersey Shore — a seaside suburb by the airport that grew up decidedly working class despite Mussolini’s intent that it would one day be Rome’s front door.”

9. On unusual Roman expressions: “I’ve been introduced to these traditional Roman songs with titles like ‘I never want to stop stabbing you, your dead relatives’ — these wonderful songs filled with very (inaudible)... apparently they were originally invented by people in bars and prisons.”

Courtesy of CNN

10. On tripe: “It’s one of my favorite things on Earth, but if you don’t do it right, it smells like wet dog.”

11. On bringing kids to dinner: “There’s a big difference right away between living in Italy and living in New York. They’re happy to see kids in restaurants here. It’s a whole different thing.”

12. On hot nuns: “This was the issue I had with Bad Lieutenant — the nuns were hot. I never saw any nuns that looked like that.”

13. On eating a typical Roman breakfast — a doughnut with espresso: “Oh man, there’s no dignified way to eat this.”

14. On Italian filled doughnuts: “I was unaware of this phenomenon previously, this bomba thing. I believe we call it a doughnut.”

15. Bourdain is keeping this spot with homemade fettuccine under wraps: “Rome is a city where you find the most extraordinary pleasures in the most ordinary things, like this place which I’m not ever going to tell you the name of.”

Courtesy of CNN

16. Argento, on going inside the Empire State Building: “Why would you go inside?” Bourdain: “Hell if I know.” She suggests: “Because it’s tall?” He shrugs: “I guess.”

17. Bourdain kind of likes the rationalist fascist architecture: “It looks just like Lincoln Center to me in New York. It’s exactly the same style of architecture.”

18. Asia jokes that everyone appreciates fascism a little bit and Bourdain replies: “Visit the states these days. It’s coming back. It’s big.”

19. Bourdain continues: “I think we’re looking for a man on a horse to make everything better.”

All Parts Unknown Coverage [E]

All Anthony Bourdain Coverage [E]

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