Though it’s been nearly two weeks since my last post, don’t think I have abandoned you. No, rather I spent a week eating my way through Rome, Italy and now I’m ready to report back.
Being it our first time in Rome, we started out with a food tour of Trastevere, the neighborhood in which we were staying. It’s a really cool area with lots of small, winding streets, great restaurants, piazzas, cafes, boutique shopping, street markets, etc. The tour was through Eating Italy and led us around Trastevere exploring various shops and restaurants.
We began with an apertivo at a trattoria, Da Enzo Al 29, of fried artichokes “Jewish Style” (carciofi alla guidia) and a glass of prosecco. The artichokes were kept whole, with the woody outer leaves removed, then deep-fried in olive oil. It’s one of the best-known Roman Jewish dishes and one of our favorite foods of the trip. We followed that stop with wine and nibbles in a cellar that’s 160 years old – older than the Colosseum!
Next we mixed it up a bit with sweets from a family-run bakery, Innocenti. We sampled 3 cookies – an apricot jam sandwich, a cookie of of ground hazelnuts and egg whites the name of which translates to “tastes better than it looks” and finally a chocolate dipped biscuit. My only regret was not buying a bag of cookies to bring home for next morning’s breakfast!
The tour continued on to a deli where we sampled cured meats and pecorino romano, a very popular cheese in Rome that was salty and firm. There were huge wheels of it everywhere. A few doors down we sampled Rome’s favorite street food, suppli. It’s a rice ball filled with mozzarella and bolognese sauce and then fried until warm and crispy. Amaze-balls!!
At this point we’d had quite a bit of food, so it was nice to walk a bit to our next stop, La Renella – a bakery specializing in pizza cooked in a hazelnut shell-burning oven that’s older than Italy!
How cool is that? We ventured into the kitchens to see the ovens and the enormous vat of pizza dough proofing for tomorrow’s batch. During the tour we ate classic margherita pizza, but as La Renella was 5 minutes from our apartment, we returned later in the week to sample many other types (artichoke, grilled eggplant, sausage and mushroom).
You’d think we’d had enough, but it was time for our main meal at Osteria der Belli where we finally got our pasta fix. Cheese raviolo (single version of ravioli – so just one big pillowy raviolo) followed by fettucine with mushrooms cooked in chilli oil and finally the Roman classic, carbonara. Amazing how a few simple ingredients – pork belly, pasta, egg, pecorino romano, white wine – transform into something so divine. Dinner was accompanied by a dry white Frascati wine from vineyards just outside of Rome.
With dinner finished, there was one more stop. Any guesses? Yes, gelato. When you ask most people what food they associate with Rome, pizza and gelato are right up there, and for good reason. The earlier pizza sure didn’t disappoint, so I was hoping the gelato would do the same. Our gelato stop was at Fatamorgana. It serves traditional gelato flavors (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, coffee, pistachio) along with lots of crazy experimental flavors. And the coolest part about Fatamorgana and all the other gelaterias we visited (and we visited them like it was our job)? You can purchase the smallest size and they still let you select two different flavors! Very handy for the indecisives like myself. On this trip (because as with all of our favorite places on the tour, we came back later in the week) I had basil walnut and then chestnut honey orange peel. So good!!! Our guide told us the key to finding a good gelato shop, one with creamy, dense gelato and not whipped with a bunch of air, is to look at the colors. If you see neon-green pistachio, avoid it. Pistachio should be a dull green, kind of like camouflage green.
With that we waddled back to our Trastevere apartment and slept well, dreaming of our next meal.
Note: For a complete list of restaurants, cafes and gelaterias that we visited during our trip and which I recommend, see the Rome page in the Travel section.