The Food of Rome
Let me make one thing perfectly clear from the start when we speak of the food of Rome we are talking about a great variety of different types of dishes and ingredients. For me to review every facet of this city’s amazing array of flavors in one article would be an impossible enterprise. What I am focusing on is the food of Rome which I love, a personal tale if you will. The food of Rome I grew up with and which I come back for every time I return, eager to savor the flavors I most enjoy when in the city of my youth.
The places and the culinary traditions I enjoy the most are, in my view, the most Roman of all of the food experiences. Whether it is the traditional pasta dishes or the street food or even the sweets one can stop and savor at every corner of the city. The food of Rome always gives me a sense of home and though Italian food is found everywhere in the world, it is the local ingredients and those small culinary secrets only found here that make each bite so special, so delicious.
The Holy Trinity
What I refer to as the holy trinity of Roman food are the three pasta dishes that make up what is undoubtedly the most characteristic Roman food experiences in the city. Carbonara, Amatriciana and Gricia – three pasta preparations that embody Rome’s uniquely rustic and delicious culinary traditions. No matter where you are in the country, these dishes are only made in Rome and the surrounding area. Don’t try ordering these dishes if you are in Florence or Milan or Venice, it just isn’t the same. Pasta alla Carbonara as it is referred to is as simple a dish one can get. Guanciale (pig’s cheek – “guancia” in Italian means cheek), eggs, pepper and a proportional combination of pecorino and Parmigiano cheese. Though some favor one cheese over the other. Pasta alla Gricia is simply a Carbonara minus the eggs. Guanciale is slowly cooked until it is crispy and renders its delicious oils and then the pasta is mixed in along with a generous dose of pecorino cheese and black pepper. Amatriciana on the other hand, has the same ingredients as the Gricia but tomato sauce and spicy “pepperoncino” is added for an extra kick. There are a variety of establishments in Rome that serve these dishes and at the end of this article, I will list for you some of the best places to savor these perfect examples of Roman food.
On my last trip to Rome, I was lucky to enjoy the guidance of an expert Roman guide, Teresa Di Iorio who provides a variety of tours of the city including a mouthwatering visit to some of Rome’s secret food sanctuaries many of which, even after close to twenty-five years of residence in the city, I had never known about before.
The first example of Roman food I never fail to the seek out is the suppli’. A breaded rice ball usually filled with meat sauce and a ball of melted mozzarella in the center. This is a typical Roman street food. Usually found in most “food to go” establishments, Teresa took me to a place I had never known existed – Supplizio – a hole in the wall just off of Via Giulia, that serves your traditional suppli, but that also serves a variety of other flavors that blew my palate away. From Carbonara suppli, to Cacio e Pepe suppli, suppli with anchovies and butter to a variety vegetarian flavors. These fried bundles of deliciousness are not to be missed.
Walking through the winding streets that snake into the city from the Tiber River, you enter the neighborhoods of Rome I enjoy the most. From the beautiful Via Giulia and Via Dei Banchi Vecchi, to Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Farnese and the old Ghetto. One finds a collection of food shops that are sure to satisfy anyone’s appetite and give you a rich sample of the delights of Roman food. From Il forno campo dei fiori on Campo dei Fiori with its hot, fresh pizza by the slice to the Norceria Viola a shop that sells every conceivable form and shape of salami, mortadella and prosciutto along with a healthy selection of local and Italian cheeses. The best part is, you can try them all.
Ready for Something Sweet?
Roman food also includes a variety of pastry stores, cafes and specialty shops to expand anyone’s waistline. One such sweets shop was in fact not even of Roman origin, but a Sicilian pastry store that I had never come across before, just off of the Via Dei Giubbonari. I Dolci Di Nonna Vincenza is primarily a Sicilian pastry store offering a rich variety of cakes and cookies made from the tradition of using almonds and marzipan as a base and mixing them with a variety of other flavors. Pistachio, cherry, Nutella, ricotta to name a few. Nonna Vincenza also offers a great coffee to accompany the sweets so as to make it a perfect stop after lunch or dinner.
The last stop on my tour of Roman Food is theL’Antico Forno Roscioli. An offshoot of the very well known restaurant and food store. Forno Rosciloi is heaven for those who love fresh baked breads and cakes. Everything from pizzas by the slice, fruit filled cakes and their amazing Castagnaccio, a sweet, rich cake made from chestnuts, one of my favorites. You can stop here and have them make you a sandwich on hot fresh bread or sit and have one of their ready to go dishes made daily in the small kitchen in the back.
Roman food is varied and delicious, rich in flavors and rich in tradition. The places to try are endless. If you visit Rome I would strongly suggest you take a food tour with a guide who can bring you to the places that best exemplify the culinary tradition of this great food city – just diet for a couple of months before you come over.
Where to go:
Best pasta alla Gricia – Da Francesco, Piazza del Fico, 29
Best Carbonara – Roscioli, Via dei Giubbonari 21/22
Best Amatriciana – Sora Margherita, Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30
Supplizio – Via dei Banchi Vecchi 143
I Dolci di Nonna Vincenza – Via Arco del Monte 98a
Forno Roscioli – Via Dei Chiavari 34