When in Rome:
- Tourists seem to live in Rome so see the main attractions then seek refuge in the less hectic areas of Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto
- Try the pastas Rome is famous for - amatriciana (flavoured with tomatoes and pig's cheek) and casio e pepe (pasta with cheese and pepper)
- Have a real pasta carbonara - no cream, just egg yolks
- Sample Roman-Jewish food in the Jewish Ghetto
- Eat like the Romans and have a sweet pastry for breakfast. The Romans don't eat eggs or anything savoury for breakfast. The only time they have a savoury breakfast is Easter Sunday.
- Beware of mountains of brightly coloured gelato. Thickeners and colour enhancers have been added to those. Authentic gelato would melt if you tried to pile them up high.
- Try an aperitivo buffet where you can enjoy drinks and a buffet of nibbles generally between 7 - 9 pm. However, we saw many places doing buffets of small dishes during lunch and dinner time as well.
- Do a food tour with Eating Italy Rome. Even my reluctantly-converted foodie husband thought it was the highlight of our trip in Rome.
- Do not ask for garlic bread because it doesn't exist over there.
- Get out of Rome and see the nearby countryside like Napoli. The green country fields are hypnotically luminous.
- Palatum and sample their regional wines
- Nonna Betta for Jewish Roman cuisine
- Da Enzo for a traditional trattoria
- Spirito Di Vino for their pork stew and 1000 + year-old cellar
- Enoteca Ferrara for their gnocchi, ricotta ravioli and tonarelli (a type of short pasta) cacio e pepe
- Fatamorgana, Giolitti, San Crispino, Old Bridge & Frigidarium for real gelato
- Innocenti for a range of biscotti made by the Innocenti family since 1920
- Il Sorpasso if you want to experience the bearded hipster vibe in Rome, or not
During this trip to Italy, we largely ended up eating at trattorias (usually family-owned, rustic, casual and serve traditional local food) rather than at more formal restaurants. I did look into fine dining options but I found myself reading menus that didn't look all that different from fine dining menus in Australia or the U.S. I thought the trattorias and osterias (even more casual than trattorias) gave a better sense of what everyday Italians eat and that's the experience I wanted and hopefully got.
In case you haven't noticed, I haven't posted any photos of pizza. I did try a few and had the famous Margherita pizza at its birthplace in Napoli but I'm not a fan of pizza so those photos haven't made the cut! Sorry!
When I first visited Rome 15 years ago, I found one of my best experiences in their ubiquitous local roast chicken. I recall having said chicken at a cafeteria-style place and was shocked to find it was the tastiest roast chicken I'd ever had because the meat was tender, moist and well-seasoned with salt and rosemary. So when I returned to Rome this time around I was keen to determine whether the Italian roast chicken of my memories lived up to reality. I sampled them in various trattorias in Rome and Florence and was not disappointed. Italy still has the best roast chicken I've ever had. I've been trying to recreate it since I got back and hope to post a recipe soon. I've made one attempt and it has already been the best roast chicken I've ever made but I need to tweak it a bit more before I share the recipe so stay tuned.
One final tip is if you're interested in doing a food tour, try to book one within the first couple of days of your stay. They give you great tips about the local food and doing this helped us eat really well in Rome for the rest of our stay. Our wonderful Eating Italy food tour guide Francesco also got me onto Katie Parla who has a handy little dining app called "Parla's Rome". Not only does the app list all the different types of dining experiences Parla recommends but it also has a map of Rome with her dining recommendations plotted on them. We used her app a lot and wasn't disappointed.