When in Rome, eat like the Romans do
There's no place like Rome in the springtime - warm days, blossoming parks and uncrowded trattorias; and the best way to enjoy Rome is to walk. You don't need anything more, but a map in your hand, a few euros for a plate of delicious pasta and your eyes wide open. Get a deep breath and start your love affair with Rome, its vibrant streets and squares, the charm of its masterpieces, the shades of its monuments and its radiant sunsets. Every corner, every stone, every sound uncovers a mystery, brings the wind of history and the sweet breeze of tomorrow. Rome speaks to you in thousands of different ways and the more you plunge into the city, the more your love for it is requited.
The fame of the Roman cuisine is well merited. Each plate is simple, but boosts with the richness of flavours. Each dish looks incredibly appetising, but not because of an overcomplicated food presentation. It's the colours and the mouthwatering smell of it that makes you want to grab a fork and bite into it. The difference between an amazing carbonara and a mediocre one is not the recipe or skills of the cook. The secret is high quality ingredients and all Roman recipes rely solely on one thing - the genuine and excellent products provided by the rich and fertile soils of Lazio hills.
Roman cuisine offers variety of dishes that can satisfy all demands. Appetisers include bruschette alla romana (roasted bread with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil) or carciofi alla giuda (deeply fried artichokes) which are the signature of Roman Jewish cooking and the specialty of restaurants in the Roman Ghetto. Pasta plays a leading role in the Roman cuisine and its huge selection is a real paradise for all pasta-lovers. My personal favourites are: bucatini all'amatriciana (with a sauce based on guanciale - dried pork cheek, pecorino cheese and tomato) a recipe originating from the small town of Amatricie from the montainous part of the Lazio region, delicious rigatoni con la Pajata (rigatoni with stewed calf's intestines, tomato sauce and a pinch of rosemary), simple but mouthwatering spaghetti cacio e peppe (the ingredients include only pasta, pecorino cheese and a huge amount of freshly ground black pepper) and the famous spaghetti alla carbonara (pasta dish based on eggs, cheese, becon and pepper). The second courses are dominated by stewed, roasted or grilled lamb. The most famous recipes are abbacchio al forno (roasted suckling lamb) or abbacchio alla romana (Roman-style lamb with anchovies, garlic and rosemary), but other meats are used as well like in the toothsome coda alla vaccinara (an oxtail stew flavoured with various vegetables) or trippa (tripe of various animals braised with white wine and tomatoes and topped with pecorino romano). I must admit that after each meal, which consisted of several antipasti, hearty pasta and a meat dish I never managed to find even a small space for a dessert. Most of the times I enjoyed a shot of liqueur or an espresso, but I heard that sweet Roman ricotta recipes are to die for!
Rome offers you countless possibilities of dining from fine restaurants to street-side trattorias. But be careful when choosing the place to eat, you can easily wind up in a dining room packed with tourists where the prices are high and the food is second-rate. The best is to follow the locals and choose small modest trattorias where you can find simple and tasty dishes at reasonable prices. Don't expect fancy presentation, but be prepared for an unforgettable culinary experience and taste that will take you for a journey through centuries. Following the suggestions of my Roman friends, tips from the Lonely Planet guide and my own nose I have chosen the top 4 places to eat in Rome, although, I'm sure there are many more...
Da Gino (Vicolo Rosini, 4, next to piazza del Parlamento, tel. +39 06 6873434) is definitely on the list of my favorite restaurants! Located off the tourist beaten track in a narrow hidden alley, it offers a perfect eating experience after full day of sightseeing in Rome. Reservations are highly recommended; we called Saturday morning and could fit in only for the second part of the evening on Sunday! Everything one might say about Da Gino is for sure an understatement. Forget about posh interior design, silver cutlery and fancy place setting, this trattoria is all it should be about - food. If you look for authentic Roman cuisine Da Gino is a place for you. Our meal was hearty and delicious, we ordered some Roman antipasto misto, rigatoni con la Pajata, penne al sugo di carne, coda alla vaccinara, trippa and a carafe of rough house wine. We finished off with a shot of amaro and we paid only 50 euros! Why Da Gino doesn't open a branch in Brussels? :-)
Sora Margherita (Piazza delle Cinque Scole, 30, tel.+39 06 687 4216) and Cacio e Pepe (Via Avezzana 11, tel. +39 06 321 72 68). I wanted to recommend only one place for the best pasta in Rome, but I have to admit I couldn't decide which one I liked more. They're both similar in style with their crowded tiny rooms, simple interior, close-set tables and no menu policy. Sora Margherita is placed in the ancient ghetto and it's one of the smallest and well hidden trattorias in Rome. All pasta is home-made with loads of eggs added to the dough which makes all pasta dishes delicious and enough for a full meal. One tip - don't order red house wine there, it's to be avoided :-) Cacio e Pepe is a humble trattoria located near the Vatican. Don't forget to try their carbonara, it's the best one I've ever had!
Bar il postiglione aka Ewa and Claudio bar (Via delle Fornaci, 13, tel. +39 06 633410). Our bed and breakfast was located not far from the Vatican City on Via delle Fornaci. Just one elevator ride and a few steps from it there was this magic breakfast place run by an Italian, Claudio and his Polish wife Ewa. It's open from 5 am to 8 pm and not only does it offer breakfast but it's also used as a restaurant during lunch time and dinner. However, for me it was a cappuccino-and-bombolona paradise and the best way to start a long sightseeing day. Such a breakfast puts you always in good mood. Moreover, it's a real value for money: two cappuccinos, a bombolona (doughnut) and a cornetto alla crema cost us only 3,60 euro!!!
On the top picture - Spoon in Rome. Heading to the next restaurant unseparated from the map and the camera.
Gino welcomes you to his place of magic food
As you can see Da Gino is recommended by everybody
A plate of delicious trippa
The entrance of Sora Margherita