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December 22, 2016 / oneworld82

Eating out in Rome

Eating is probably one of the highlights of any trip to Italy. Having traveled a lot around the World, I can’t honestly think of any better place to try so much variety in ingredients and flavors as in my home country. Sorry France, you might have the best ingredients, but we know how to blend them all perfectly together 😉

Growing up I remember always longing for something different, exotic. Italy, after all, until very recently had no racial diversity at all, and Italian food, well, was the only thing you could possibly find around (with the exception of big cities like Milan and Rome that always had their fair share of expats). While I was young there was no sushi, no curry, and hardly any Chinese takeout. Yet, now that I have been away from Italy for so long, I realize how good Italian food actually is.

Unfortunately, I live in the US – Texas nonetheless – which knows very little about Italian food; or, better, they think they know about it, but when you see stuff like chicken Alfredo or creamy carbonara, you know they know nothing about it – just because you great-grandfather migrated from Palermo it doesn’t mean you know how to cook Italian food – capisci?

Rome is certainly one of the best places in Italy to eat – if you know where to go. The center, in fact, is jam-packed with touristy eateries that are very uninspiring – no matter how they look. To find good food, you need to venture out to some more popular neighborhoods, like Testaccio, or to areas where Romans like to hang out themselves – like Trastevere. Using a taxi to get to these places is the easiest way.

In our 2-and-half-days in Rome we had the chance to sample some of the most famous and traditional Roman dishes. Let’s go in order.

The first night we had a reservation at La Carbonara, a typical trattoria located in via Panisperna (you can walk there from the old city). As you can imagine, Spagheti all Carbonara is the highlight here, but we sampled a bunch of other dishes and we left more than satisfied!

Let’s start with the pasta. Thuy’s carbonara was delicious – a perfect blend of egg, guanciale, and cheese – not too creamy, not too eggy. My rigatoni alla gricia – pasta, guanciale, black pepper, and pecorino romano – were excellent as well.

La Carbonara - spaghetti alla carbonara vs Rigatoni alla gricia

La Carbonara – spaghetti alla carbonara vs Rigatoni alla gricia

Scaloppine di pollo vs coda alla vaccinara

Scaloppine di pollo vs coda alla vaccinara

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To follow that, we had scaloppine al limone – thin-cut veal cooked in lemon and olive oil – and coda all vaccinara – Roman-style oxtail cooked in tomato sauce. Both were delicious and left us stuffed. We had a good red wine from Lazio (the region Rome is in) to wash everything down, and we left very happy.

Before dinner, in Piazza Barberini we sampled one of Rome’s traditional antipasti or snacks – suppli’. These are deep-fried balls of rice filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella (in which case are called suppli’ al telefono) – they are just as good as they sound! Thuy approved!

The day after, before visiting the Musei Vaticani we had a quick breakfast of cappuccino e cornetto. This is what traditionally Italians have for breakfast – quickly, at the bar, almost on the go – on their way to work (especially in big cities). It packs enough energy and caffeine to keep you going for a whole morning! We sat down at a local, non-described bar, and the croissants were spectacular – one filled with (half a jar of ) Nutella, the other with custard. Yum!

Colazione

Colazione

For lunch, we headed to Da Felice in the Testaccio neighborhood – one of the most popular restaurants with locals (and, increasingly, tourists) in Rome.

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The main reason for this detour (we took a taxi to get there, and our driver, by the way, was very friendly and funny – and a bit reckless, as expected) was its famous tonnarelli cacio e pepe, THE Roman dish par excellence.

Cacio e pepe da Fel

Cacio e pepe da Fel

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The dish – made of literally a ton of pecorino romano, pasta water, and black pepper – is prepared at your table, as the video below shows.

We had a good bottle of red with our meal, to keep the appetite going…

Some good wine from Lazio

Some good wine from Lazio

To follow, Thuy had abbacchio al forno and I had trippa alla romana. The lamb Thuy ordered was extraordinary – moist, flavorful – and the roasted potatoes were exactly like the ones my mom used to make. A winner.

Abbacchio con patate

Abbacchio con patate

Same goes with my trippa (tripe), which is such an underrated dish! Look at this beautiful combination of intestines, tomato sauce, and cheese!!

Trippa alla Romana

Trippa alla Romana

We left the restaurant very happy (and very full!), and we headed to the Colosseo to burn some calories down – before indulging in another good bottle of white wine at Pepy’s Bar in Piazza Barberini.

The third and last day in Rome we had some pizza in the Jewish Quarter at Emma – a nice, relatively-new place that knows what it is doing. I had a great pizza al prosciutto, while Thuy had some good rigatoni all’amatriciana.

Pizza da Emma

Pizza da Emma

After lunch, we visited famous gelateria Alberto Pica, still in the Jewish quarter. The gelatos here are incredible – we tried, bacio and pistachio. Thuy loved it.

Gelato!

Gelato!

Last but not least meal of the trip was Da Lucia, a quaint trattoria in Trastevere, the go-to neighborhood for after dark fun in Rome. Together with sightseeing (check out Santa Maria in Trastevere church), you can find endless restaurants and bars with live music here – the vibe is certainly the right one. While not the easiest rione to visit (due to a lack of easy public transportation for the old center), a taxi from Barberini will cost you 7-8 euro only.

Da Lucia proved to be a great place with al fresco seating. Food was good – not spectacular. We enjoyed some good pecorino e miele (sheep cheese with honey) to start…

Pecorino e miele

Pecorino e miele

…followed by rigatoni all’amatriciana and coniglio alla cacciatora.

rigatoni-allamatriciana

The pasta was very good, as was the rabbit (sorry, no photos of that one). I think the thing we did not like of the place was the service – too slow – and our table neighbors – too noisy. But overall we had a good time for what would be our last meal in Rome for this trip.

Overall, we had an incredible time, and we can’t look forward enough to coming back again to the Eternal City.

Arrivederci, Roma!

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