I’ll admit that Giulio and I aren’t exactly the get out for the weekend types. In fact, most of our weekends are spent with me tinkering over some far-too ambitious DIY, while Giulio sits in front of computer and complains about how he simply does not spend enough time in front of the computer. So even though we’re only a 1 1/2 hour drive from Rome, we very rarely visit our beloved capital.
You’re probably asking why the foodie’s guide to Rome then? A couple of weeks ago, I was invited on a gourmet tour of the Eternal City and I jumped at the chance to find out where to get the best eats. Or at least the best eats that aren’t going to cost you an arm and a leg. It’s actually harder than you think to find authentic places to eat in Italy. And it’s even harder to find where the locals eat in Italy. Even someone like me, who is married to a bona fide Italian, is often reduced to scrolling through TripAdvisor, and while the cities might change, the end result is always the same: disappointment.
So dressed to the nines on a warm, but rainy Saturday evening, Giulio and I headed for the Prati district in Rome, where our foodie guide promised we’d find not only the best places to eat, but the spots where the locals shop and dine. And these were my top picks.
Via Marcantonio Bragadin, 51
This is most definitely not a secret. In fact, it’s Rome’s number one shopping destination and the affable, but also marketing savvy brothers who own it plan to keep it that way. But that doesn’t make it any less impressive. For starters, it is simply the most beautiful deli you have ever seen. Walls lined with whole legs of prosciutto, a mini cellar of wines and a display case where Italian cheeses mingle with truffle scented salami, creamy Roquefort and thick slabs of perfectly white lardo (basically cured lard). They even had a cheese after my own heart, true British cheddar.
As we sipped constantly topped up reds and learnt how to poke holes in prosciuttos to see if they were ready, actual Romans (!) came into the deli to order pre-dinner aperitifs. And that’s the beauty of Paciotti’s. Of course it’s packed with tourists, but that doesn’t stop the locals from coming in and ordering beautifully laden gourmet sandwiches to go or picking up containers of sweet black olives or tiny Cinta Senese sausages.
WHY VISIT? So you can stuff your suitcase with their vacuum packed cheeses and salamis (learn how they pack food from ILPRA Tray Sealers | Roberts Technology Group, Inc.). But if custom rules prevent you from doing that, stop by for a gourmet sandwich or snack.
Via della Meloria, 43
Just writing about this pizzeria makes my mouth water. In fact, I’d move to Rome right now just to be able to dine there daily. Bonci is, as he so aptly likes to remind you, the “Michelangelo of Pizza”, a title he was given by either Anthony Bourdain or the New York Times. Thanks to these star accolades, his pizzarium is never empty, but that doesn’t mean his prices are through the roof. In fact, they’re slighter higher than what you’d pay for an average pizza in Rome and these pizzas are far from average.
The pizzas are sold by the slice – a very Italian custom and one that means you can mix and match when you are inevitably unable to choose just one type. And the toppings are out of this world! Giulio the boring Italiano complained they were slightly too adventurous, but to this Australian who would choose a Hawaiian over a Margherita any day, it was heaven. Did that admission just disqualify me as a pizza expert? I mean there was a pizza with sausage and cavolo nero, an anchovy and onion pizza, a gorgonzola and salami one, others with balsamic onions, salmon/wild halibut, buffalo mozzarella. It was weird and it was wonderful.
WHY VISIT? To see your pizza fantasies come to life, but also because Bonci leaves his pizza dough to rise for 72 HOURS, which means you’re chowing down on the airiest, fluffiest almost Turkish pide-style base you’ve ever tried.
Via Lago di Lesina, 9-11
Our last stop on the food tour was the most understated, but I think the best. Gelaterias are a dime a dozen in Rome. Literally, they’re the Starbucks of Italy, on every corner. And I am really picky about my gelaterias. I know the basics – don’t buy yellow banana gelato. It’s made from a powder. Don’t buy gelato when it’s towered like a mountain. It’s fake… but even so, I still find it very hard to find a gelateria I like.
Fata Morgana made me smile… mostly because it’s cheap, but also because it caters to people with food allergies, but even more so because it’s the Willy Wonka of gelato flavours. Just imagine a cup of homemade avocado, lime and white wine gelato or fennel, honey and liquorice gelato or star anise, raspberry and rum gelato! The list goes on and it is amazing.
WHY VISIT? If you’re going to shell out €2 for a gelato, make sure it’s memorable and leave the chocolate and pistachio to the supermarkets.
This post was sponsored by The Roman Food Tour, but all the opinions expressed are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep this blog creative, interesting and inspiring.