As a North American kid, I grew up eating Italian food. I loved it and I still love it. It was good, comforting but ordinary. It certainly wasn’t high class like French food, exotic like Thai or ever evolving like Central American.Or so I thought. But I was game to go to Rome, the source of so much history, and it would be warm too. Plus I like wine and well it IS Italy. So I should be in good shape.
Upon landing at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, we took a cab into our hotel.The cab driver took off at a speed I didn’t know cabs were capable of, we were doing 100km/hr in a 60 zone and so it continued all the way into the city with speeds reaching 160. I think i glimpsed some scenery on the speedway but I cant be sure. Regardless, our driver was kind and safe and delivered us in one piece, despite having his F1 dreams thwarted. After arriving a little disheveled, our hotel greeted us with snacks and wine. Definitely off to a good start. Dinner that night was like dinner growing up, comforting, good, but ordinary.We went to a busy place that had tons of advertising. And an English name. Our server wasn’t exactly the friendly type, in fact we nicknamed him angry Fred Armisen because that is who he looked like except we didn’t find him funny at all.That said, the owner more than made up for his server’s surly attitude and couldn’t have been more than accommodating. On the way home I was feeling a little underwhelmed and then it all changed. We stopped in for a nightcap at a Wintaly Food and wine boutique.https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d8656964-Reviews-Wintaly_Food_Wine_Boutique-Rome_Lazio.html. The server/owner was incredibly kind and more than happy to recommend wines and serve us despite the late hour. And the wines we tried were Italian and delicious,. Finally! We had a wonderful time there, it was clean, modern and funky. We also found out they served breakfast and we promised to be back. The breakfast was delicious, croissants that were light. flaky and still melted in your mouth and equally delicious Italian donuts.
Although Rome has may amazing ancient sites to see, I would definitely recommend the food tours as of equal importance. In fact you can eat up all your time with sites and mediocre tourist food that is in easy access of the main hot spots. That said having a drink at one of the many cafes that line the awesomeness of the Pantheon is well worth it. So if you are looking to get introduced into the amazingness that is Roman food, try the a the Roman Food Tour.http://foodtourrome.com/
We met our guide at the tube station in the Prati district in Rome. Up until know we were told about the more well known Trastevere district for food. Prati was a little out of the way (near the Vatican) but well well worth it. It is a super easy tube ride. They encourage you to bring a healthy appetite and they are not kidding. You will not leave hungry. Starting with cheese and wine at a local specialty shop, our guide introduced the buffalo mozzarella. She explained it needs to be kept in the water and eaten that day or maybe the day after but if you keep it longer or refrigerate it turns harder, and a little rubbery. Hmm, I thought that is what mozzarella was. I was soooooo wrong. it is creamy, almost buttery and I have never tasted anything like it, we paired it with a sundried tomato afterwards and it was truly one of the most flavourful cheeses, I have ever had the opportunity to try. And I like cheese as much as I like wine (ok maybe not as much but…) The rest of the cheeses were equally delicious and we were able to try different balsamics including a 25 year old which has intensity to flavour that was mind blowing and a price tag to match. Afterwards we decamped to a local specialty shop and after touring it were were seated in the shop’s restaurant to try apertivos, meats and cheese. The meats melted in your mouth and the wines were full bodied, flavourful and of course Italian. And on to the star of the evening, Bonci pizza. http://bonci.it/ It is truly pizza like no other, the pizza chef has the appeal and following of a rock star, complete with a recommendation from Anthony Bourdain. The pizza options were crazy, from lasagna pizza to greens and cheese. Literally anything you can think of and we ordered a huge selection. They sell in squares and price is based on weight ( the Roman way). The dough rests for 72 hours and is thrice baked. If in Rome, definitely definitely seek it out. Afterwards we tried true Sicilian cannoli, went to a sit down restaurant for more incredible wine ( I think it was a Barolo) with gnocchi gorgonzola that was so ridiculously light and a beautiful tomato ravioli. Finishing with gelato (mine was violet) our tour guide told us the secrets of finding authentic gelato that doesn’t have fillers or artificial flavours. We rolled home stuffed and happy. We had an amazing time, met some wonderful people and tasted fantastic food. Italian food was anything but ordinary.
There was one more standout in Rome. Caffe Washington.http://gruppowashington.wixsite.com/en-caffewashington . It shouldn’t have been a standout but it was. We were on a bus tour, it was raining, and we were were hungry. As the tour stopped near the termini. we decided we just needed food so we got of in search of what we thought would be an ok lunch. We wrongly believed restaurants near the termini would be high traffic and therefore probably underwhelming. We picked Caffe Washington and were greeted warmly and given a menu that was long and in many languages, a bad sign we thought. So so so wrong. the server gave his recommendations and the food was incredible. @benton8tor had the quintessentially Roman dish, pasta carbonara. It the best pasta carbonara ever,it was rich, creamy but not overly so. I had a pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil with quality ingredients that made it light and comforting at the same time. The wine menu was great as were the desserts. Italian food is more in the extraordinary category.
Not long after returning home we were comparing Rome tips with friends. ‘What did you think of the food?’ I asked eagerly. ‘ Well we had sushi almost ever night and it was good’. I was dumbfounded, ‘But what about the pasta?” I asked. ‘ Oh we don’t like pasta.’ I tried not to judge but I couldn’t help but think on just how much they had missed out on. Did they truly not like pasta or pizza? or did they believe like we had done that it was ordinary? I still don’t know.At least we all agreed the wine was amazing. Rome, your food is anything but ordinary and I can’t wait to see you again.