Recently I had the good fortune to travel to Europe for the first time. We spent ten days in Italy. It was a grand adventure I’d been waiting for since I was a little kid watching Rick Steves on PBS. I’m so excited to share our culinary experiences with you.
Please keep in mind this is not meant to be an exhaustive guide, just some recommendations for places we enjoyed. I did some basic research about the cuisine before we left, but I’m not an expert by any means. We used an app called Eat Rome for restaurant recommendations in Rome.It was very helpful but also not exhaustive. In fact, our favorite place was not listed by the app. If you are planning a trip to Rome, consider staying in the Trastevere neighborhood. It was the perfect location for walking to the big attractions but far enough away to retreat from the worst of the tourist traps. Trastevere is also incredibly beautiful and full of shops, cafes, and restaurants. At night the streets are full of people eating, drinking, and wandering. If you want to hear more about our trip, you can e-mail me or leave a comment. Now, back to the food.
Osteria Numero 6
Via Garibaldi, 60 (trastevere) Telephone: 06 58300389 *Closed on Wednesdays.
Our favorite restaurant of the whole trip just happened to be where we landed when the taxi dropped us off. We ate there three times during our stay in Trastevere. The owner, Samantha, was very friendly and made several helpful suggestions about our trip. She also spoke English quite well, after having spent some time in the United States. The restaurant is run by her family, and you will be made to feel like family while you’re there. For dinner our meal started with complimentary bruschetta, and ended with a complimentary glass of limoncello. What comes in between is delicious, fresh Roman classics. I wanted to try everything on the menu.
Somehow Italy managed to turn things I thought I didn’t like into things I love, like the black olives in the bruschetta.
Saltimbocca is savory, buttery, cheesy, and warmed by sage. Here it was served with a grilled or roasted potato. Honestly I’m not sure what they’d done to the potato, but it was delicious.
Amatriciana is a sauce made of tomatoes, guanciale (a cut of cured pork taken from the cheek) and pecorino cheese. On this day the restaurant was out of the pasta they usually use and served it with rigatoni instead. Not that I minded! This sauce was pure umami. The meat was there as a flavor, but didn’t weigh the dish down like so many American tomato sauces.
Verdure al Gratin
This was taken about halfway through this plate of verdure al gratin. I don’t know much about this dish, but I did like it and would like to attempt it at home. It consisted of vegetables like eggplant, red peppers, and tomatoes, topped with a thick layer of seasoned bread crumbs and roasted until crisp.
There were lots of dishes we loved at Osteria Numero 6 that we neglected to photograph, including cacio e pepe, roman cheesecake (can’t find a recipe for this one), and ravioli con burro e salvia. All were spectacular.
Via delle Zoccolette 22 (Ponte Sisto) 00186, Rome Phone: +39 06 68192515
While I focused on trying as many native Italian dishes as possible, I did branch out a little to see how modern Roman cuisine looks (and tastes). We first went to Zoc for breakfast, and returned for dinner the next day. Unfortunately the light was too low at dinner for the photos to turn out well, but I’ll give you the highlights.
Fig pie and a caffe latte for breakfast is hard to beat, but I have yet to figure out how Italians survive their day on such light, sugary breakfasts. I love my hearty American breakfasts.
Yoghurt with fruit and chestnut honey
This was Josh’s breakfast. Isn’t the presentation lovely? The most interesting component of this dish was the chestnut honey, which is an autumnal favorite in Italy. The flavor was like nothing else I’ve ever tasted. Perhaps an acquired taste. Later, when researching it, I saw its flavor notes described as leather and smoke. It’s like the James Bond of condiments.
For dinner Josh had lentils with cumin, grilled pears, and yoghurt and I had a curried eggplant parmesan with crispy noodles on top. Both were amazing. It looks like their menu changes each month, so it could be very different when you go.
Gelateria del Teatro
Via di San Simone, 70, 00186 Rome
We ate a lot of gelato in Italy. We ate a lot of good gelato in Italy. Gelateria del Teatro was hands down the best. The flavors range from traditional classics to creative innovations. We ate here twice. My favorite was probably the almond, kind of a dark horse but the flavors were so fresh and complex…pistachio was a close second. When people ask me what was the best thing we ate in Italy, my reply is the gelato. It’s magical. So magical that it disappeared before I could photograph it.
Campo dei Fiori Market
Piazza Campo Dè Fiori, 00186 Rome
Campo dei Fiori is a daily open-air market in Rome. Vendors sell fresh produce as well as dried goods, prepared sauces, honey, pesto, and small kitchen gadgets. I think it would be worth staying in a place with a full kitchen just so you could buy and cook some of this gorgeous bounty. It’s also a good place to buy souvenirs.
Dolci di Nonna Vincenza
Via Arco del Monte ,98a/98b
Here’s another place where I wanted a bite of literally everything. Dolci di Nonna Vincenza is one of a chain of Sicilian pastry shops and a veritable wonderland for anyone with a sweet tooth. We tried the ricotta cannoli with pistachios and later the marzipan-encrusted cassata.
A few more…
- La Cappriciosa where we had tiramisu and campari and soda.
- Giggetto Hostaria, where we tried the famous carciofa alla giudia (Jewish artichoke)
- Taverna della Scala, where we had pizza, twice. Fresh ingredients and really well done preparations.