Food was, undoubtedly, one of our top priorities in choosing to spend eight days in Rome.
Leave it to a gorgeous Italian model and actress to nail my thoughts on Italian food and beauty:
Ms. Sophia Loren said, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” Preach sister. That’s the kind of beauty I am after: pasta based beauty.
And this other quote she gave, while not about food, will come back to us down the road I think: “Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.” Let that mess with you for a while and we will circle back to it.
Eating in Rome. Food is beautiful….yes? What it makes you feel can be beautiful. The experience of sharing it with someone you love is beautiful. Every moment leading up to the meal can make sitting down to either inhale it or slowly savor it beautiful.
On the off chance you’re planning a Roman adventure, or on the off chance that you love vicariously experiencing delight through another’s journey, want to see nothing but pictures of our favorite food moments in Rome?!
What’s that? You love coffee, gelato, carbs, and wine, too? Huh. So odd. I guess you and I are cut out of the same piece of cloth. Come, let’s salivate together.
Remember that in my first post about Rome, I told you there was one coffee shop we went to twice a day – every day? I was a bit off. I occasionally threw in a third cappuccino. 🙂 Our neighborhood shop was one of the oldest and most noted coffee shops in the city: Tazza D’oro. Steps away from our apartment, it was irresistible. By the end of day two we had mastered our ordering.
In the morning, maxi cappuccinos:
Can you see what a key word, maxi is? Our first day we ordered regular cappuccinos. Nice but not enough espresso to milk ratio. Our eyes searched the menu until we saw the word maxi. Tried it, loved it. Double shot of espresso but the same amount of milk as a regular cappuccino. Every morning. I’m sure there was more than one silly look shot our way, as we were the only ones at the bar drinking maxis. But we loved the baristas and they seemed to subtly love us in return. By day three, the cashier saw us coming and knew we took two maxis in the mornings. In my book, that’s living the dream.
Coffee shops in Rome are mostly different than the American idea of a coffee shop. They are small, bustling and you stand at the bar to drink your coffee. Our shop crowd was a mix of business people, neighbors and tourists.
After you’ve finished, you walk away and the counter gets crowded with emptied cups and countless partly full sugar packs. Most Italians seemed to add sugar to their espresso or cappuccino.
Afternoon coffee became my bold, adventurous move: machiato. In Rome, a machiato is espresso topped with just a spoonful of froth. They made our mouths sing!!!
There is one last coffee delicacy you need to know about: granita. My understanding is that Tazzo d’Oro originated it and it’s the place to get it. Even the New York Times did an article explaining how you could make your own version at home when you’re not in Rome. Granita is a crushed ice, slushy beautiful thing drenched in a slightly sweetened espresso concentrate….topped with panne. The cream crystalizes where it meets the ice and oh, how I wish I could meet you there right now to share a granita.
I would love to tell you about my top three favorite gelato shops I went to. But, I can’t. Because we only went to one. And we went every single day. And I got the same thing each time. I’m telling you – THIS is why we decided to land in Rome for our entire time away. We found what we loved and we – ahem – pounded it.
Giolitti has been in the same location since 1900. We first discovered it ten years ago when we did Rick Steve’s self-guided night walking tour of the city. So, did I hit that on our first night in the city? Yes, I did. And I just didn’t bother trying anything else….dark chocolate and hazelnut on repeat. With panne on top. Please.
Zion’s go-to: affogato. Espresso with gelato plopped right in the middle. If it were acceptable and I didn’t care about becoming grossly overweight, this is how I would drink my coffee every day.
Pizza, pasta, prosciutto, olive oil, salami, tomatoes. Repeat.
Taverna Trilussa, in Trastevere, won us over stomach, mind and heart. We often use Rick Steves as a resource and he listed it as one of his top four restaurants in the city. Good enough for you, Rick, then it’s good enough for us! We made reservations in the afternoon and then ventured out on our second night in the city, walking twenty minutes from the Pantheon to Castle San Angelo and the Tiber River….then along the river and turned into the old river neighborhood of Trastevere. Those river walks became sacred treks.
Trastevere is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Rome. Birthed because the Tiber River came to the perfect point to port at – there was easy access to the water marketplace. Trastevere is quaint, humming with life, and even medieval at points. And it has Taverna Trilussa – so now it’s one of my favorite spots in the city.
The moment you walk in, you are hit with the distinct aroma of truffles. And a quick glance to your left reveals a large case of gorgeous truffles just waiting to be added to dishes. Next, you notice walls jammed with family memorabilia, photographs, and….meat. So much meat. Prosciutto hanging by the tens, salivary glands instantly alive.
Notice the first item on the menu: Bucatini all’ Amatriciana. It’s a classic Roman dish, and Taverna Trilussa has won awards for its version. So, why look further? We ordered it, we drooled over it, we pounded it. It’s thick hollow spaghetti with tomato sauce, guanciale bacon (prosciutto) and pecorino cheese. Frankly I’m not sure how such a simple dish can deliver such a punch, but we loved it so much that we decided it would be our ‘last night in Rome’ meal. I wish I had taken a picture of the Roman fried zucchini flowers we started with.
After Zion used his spoon to scrape the pan nearly clean, I literally swiped my finger into the remaining sauce and licked it off. No shame. Let’s meet there for dinner this weekend, shall we?!
It was one of those meals we re-lived in conversation time and time again starting the moment we stepped out of the restaurant. So, when our last night in Rome came along, we headed straight back. They couldn’t get us in until 9:30pm. The dining room was even busier at 11:00pm when we left than it was when we got there!
We, no brainer, got the Ameritriciana again and we added Carbonara to the mix. Carbonara was unlike any dish with the same name I’ve tasted here. Fat carby pasta tubes, with a white wine and butter sauce, and, duh, prosciutto. Topped with fresh shaved black truffles. It was beyond words and I licked the sauce with my finger again. I’d never indulged in the real deal truffles before. Mercy, they were worth it.
We walked everywhere. No taxis, busses, subways. The walk home from Trastevere along the river after dinner made us stop and stare every time. Night, night St. Peters.
Alle Carrette Pizzeria
Even bad pizza in Rome is good. When we were in Rome many years ago, I ate so much margherita pizza that I think it must have been the first thing on my mind each morning as I woke up. Being a little less experienced, I wasn’t looking for the good stuff. I was just looking for pizza. In Rome. And this time, we wanted to find the good stuff. I’m not sure that Alle Carrette was the very best in the city. But it was delicious. And we ate there three (maybe four – I get fuzzy) times because we liked it so much. You, intelligent reader, can see our pattern by now: find something you love and plan the rest of your time around the goal of seeing how many more times you can eat that thing.
Alle Carrette was tucked into the end of an alleyway in the Monti neighborhood – near the Colosseum/Victor Emmanuel. Half of the tables spilled onto the nondescript alleyway. It was nondescript until it turned into charming simply because of the delightful meals we shared there. The tables and chairs were jammed in as close to each other as possible while giving diners just enough space to suck in and squeeze into the light wooden chairs. Our first time there was our first night in Rome. 7pm is an embarrassingly early hour to eat dinner in Rome. But, our first night we didn’t care. We showed up right after they opened for the evening, ready to carb-load and shuffle back to our apartment.
House red wine for $5 – it was good and the price made it even better. And salami…oh salami. And bruschetta. How can tomatoes, garlic, salt/pepper, olive oil and basil spooned over Italian bread be so much better than the American version?? We always ate outside.
Below is me after a long, long day. I think you can tell that by my pizza crazed eyes. Margherita pizza and roasted tomato and prosciutto pizza. The jacket in the other picture tells us it was taken at yet another meal at the restaurant: not hard to believe. Bruschetta and fried zucchini flowers.
Next time, we repeated prosciutto pizza and sampled the calzone. Oh me, oh my. This is, case and point, why we walked everywhere. This is how we wanted to eat: quantity and quality. In order to do that, we had to walk everywhere to make space for the next beautiful meal! See the plate of fat fried beauties? Fried artichokes.
There were certainly a handful of tourists eating there each time we went. But it mostly felt like a local crowd…especially when you showed up closer to 9 instead of our super early 7pm the first time 🙂
Ristorante il Fortunato
Sometimes, wonderful meals are made even better because they are in beautiful places. Il Fortunato was just down the street from the entrance of the Pantheon. Dark black uneven stone streets connected the front door of the restaurant to the large front porch of the Pantheon. True to form, we had dinner there twice. Pardon some of the fuzzy phone pictures!
Fortunato is a classic long-standing family restaurant and it was worth a little splurge. It seemed like a spot that Romans enjoyed coming for a quiet meal. I distinctly remember one well-dressed and kind older couple sitting in the main dining room, with their small dog patiently waiting under the table as they enjoyed their dinner. I was too embarrassed to snap a shot, but I wish I had!
Calamari, so tender and delicate. Beautiful.
We tried the Ameritriciana again – quite good. Not as wonderful as Taverna Trilusa’s dish, though. We also had the Cacio e Pepe. It is a traditional Roman pasta – simple with pepper and cheese. The simplicity and subtlety was nice!
On our second visit, we ordered Roman Artichokes. What a treat!
On the other side of the Pantheon was a casual restaurant with a pub vibe. It catered to students and buzzed with crowded tables and a colorful menu. We ate one meal there on our way to an opera/ballet performance in a church quite a long walk from the restaurant…so we had to eat more quickly than we would have liked. There was a table right on the street so we grabbed it and watched the backside of the Pantheon. Even its backside is beautiful. Miscellanea had some different options and we ordered everything we wanted to try! No disappointments.
Behold. A slice of eggplant, topped with a slice of tomato, and roasted with bread crumbs and Parmesan. Rome and eggplant are meant for each other.
Always bruschetta. Never not bruschetta.
Linguine and clams for me. If you are a clam lover, so good. Mussels, squid, etc etc and pasta for him. Adventure!
How can you forget a meal like this? Staring at the back of the Pantheon with its nighttime glow and eating delicious food. And it was cheap! What a beautiful spot to sit and eat wonderful food.
The last food highlight is one that took us by surprise. My friend told me about a tea house at the base of the Spanish Steps called Babington’s. We love English tea. But in Rome? I probably would have kept walking had it not been for my friend’s raving. It was rave-worthy. We ate a late lunch there on one of our next to last days and hurried back for a mid-morning brunch on our last day.
Two young English women came to Rome in 1893 and decided to open a tea house to cater to the growing community of Englishmen in the city at the time. So, it’s been around for a while. And it’s worth your time to go if you are in the city.
The brown building on your left edge of the steps is Babington’s.
I so wish I could remember exactly what these dishes were called, but I can’t. Both were fantastic though. The tea was wonderful, and that’s coming from a coffee lover.
The dessert was edible 🙂
Breakfast on our last morning in Rome:
Tea house in Rome? A beautiful surprise I am so glad she went on and on to me about.
Rome brought us one beautiful eating experience after another. Some of them were unexpected. Some of them were a splurge. Some of them so cheap we pinched ourselves.
Exploring new arenas stretches you to push deeper to define what is beautiful to you. You have beauty inside of you. Each human does because each person was created with a distinct reflection of the Great Creator. Discovering the distinct beauty in you doesn’t require you to go to Rome. We find and become acquainted with beauty by quieting ourselves enough to stop and look at things. Smell things. Notice things. Take second glances. Even stare at someone you find intriguing. What is it about that person’s nose for instance? Why did it grab your attention? The road to being a beauty drinker starts with first noting that something has vied for your attention. It doesn’t have to seem or feel or look particularly beautiful. There is a far stronger connection between beauty and truth than there is between beauty and a particular definition of physical beauty.
Rome served us beauty by the hand fulls every day. We ate the beauty with joy! I so look forward to hearing about the ways beauty finds you and what it does to you.
Ciao for now,