The ‘City of Seven Hills’ is famed for its gastronomic imprint. The fertile slopes that surround Rome breathe simplicity into the city’s food. The trattorias and osterias of Rome flourished as the city’s population grew, with the populous utilising them as the living rooms and dining rooms that their cramped living quarters could not provide. This cooking, ‘la cucina povera’ (poor kitchen), often served in family-run restaurants, is the very basis of Roman hospitality. For new visitors to Rome, this is a must-read guide that provides insight into some of the Eternal City’s most revered delicacies.
Pizza Bianca is a yeasted flat bread that can be traced back to ancient Rome. The original name ‘panis focacius’ translates as a flat bread cooked in the ashes of a hearth (focus). The original version was cooked either on the hearth of a fire or on a heated tile, and due to its popularity has spawned many variations throughout Italy. Through many pizzeria windows in Rome, you can still see chefs today dilegently puncturing the bread with knives to relieve the bubbling-effect on the surface during cooking, or dotting the bread which creates small wells for the uncooked dough to rise in. To preserve the moisture of the bread, the dough, once rolled, is painted in olive oil prior to baking.
Where? Antico Forno Roscioli, Via dei Chiavari 21, +39 06 687 5287, salumeriaroscioli.com.
The artichokes of Rome are world-renown – achieving European Union protected status, and are treasured within the exhaustive Roman gastronomic landscape. The two most famous dishes and methods are Carciofi alla Romana (Roman-style artichokes) and Carciofi alla Giudea (artichokes in the Jewish style). Artichokes are harvested between February and April in the coastal region just north of Rome.
To prepare artichokes in the traditional Roman style, they are cleaned and all the hard outer leaves are removed. The artichokes are then plunged in water and lemon juice to maintain their colour, before being opened to remove the choke. Each artichoke’s cavity is stuffed with a mixture of garlic, salt and pepper, parsley, and calamint (a cross between oregano and mint). These are then placed in a deep pan, stem-side down, and water and wine are added. Once braised in the covered pan, they are removed and ready to eat.
Where? La Matricianella, Via del Leone, 4; +39 06 683 2100, matricianella.it
Carciofi alla Giudea originated in the Jewish quarter of Rome. Jews (Giudeas) have been present in Rome for over 2000 years, ever since the Roman Empire, and the Jewish Ghetto is still an integral part of the city. Preparation for this dish is similar to the opening parts of the Roman version, however, rather than filling the cavity and braising them – the artichokes are deep fried in olive oil. The end result is something that looks similar to a golden sunflower, sprinkled with salt and pepper. These are best served warm.
Where? Ristorante Piperno, 9 Monte dé Cenci, +39 6 68 80 66 29, ristorantepiperno.com
Rome’s most famous pasta dish, Carbonara, which translates as ‘Coal worker’s style’, is traditionally cooked with penne pasta. Penne is chosen ahead of spaghetti due to its ease in amalgamating with eggs and bacon. The origin of the dish still remains lost in Italian folklore. Apart from the obvious translation that coal worker’s made the dish or the flecks of pepper look like coal flakes, there is another story that because of food shortages during the liberation of Rome in 1944, Allied troops distributed military rations of powdered eggs and bacon, which was utilised by the local populace with dried pasta.
Where? L’Arcangelo, 59 Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, +39 06 321 0992, theromedigest.com/l-arcangelo
Abbacchio alla Scottadito
Rome’s location and pastoral heritage, where shepherds from the surrounding hills brought their flocks down through the city’s side streets, have made lamb integral to Roman cooking for over 3000 years. Abbacchio al fomo (roasted baby lamb) and scottadito (small, grilled lamb chops) are ever present on trattoria menus. Lamb’s milk is also a staple in the production of sweet ricotta and pecorino cheese. Rome’s most famous lamb dish is Abbacchio alla scottadito, which roughly translates as ‘lamb finger-burning style’. These are small lamb chops which are seasoned with thyme, tarrogan and rosemary, before being drizzled in olive oil and grilled. It is traditionally, as the name suggests, eaten with your hands and sprinkled with fresh lemon juice. For the more adventurous foodies – lamb ascoratella (heart, liver and lungs) are also widely available.
Where? Trattoria Al Moro, 13 Vicolo Delle delle Bollette, +39 06 6783495, ristorantealmororoma.eu
Pasta is an integral part of Roman cuisine and the Bucatini, spaghetti with a hole that runs through its centre, is perhaps the most Roman of all pasta varieties. Bucatini all’amatriciana is made with tomatoes, peperoncino, guanciale (pig’s cheek) and grated pecorino cheese. It is believed that the recipe originated in the small town of Amatrice, that sits in the mountains that surround Rome. The recipe gained popularity in Rome due to the burgeoning relationship between the Eternal city and Armatrice in the late 19th century. It is now considered a Rome staple and variants of the dish, determined by the availability of local produce, reamain effervescent on osteria menus.
Where? Armando al Pantheon, 31 salita dè Crescenzi,+39 06.68803034, armandoalpantheon.it/en/
Coda alla Vaccinara
Coda alla vaccinara is a Roman oxtail soup. Its history lies in the central district of Regola, later renamed Arenula, which housed Rome’s vaccinaris (slaughterhouses). At these original slaughterhouses the local butchers were often be paid in offal ,which they would then sell on to the local trattorias. These trattorias would then create dishes out of the offal. Despite these slaughterhouses vanishing when embankments were placed along the river to stop flooding in the late 19th century, coda alla vaccinara lived on and is still a valued part of Roman cuisine. It is created by braising the tail of a cow and is traditionally served with stewed vegetables, celery, onions, garlic, cinnamon and seasonal herbs.
Where? Trattoria Da Cesare, 45 del Casaletto, +39 06 536015, Cesare
Puntarelle is an early winter chicory which originates on the Lazio coast. Traditionally they are picked when they are young and tender and can be eaten raw or cooked. The best, sweeter leaves can be found at the centre of the plant, with the outer leaves being markedly bitter. In Rome, puntarelle is traditionally served with a dressing of anchovy, white wine vinegar, salt and emulsified with olive oil.
Where? Trattoria A Casa Di Rita, +39 06 2311668, ACasaDiRita