Top Ten Things I Ate in Rome

5. Trippa alla Romana – Pretty much everything that I hoped and thought it would be…and more.  I figured it was the kind of dish you really only wanted to have at a good restaurant, so I ordered it at Laganà, a ristorante next door to our hotel.  I suppose that part of the excitement is the food-snob feel that you get from ordering a big plate of stomach, but the tender strips of mildly-flavored meat in a rich tomato sauce is great on its own merits and a tremendous example of how humble ingredients can be transformed into something special.

4. Supplì (below, being eaten by goofy-looking blogger) – It’s a rice ball…wrapped around cheese and mixed with tomato sauce…and then deep fried.  Doesn’t that BLOW YOUR MIND?!?!  How are these things not sold on every corner here in the States?  They’re so great that we had them twice, including once alongside a panino when we grabbed lunch in the ghetto.  Is it the perfect street food?  Could be.


3. Carciofi alla Giudia – This one was quite a revelation for me.  We had carciofi alla giudia — artichoke Jewish-style — at a trattoria a few blocks from the Trevi Fountain called Al Piccolo Arancio.  The artichoke is trimmed and then deep fried (yeah, we had lots of fried food!) so that the petals fan out like a flower.  It’s a truly amazing textural experience…you can pull off the petals and eat them like little potato chips until you get down to the tender stem and heart, which provide a delicious, meaty conclusion.  If you find yourself in Rome and you see this on the menu (and you will…everyone seems to serve it), don’t hesitate to order it.

2. Pizza – The great thing about pizza in Rome is that there are really two kinds of pizza.  I’m sure they have actual, proper names for the two varieties, but I like to refer to them as “lunch pizza” and “dinner pizza.”  The lunch variety is typically sold at pizzerias and tavola calda restaurants and come in large, oblong pies.  You point at the one you want (or go ahead and try to order in broken Italian like I did) and they cut you a slice, heat it, weigh it and you’re off.  Do you remember the rectangular “pizza” they used to give us on Fridays at the cafeteria in school?  It’s shaped a bit like that, except it’s un-freaking-believably good.  The highlight of this variety on the trip was at Pizzeria da Pasquale, which is on the Via dei Prefetti.  If you pop in for a mid-day meal, go for the salsiccia e funghi (sausage and mushroom) and a bierra al spina (a draught beer…the Italians mostly brew German-style lagers).

“Dinner” pizza is a slightly more refined meal and it’s pretty much the best wood oven pizza you’ve ever had.  The amazing part about it is the fact that the crust is cracker-thin, so you get a wonderfully crispy vessel for whatever toppings you want.  Some of the best pizza in Rome is in the Trastevere neighborhood — located across the Tiber river from the majority of Rome’s most famous sites — and the pizza dinner we had at Pizzeria ai Marmi was one of the highlights of the trip.  I had a simple pie with tomato sauce, cheese and anchovies.  Pure pizza bliss.

1. Carbonara – What can I say?  It was the thing I most anticipated before I left for the trip and it didn’t disappoint in the least.  Oddly, both times I had it, it was served with rigatoni, which doesn’t lend itself to the bird’s-nest-with-egg-yolk presentation that you’ll often see with spaghetti, but it didn’t matter in the least.  I had it twice and both times the waiter walked away with a plate that was damn near licked clean.  One thing that struck me was how much firmer the Italian version of al dente is than ours.  There’s real bite there, and it brings a texture that really adds something to a plate of pasta.  Give it a try next time you’re cooking for yourself and fish those noodles out an extra thirty seconds or a minute earlier than you usually do.

So, there you have it.  Everything I expected and much, much more than I could have ever hoped for.  I know that I’m not going to be able to give you a true sense of what it is like to eat for a week in Rome.  But I will say this…if you love food, if you style yourself a connoisseur of fine cooking and if you believe that a meal can be something truly extraordinary, then you absolutely must visit Rome at some point in your life.

Next: #10 – 6 Things To Eat in Rome


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  • Tyler March 15, 2010  

    Nice looking artichokes…I remember the pasta being more al dente than my mom had ever cooked when I went to Rome ten years ago. Now my girlfriend, who is Italian, tells me that it is a common opinion of Italian cooks that Americans have begun to cook their pasta TOO al dente (at least the ones who have learned that al dente is a good and authentic thing). It sounds like you might debate this point though. I don’t think there are many things better than al dente bucatini!

    I remember the pizza being so good. I wish I could find something like it here. I guess here in DC Paradiso is the closest thing I’ve found.

    Were most of the anchovies you encountered brown or white? I wasn’t eating anchovies yet when I went to Rome and can’t remember.

  • gansie March 15, 2010  

    you know what, i’ve never been that impressed with Supplì. of course, i havent eaten it in italy, but in DC it just doesnt blow me away. i think it needs more cheese. maybe eliminate the rice altogether?

  • Don March 15, 2010  

    Sounds like an incredible experience for you and your lovely bride. At my age I don’t think I will ever make it to Italy (a life-long dream to visit the land of my ancestors) but will be content to experience it vicariously through you for now.

    With your description of all those exotic dishes in Rome one can just imagine someone who comes into a restaurant, orders spaghetti and meatballs and gets a blank stare from the waiter.

  • erica March 15, 2010  

    when i went to italy i was stunned by three things food related:
    1) three-packs of Heineken.
    2) eggs on pizza. both cracked on as raw and cooked w/the pizza in the oven, and also i had one where the egg was hard boiled and put on the pizza after cooking.
    3) the spaghetti in venice was the best i’ve had in my life. how do they make it so amazing???!?!

  • tvff March 15, 2010  

    @gansie: The supplì there really were amazing, so maybe you were just getting a lousy version? You know how the crispy rice at the bottom of the paella is delicious? That’s what it was like.

    @tyler: I hear you on the level of al dente going too far. That wasn’t the case with the ones I had in Rome. Oddly, the spaghetti that I had at Lupa in NYC was extremely al dente, but managed to stop just short of being too much.

    I didn’t get a great look at the anchovies, but am pretty sure they were brown. That’s why I was amazed by the gentleness of the flavor.

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  • Leah July 5, 2010  

    Oh dear… suppli… *drools* My mother makes the best suppli I have ever eaten but I expect to find an even more delicious version in Rome. My nonna sometimes stuffs them with peas and proscuitto as well.

    Thanks for the lovely blog post! Much gratitude from someone who is researching how best to stimulate her sense of taste in Rome next February 🙂

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