La Dolce Eat-a: The Best Foods in Rome
I know that we took a look at the top ten things I ate in Rome (just updated with more photos!!), but to think of Rome as the sum of its individual parts would be a mistake. There is a larger story to tell.
First off, I should admit that I’m not going to be able to do justice in this post to the experience of eating a week’s worth of meals in Rome.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not a good enough writer, though that may be true. I think it’s just that you can’t really talk about eating in Rome in a way that can even remotely replicate the experience. That said…
If you are a lover of food, you owe it to yourself to go to Rome at some point. If you fancy yourself a decent home cook, you really should go and see how you can make simple ingredients delicious.
And if you work in an Italian restaurant, you should be required to go to Rome. There really ought to be some sort of licensing process involved.
Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t just about how good the food tasted, although that’s something we’ll cover point-by-point at a bit later. What was amazing was that there is an overwhelming and all-consuming food culture. It seeps into everything there. I was there less than one full week and it’s easily the greatest single food experience of my life.
What was so impressive? It was the little things, and it started first thing in the morning.
Mrs. TVFF and I didn’t pay a cent for breakfast all week. A continental breakfast was part of our hotel package, a prospect that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to after a similar arrangement on a trip to London. But at the Hotel Portoghese in Rome, the simple spread of croissants, rolls, Nutella, salami, fruit and yogurt had us actually looking forward to the meal. Oh, and there was a cheerful woman who would make you fantastic cappuccinos to order. Yeah, a great way to start off the day.
The sheer number of options for a great lunch are staggering, and it’s all the more impressive because they’re not chain restaurants. We’d walk past pizzerias because the looked GOOD but not FANTASTIC. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. The tavola calda spots, with an assortment of pizzas, panini and assorted other goodies meant you never had to go out of your way to find the perfect mid-day snack.
But the real treat was dinner. Dinners in Rome are almost inexplicable…
The first thing that strikes you about dining in Rome is the graciousness of the restaurants, whether they were the homier trattoria or the slightly more formal ristorante. You truly did feel like you were being invited into someone’s home. On numerous occasions, we were treated to a complimentary item — mulled wine on a chilly night, minestrone soup, a pre-dinner prosecco and a limoncello digestivo. The best part was that it didn’t feel like a gimmick. It was just part of the hospitality that came with being a guest in their establishment.
With all of the tremendous goodwill that engendered, you’d almost forgive them if the food was slightly sub-par from time to time, but it was uniformly and consistently excellent. I can honestly say that I didn’t put a single thing in my mouth at hte dinner table that wasn’t delicious.
You’ve undoubtedly heard tales of multi-hour dinners with eight courses, but that’s not quite the case. What is true is that it’s a wonderfully leisurely affair. You’re served your food at a calm, relaxed pace and you’re never once hovered over or hurried. So get the full liter of vina della casa — a delicious and tremendous bargain — and enjoy it at your own pace.
Eating is a pastime in Italy, and it’s one that they take very seriously.
I hope that this was able to convey a little bit of the fun and excitement of Rome. Words and photos can only do so much, though, so feel free to take a look at a short video of the trip…including some of the food, sites and places that will stay with Mrs. TVFF and me for the rest of our lives.