Everyone who goes to Rome knows enough to gorge on pasta, gelato, wine, coffee and pizza. But, you’ll miss out on some incredible gastronomical pleasures if you take the tourist tour of Roman eating. Eat like a local instead, and sample these five sweet and savory food finds.
It’s All About the Artichokes
The artichoke is as Roman as the toga.
Wander down any Roman side street during those days when winter turns into spring, and you’ll see trucks full of artichokes making their deliveries at restaurants, shops and markets.
Eat them deep-fried and speckled with large grains of sea salt, stewed over time with mint and garlic, baked into pasta and covered in cheese or sprinkled over pizza. Buy them marinated if you want to take them home or fresh and right out of a farmer’s hand at the Mercato Testaccio, an open-air food market in one of Rome’s least-traveled neighborhoods.
P is For Porchetta
There is pork, and then there is porchetta.
In Rome, porchetta makes a popular lunch or snack. This slow-roasted pork is seasoned with salt, olive oil and herbs. The skin is crispy, brown and full of flavor while the meat stays moist and easy to eat on its own or with a stew of vegetables. The Italians eat it as a panini, between a couple of pieces of bread and nothing else. There’s no need for condiments or special sauces with this grub.
Look for porchetta shops all over Rome, where they make it easy for you to enjoy the delectable meat by wrapping it in a sheet of grease-catching butcher’s paper. Enjoy it while standing at the counter and sipping a glass of wine or beer.
Treat Yourself to Cacio e Pepe
There’s plenty of pasta to go around in Rome, and both locals and tourists swear by carbonara, rich and creamy pasta that includes bacon, cheese and heavy cream. But, the local specialty for most Roman residents will always be cacio e pepe, which translates to cheese and pepper.
It’s usually served on a long, thick noodle and steaming hot. The only ingredients (other than the pasta) are the local Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
Some scandalous chefs will add a hint of Parmesan, but butter is a no-no. Cacio e pepe is a first course option at nearly every good restaurant in Rome, and something you don’t want to miss while you’re feasting in the Eternal City.
Pizza al Rustica — Pizza With PotatoesCredit: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock
In Rome, you can order a full pizza pie or you can do what the local Romans do and eat pizza al taglio, or by the slice. When you’re deciding on toppings, consider potatoes.
One of the most common recipes you’ll come across at pizzerias in Rome is pizza al rustica, which includes a mix of spicy sautéed sausage and boiled potatoes. Those spuds may be chunks or slices, and they’ll be topped with salt and rosemary.
For Dessert, Try Maritozzi con la PannaCredit: Paolo De Gasperis/Shutterstock
When it’s time for something sweet and you’ve already sampled every gelato flavor available in the city of Rome, try the Italian sweet pastries that are stuffed with cream. These are called maritozzi, and they’re often split in half so you can see and smell the sugary, fragrant whipped cream that’s inside.
When in Rome, these delicious buns aren’t just for dessert. Your hosts eat them for breakfast with a frothy cappuccino or a hit of espresso.