We got back from our eating tour of Italy almost two weeks ago, but I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how to share all the amazing things we ate in an organized way that isn’t overwhelming to readers – chronological, type of food, order of deliciousness? So many options! I finally decided that region by region will be easiest, so here goes starting with Rome in the Lazio region.
Volpetti = Cheeseboard in Roma
You all know that I heart the Cheeseboard in Berkeley, so when Steve from the Cheeseboard told me to visit Volpetti on my trip to Rome, I knew I had to go. It did not disappoint. Mmmmmmm. We went to a LOT of cheese shops during our trip and Volpetti was by far the best. Just like at the Cheeseboard, they are happy to let you try lots of different types of cheeses and give you recommendations.
My favorites were the gorgonzola and the hard goat cheese.
Volpetti also has bread, meat products (salami, prosciutto, etc), and prepared food. The arancini were really delicious and the roman artichokes looked great, though regrettably (and a great source of FOMA later that day) I did not try the artichokes at Volpetti.
Gelato, gelato, gelato
We certainly didn’t lack options for trying gelato since there are more gelato shops in Italy than there are Starbucks in the US. Our favorite in Rome was Il Gelato di San Crispino. Their ingredients were super fresh and their strawberry gelato was delicious. To put that in context, I don’t really like strawberry ice cream, but my partner is partial to both strawberry ice cream and gelato and fortunately, this led to my discovery that strawberry gelato is far superior to strawberry ice cream. The meringue-based hazelnut at San Crispino was also delicious, but if I had to pick one flavor (thankfully, I did not have to pick just one!), I’d go with the strawberry. Mmmmmm.
While we were waiting for Volpetti to open, we tried the gelato place just a few doors down. I can’t remember the name, but the banana gelato was amazing. It tasted just like … well … bananas! My friend who is not usually into banana flavored treats was so impressed that at our second of three gelato stops that day, got her own banana gelato 🙂
Gelateria del Teatro (Via di San Simone, 70) has a really weird vibe. They play techno music and have a constantly looping video of people making gelato that is more sterile than drool inducing. There is one young guy who is super nice and an older, grumpy guy that doesn’t seem to notice that he works around a delicious food product all day! The gelato, though, is pretty tasty! This is the place to go if you’re interested in trying interesting flavors like white chocolate basil, ricotta fig with almond, and sage and raspberry. We also tried their pear, kiwi, almond, and pistachio (there were four of us!) and were less impressed. I’d say try this place out if you are into unusual combinations, but if you’re looking for the more common flavors, San Crispino is the place to go.
Giolitti is famous for its gelato, super touristy, and in my opinion overrated. I was unimpressed with the service and most importantly, their gelato tasted like gelato you could get in the US.
Though not gelato, if you like coffee, you must go to Caffe Tazza D’oro and have an espresso granita. Service isn’t great, an unfortunate and common ramification of being a popular cafe in a touristy location, but the granita is delicious. There is just a small scoop of granita sandwiched between two huge globs of fresh, unsweetened whipped cream. I could have used a higher granita/whipped cream ratio, but you do need the creaminess of the whipped cream to counter the super strong, delicious espresso granita. This is no joke, try it!
Even though I don’t frequent many bakeries in the US, FOMA required me to visit two or three bakeries in every city we went to in Italy. One of my favorites was Biscottificio Innocenti, a small, unpretentious, untouristy shop in Trastevere (Via della Lucce, 21a).
Their brutti ma buoni (literally translated “ugly, but good”) cookie was so good that we bought a few, gobbled them up as we stepped outside, looked at each other, and wordlessly went back inside to buy more! They were so fresh and magical. These cookies are definitely worth a trip to Biscottificio Innocenti when you’re in Rome.
My partner was partial to the marzipan cookies that were dipped in chocolate.
Since we were lucky enough to be in Rome during artichoke season, we tried the two most famous preparations in the Jewish quarter: carciofo romanesco alla giudia (“Jewish style”) and carciofi alla romana (“Roman style”). The carciofo romanesco alla giudia is deep fried whole until the outer leaves become so crispy that they taste like artichoke potato chips.
The carciofi alla romana is trimmed and then braised with olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Both were very delicious.
I’ll give an honorable mention to Enoteca Vini e Buffet (Vicolo della Torretta, 60) near the Spanish Steps. This simple spot is an oasis in a very touristy location. My friend’s partner is a wine connoisseur and he seemed pleased with the options. The mushroom pate was delicious and everything else was tasty, but nothing all that memorable.
So that’s it for Rome. Stay tuned for food reports from Umbria, Tuscany, and Emilia Romagna.