We thought Florence was great when it came to food, which it was – the AH-mazing truffles, cured meats and wines just stepped up a whole other level in Rome where variety and quality of all Italian food seemed to be at their prime. Roman food tended to taste a lot saltier with just the rock salt giving a juicy zing to the natural ingredients.
We had the best pizza yet from this hipster style pizzeria on the other side of the Vatican City, Bonci Pizzarium. Here they have freshly prepared long pizzas loaded with various flavours of toppings, presented in a colourful row. All you do is choose a flavour and they cut a slice off that goes in the oven and charge you by the weight. We got four flavours: pumpkin and black kale (veg), mushroom and cheese (veg), Italian meatballs, and beef carpaccio with cured veges. The true standout was the mushroom pizza. I’m not too sure what the cheese was, possibly ricotta or a variation, but it was so juicy and added to the freshly spiced funghi on a tomato paste base with a hint of chilli. Different to our regular pizzas from a wood fire oven, I believe the Roman snack pizzas (called pinsas) has a more bread-like base that’s super soft and fluffy with a crispy toasted shell. I never imagined Italian food to be of such a broad spectrum of flavours and styles of culinary skill.
A cheap pasta joint we found in the heart of the city was Pasta Imperiale. Here you can get a homemade freshly cooked pasta for as low as 5€. It’s not the most classy place with food being served on single use crockery and cutlery, but the taste of an authentic Italian kitchen oozes from every bite. We got a farfalle (bow tie vegan pasta) with pesto genovese sauce and tortellini (pasta morsels filled with beef and. cheese) with ragu sauce. Tiramisu was also classic and cheap for 3€. Genuine hearty lunch spot.
For a more fancy occasion or chef exceptionale experience, La Zanzara also on the Vatican side of Rome had a great modern, chic vibe with fantastic service, beverage selection and stylish menu. All the pastas here are freshly made with only seasonally available ingredients and the grill offered a range of cuts for the meatosaurs. A snack dish, which we got as a side was the anchovies and cheese stuffed pumpkin flowers served with a tartare sauce. Juicy deep fried goodness well done.
We found gelato often hit and miss in Rome, definitely the general standard being sub par to that of Florence but there were still a few stores that are highly commended. The Gelatist – a chain store in Rome, where they had the flavour ‘Nutella’ that was just the pure thing. Frigidarium – strong flavours in all the gelato options, with a slightly salty pistachio flavour like the ones we got in Florence. The original store of the Old Bridge franchise – amazing Amaretto, Bacio and Nocciola (hazelnut). All the gelato stores would allow free tasting of flavours, we usually tested out the traditional flavours such as nocciola and pistachio to test the quality rather than venture out for flavours first. Some gelato stores had raving reviews on Yelp and Google but sadly did not meet standards at all. Gelato should always be about the smoothness of the cream and the taste so sometimes the colours may not be the brightest so any store that has a popping green pistachio screams suspicion.
Very satisfied in general with the amount of restaurants down all of the side streets that gave a cosy, more romantic mood compared to the tourist flooded sightseeing areas. A small seemingly residential area that we stumbled upon with a heap of bars and eateries good for apertivo is Trastevere, just under the Janiculum Terrace hilltop lookout for a great sunset view over Rome. Rome was more than just a capital city or tourist flooded host of monuments, it had a character that was comparable to those of the Athens streets and really gave a sense of the local vibe – that jolly, fun loving Italian spirit.
Restaurants and address:
- Bonci Pizzarium: Via della Meloria, 43, 00136 Roma RM, Italy
- Pasta Imperiale: Via dei Coronari, 160, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
- La Zanzara: Via Crescenzio, 84, 00193 Roma RM, Italy