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Rome for a day: a local foodie guide

21/06/2017

All Italians love their food. Nowhere is that passion felt more keenly than in the nation’s capital, Rome, where you’ll find an astounding choice of traditional dishes and treats. Local resident and writer Erica Firpo reveals her favourite places to sample the city’s legendary hospitality throughout the day

A dish of pasta all’amatriciana from Felice a Testaccio. Photography by Susan Wright

A dish of pasta all’amatriciana from Felice a Testaccio. Photography by Susan Wright.

Morning coffee and pastries

There is nothing more Roman than the morning bar scene, where a seemingly frenzied clientele vies for counter space and a round of caffè e cornetto (coffee and pastry), before which the day cannot proceed. Whether you’re after a lungo, corto, ristretto, corretto, marocchino, macchiato, cappuccino or shakerato, push forward and claim your space. All Roman bars are great, but what sets one apart from the other are, for me, the pastries. My favourite bar is Caffè Roscioli (Piazza Benedetto Cairoli 16), the newest venture in the Roscioli family line-up, which includes its fourth-generation bakery, restaurant/delicatessen and wine shop. Sit at the front bar, where the long countertop is lined with some of Italy’s best pastries. I go for the maritozzo, a sweet brioche filled with cream, every time.

 

Lunch

We have a great saying in Roman dialect: ‘Quer che nù strozza ngrassa.’ What doesn’t kill you makes you fat. It’s a pretty good summation of this city’s extraordinary cuisine: simple and local, featuring a mix of butchers’ leftovers. Try the famous quinto quarto (offal) or my personal favourites, pork belly and pork cheek. But it is also comfort food – hearty plates of pasta all’amatriciana or handpicked vegetable dishes such as ovoli (a rare mushroom, sliced up with parmesan cheese) or the famous carciofi alla giudia (fried artichoke). If you’ve sights to see, a light lunch is advisable. Aim for an outdoor table at La Matricianella (Via del Leone 4) for a lazy meal of Roman favourites.

Outdoor tables at Pierluigi. Photography by Susan Wright

Pierluigi is perfect for clever fish interpretations of Roman dishes. Photography by Susan Wright.

Gelato break

Rome is famous for its gelato artigianale so it’s hard to go wrong if you’re after great ice cream. My go-to gelateria is Corona (Largo Arenula, 27), a small family-run shop that has a very creative menu of summertime granite (flavoured iced drinks) and seasonal sorbet and gelato flavours such as basil and mint (summer), watermelon or chestnut (autumn), as well as the standard flavours all year round.

 

Afternoon pit stops

You can’t go wrong with a Roman pizza. I am a traditionalist, which means I love an old-school pizzeria – paper-covered tables, lots of laughter and a busy forno a legna (wood burning oven). Go for a crispy pizza napoletana ­–­ a thin-crusted, margherita pizza with anchovies. Down the street at Trapizzino (Via Giovanni Branca, 88), you’ll find pizza pockets filled with burrata and anchovies, among other great options. If I want a hearty Roman feast, I'll reserve a table at Felice a Testaccio (Via Mastro Giorgio 29). I love how they mix up the cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) right in front of you. If I want fish, there is a table with my name on it in Pierluigi. The pastas are clever fish interpretations of Roman dishes.

 

Buon appetito!


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Erica Firpo

 Rome-based Erica writes for Forbes Travel, The Telegraph and BBC Travel. ‘I’ve loved Rome since the time when my parents let me and my sister run around the Colosseum as toddlers. From that day, I knew it was my city.’

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