I spent a couple of days in my second motherland, Rome, home of my mother and her side of the family. Naturally, I couldn’t help but indulge in the best food the Italian capital has to offer, so here’s a quick rundown of what you can get if you want to keep it cheap but still experience the real Roman street food.
Sorry to break it to you, but pizza isn’t the same in all Italian regions. So don’t go to Rome expecting all pizzerias to make the Neapolitan style, thick crust pizza you’ve come to know and love. Still, Roman pizza is amazing in its own kind. Thin-crusted and crispy, Roman pizza is all about experimenting with new flavours and it’s better enjoyed by the slice… or by the square, as it’s typically served here.
Pizza by the square can be incredibly cheap – sometimes, less than €2 a square – and can be found all over the capital. Think cold Marinara topped with black olives and chopped cherry tomatoes, or white pizza with cheese and porcini mushrooms, or zucchini flowers with stracciatella cheese or, for those of you with a sweet tooth, focaccia type pizza with Nutella and icing sugar.
When in Rome, I generally forget Airbnbs and fancy hotels and stay with family instead – so my pizza is usually take-away, to be eaten together with 12 other family members. My grandparents, who are nearly in their 90s, live in the Tuscolana neighbourhood, an apparently unglamorous area that actually hosts Cinecittà, Rome’s “Hollywood”, the studios where many Italian television shows were born, together with the golden age of Italian cinema. In fact, a few scenes from La Dolce Vita were actually shot right under my grandparents’ building, with Marcello Mastroianni reading the papers under the “portici” of Piazza San Giovanni Bosco. My grandpa and my mum themselves often joined a few movies as extras back in the day.
Fun fact: I actually presented an episode of the Italian Disney Club… Which continues the tradition of Disney “stars” (inverted commas in my case) gone bad. But back to the pizza.
In the Tuscolana neighbourhood, Alice Pizza is definitely your best option for authentic and tasty Roman pizza. But fear not: if you don’t want to venture near Cinecittà, you can find Alice in the very central Trastevere too!
Romans love their supplì, a take on the Sicilian arancini, or fried risotto balls. They used to be poor people’s food, a way to avoid throwing away the risotto from the night before. You can find them in every pizzeria and friggitoria in Rome, costing as little as €1 each. The flavours are often so many it’s hard to pick one: tomato sauce and mozzarella, bacon and pumpkin, pesto, spinach, cheese and pepper and more. I just love breaking them up and watching the runny cheese melt in front of me before eating them.
Rome has some of the best bruschettas in Italy, and you can get some really yummy ones with super fresh cherry tomatoes and crispy Roman sourdough. Any spot in Trastevere will do – especially when they have bruschettas and prosecco for €8!
The grattachecca is basically a slushie, but not one of the terribly sweet, fake ones you buy at 7Eleven. A symbol of the Roman summer, the grattachecca shouldn’t be drunk straight away: it should be eaten with a spoon first, and then it should be sucked in with a straw.
You can’t really claim to have had a Roman holiday without gelato. Last time, my mother and I had Blue Ice gelato in Trastevere and loved it, but I also indulged in some fantastic Sicilian style gelato. You can find it in most Roman gelaterie, and it basically consists in a fluffy, ginormous soft brioche inside which the gelataio puts your choice of ice cream. You have to try it!
Here’s a succession of completely unrelated pictures of me wandering around Rome cause I can’t think of a better conclusion. BYE.
Pictures: Carolina Are