Although we tend to think of Italy as one homogenous country for food, Italians think quite differently.
Each region in Italy has different food depending on its history, if it is influenced by a neighbouring country and its geography. So in the northern mountains it is common to cook lots of stewed meat with butter but in the South, such as Provence there is a lot of seafood cooked in olive oil.
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And so when you holiday in Rome, one of the best experiences is eating authentic Roman food as you may not find it elsewhere. Here are 7 Roman foods to look out for in this delicious city.
If you could only eat one thing in Rome, it has to be an artichoke. Roman artichokes are synonymous with Roman food. They are so important to the food culture in Rome that they have been given a special protected-origin status from the European Union.
They are also a great reason to visit Rome in the winter as they are only available from February to May. Any other time of the year you’re likely not getting the famous carciofo romanesco but instead imported artichokes or Roman artichokes that were once frozen.
Over winter you can find them in many dishes, prepared a number of ways. The most famous are fried artichokes, which originated in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto and are light and crispy. You can find them throughout Rome and are known as carciofi alla giudia or Jewish-style fried artichokes.
Another traditional dish to look out for are artichokes simmered in olive oil, white wine and mint known as carciofi alla romana.
A classic Roman salad with a bitter green only served in the winter. Similar to chicory, it’s so bitter on its own that it is first soaked in water until it curls.
In fact, it’s one of the few salads in Italy that is served dressed with a vinaigrette, made with anchovies, garlic, olive oil and wine vinegar. Don’t be afraid of the anchovies as it’s only enough to give it a bit of saltiness which helps combat the bitter greens.
Cacio e Pepe
Leave it to the Romans to find a way to make pasta delicious with only cheese and pepper – hence the name cacio e pepe in the Roman dialect. The sheep’s milk cheese, Pecorino Romano, adds the addictive saltiness and creaminess in this simple dish. A classic recipe uses the starchy pasta water to make
this amazing creamy sauce.
The popular Italian deli, Salumeria Roscioli, has an amazing version. But if you can’t get a reservation every neighbourhood in Rome has a delicious version of this iconic dish.
Although Rome is landlocked, one of the most typical Roman foods is deep-fried battered fillet of cod, also known as filet di baccala. It is common to find these are battered salt cod fillets at pizzerias in Rome. But the most famous place to eat them is at Dar Filettaro, a small restaurant close to Piazza Navona.
The restaurant has a tiny menu as everyone comes for the cod and a seasonal side. Most tourists walk by without knowing this spot is filled to the brim with locals inside.
The restaurant doesn’t take reservations so you may need to wait 10-15 minutes for a table but it’s well worth it and prices are very reasonable.
Roman Sliced Pizza
There are lots of different pizzas in Italy and many will say the best pizza is in Naples, others swear it is in Rome. While Neopolitan pizza has a thick crust, Romans prefer thin crust pizza. The debate is very similar to the New York City vs. Chicago style pizza as it really depends on your personal preference.
But one thing that is unique to Rome, and great for travelers, is that it is very common to sell pizza by the slice. Pizza al taglio is almost exclusive to Rome. Unlike what we know as pizza by the slice, it’s often a large long pizza and you decide how many inches you’d like. It’s cut with scissors and then weighed.
This is perfect for travellers who just can’t commit to one flavour and would like to try a few options.
A classic Roman street food, suppli are deep fried rice croquettes filled with meat and cheese. Meant to be an inexpensive snack, fillings include ground beef, off cuts of meat and cooked in tomato sauce. The meat is stuffed with a piece of cheese, traditionally mozzarella then deep fried revealing a decadent snack.
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Cover photo credits: Dale Cruse