I visited Venice and Florence two years ago, and was charmed by the Italian way of life. Gorgeous weather and historical sights aside, there is definitely something to be said about the slow, Italian approach of savouring moments and mealtimes. Unhurried and relaxed, delighting in local produce and good company, we can all learn a little something from Italian hospitality and cuisine. Captivated by Italy’s historical and cultural ambience, I returned to the beautiful country last week, this time heading straight to the country’s capital, the epicentre: Rome, the Eternal City. I soaked up the sunshine and the sights, learning many things along the way, not only regarding history, but of food and flavours. My visit only lasting a fleeting four days, I barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer, but here is a run down of my favourite foodie spots.
Top for Gelato: Gelateria da Costanza
There will be no struggle to source cold, velvety ice cream on a warm day in Rome — Gelato counters are dotted along nearly every street. Finding a spot to devour your next sweet treat should take no longer than a few minutes when strolling the city’s bustling lanes. Naturally, I consumed multiple servings of gelato on my trip, but Gelateria da Costanza served up the finest. Located just over the road from the Colosseum, it’s a perfect spot for a sugar induced pick-me-up after a muggy morning of sightseeing and guided tours. A small and modest ice creamery it may be, but Gelateria da Costanza offers up the creamiest, smoothest gelato I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. I recommend the pistachio ice cream — not too sweet, but thick and flavoursome — best enjoyed whilst soaking up the extraordinary view of the Colosseum, in all its historical glory, just across the street.
Top for Ravioli: Mariolina
Also located not far from the Colosseum, but on a much quieter street; Mariolina feels like a secret and effortlessly cool hangout, more frequented by locals than tourists (a good sign). Upon arrival, we were informed that Mariolina ‘is not a restaurant, it is a food laboratory‘. There are a handful of high tables across one wall, and the kitchen is set behind windows against the other. You order at the counter, grab a set of plastic cutlery, and collect your freshly prepared food yourself from the kitchen window. No frills or fuss — admittedly rather hipster — this place delivered quite possibly the best ravioli I have ever tasted. All made fresh on site, Mariolina creates some fantastic pasta with truly interesting flavour combinations (I had rabbit and spinach ravioli in an almond pesto and orange juice sauce — heavenly). The ‘no service’ aspect of it just adds to the place’s quirkiness (quirky in part from the decor; reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film). Mariolina also does takeaway options, and seems to be incredibly popular with locals. It feels like a real hidden gem amongst the mediocre tourist traps that are commonplace throughout Rome.
Top for Sandwiches: Lost Food Factory
Blink and you’ll miss it — Lost Food Factory is a small but impressive cafe, situated close to the Pantheon, nestled amongst the more imposing bars and restaurants that surround this busy area. Housing only a few tables — all of them crammed into corners to make the most of the tiny space — the Lost Food Factory feels like true Italian hospitality; gathering us together in a laidback environment in which food is loved and respected. Informal and simple but with a clear passion for quality produce, the fare here is immensely satisfying. There is a wide selection of sandwiches to choose from, all fillings served between thick slices of fresh, crusty bread, and all can be savoured exquisitely with an ice-cold soft drink or one of the many craft bottled beers. The owner is welcoming and knowledgeable, providing trusted food recommendations for customers, established by the produce he so brilliantly utilises. The passion and respect for food is undeniable here, and the use of such fresh, quality ingredients makes these sandwiches my most highly esteemed in Rome.
Top for Espresso: La Casa del Caffè Tazza d’Oro
Coffee is an essential element of Italian life. To enjoy it like a true Italian, consume it standing up at the bar. Oh, and don’t order a cappuccino after 11AM; it’s espresso only after mid morning! My recommendation for coffee lovers is to sample the offerings of one of Rome’s best coffee houses: La Casa del Caffè Tazza d’Oro. Likely to be very busy due to its grand reputation, you queue at the first counter to place your order, then take your order slip to the baristas who will prepare your coffee for you. Not too bitter, but perfectly rich, the espresso slips down a treat whilst you stand at the counter, embracing your inner Italian. My personal favourite here is the frozen espresso topped with whipped cream. This is a must visit for coffee lovers, it’s reputation is well deserved.
Other highlights of mine include enjoying a classic Italian aperitif on one of the many piazzas around the city. Restaurants located close to tourist attractions are likely to be pricier, but it can be fun to watch the world go by across the lively square in front of you. Head further out from the popular sights if you wish to get more bang for your buck. A trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without copious consumption of spaghetti. Hidden down a quiet alleyway — even though just a short distance from the commotion at the Trevi Fountain — Spaghetteria L’Archetto offers over 100 choices of sauce to accompany freshly made, al dente spaghetti.
Do you have any recommendations for food in Rome? Or anywhere else in Italy? I am hoping to visit another region in this fantastic country next year. I am truly enchanted by the Italian way of life.