On my first day in Rome, I arrived at my hotel near 11am, and my room wasn’t ready yet, so I wandered around the Pantheon for a bit. After a couple of hours, I was able to check into my room with an amazing view at the Albergo del Senato, and soon after I was on my way down to Tiber Island for the meeting spot for my first food tour of the week: Twilight in Trastevere with Eating Italy tours.
The Ponte Fabricio crosses half the Tiber River to Tiber Island, and is the oldest Roman bridge still in use today. It was built in 62 BC. I tried to let that sink in, but failed. Walking across this bridge was a surreal treat in itself.
On this 4 hour food tour we would be exploring the Trastevere neighborhood, which is on the other side of the river and offers a very beautiful and authentic Roman experience. A bit less touristy, there are tons of wonderful restaurants and beautiful scenery.
Our first top was at Da Enzo for their famous fried Jewish Artichokes, which were served with a side of creamy burrata cheese, and tomatoes with basil. It was all absolutely delicious, and was possibly my favorite stop on the whole tour. The artichokes are crispy and soft at the same time with a sprinkling of salt, and the entire thing is edible, even the stem.
Next we went to a side entrance of Slowfood restaurant Spirito DiVino which was built into a facade from the 1300s. But it got better from there! We were led downstairs to the basement where the building was built over the ruins of another building from 100BC, at the ancient Roman ground level. Unbelievable! This room is now used as a wine cellar, and we got to sample some delicious wine and food. The wine was from the eastern slope of Mt. Edna, where the grapes are grown in the rich volcanic soil. It was such a very specific grape, and had a very unique and delicious flavor. This is definitely a stop to remember on any tour! We enjoyed hearing recounts of some famous statues and works of art that had been discovered here in the cellar during renovations.
The pork shoulder stew was from an ancient Roman recipe by Julius Caesar’s cook, and it had some unique sweetness of apples and honey as well as other spices.
Next stop was Innocenti, an old neighborhood bakery making dozens of different kinds of Italian cookies, or biscuits. We sampled three different kinds which were all delicious.
Then we were on to a wonderful butcher shop where we sampled so many things: bread and creamy cheese, Pecorino Romano, an amazing porchetta on foccaccia, and an Italian craft beer. The porchetta was one of my favorite things I tasted on this, and any other, tour while I was in Rome. Absolutely delicious.
We continued on, and we were all getting really full at this point…… but everything was so delicious. I was immensely enjoying all these new foods and flavors, and discovering so many wonderful corners of Trastevere. We stopped at a tiny snack shop called iSuppli, which specializes in a distinctly Roman street snack called suppli. It’s a fried rice ball, with little bits of meat and inside the center is a perfectly warm and melted core of cheese–hence the “suppli” (surprise!) We also tried a slice of Roman pizza al taglione which surprised me because of how thin it was, and also how it had no cheese. Turns out there was no cheese needed, as this sauce was so amazingly flavorful. I really, really loved that little slice of pizza. We ate these treasures in the piazza in front of the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, which was undergoing a bit of work on the outside. Sadly, I never made it to the interior to see the legendary mosiacs and artwork inside, hidden by a rather modest and uninteresting exterior.
The main course meal of the tour came next (seriously, how is there still more food left?) when we enjoyed a pasta and wine dinner at Casa Mia in Trastevere (I think it’s also a hotel on the other side). This was a bright and laid back eatery where we could see the guys in the kitchen preparing our meal. We had two of the famous Roman pastas: amatricana and cacio e pepe. And wine. Soooooo much wine.
Convinced I could not eat a single bite more, we rolled ourselves out of there and made one final stop for dessert. Gelato! Of course. Literally every food tour ends with gelato, and that is how it should be. Fatamorgano is a really cool artisanal, organic, chef-inspired gelateria with amazingly whimsical and creative flavor combinations. I had two scoops of coconut goat cheese and almond/apple/cinnamon. A priceless and happy end to a long afternoon of good eating! There is always space for gelato.
Seriously–what an incredible day that was. From Boston to Montreal to Zurich, to Rome, checking into my hotel and finally wrapping up the night with a 4 hour food tour in the rione of Trastevere. WOW. Stay tuned for the rest of my incredible food adventures in Rome.