Even though I blog about food and I think about food A LOT, I was so excited to be heading to Rome that I didn't really plan what I would actually be eating in Rome. Keep in mind, this was a last minute trip and we had not anticipated heading to Italy for at least another few years. But, I figured, it's ROME. I'm sure there will be good things to eat everywhere I look! I definitely wasn't wrong about that.
The only things that dampened my eating spirits (which are generally pretty high) were:
1. because of the August holiday season, some of the places we wanted to eat at were closed
2. it was so HOT that I didn't really have much of an appetite except for constantly craving water and gelato
Anyhow, I took a real "fly by the seat of my pants" attitude towards eating in Rome. Paul was the one who was busy online and in guidebooks, jotting down places that he wanted to check out (over which half were closed, unfortunately), so my plan of attack was to let Paul pick the location and then I would find something new and delicious on the menu once I got there.
Good plan, right? Except that neither of us speak Italian and some of the better places that we got to didn't speak any English or have English translations, so there was some guesswork and crossed-fingers as well.
In the end, I definitely tried some new things that I've fallen in love with (I'm looking at you suppli and granita caffe) and also twists on old favourites (a nutella cannolo - yes please!).
Here are the Top 8 things I ate in Rome (in no particular order):
Granita Caffe con Panna from La Casa del Caffe Tazza d'Oro
Oh. My. God. When you read about this, you're going to want to make some for yourself. Like right now.
This place was on Paul's "Must Visit" list (I love this guy!) - the Tazza d'Oro sits by the Pantheon and is famous for its coffee (in a country that's famous for its coffee). There were some really amazing things on the drink menu, but the Granita Caffe con Panna is the one that it's famous for.
The drink consists of three layers - a thick whipped cream is placed on the bottom, then a scoop of rich, deep espresso granita (imagine a shaved ice) and then topped with more thick cream. This is definitely a coffee you eat with a spoon.
We loved this so much we went three times while we were in Rome (we actually went four times, but they were closed on one of the days we went).
Even better - Paul managed to make an extremely close copy of the drink after we got home (don't worry, I'll be sharing the recipe soon!) so now we can have it anytime we want! Hooray!
Ananas gelato from Gelateria I Caruso
Another one of Paul's "Must Visit" locations, this little gelato shop is not really near any tourist location, so it was relatively quieter, and the menu is smaller (and only in Italian) - I can't remember, but I think there were less than 25 flavours (compared to a place like Della Palma, with 150 flavours!) . Plus, the gelato containers are covered up so you can't even see the colour of the gelato and make an educated guess as to what the flavour might be.
Luckily for me, the word "pineapple" is the same in French and Italian. We had four different gelatos from this place and the Ananas is definitely our favourite (it ended up being our favourite flavour from the whole trip). It was like you were eating crushed, creamy pineapple in a cup.
This was the one gelato shop where you could actually see them making their products - if you peek in the main window of the shop, you can see someone making gelato! Amazing!
p.s. Besides being known as one of the best gelato places in Rome, Paul had another motivation for choosing this place to visit. If you know me well enough in real life, then you'll know right away why we're partial to this place! ;)
Fiori di Zucca
I've never had the chance to eat fried pumpkin/squash/zucchini blossoms before, although I've seen them on menus here in Canada. So when I saw them on a menu in Rome, I knew I had to try them.
The blossoms I had were stuffed with cheese and then deep-friend. They were crispy and then gooey, but not greasy, which was nice. I don't know if the blossoms really have that strong of a flavour (I also had a great zucchini blossom risotto in Rome) but it was a nice appetizer and probably something I'd order again if I saw it on the menu.
No, we didn't go all the way to Rome and eat at a McDonalds (but let me tell you , it was PACKED). We do, however, like to go into a McDonald's whenever we're travelling to see what "regional" items they offer.
The one treat they had on the menu that we had to try was the Pistachio McFlurry. They sure do love their pistachio flavour in Rome!
Considering it was all syrup, the simulated pistachio flavour is pretty darn close to the real thing. Ok, so maybe not the best thing I had while in Rome, but it was definitely a novelty.
Pizza from the Pizzarium
I think the Pizzarium sat at the top of Paul's "Must Visit" list. I'll definitely have more to say about this place in an upcoming Pizza in Rome blog post, but for now, I'll just leave you with a photo and the promise that these were some of the best pizza slices Paul and I have ever had!
I (obviously) did not grow up with a nonna. Although I did eat a lot of rice growing up, very little of it was fried. And none of it was ever deep-fried with a centre of gooey cheese! Hello!?
So, because of my Asian background, I had no clue was suppli was. But thanks to this wonderful post on Endless Simmer, I learned about suppli halfway through my trip (yes, I was reading food blogs while I was on vacation in Rome - call it research) and made it a quest to try one before I left the city.
Thank goodness that the Pizzarium had it on their menu. Unfortunately, after all that pizza, I had room for about half a suppli (I'm not sure what the standard size/shape is, but it's more like a large oval than a ball). Half of one was all I needed to want to make this myself - it's crunchy, gooey, tomato-y and yummy. 'Nuff said.
I can't wait until the next time our deep-fryer is in action - I'm going to toss in a couple of rice balls and see what happens!
I've had some great cannoli in the past. And I've had some really awful ones (I swear, cannoli shells filled with whipped cream and topped with a candied cherry should not be allowed to be called a cannolo), but the cannoli from La Cannoleria Siciliana are in a class by themselves.
Another place on Paul's "Must Visit" list, we went by this shop four times while we were in Rome and they were only open ONE of those times (luckily for us!).
First of all, the cannoli here are quite large, filled with an authentic, creamy ricotta and come with your choice of a variety of toppings (like nuts, chocolate, pistachios, candied fruit, etc).
Most importantly (bakeries, please take note), the shells are sitting there, waiting to be filled after you place your order. That means the shells stay nice and crunchy and don't get soggy from prolonged contact with the creamy centre. YUM.
Ok, I know what you're thinking - "She's joking, right? Fountain water? Top food?". But picture this - it's 45 degrees Celcius out (113 degrees F for my American friends), I've been walking all day, out in the sun or in churches/monuments with no air conditioning. What could be more amazing than a cold, refreshing drink of water? How about free water?
Rome has 2,500 public fountains located throughout the city. Cool water runs constantly out of these fountains (and my "runs constantly", I mean there's no on/off switch like our public fountains here - apparently Rome has a lot of water) and you can take a quick sip or fill out your water bottle. The tap is ingeniously designed so that if you cover up the bottom of the tap, a little hole in the top of the tap squirts the water out the top so you can easily drink from it. I know, I'm doing a horrible job describing it.
After paying two to three Euros for bottles of cold water during our first day in Rome, Paul and I quickly realized that we couldn't afford to stay hydrated for an entire week in Rome, so we tried the fountains. The water is cool and has a pleasant taste (just what you want water to be) - we kept filling our bottles and didn't pay for water again during our trip.
I know it sounds weird that this "tap" water is on my Top Foods list, but seriously, this free, accessible water practically saved me from heat stroke when I was at the top of St. Peter's. I love it.
I know that there's still a lot of other wonderful foods for me to get my hands on in Rome. I wish I had more time (and more appetite) this trip, but that just means I'll need to start planning my next trip to Italy sooner rather than later, right?
Other posts about my trip to Rome: