Our foodie week in Rome couldn’t have got off to a better start. Last night, we looked in our trusty copy of the Lonely Planet to see where the nearest eateries were open late on a sunday night. We took our chances and headed to a little street called Via Portico d’Ottavia nearby. There were several small and welcoming looking restaurants open but we were drawn to the one with a man sitting outside peeling fresh artichokes. Only a few hours before, I’d been reading about how legendary Rome’s artichokes were, especially in the Jewish quarter. Thrilled at the thought of tucking into artichokes that had just been peeled minutes before, we headed inside Il Giardino Romano. The narrow traditional trattoria was packed full of locals, drinking red wine, laughing and tucking into various plates of primi, secondi and dolci – we were ready for a Roman-Jewish feast! I ordered us a Jewish style fried artichoke to start, followed by a bresaola and rocket pizza for me an an il diavolo version for Jake. We ordered a half bottle of Italian wine to wash it all down with.
The head of artichoke came to the table on a plate singed around the edges and looking rather unglamarous, but as I bit into its juicy flesh, I was amazed at the buttery texture coupled with the crispiness of the fried leaves. We shared one, but we easily could have had a couple each! Within a few minutes of having finished this small starter, our pizzas came. They were thin and crispy – exactly as pizzas should be. Mine was a pizza bianca, meaning it had a garlic and salt base rather than tomato. The salty wind-dried beef (bresalola) coupled with the peppery rocket melted with the garlicy crisp pizza base. With brisk, attentive and friendly service and good value outstanding family fare, I’d recommend Il Giardino Romano to anyone visiting Rome.
As we always tend to do whenever we travel, today we walked, and walked and walked. From our apartment we walked to the Colloseum, past the Roman Forum right up to Campo de’Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Needless to say, to fuel this journey a substantial lunch was in order, so we headed for Forno Roscioli near Campo de’Fiori for their legendary pizzas by the slice.
I ordered a huge slab of pizza topped with fredh basil, morrarella and slices of tomato. The base was thicker than the pizza I ate last night, but it was necessary in order to withstand the weight of the fresh slice produce on top. As delicious as this was, I musn’t neglect to mention the ‘suppli’ I snacked on beforehand. Suppli are rice balls filled with mozarella – when you bite into them, the melted mozarella inside becomes stringy and delicious! The perfect street food snack. Eating these treats in the sun watching the locals in the market selling their wares in the piazza, I felt immersed in the city and a thousand miles away from home.
Tonight, after a well deserved siesta, we headed to the touristy but pretty Trastevere area, just a skip over the bridge from our apartment. We took a quick peek inside the stunning Basilica di Santa Maria as it was open until 9pm. My breath was taken away by the glittering gold mosaics dating back to the 12th century as well as the stunning ceiling which although composed of a series of relief wood panels, looks as if it is made of gold. We ate dinner in a small, traditional trattoria called Da Teo which was bustling with locals. The friendly waiter reserved us a table for 9.15pm under the name “Emma” which he obviously remembered and proceeded to call me all evening – very sweet.
We feasted on fiori di zucca (courgette flowers stuffed with mozarella and anchovies and fried) and baccala which is a Jewish-Roman salted deep fried cod, the latter of which Jake remarked, was like eating fish and chips at home. As a main course I ordered a plate of spaghetti alle vongole and was presented with a huge plate of very al dente spaghetti piled with delicious, sweet and juicy clams. I remarked at how ‘firm to the bite’ the pasta was, and considering how good it tasted, realised I really need to take my spaghetti off the boil a good few minutes earlier at home.