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From Craft Beer to Street Food: 11 Things to Eat and Drink in Rome

Andrea Szyper's picture
on Mon, 11/14/2016 - 12:44
Food is one of my primary motivations in travel. And to know a city well, I want to savor its signature dishes, discover its street food, and imbibe its most typical beverages. Aside from the sensory pleasures, I enjoy the shared experience of loitering in a city’s cafes, following the suggestions of the proud vendor at market, and being part of a noise in a crowded dining room.
 
Afterall, food connect people. And local dishes can be a window into the soul of a place and its people, its traditions, and its history. In Rome, Jewish history, ancient butchery, and new food and drink trends mingle in a chaotic frenzy as energetic as the city itself. Here are some of my favorites.
 

Snack and street food

 
Pizza alla Pala - Pizza by the slice looks a little different here, baked in long oval slabs, served on a paddle, and cut into rectangles rather than triangles. Cut to the size you request and priced by weight, the pizza will likely then be halved and folded, like a sandwich, and wrapped in paper so you can eat it while walking.
 
Suppli - Also known as arancini, these are fried rice balls, often stuffed with tomato sauce, cheese and a little meat. You can order these in restaurants or grab some at a pizzeria to go.
 
Squash blossoms - Fiori di zucca are those big yellow flowers that Romans batter fry, often stuffed with a little cheese and meat or anchovies. Again, scoop some up at the pizzeria or order them at a trattoria.
 
Roman artichokes - Cooked to a perfect softness, you’ll eat these small, perfectly trimmed artichokes with the attached stem. Their origins are with the Jewish community, but they are available all over the city.
 

Dining

 
Tripe - Rome has a long (millennia old) tradition of eating animal innards and making them great. Afterall, waste not, want not. Look for tripe and other offal on the menus of any traditional neighborhood trattoria or hostaria.
 
Cacio e pepe - The whole is better than the sum of its parts. Pasta with cheese and pepper might not sound like all that, but add olive oil and that certain magic that comes with Italian chefs, the best fresh ingredients and a touch of pasta water, and wow. If you want something richer, go for carbonara.
 
Bucatini All'Amatriciana - Amatriciana is a classic tomato sauce, made with pecorino cheese, wine, and guanciale, Italian salt-cured pork jowl. It’s the perfect Italian comfort food.
 
Fried cod - This is a Jewish dish, best eaten in the old Jewish ghetto neighborhood, but widely available. Salty, crisp and delicious.
 

Drinking

 
Craft beer - Italian brewing is having a Renaissance. Rome is home to many birrerie serving the likes of Baladin, Borgo, and Ducato. These are three of the most established breweries, but new ones keep cropping up. Unbound by a national brewing tradition or purity laws, brewers here are free to experiment with peppercorns, ancient grains, nuts, and herbs. You’ll find some very creative beers, and no shortage of trendy bars servign them.
 
Caffe d’orzo - Barley coffee is a nice, natural alternative to decaf coffee. It is brewed from roasted barley and can be served short (like an espresso) or long. Orzo comes from wartime scarcity and is more evidence of Italian creativity. This one is not particular to Rome.
 
Cioccolato caldo - So thick you can almost stand a spoon up in it. Order milk to thin it if you prefer it a little less like a cup of melted chocolate. This is made to sip sitting down. Find it in Rome and beyond.
 
Read about my food favorites from Venice, and stay tuned for Florence. Buon appetito!
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