Little did we realize that when we signed up for the evening food tour conducted by Food Tours of Rome, that we were in a for a treat and for some of the best moments of our entire Italy trip.
As recommended by several others on TripAdvisor, we did the tour on our first evening in Rome. Owing to the tight travel schedule, we hadn’t got a chance to have a proper lunch and hence we were quite famished by 6 pm, the start time of the tour. It was planned to stop at around 7 restaurants over a span of 4 hours.
We were warmly greeted by the guide: Andrea who checked us in and got to understand our preferences / allergies. Our group consisted of a great mix of 13 people including a young British couple, a mother-daughter from the US, an Australian couple and an American theology student.
Food truly has the power to bond even the strangest of strangers as we all instantly connected and introduced ourselves over our first meal.
We were served with Antipasti (starters) – traditionally a mixed plate of cold cuts, meats, cheese vegetables among many other things. Our guide explained that the dishes for this course primarily originated from the north of Italy –province of Friuli.
Some of the highlights were the soft creamy cow’s milk ricotta cheese and delicious buffalo milk pecorino cheese served with honey. The sweetness of the honey complemented the saltiness of the cheese so exquisitely that it seemed like match made in heaven.
We were also served with “Bruschetta” with an artichoke spread and mozzarella and polenta, a porridge like dish made from cornmeal served with walnuts/ venison to accommodate both vegetarians/non-vegetarians alike.
There was also a mixed plate of vegetables as well such as eggplant, sautéed broccoli and cabbage leaves. Though very simple, it gave us the feeling of dining in an traditional Italian household.
We were also offered an array of best of the cold cuts such as salami, prosciutto which accompanied the wines beautifully.
But hold on- this was just the first stop !
Next, we walked to the Jewish neighbourhood- Trastevere (literally translating into the other side of the Tiber river), where our guide showed us inscribed stones along the paths of the streets as shown in the picture below, with names of those who lived and went on to die during the Holocaust during World War II.
As he narrated, the images came alive into our minds where in the early morning one Saturday (day of the Sabbath), thousands of Jews were driven from their homes into the concentration camps where they died. Out of more than thousands who left this neighbourhood, only 14 people went on to survive. One of the survivors aged about 90 is still alive and when someone asked him, “How can you live in the same house where you witnessed the massacre of your family?” He replied that “I was born here and I will die here”.
Naturally, the influence of the Jewish culture influenced the cuisine of the region as well.
A small restaurant whose name I forgot to note :(
We were taken to a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall restaurant and were served some Fried Zucchini Flowers . The traditional recipe being Zucchini flowers stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella cheese and dipped in a flour batter, before being fried. It was served hot and tasted divine with the crunchy exterior batter and the gooey interior.
We further walked around and stopped at one of the oldest and best FORNO (bakery) in Rome.
Campo De' Fiori
As we entered the bakery, the beautiful aroma of the baked goodies surrounding us hit us and instantly we were hungry all over again.
The bakes ranged from fresh breads to various kinds of pizzas, wide variety of cakes and sweet/savoury raised breads.
Though we were tempted to try each of everything in the shop, we limited ourselves to Pizza. We camped outside by converting the delivery box of a bicycle into a table and were served the pizza margherita and salami pizzas. We were in for a reality check and realized what a pity called Pizzas that that we had been eating all this while. The crust was crispy and crackled in our mouths as we could taste the mild hint of the charcoal with the melted cheese on top interspersed with the right amount of tomato sauce. Wow!
Campo De’ Fiori
We were taken to the basement of a lovely, quaint restaurant where we had a sit down meal with servings of mixed fried vegetables, a rustic peasant soup consisting of pasta and chickpeas, mussels in a garlic butter sauce, pasta alla carbonara and fresh spinach and white pasta in a tomato sauce.
TH gave an excellent review of the mussels describing it be super fresh and the delicate sauce perfectly elevating the flavor of the mussels.
We also got to know the brief history associated with the area as we could see Carrera marble ruins of the ancient Roman theatre. Some of the ancient walls have been still sustained by the restaurant owners now to provide an ambience.
Then we walked to Campo de’ Fiori which fitted the description of the perfect Italian square filled with tourists, hawking waiters, street musicians and children playing about. We were explained the legend of Bruno and the story of his execution on this very square for expression of his theories contradicting the church.
Campo De' Fiori
Time for dessert ! We tried three desserts from the south of Italy, Sicily- Almond granita, a crushed ice with sugar and almonds. If I were to describe it in word, that would be “ALMONDY”, as one of the members in our group called it.
Next was the Cassata, a dessert comprising of a base of lemon sponge cake coated with sweet ricotta cheese and coated with green marzipan coating and garnished with a cherry. We personally found it overly sweet but the history behind quite interesting, which was told to us only at the end of the stop to not deter us from eating the same.
Last but not the least was Cannoli, a crispy tube filled with sweet ricotta cheese and sprinkled with icing sugar. This definitely jumped to the top of my favourite Italian desserts along with Tiramisu.
We were also given a taste of digestif – Limoncello (lemon flavoured liqueur) and a Cinnamon Liqueur. This definitely justified its duty in making us feel relaxed and not overly full even after devouring all of the above.
Also, here goes the legend of Cassata as follows: It was told us that this was shaped to be the breast of the holy Saint Agatha, who refused to marry the man pursuing her as she had dedicated her virginity to Christ. Her pursuer subjected her to extreme torture including cutting off her breasts with pincers and so today, she is worshipped the Patron Saint of Sicily and especially of Breast Cancer patients. When one consumes this dessert, it is believed to be consuming the flesh of this holy saint.
A coffee shop whose name also I missed out on noting
Coffee seemed so good at this point as we headed to a lovely air-conditioned coffee bar. I had an espresso macchiato which is basically a shot of espresso with a splash of frothed milk which felt divine after the dessert course. Traditionally, caffe latte or cappuchino are not suggested or even frowned down by the Italians as it is believed that the milk interferes with the tomatoes of the main course causing digestion problems.
As we walked to our last and final stop on Largo Torre Argentina, we were explained that below the spot we stood was exactly where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
No Italian meal is complete without GELATO ! We headed to a wonderful small gelateria, again a family run business where absolutely fresh gelato were made and the ingredients were also sourced fresh such as alphonso mangoes from India and vanilla from Madagascar. There were several exotic flavours such a lemon and chili and also Absinthe, yes from the highly alcoholic beverage. It was no surprise as to what flavor all the men went on to choose! All of the flavours we tasted were absolutely fresh and extremely flavoursome. Our guide went on to explain that recently the Italian government has imposed that the word “artigianale” or artisan can be used only if it has been actually made traditionally with fresh ingredients and without artificial colouring/preservatives.
Thus came the end of our amazing tour of the Eternal city. What better way than food to get a glimpse of the culture and history of not just the capital city but of the entire country and what was even better that we were shown around by a true Roman, born and brought up here, Andrea. He was a charming, funny and informative guide who truly exhibited the passion for food and his job, which made the tour one of the highlights of our trip.
We thoroughly recommend this tour from Food Tours of Rome to anyone from any background / age-group and suggest you take the evening tour especially in summer especially as the heat could play spoilsport. Wear comfortable shoes though I considered the walking to be quite minimal.
This tour is a perfect introduction of the city on your first night. A fantastic opportunity to discover all the non-touristy places which we probably wouldn’t have been able to discover ourselves leaving both our mind and stomach satiated.
This is not a sponsored post.