As I mentioned in a previous post, I traveled to Iran for vacation and did a couple jaunts to Rome for my tourist visa. I wanted to write about the food gems I found (especially for those who may have to travel to Rome for less than 24 hours) and general food for thought that arose. I realize you may be surprised to hear one would go to Iran for vacation and not be terrified by it. I’ll repeat: Iran is a wonderful country, with people I came to adore and I encourage anyone to challenge what they’ve heard. I hope to travel there again and again.
In order to be able to go to Iran- a tourist visa is required and I had to visit one of the Iranian consulates in Italy (Milan or Rome) in order to complete my visa application
From Florence, I could have chosen Milan to deal with this unsavory step. But why choose Milan when Rome has pizza al taglio, gelato and Linda from the Beehive?
I had to go to Rome a couple time for my Iranian tourist visa process. Since this was a dream vacation for me, I was willing to jump through any hoop in order to make it happen. It was worth every trip. And also, pales in comparison to the Iranians who are straight up denied tourist visas.
During my travels, I met many Iranians who’ve never traveled to Europe or the US but wanted to, alas are unable to. Not resulting from lack of money or desire but for absolutely no reason other than the arbitrary one of being Iranian.
I found myself lucky to have been able to visit Iran. I hope one day, other people around the world like myself can experience the ease in travel that I am arbitrarily given, an ease I have simply because I won the golden passport lottery of being born with the right to European citizenship.
Rome is a rather challenging beast in terms of inefficiencies/services and being the capital of Italy/a European capital in general- it makes you wonder. You may get frustrated with dealing with Italian bureaucracy, but after hearing people’s stories abroad, I’m lucky all I have to complain about is local inefficiencies rather than being denied the right to travel across borders.
Now I’ll step off my world citizen soapbox and get on to a different topic: my favored food finds for quick trips to Rome. Here is where I suggest you grab a bit to eat (including gelato and pastries)
Da Cesare al Casoletto is probably my favorite restaurant in Rome, but beware it’s outside the center albeit an easy tram ride away. Don’t leave without the fried starters (fried gnocchi in cacio e pepe and the beef bollito polpette please) and a bowl of carbonara and cacio e pepe. And everything else. Address: Via del Casaletto, 45
In my lingering stays in Rome, I also enjoy places like La Tavernaccia (Address: Via Giovanni da Castel Bolognese, 63) so if you have a gut more resistant to busting at lunch during the week- I highly recommend Da Cesare or La Tavernaccia. Also, if you manage to get a table at Armando al Pantheon you should. I’m certain there are plenty more top notch trattorias, such as Da Augusto (especially for pajata), Kosher Roman food at Nonna Betta in the Jewish Ghetto and Flavio Velavevodetto, but personally the 2 in bold are so far my classic picks for trattoria eating in Rome. Also, for modern restaurants, I thoroughly enjoyed Retrobottega and Roscioli near Campo dei Fiori (not necessarily creative fare like Retrobottega’s)
At lunch, I’m more for pizza or light plates kind of eater. I’d been to Bonci but I could not understand all the hype I’d heard. I tried. I went 3 times. Personally, I found the pizza al taglio at Bonci overpriced & mediocre (with somewhat odd service). I do dig their ethos of whole natural fermentation/quality sourced Italian grain process.
Instead, I personally found Pizzeria Serenella on Via Salaria (warning: now closed:( near the Borghese to be truly stellar. The staff were genuinely enthused and the spot welcoming. Perhaps the 3 times I went to Bonci were all bad luck (the service industry is a tough place)- but I’ve been to plenty other famous street food spots (especially Trapizzino) that hit the nail on the head every time, especially the first.
In addition to the experience factors, the pizza itself was preposterously tasty. The crust (also from touted naturally fermented dough using heritage grains) had a perfect crispy crunchiness with the right % of grease not too dry and not stain inducing, they had a slew of creative toppings (from burrata, ‘nduja, anchovies, regional heritage cured meats, zucchini flowers, etc), pricing reasonable and a few Italian craft beers to match.
I’m perplexed about this recent fame explosion with food. On the one hand, I relish in the current reality that food is big, the mainstream (finally) “cares” and are paying attention. My friends use to always roll their eyes at me in my food obsessiveness and determination to do something meaningful with it.
What happened to food just being good food? It’s like kids these days who can’t just go out and play outside, but instead are more obsessed with climbing the popularity ladder on snapchat.
All these thoughts came from pizza- there is a reason for the term “food for thought”, I suppose!
Aside from Pizzeria Serenella, I also really enjoyed Aromaticus in Monti for creative salads and generally fresh fare for those who like the whole hanging herb pot/indoor nursery vibes from a restaurant. Thanks to Gillian McGuire of the blog Gillian’s Lists for taking me here when I preciously requested advice lighter fare. For helpful info, lists/guides on Rome there are a slew of amazing local insiders (with websites/articles) I would implore you to check out as I am not qualified to do. An American in Rome is one of the first to come to mind as well as Erica Firpo and Heart Rome. Please comment if you have more insiders you love following!
I also felt like any trip to Rome would not be complete without the following quick bites:
Maritozzi at Pasticceria Regoli, these simple leavened buttery sweet rolls are slathered with sweet whipped panna. Although the coffee has (heaps of) room to improve, I suggest also checking out the coffee bar next door with even more tempting baked goods.
Trapizzino– I recently discovered that the Mercato Centrale in Florence has an outpost of these corner breads filled with Rome’s iconic dishes like Oxtail & Tripe but also Italian classics like eggplant parmigiana or straight-up heart-stopping fillings like double cream panna and anchovies. Address: Via dei Gracchi, 272, 00193 Roma, Italy (but also in Rome’s Mercato Centrale!)
Gelateria dei Gracchi- While Florence is considered the birthplace for Italian gelato, I appreciate gelato in metropolitan food-centric cities in the south and including Rome. Outside Florence, gelato tends to be more varied and challenging, texture & flavor wise. The Florentine gelato scene remains dominant on the classics (buontalenti for example). And the creaminess of Gracchi’s in combo with the plethora of alluring options (pistachio meringue, prickly pear, dark chocolate stracciatella, etc) is a win. Address: Via dei Gracchi, 272
And most importantly- where to stay in Rome!
Personally, the Beehive owned by Linda Martinez (pictured with my coveted trapizzino) and Steve Brenner is my go-to for staying in Rome and was immensely convenient for one of my visa jaunts. The Beehive is a bespoke budget hostel and a great deal if you are going for a quick trip or will be traveling to other cities with Rome as your base since it’s a 3 minute walk from the Termini station. The vibe at the Beehive is uber positive, has extremely comfortable beds and bathrooms and squashes any doubt I ever had regarding lodging near the train station (but only at the Beehive). I appreciate the Beehive is family-run as it’s becoming more important to support the small guys these days in the age of big (faceless) business. Tip: I suggest the private suites for some sweet, cozy privacy website: http://www.the-beehive.com/ address: via marghera 8
Any food for thought of your own to share? Eats in Rome I must not miss on the next visit?
In your reflecting trust,