In September, my wife and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary with a wonderful 3-week trip to Europe! We enjoyed every minute of our visits to London, Paris and Rome!
One of the highlights of our trip was a walking Food Tour in Rome. It was a 3.5-hour stroll from the lively Campo de’ Fiori market, through the historic Jewish “Ghetto,” to the colourful Trastevere neighbourhood. Our guide, Francesca, took us to various markets, shops and restaurants to sample authentic Roman foods and explained how these staples were connected to their history and culture.
Our first stop was Campo de’ Fiori (“field of flowers”) and a tasting of fresh “mozzarella di bufala” or water buffalo mozzarella cheese. It was out of this world! The cheese is kept at room temperature so that the natural bacteria cultures can flourish. The summer time produces the best quality cheese because the buffalo have access to abundant phytonutrients. Francesca explained to us the strict guidelines that farmers adhere to in the production of the milk. The buffalo are very well cared for, with a grass-fed diet and even time for grooming and massages! All this is done to ensure that the happy and healthy animals will produce the highest-quality milk, which in turn produces the best-tasting cheese!
Our next stop was to a local “forno” or bakery. In addition to the breads, pies and sweets that are typically offered, bakeries here also have pizza! We watched the hand-made pizza dough being rolled and kneaded into shape. Francesca said that you will not find deep-dish or North American-style pizzas in Rome (except in tourist areas). For a quick meal or snack, Romans enjoy a slice of either “pizza bianca” (pizza dough with only olive oil) or “pizza rosa” (pizza dough with tomato sauce). You can see that they eat with the seasons from the variations of these two classics. When we were there in the late summer, pizza with eggplant was common. You will also find pizza topped with buffalo mozzarella and basil…yum!
Next, we headed to the Jewish Ghetto. Here, we find another example of eating with the seasons in a popular summer time appetizer, “fiori di zucca fritti” or fried zucchini flower. This was my absolute favourite! The delicate zucchini flowers are stuffed with cheese and anchovies, then lightly battered and deep fried. We enjoyed this, along with another Roman favourite, “suppli” (a rice, tomato and cheese croquette), in a tiny little restaurant in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto. This restaurant also prepared fresh meals every day for a group of retired elderly in the community. Rather than spending time grocery shopping and cooking, Francesca explained how these folks meet up daily with friends and family at the local restaurant, keep a “running tab” and pay for it all at the end of the month! Great food, good company and no dishes to wash…what more can you ask for?
We made other stops along the way that included delicious pasta and wine tastings, but I thought I’d end with Trastevere (“beyond the Tiber”) and our visit to a local “gelateria” or Italian ice cream shop. Francesca gave us tips on how to find an authentic gelateria, avoiding the many tourist traps in Rome. At this particular one, we were allowed to sample as many mouth-watering flavours as we wanted before deciding on two! Everything was fresh, made on premises and, like so many other foods and dishes here, many of the flavours reflected the season. Among my favourites was the pear gelato, which tasted like a bite out of a fresh pear! The lemon, my wife’s favourite, was tart and refreshing. The pistachio was sweet and the coffee tasted like a fresh cup of Italian coffee! What a tasty way to end an amazing tour!