Amazing international cuisine is a luxury that Rome has mastered. It’s not that the food in Rome is tastier, saltier, or sweeter than other food I’ve tasted on my journeys. It’s that the food in Rome is so clean. Yes. Clean.
On my first night in Rome, my longtime friend and I were searching for a good place to eat near the Termini. The Termini itself was like a Mediterranean Penn Station that housed all kinds of zany, European fast food chains. We were looking for something different. We were in search of the stereotypical pizza, lasagna, etc.
We stopped by a local eatery after walking some blocks away from the Termini in search of something tomato based. We actually both ended up ordering the lasagna. First of all, it was not meaty. There were bits of finely ground veal marinated in a light tomato sauce. The pasta itself was so fresh. I noticed almost immediately how distinct it tasted although it was a rather basic meal. This was just the beginning of what became our food tour of Italy.
Trastevere became our food haven. Located just across the river and near the university, Trastevere is the Greenwich Village of Rome. It is cool, hip, and houses some of the best eateries in the city. Trastevere had cobble hill streets, cute boutiques, and street vendors. It was in Trastevere were I had the best pizza I’d ever tasted in my life.
My friend and I had learned fairly quickly that if you wanted to eat in Rome, you had better do so before 3PM and after 6PM. We arrived around 2PM after catching a crowded bus in the shivering fall rain. We stumbled into an eatery that was playing Rihanna but the English was limited. After ordering a lunch special for $15 Euros, we sipped on a bit size Coca Cola and talked about our lives back in Brooklyn. The wait staff was nice. The place was clean. Placed in front of me was a thin crust personal pizza with fresh olives, cheese, mushrooms, delectable prosciutto slices and a poached egg. There was a very thin layer of tomato sauce and butter. That’s all. And I ate every last bite.
Then there were the deserts at midnight. What I love about Rome is that it is a cosmopolitan city just like New York. The eateries stay open well into the early mornings and many of them never close. We stopped in so many places for a small cup of American coffee (there is a huge distinction) and just about every desert you can I imagine. I recommend trying the gelato. It is genius, sweet, and very clean.