One of the main reasons I travel to Italy so often, let’s be honest, is to feast on their culinary delights. It’s one European country I’ll never go hungry in as a vegetarian. Based on rural peasant food traditions, the essence of Roman cuisine is simple, flavourful and hearty. Unfortunately, in a city which attracts so many visitors, authentic food is hard to find. Like most cities, you’ll be bombarded by low quality food traps along the major tourist trails. This is where Secret Food Tours Rome comes into play!
If you’re a foodie like moi, joining a food tour is probably one of the best ways to explore a city. Secret Food Tours Rome whisks you to where the locals eat, sampling famous Roman dishes along the way. An opportunity to enjoy some of the finest Italian foods in the Eternal City sounds too good to miss, right?
The three-hour tour began in the baroque side of the city in the world-famous Piazza Navona, where I met Silvia our guide and nine other hungry-eyed foodies. Silvia was an experienced local guide, passionate about Rome’s food scene. Throughout the tour she regaled us with fascinating facts as we slowly meandered off the tourist trail past historical monuments, bustling markets and picturesque squares.
First to tingle our taste buds was an authentic Italian coffee at a bar. Not actually a bar as we know, but it’s how Italians refer to a café or coffee shop. Italians take their coffee culture very seriously, downing two or three cups of a caffè daily – commonly known as an espresso.
We watched the baristas work their magic whilst Silvia explained all the different types of coffee available. I learnt how to drink coffee like a true Italian too. Cleanse one’s palate with water first to allow the true flavours flood your mouth and always add sugar. The Romans like a sweet edge to their caffeine fix.
Pizza was next! Let me tell you, the classic Roman pizza is very different and practically the opposite to the Neapolitan pizza we all love and devour (on a regular speed-dial basis). Pizza Romano as it’s known is thin, crispy and typically served as a mid-morning snack in small rectangular pieces – The original Roman street food. And boy do they love their toppings! Sold by weight – be wary about how many you add.
We sampled the tastiest rectangles at Forno Campo de Fiori, open since 1880. All the pizzas are still handmade and their secret lies in the long fermentation process. In true Roman style we chomped our way through a pizza bianca topped with mushrooms, a margarita and a zucchini. The Best…And freshest pizza in Rome!
Leaving the hustle and bustle of the market square we wandered down quiet narrow streets to Cisternino, a cheese shop. Here we tucked into the most delicious burrata, a cheese from Southern Italy. Many will confuse it with mozzarella, but burrata is next level.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts. Hollowed out the white ball is filled with the best soft curds and cream. Burrata literally translates to buttered which is where you find the rich, decadent flavour.
The tour led us next to a shop specialising in supplí, another popular street food similar to the Sicilian arancini. The fried risotto ball, is usually filled with some combination of meat, tomato sauce, and cheese.
Deep-fried goodies are always so tasty, comforting and manage to hit the right spot. Supplizio’s flavoursome risotto balls are no different.
After all the savoury delights it was time for some sweet action at Nonna Vincenza, a Sicilian Pastry shop. Our eyes lit up at the lovely plate of cannoli, a staple of Sicilian cuisine.
Inside the long tubular shell of fried pastry dough is a sweet, creamy filling usually made from ricotta. So delicious but incredibly sweet, I struggled to finish all of mine.
Through cobblestoned streets we made our way to the Old Jewish Quarter known as the Jewish Ghetto. One of the most atmospheric and ancient neighbourhoods, home to a striking synagogue, kosher bakeries and Jewish-Roman trattorias.
Finally it was time for some pasta at Taverna Cairoli. Here in a sat down meal style we were served, two typical Roman pasta dishes – The Amatriciana, a tomato based pasta with pork cheek. I obviously swerved this one but delighted with the second plate of Cacio e Pepe, a simple pecorino cheese and pepper dish. It’s how the Romans do mac ‘n’ cheese – utter joy of joys!
Washed down with a lovely glass of dry white Frascati. Named after the town of Frascati, located 25 km southeast of Rome, in Lazio. This was probably one of my favourite places.
Our penultimate stop came in the form of a cheese and wine stop at Beppe e i suoi formaggi, a popular place with the locals. We worked our way through some fine local wines and three types of Italian cheese – Torretta, Pecorino and Giallina. Paradise for a huge cheese lover like me.
The gastronomic adventure ended with a Sicilian gelato in the beautiful area of Trastevere. Gelateria Artigianale Corona offers an array of flavours many based on seasonal ingredients. With a choice of two flavours I opted for ginger, fruits of the forest and star anise. Absolutely delicious, this was the perfect way to end our delectable tour.
After three hours of eating and thankfully walking to help burn off some of the calories, I left with a very happy and full belly. Our knowledgeable and enthusiastic local guide Silvia provided a great insight into Roman history, culture and cuisine, as we wandered through Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori and the Jewish Ghetto. It’s a definitely the best way to discover the outstanding places to eat at the start of your holiday.
Dietary requirements are also catered for as long as you mention it when the tour is booked. For example, vegetarian versions of the Supplí and pasta were arranged on our tour, so no need for FOMO. Secret Food Tours are available in many other cities including Paris, Lisbon, Budapest, San Fransisco and more! Plus new locations are always being added. The award-winning tour around Rome costs €69, which is very reasonable considering the amount of food you actually consume. Make sure to check them out, I promise your taste buds will be eternally grateful.
If you’re interested in booking the tour you can visit Secret Food Tours Rome for more information.
Where and what are the most memorable Italian dishes you’ve eaten? Let me know in the comments box below.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Secret Food Tours Rome and received a complimentary experience. However, all views, opinions and photos unless otherwise stated are my own and remain a trademark of the Curious Pixie.
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