A Culinary Tour of Italy
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Rome is the capital of the central region of Italy known as Latium or Lazio, and its cuisine epitomizes the culinary traditions indigenous to the area. Signature ingredients include young meat (e.g., spring lamb and veal), artichokes, and pecorino Romano cheese, and cured pork jowl is used to flavor many pasta sauces. Dessert isn't usually worth the calories, with the notable exception of gelato, which is at its best and worst in the Eternal City.
Start the day off with a visit to the vibrant Antico Forno di Campo de'Fiori, with its stalls of Roman artichokes, Catalan chicory, olives and spices, and exotic produce. Volpetti in nearby Testaccio, is the best gourmet grocery in the city; I recommend stocking up on the pecorino Romano cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and cicerchia (an ancient legume that tastes like a cross between lentils and chickpeas and is difficult to find outside the region). San Crispino, just steps from the Trevi fountain, scoops up the best gelato in Rome. Artificial flavoring is forbidden at this gelateria, which explains the absence of ice-cream cones. Only natural ingredients like honey and seasonal fruit (e.g., pears and grapefruit in the winter, figs and persimmons in the fall, berries in the spring, and peaches and melons in the summer) are used.
Checchino, run by the Mariani family for the past hundred years, is the greatest of the traditional Roman restaurants. Regional classics like tonnarelli (squared-off spaghetti) topped with oxtail sauce, gricia (cured jowl, pecorino), or amatriciana are at their very best here. The wine list includes older vintages of Italian classics. Look to La Pergola, the rooftop restaurant of the Cavaliere Hilton, for the most elegant cooking—and view—in Rome. Chef Heinz Beck, who is German by birth but has lived and cooked in Italy for most of his professional life, already has two Michelin stars under his chef's toque and is well on his way to garnering his third. Antonello Colonna's eponymous restaurant in Labico, just outside Rome, plates up the region's lusty, traditional flavors in new and exciting combinations. The wine list offers many unknown regional gems.
Oenophiles can become members of the International Academy of Wine for a nominal fee. This private club, situated next to the Spanish Steps, offers serious wine-tastings and guided tours of regional vineyards. Visitors to Rome may also be interested in the special dinners, tastings, and cooking courses offered at Citta' del Gusto, which serves as the headquarters for the expanding Gambero Rosso guidebook empire. The complex includes a theater, cooking school, restaurant, TV studio, and shop selling Gambero Rosso publications.
Antico Forno di Campo de'Fiori
Campo de'Fiori 22
Via Marmorata, 47
Checchino Dal 1887
Via di Monte Testaccio, 30
Closed Sunday and Monday, all of August, and the week of Christmas.
All credit cards accepted
Hotel Cavalieri Hilton
Via Cadlolo, 101
Closed from January 1-24 and from August 7-22, Sundays, and Monday lunch.
Via Roma, 89
Closed Sunday evening and all day Monday, August for vacation
International Wine Academy
Vicolo del Bottino, 8
Citta' Del Gusto
Via Enrico Fermi, 161