Friday, January 8, 2010

Travel to Rome: The Food

This was what most people asked, "What did you eat while you were there?"

Let me tell you, we ate some really good food! There was only one exception and I will get to that in a little bit.

First and most important the cheese! This was a road stand cheese market. I was going to ask for a taste but the seller was talking to a lady and I couldn't think of the words for taste, try, or sample so we moved on. But that is okay because just seeing it was spectacular.

formaggio sold on street

Our very first meal in Italy was at a corner restaurant near the Vatican for tourist. I didn't want to go to a place like that but we were hungry and didn't know where anything else was. This was after the friendly Italian lady walked us to the Vatican and all but held our hand, so we caved. We both ordered a margherita pizza. It wasn't too bad, but it was missing the basil ingredient. I was just imaging what a real one would taste like at a better restaurant!

margherita pizza

Later that same day we went to the McDonald's near the hotel. It had the typical Big Mac's and fries you can find here, but then it had other food items unfortunately not available in America. They had croquettes with spinach and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fried Brie cheese, like our fired mozzarella sticks, and several different types of cakes. It was wonderful. We had eaten supper fairly recently when we went there so I was not hungry. I really wish we had gone back at some point, every time we walked towards it to go it was so crowded that we went next door to a sandwich shop called Pans. Had we gone I would have gotten some of the croquettes! I did get a McFlurry of all things. I know, I know in the land of gelato...I get it from McDonald's! I did get some real gelato later though. Frankie got chocolate cake at McDonald's. The cake and ice cream both were delicious!

Rome McDonalds

For one of our lunches we were able to have calzone. These particular ones were ham and mozzarella. Yum!

ham and cheese calzone

We had all kinds of panini (sandwiches) from all different kinds of restaurants!

sandwich shop

Here is a close up of the sandwiches. These were the kinds that you showed them how much you wanted and they would cut it, weight it (you paid by the kilogram), warm it, and hand you the delicious goodness.

sandwiches in shop window

Here is one more sandwich loaded with mozzarella, tomatoes (yes that is a green tomato!), and prosciutto cotto.

mozzarella tomato and cotto panino

Our Christmas meal was probably the best meal of the entire trip. We were on the hop on-hop off bus and just got off at a random stop to find something to eat. Most of the restaurants in central Rome have their menus posted outside so we found one that wasn’t too expensive and went in. They had about 3 or 4 different menus in different languages; we of course got the English one. That is a sign that it is a tourist restaurant, but it wasn't like that first one we went to on the first day. I think the tourist restaurants are hard to get away from unless you know where to look and you are looking outside of the central part of Rome.

The lady that took our order didn't speak much English so that made it feel more Italian than anything and gave me a feeling the food we were about to eat would be outstanding. I wasn't wrong. It is like when you go to a Mexican restaurant and the waiter/waitress doesn't speak English and you are in America. You know that Mexican food has to be good!

I finally ordered my pasta! Not being sure of portion size since they do first plate, second plate, sides, etc I ordered some roasted potatoes and Frankie ordered a single serve pizza to eat after the pasta. They brought out some bread for the table and freshly grated Parmesan.

Christmas meal bread and parmesan

The pasta came and WOW! It was a generous portion and it was wonderful! I ordered linguine with a basil, pine nut, Parmesan sauce and Frankie ordered a traditional tomato sauce. The linguine was just slightly thicker than what I normally have and the sauce was wonderful. Frankie and I ate half of our own and then switched. His was great too! And you can’t beat the freshly shaven Parmesan!

Christmas meal pasta

I was full from the pasta and had to cancel the order of potatoes. Frankie was going to cancel the pizza but it was too late because it was already made. I have to say it was one of the best pizzas we have ever had. It was a simple tomato sauce with garlic, basil, and olive oil. There was no cheese but it didn’t need any. The crust was very thin which is typical Roman style. Naples is where the thick crust comes from.

Christmas meal pizza

Through out the trip we had more pasta. Including in order of pictures below ravioli, penne formaggio (we would probably call this one Alfredo sauce), and gnocchi (not technically pasta, but this is a good place to put it since it is served as a first course like pasta).


penne formaggio


We had more pizza. Frankie ordered the house pizza at a restaurant. He had no idea what would be on it and it turned out perfectly delicious with mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, garlic, and arugula.

house pizza

Another place, like the sandwich place, served pizza by the kilogram.

Pizza by the kilo

It was in this shop that I had the only food of the entire trip that I did not like. In the picture below the top most pizza is cheese and the middle section is potato and rosemary, which was actually quite tasty. Then in the bottom of the picture the pizza with the meat, that was the part I didn't like. Just for your information that size of a section cost 3 Euros, which at the time converts to $4.40.

Let me tell you about the meat. I didn't know what it was and didn't look all that closely at it. I should have, but I was on an adventure! LOL! If you look closely at it, or if you click on it and look at the full view on Flickr, you can see that the meat is hot dog! Yes, hot dog! Now it wasn't the worst thing in the world to eat, but a hot dog in Italy is still a hot dog. After I ate about half of it, I let Frankie have the rest. In Italian I asked the man behind the counter before we left what the meat was. He paused and in English answered chicken. CHICKEN?! He then corrected himself and said hot dog. I know I get them mixed up too sometimes.

cheese, potato, and hot dog and potato pizza

Oh, I forgot to mention Christmas dessert. Let's move away from things I didn't like to things I LOVED! I finally got my gelato! I chose two flavors from a selection of about 20. I got caffè (coffee) and stracciatella, which is vanilla with chocolate chips. Bellissimo!

gelato - caffe e stracciatella

Speaking of desserts, here is one we had at sometime in some place that I cannot remember. Frankie didn't even know what it was called, he just pointed and nodded. I almost forgot to take a picture before this one was gone!


To finish off any meal a good cup of coffee and/or dessert can't be beat! Now, when you can get those two things in one, you know you have hit upon a good thing. May I introduce a good thing to you. Pocket Coffee: Chocolate filled with real liquid espresso!

candy from Italy

Have I made you hungry yet? Buon appetito!