I have lived in Rome for twenty-four years so – even discounting the first ten when I was a kid – you would expect I’d know all the good, traditional places to eat Roman food right? Well, that’s not the case, as I discovered while attending the Eating Italy food tour of Trastevere. I had never been to any of the places we visited during the tour and all of them turned out to be pretty amazing. I can’t wait to go back to Rome to try them all again!
So let’s start from the beginning…
Eating Italy is a tour company based in Rome that organizes daily food tours (in Testaccio and Trastevere) and culinary classes.
“Our mission is to leave travelers with an unparalleled, non-touristy, food-related experience in undiscovered neighborhoods of the most fascinating cities in the world.”
I was invited to try their Daylight Trastevere Tour and so, on a hot September day, my mum and I joined a group of about 10 people (Australian, Americans, Israelis – the tour is in English) to explore the charming medieval neighbourhood that lies across the river from Rome’s city centre.
With its narrow cobblestone streets and laneways, Trastevere is the quintessential Roman neighborhood. While by night it is a happening destination for tourists and locals, during the day, Trastevere is like a small village with its timeless and artisan shops serving the same local families for generations.
The Eating Italy Trastevere tour is a 4-hour guided walking food tour; we did most of the eating while standing on the sidewalk in front of a shop or in the market, but we also had one sit-down meal at a typical Roman trattoria. We did 10 tastings in total and, with all the walking, I definitely needed a lie down! ;) But it was fantastic of course and I would totally recommend it to anyone visiting Rome!
We met our guide Valerio just before 11:00 at the “Antica Caffetteria Berti” and started the tour from a small pastry shop next door, where we tried bignè alla crema (choux pastry with cream). They are traditional Roman pastries and the bite-sized version that we tried on the tour is called mignon.
Next stop was just around the corner at I Supplì where I ate one of the best supplì (fried tomato risotto balls filled with mozzarella) I have ever tasted! This Roman speciality is also known as “supplì al telefono” because when you break the oblong ball in half with your hand you should get a long cheese string resembling a telephone cord!
Then we entered the nearby shop called L’Antica Caciara, a cheese shop and local institution where we tasted a fantastic Pecorino Romano (made from the sheep’s milk from the owners’ farm).
Followed by a juicy and delicious Porchetta at Norcineria Iacozzilli. Norcineria is an interesting kind of shop (rarely you encounter one in Rome nowadays) as it’s a place dedicated exclusively (at least in the old times) to the manufacture and sale of pork. They produce their own sausages, guanciale, pork, salami and ham as well as selling buffalo mozzarella, cheese and bread.
Having exhausted all the food offers of via Natale del Grande, we moved on to Piazza San Cosimato to visit the local outdoor food market, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and is open from Mondays to Saturdays. We stopped at Pietro and Concetta’s fruit and vegetable stand, a family tradition as Concetta’s grandmother opened her stand in Piazza San Cosimato in 1945!
We tasted their figs and melon paired with Parma ham from the the cured meats and cheese stall managed by Emiliano.
It was time for something sweet and Fatamorgana located in the same square was the perfect destination for our tour. The famous ice-cream shop specialises in all-natural and gluten-free gelato and offers a selection of exciting flavours such as Chocolate Kentucky with Tobacco & Cinnamon Cream or Vanilla Tahiti with Apple Pieces & Raspberry Sauce! This is what famous food blogger David Lebovitz wrote about it:
I decided to go for it and had Kentucky, flavored with chocolate and tobacco, ricotta-coconut, and pure zabaglione. When I took my cup outside and spooned in my first bite, I almost started crying. In fact, I did cry a bit—it was so good.
The following stop on the tour was about ten minutes’ walk away so we took the chance to explore the narrow cobblestone streets and laneways of Trastevere, while listening to Valerio’s tales about this quintessential Roman neighborhood.
Forno La Renella was one of the most interesting stops for me, because we had the chance to visit the bakery and see the old bread oven. What a beauty! And did you know they burn hazelnut shells instead of wood to add a special flavour to their bread? It was indeed delicious (as we had the pleasure to taste it later at lunch).
Before moving on with the tour we ate a piece of pizza margherita. I didn’t say slice, because pizza here is sold “al taglio”: by weight and cut into squares or strips (depending how much of it you want). Pizza al taglio can be plain with olive oil (pizza bianca), with tomato sauce (pizza rossa) or with tomato, mozzarella and different toppings.
Now believe it or not, all the stops we had so far where just “starters”! Small tastings to tickle our appetites before lunch at Osteria Der Belli. It was nice to sit down and rest in the shade, while eating three different types of pasta and drinking chilled white wine from Frascati (a hilltown in the outskirts of Rome famous for its wineries). We had Ravioli with Ricotta and Tomato sauce; Spaghetti alla Carbonara (a must!) and Tagliatelle ai Funghi Porcini.
Sitting all around the table for half an hour or so was a great way to get to know the other people on the tour. It was a nice group of people, all of them tourists and on their first day in the city. It’s a great idea to schedule this tour for your first day in the city, because the guide will not only give you lots of information about Roman food, but also about the city. It’s a great way to familiarise yourself with a new environment!
After lunch we needed a break from eating, so instead we visited the neighbourhood’s main attraction: Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome, which features a Romanesque campanile and beautiful mosaics with golden details. The square outside the church is the centre of Trastevere and a meeting point for youngsters.
The last two stops on the Eating Italy tour were in a different part of the Trastevere, on the east side, across Viale Trastevere. We visited Biscottificio Innocenzi, a family-owned cookie factory that dates back to three generations (grand-mother, mother and daughter). We all gathered inside the shop to sample three types of biscuits. The brutti ma buoni (lit. ugly but tasty) were so good that my mum and I bought a bag to take home to dad (I even took some back to London for my husband to try, they were still fragrant and tasty after four days)!
We finished our tour at Da Enzo al 29, a Roman trattoria that I had never tried before, but my mum knew about for being hard to find a table at!
A tiny trattoria tucked down a picturesque, cobbled backstreet of Trastevere, Da Enzo is run by three siblings. Boasting a menu offering the very best of Cucina Romana there is nowhere better to try classics such as carciofi alla giudia (Jewish-style artichokes) and the coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew).
We didn’t try any of the main courses, but we did taste their fantastic Tiramisù, a generous portion served in a glass and unconventionally prepared with a dollop of Nutella in the centre. I’m picky about Tiramisù that deviates from the traditional recipe but who am I to say no to Nutella!?
The Eating Italy tour was so much more than just a food tour. It features some unique cultural and historical sites that few tourists (or even Romans) get an opportunity to see! Our guide was fantastic and, reading all the positive reviews on Trip Advisor I can see that all the Eating Italy guides have made a great impressions. From what I have experienced (and I speak for my mum too), Eating Italy food tours are a great way to discover Rome.
You’ll enter a tourist and leave a local, a feeling you won’t soon forget.
Disclaimer: I attended the tour as a guest of Eating Italy. All opinions are my own.