We love doing food tours while traveling and we knew we had to do one in a food-centric city like Rome. Some people may feel in a city of countless ruins, art museums, and cultural wonders, a food tour is frivolous. Those people are fucking morons and I don’t want to know them. Food is the real reason to hop a plane and travel thousands of miles to Europe, duh.
We confidently navigated the metro, despite it being the most concentrated mass of humanity we’d ever encountered. There aren’t many metro stops or lines in Rome, so we chose the one closest to our destination but still had to walk a bit. We quickly realized the directions provided to us in advance of the tour had forsaken us. Thankfully, the brilliant invention of GPS set us on the right track again and we arrived in plenty of time. We ambled a bit around the tiny square in Testaccio where we were supposed to meet the guide. A woman approached us, speaking in rapid Italian, and pointing at her ring. Either she confused me for someone she knew, or she thought I was a local. Either way, I was pleased. This was a major win for me, since I am part Italian. I had finally returned to the Motherland and I fit in with “my people.” I’m no “medigan.” But, I kind of am, since I speak basically zero Italian (cursing and ordering food aside) and so she looked crestfallen when I only spoke English and quickly moved on.
Our tour was to be the Taste of Testaccio Walking Tour offered by Eating Italy. It was probably our favorite tour of the entire trip. The group was small (about 10 people), and it was a joy to get outside of the major touristy area of Rome. Oh, right, the food was also amazing.
The tour began in a small family-owned bakery where we had crispy pizza squares with thin slices of potato and rosemary and marinara. Next, we moved on to Masto, a nice neighborhood wine bar, where I won a free glass of wine, since I knew the cheese we ate after the tasting plate was Pecorino Romano. I always knew consuming a lot of cheese would pay off. The tasting plate had mortadella, prosciutto, cassoulet cheese with peppercorns and honey and marmalade to dip, and olive tapenade.
Romans love fried food, so we tried vegetable tempura and fried apples next. Paul is an avowed picky eater but even he enjoyed the fried squash. He really expanded his palate this trip eating fried veggies, gelato (he hates ice cream), etc. After the fried foods, we traveled to a local food market and purchased tomatoes, mozzarella, and bread to make bruschetta with tomato, basil, and cheese. We also had more suppli (not as good as the ones from Supplizio), and some delicious Italian craft beer.
We sat down for a pasta supper at Flavio al Velavevedetto, a restaurant built on the garbage heap where ancient Romans dumped their used amphorae. We enjoyed each classic Roman pasta dish, but they were not the most remarkable iterations of the trip.
We ended the tour with gelato. I had the tiramisu and almond and Paul began a love affair with limone.
A non-food highlight for this 19th century literature PhD was seeing Keats’s grave, though we were hustled out before I could see P.B. Shelley’s grave. Next time, Rome, next time.
Uncertain if we had enough time to make it back to the Colosseum by metro, we hired a car and went to catch our next tour with City Wonders. This tour was a death march through the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Forum. We were not prepared to handle 3 plus hours of walking, after 4 hours of walking on the food tour. The guide, Alessio, was knowledgeable, but low energy and there were about 8 times we almost told the group to leave us for dead, because we were so exhausted.
It’s not easy maneuvering (or being the one to maneuver) these stones when you’re blind. Ancient ruins were not really designed with the disabled in mind, but Paul managed each site like a champ and I take some credit as his guide for not killing him.
After a brief trip to the hotel to recuperate, we made our way to Salumeria Roscioli. While not quite as wonderful as Armando, the anchovies in the burrata (but not the cheese itself), the cheese plate, and the pasta alla gricia were pretty amazing. We blew the waiter’s mind by ordering 3 pastas for primi and no secondi course.
The carbonara had a strong Pecorino flavor, which was good, but I was not terribly impressed by the bottarga pasta. It seemed dry and lifeless. That gricia, though, that will haunt my dreams. Like carbonara without the egg, the cheese and black pepper coated the pasta alongside the silky fat of the guanciale.
We ordered a Tuscan syrah with the meal and were given complimentary red wine cookies and chocolate sauce for dessert. The cookies were nice, not too sweet, like many Italian desserts. Having walked what felt like the entire length of Rome, we headed back to our hotel to sleep.