A recent trip to Italy renewed my joy of all things decadent and effortless. My husband and I went in the heat of summer. The style, the landscape, the architecture and the attitude oozed romance and glamour. Things were just as they should be. Italians gazed at me with lazy eyes through their classic Pradas, sipping their Campari cocktails as if to say, “What? This is how I always look with my impeccable and effortless tailoring and divine shoes. It is a fact, I am amazing, get over it.” Is it a stereotype if it is actually true?! I was in love and wanted to stay!
My biggest draw for visiting Italy, and especially Tuscany, was the food. I can easily base a complete travel itinerary around culinary experiences, with culture and art as added bonuses. Dining and exploring food markets is a great way to learn about a country, its history, industry and ethos. I draw delight in finding hidden gems, local joints not frequented by tourists and off the beaten track hole-in-the-walls.
Planning the food exploration in Italy was simple. I wanted to eat fresh, local ingredient dishes of pasta. Everyday. What better way to find what’s local and what’s best than through Italian friends who have a country home in Tuscany and a city flat in Roma!
Here are my top three favourites:
1. The Tuscany countryside for a home- cooked, locally sourced, Italian classic, Spaghetti alle Vongole. The freshest of clams with a simple, flavourful broth, made this dish my ultimate favourite. Our clams were prepared the Tuscan way in bianco (oil, garlic, parsley and white wine), but if we had been in the south, say Napoli, they would have been prepared in rosso (as above, without wine and with tomatoes and fresh basil).
2. Da Enzo trattoria in Trastevere, Roma. Locals cherish this place and it was easy to see why, as each night (yes we ate here more than once!) we waited patiently in line with many others, for a tiny table on the pavement. Found in a quiet part of Trastevere, this genuine Roman trattoria focuses on quality ingredients. I was in awe reading the menu (ok, I asked for the English version) that told me where each ingredient was sourced. Everything is 100% organic. The olive oil comes from the verdant Viterbo area (north Lazio) and all produce comes from nearby farms. If you’d like to get your mouth watering, take a look at the menu: http://www.daenzoal29.com/menu.php I ordered the Gricia and my husband had the Carbonara along with an antipasti and secondi…hey, when in Rome!
3. Another local favourite in Trastevere is Da Augusto, a traditional osteria. No reservations, just line up along with everyone else and wait for your table. Wine by the carafe, no nonsense dishes packed with flavour, set in a delightful piazza perfect for people watching. Cash only, cheeky waiters and tables so close that conversations intermingle and new friends are made. Packed with young and old, actors, journalists, tourists, musicians and backpackers. We also ate here more than once, which is so unusual for our traveling ways! On our second visit I gave the hostess a nod when we arrived at the back of the 10- person queue…within seconds we were sitting at a prime table! We didn’t question it, just sat down and ordered. Things were just as they should be!
A strong honourable mention is divine pizza at the proclaimed birthplace of pizza, Sorbillo in Napoli. I must say, best pizza ever!
Here are a few great dining tips from our friends that made our Roma exploration so much more enjoyable:
Around Piazza Navona/ Farnese:
NONSOLOPASTA – via Della Stelletta 21/a (wonderful chickpea focaccia ‘Farinata’, everything from Liguria (Geneve) region)
IL GOCCETTO – via dei Banchi Vecchi 14 (Enoteca🍷🍷🍷)
TRE SCALINI – Piazza Navona (Gelateria! try the ‘Tartufo’ ice cream, dark chocolate with whipped cream, delicious)🍨🍨🍨
BIBENDA- via Capo d’Africa 21 (Good Enoteca / Wine Bar: 🍷🍷🍷)
DA DOMENICO- via San Giovanni in Laterno 134 (Trattoria- book in advance. Tel: 06 77590225)
TEMPIO DI ISIDE – via Pietro Verri 11 (Fish and seafood, tel. 06 7004741)
FELICE – via Mastro Giogio 29 (you must book in advance, better a day before)
PIZZERIA REMO – Piazza S. Maria Liberatrice 44
The Jewish Ghetto:
GIGGETTO- via Portico d’Ottavia 21(tel: 06 6861105)
PIPERNO- Monte de Cenci 9