It’s been over 3 years since I’ve visited Tommaso’s hometown, the beautiful capital of Italy!
Rome will forever be an exciting city with rich history and iconic Roman dishes. I’ve been there countless times and it’s always a great city to visit for any history buff or food enthusiast. Since I’ve done all the touristy things in the past, whenever I do visit, my focus is to enjoy the city and of course eat great food.
I arrived on a Sunday night and I had to get some pizza. I’ve been eyeing Seu Pizza Illuminati, a modern Neapolitan style pizza joint in the city center with classic and unique flavor combinations. We decided to get a mix of both styles.
Of course we had to try the DOP margherita pizza with Mozzarella di Bufala, San Marzano tomato, and fresh basil. A classic but always hits the spot.
The next pizza we tried was a caesar salad inspired pizza with lettuce cream, chicken, Parmigiano Reggiano chips, guanciale bits, and caesar dressing. It sounded strange but we were both intrigued and it was actually really delicious. We both agreed that we wanted more of that pungent flavor of anchovy and garlic from the dressing to be more pronounced.
Lastly we tried bacalao pizza with baccalà mantecato, Fior di Latte, roasted potatoes, powdered black olive, and dried bell peppers (almost like a chip). The creamy baccalà worked well with the roasted potatoes but I wasn’t a fan of the dried bell peppers as I think roasted chunks would have been better with more flavor.
After our yummy pizzas, we went to Otaleg, a well-known gelato shop close by that’s open until midnight where I got salted peanut gelato and cheesecake with peach jam and praline almond gelato. So good!
The following day, we went on a morning run near Tommaso’s apartment and stopped at a nice viewpoint. While the weather was much hotter than I’m used to back home, I survived! Considering I don’t run at all and was running at a faster pace to keep up with Tommaso, I did relatively well.
After our morning workout we headed to Le Levain, a French inspired bakery which is almost unheard of in Italy. All their savory and sweet pastries as well as their beautiful desserts looked incredible. As much as I would have loved to try a plethora of pastries and desserts, I knew I had to save my appetite for dinner.
I love the combination of pistachio and apricot and this tart was scrumptious where the inside had a creamy pistachio frangipane filling. There’s a lot of amazing bakeries back home that make impeccable kouign amann so my expectations were high. We were both very pleasantly surprised on how heavenly and buttery their version was.
This is any chocolate lover’s dream with a moist chocolate cake with layers of mixed berry pastry cream in between covered in silky chocolate glaze.
After our pastries, we spent the entire afternoon at a restaurant/bar with Tommaso’s best friend catching up. Later on, we walked by the incredible colosseum where the sun was about to set.
After enjoying the sunset at the colosseum, we headed to Osteria Fratelli Mori where we had dinner plans with Tommaso’s mom and sister. Osteria Fratelli Mori serves classic Roman cuisine from appetizers, pastas, and meat dishes.
Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with Mozzarella cheese and anchovy is a classic Roman dish. It’s crispy, cheesy, and slightly salty from the anchovy. The fried eggplant croquettes were meaty and very flavorful. Another favorite is bread with butter and anchovy, so simple but so good.
One of my favorite Roman pasta dishes is amatriciana where the tomato sauce is seasoned with chili pepper and guanciale (cured pork jowl).
We all loved the richness of this oxtail sugo.
Carbonara is hard not to like with its creamy cheesy sauce and pieces of guanciale.
Another classic Roman dish where veal is pounded thin and pan fried in a white wine sauce topped with crispy Prosciutto.
This was the first tiramisù of the trip with many more to come.
After dinner we met up with Tommaso’s old coworker from Acquerello who is also Italian and was in town for the night. We walked around the city for hours and definitely worked off dinner. Even though the Trevi Fountain might look busy in the picture below, it’s a lot calmer compared to the daytime.
Since we were out quite late, we had a lazy morning and by the afternoon we headed to the city center. First we walked around Vatican City before grabbing an afternoon snack.
We stopped by Supplizio, a small shop focusing on supplì which is a Roman street food. These fried rice balls can be seasoned with anything but traditionally it is tomato flavored with cheese.
We got one cacio e pepe and one amatriciana. Both were pipping hot and tasty.
After our snack we walked around the city center to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and Campo dei Fiori.
Our last night in Rome, before returning at the end of our 2-week road trip, was at Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina. This restaurant/gastronomy/salumi & cheese counter has been on my list for years and I just never got around to trying it.
The menu is a mix of Italian dishes and Roman classics and the selection was overwhelming. Since the menu was very extensive, choosing dishes was quite the challenge.
While this classic Italian dish is typically with Prosciutto, their version was with Culatello, another type of cured ham. It’s so simple yet the combination of sweet juicy cantaloupe pairs perfectly with the salty ham. The crunchy mustard poppy seed cracker added nice texture but didn’t have much flavor.
Grilled slices of Prague ham was served with delicious balls of buffalo Mozzarella cheese, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, and a tangy balsamic drizzle.
Warm little buns were stuffed with Robiola cheese, pork, and anchovies. The sweetness of the bread and pork complimented the funky cheese and salty anchovy.
This is one of their signature pasta dishes and it did not disappoint. Each raviolo was stuffed with meaty oxtail filling and the creamy foie gras sauce with spicy fig was decadent. Definitely a winner.
Another Roman classic is la gricia with guanciale, Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper and they nailed it. It’s almost like a mixture of cacio e pepe and carbonara.
While this sounded delicious on the menu, we both felt the flavors fell flat. The spaghetti was supposed to be tossed in a yuzu butter sauce which we didn’t taste at all. However, we did enjoy the clams and toasted pine nuts.
The waiter said their tiramisù is a crowd pleaser and it sure was. Creamy and light with just a touch of espresso.
I’m not usually a fan of cannoli but this might have been the best cannoli I’ve ever eaten in my life, no joke. The shell was perfectly fried, crispy and crunchy and the filling was smooth and creamy (not watery). The chocolate balls and the candied fruit just added to the already perfect dessert.
Luscious white chocolate mousse had a drizzle of tangy passionfruit and was served with refreshing strawberry sorbet. Simple yet satisfying.
While heading back home on the moped, we drove past La Sora Maria – La Grattachecca, a granita stand that’s only open during summer. Tommaso has been telling me about this stand for years as he used to go here as a child. However, every time I had visited Rome in recent years, it was during the colder months so the stand would always be closed. Even though we were both stuffed after dinner, we shared the most popular one called “La Sora Maria” with coconut, lemon, and amarena cherry. It was definitely on the sweet side so I totally understand why he liked it as a child.
I’d say my first few days of my Italian culinary trip were off to a great start!