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The Flavours of Rome

There are few more enduring pleasures than lingering ove leisurely al fresco meal in a piazza in the Eternal City. Rom food is tasty, nutritious, simple and extremely varied. Menu tend to be seasonal and there are even specialities eaten o specific days of the week. Traditionally, Thursday is gnocc day, Friday is for salted cod (baccalà) and Saturday for tripe Food is redolent of aromatic herbs, olive oil, garlic and onion, and there are many signature dishes, including past But much authentic Roman cuisine takes its origins from offal, and slow, inventive cooking transforms these tradtionally “poor” cuts into rich and flavoursome dishes.


Traditional Roman cuisine originated in the Testaccio area, near the old slaughter house whose butchers (vaccinari) were paid partly in cash and partly in meat – or rather offal. The “fifth quarter” (quinto quarto) included head, trotters, tail, intestines, brain and other unmentionable bits of the beast which, when carefully cooked and richly flavoured with herbs and spices, are transformed into culinary delight. These robust dishes, such as coda alla vaccinara (literally, “oxtail cooked in the style of the slaughterhouse butcher”) still feature on the menus of many of Rome’s top restaurants. For more squeamish carnivores, lamb is popular, often served simply roasted. Veal is another speciality, as is piglet flavoured with herbs Authentic Cucina Sromana also has roots in the Jewish cuisine of the Ghetto area. Local globe artichokes are fried whole in olive oil (carciofi alla giudea) or served alla romana, with oil, garlic and Roman mint. Courgette (zucchini) flowers are also deep-fried, as are Jewish-style salt cod fillets (filetti di baccalà). Seafood and fish restaurants are among the best in Rome, Pasta being made by hand in although they can be very expensive. Everything is available, from sumptuous seafood platters to small fish caught off the Lazio coast and served fried or used in soups, as well as superb sea bass cooked Roman-style with porcini mushrooms.


 As an appetizer, bruschetta (Roman dialect for “lightly burnt bread”) may be topped with a selection of intense flavours. Other antipasti include crispy-fried or marinated vegetables. A favourite pasta dish is bucatini all’amatriciana – pasta tubes in a spicy tomato and sausage or bacon sauce, sprinkled with grated tangy pecorino cheese. Veal is a great favourite and delicacies include rigatoni alla pajata (pasta with milk-fed veal intestines). Lamb is also very popular, in dishes such as abbacchio al forno (roasted milk-fed lamb) or alla cacciatore (“huntsman’s style” with anchovy sauce). The generic word for offal is animelle and Roman delicacies include cervelle (calves’ brains), pajata (veal intestines) and trippa (tripe).

Pasta is the mainstay of the Roman meal, especially spaghetti. Spaghetti alla carbonara, made with pancetta (cured bacon) or guanciale (pig’s cheek), egg yolks and cheese, is a classic Roman dish, as is spaghetti alle vongole, with clams. There is even, uniquely, a museum devoted to pasta in Rome. The National Pasta Museum (Museo Nazionale delle Paste Alimentari) (see p160) charts the history and shapes of, at a conservative estimate, one type of pasta for every day of the year. Many have wonderfully descriptive or poetic names, such as capelli d’angelo (angel’s hair) or ziti (bridegrooms) whose shape is best left to the imagination. The museum’s motto is la pasta è gioia di vivere – “pasta is the joy of living”.

For those with a taste for “the sweet life”, nuts, fruits and versatile ricotta cheese are often combined in mouthwateringly delicious sweets. Ice cream is an art form in Rome, where some parlours offer over 100 flavours of homemade gelati. Types vary from the classic crema and frutta to grattachecca (water ice), from semifreddo (a half-frozen sponge pudding, similar to tiramisù in consistency) to granità (ice shavings flavoured with fruit syrups). Glorious gelato is one of the great pleasures here, to be enjoyed at any time of the day – or night.

The Flavours of Rome The Flavours of Rome Reviewed by MELANIE INFINITY on January 08, 2020 Rating: 5

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