If you’re exploring Italy on a Rome food tour, chances are you love Italian food. Traditional Roman cuisine has some of the most quintessential of Italian dishes, and they are there to enjoy on our best food tours in Rome or during our hands-on cooking classes in Rome.
After decades of traveling to Rome (not to mention living there), we are here to answer the question:
What should I eat in Rome?
- Carciofi alla giudia
- Pizza al taglio
Supplí, also called Supplí al telefono for the long, stringy melted cheese “wires” that come out when you open them, are similar to a Sicilian arancino: a ball of seasoned rice breaded and fried. But supplí use a tomato-y rice and have a piece of cheese at the center (whereas arancini have a meat filling), and supplí are oval-shaped instead of round. They are a perfect snack to get you from lunch to dinner, especially if you are out walking the city on a Rome street food tour or visiting the sites. Buy them hot, though! (See our recipe for Supplí!)
The first time my older son learned about carbonara on a food tour Rome I explained that it was basically bacon and eggs on top of pasta. That’s a rough description, but the main ingredients in the Roman staple, as you will find during and food tour of Rome, is pancetta (a cured meat much like bacon, although it is salt cured, not smoked), eggs, which are heated by tossing them with the pasta, but not cooked in the more traditional sense, and pecorino cheese. There are a million different variations of carbonara. Some people use cream, others think that is sacrilege. Some add peas (peas?!). while most use only a bit of onion. Some say yes garlic, some no. Some say use both pecorino and parmigiano… you get the point. (See our recipe for carbonara.)
Most people will put a classic “amatriciana” on a list of what to eat on a food tour Rome, and we do love that classic tomato and guanciale sauce. But I prefer the classic griscia, which is a tomato-less amatriciana. Guanciale is a salt-cured pork jowl (similar to pancetta, which can be substituted if you can’t find guanciale). The only ingredients are guanciale, salt, pepper, and pecorino romano, and of course pasta. On a Rome food tour you’ll most often find it made with bucatini (a thick type of spaghetti with a hole running through the center) or rigatoni.
Carciofi alla giudia
Quite possibly my favorite food, and definitely my favorite Roman dish, are carciofi alla giudia. True carciofi alla giudia are only availbale in the springtime, as you need young, tender Romanesco artichokes that are in season only February through April. So if you’re on a Rome food tour at another time of year you are out of luck. These small artichokes are pressed to open them and flash fried to crispy, golden deliciousness.
Try a wonderful French recipe featuring artichokes.
Pizza al taglio
There are two types of pizza in Rome, and they are very distinct. One is the classic round variety fired in a wood burning oven (and often only available at dinner time). The other is probably the favorite street food of Romans, “pizza al taglio” (sometimes called pizza rustica). Made in large rectangular pans this pizza is sold by the weight, which prompted students of mine to dub it “pizza by the pound” when I was teaching in Rome many years ago. There are many varieties, although the sauceless version with potatoes and rosemary is always a favorite.
Finally, the king of Roman meats that you can try on a Rome food tour or culinary vacation: porchetta. Porchetta is a moist, boneless, stuffed pork loin roasted on a spit for hours. It is served sliced by itself or on sandwiches. Traditionally it is stuffed with garlic, herbs, fennel, and liver. Whether you’re eating it on the streets during a Rome food tour, or on a countryside picnic in the hills of the Lazio region, porchetta is a burst of salty, earthy flavor.
Whether you are exploring the eternal city on a food tour Rome, taking a Rome cooking tour, or simply exploring on your own, there will be plenty of wonderful dishes to taste and enjoy.
By Peg Kern
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