October 30, 2013

When in Rome: Eat as the Romans Do

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They say there is no place like Rome, and I am inclined to agree. Moving there for the semester has been an absolute culture shock. The streets are entirely made of cobblestone, the public transportation system never works and, as I recently found out, being on the receiving end of multiple bird droppings in one day isn’t uncommon. Nevertheless, the culinary experience is one-of-a-kind. After too many meals and tighter-fitting jeans, I officially know how to eat like a Roman.


Breakfast is a non-essential aspect of Roman culture. My morning routine is comprised of a croissant washed down with an espresso, which are the only real options prior to 12 p.m. Lunch and dinner are highly anticipated events and the best meals of the day, so saving stomach space is crucial. Sometimes I even skip breakfast altogether and get a Spremuta D’arnicia Fresca, a.k.a. fresh squeezed O.J. You can find a variety of freshly squeezed juices on almost every block in Rome.


Lunch is the hardest, yet most rewarding adjustment when moving to Rome. I’m used to standing in line at Terrace for about 20 minutes to get a salad and eat it on the way to my next class. “Take Away” in Rome is very limited. The only take away options are giant-sized paninis or salads from L’insalata Ricca.

Acclimating to Roman lunch wasn’t easy. Where was I supposed to get a toasted sandwich or salad? I quickly learned lunch had to be scheduled in just like classes were. Every day around 1 p.m. my friends and I go to a restaurant in Trastevere, the historic and charming town we live in.

Gino’s has become our go-to spot. Antonio, jokingly referred to as Boss Man, brings us our pane (bread) and naturale water. Warning: bread and water are not free in Italy. After scarfing down two slices of bread perfectly soaked in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and parmesan cheese, we head to the vegetable bar. No, pasta and pizza are not the only options in Rome — grilled vegetables are an absolute necessity of every meal. After eating a mountain-high plate of vegetables, I order the Tartufo: truffled, thin-crust pizza, the true epitome of melt-in-your-mouth food. Careful not to mix this up with the after-meal Tartufo, which is a chocolate and ice cream dessert shaped like a mushroom!


Local Romans spend dinnertime at home cooking a classic Italian meal: grilled vegetables, hefty meat and very al dente pasta. While my roommates and I often cook at home, we find it difficult to avoid the bustling streets of Trastevere.

Our favorite local restaurant is Tony’s. Walking into Tony’s brings excitement and grumbling stomachs to all customers. Tony, the biggest and best restaurateur, greets patrons with two kisses, hands them each a glass of Prosecco and sits them at a table on a street more crowded than Pixel at 1:15 a.m. More often than not, we follow with the penne a la vodka and chicken parmesan. It is unanimously agreed upon that both dishes are the best of their respective kinds. The penne a la vodka is soaked in an oil-filled, creamy cheese sauce, and each bite is better than the last. The chicken parmesan comes in a stone plate hidden in perfectly golden mozzarella cheese. Tony’s has taught me the new meaning of being full.


Yes, even after a bulky meal at Tony’s, there is always room for Gelato. Gelateria del Teatro is definitely my favorite, with the most authentic and unique gelato. Their flavors range from chocolate and wine, raspberry and rose, to fig and ricotta cheese. Of course, the staple gelato flavor, stracciatella (creamy vanilla with dark chocolate chunks), is the absolute winner.

Sure, some may find our excessive daily food intake crazy and gluttonous, but hey, when in Rome!

Until next time! Ciao!