Italy and food are synonymous and Rome is Italy's culinary capital. We were lucky to experience the real food of Rome on a 4-hour tour by Eating Europe, a tour company that also offers an insider's experience in Florence, London, Amsterdam and Prague. From several offerings, we chose the Trastevere for Foodies tour because we've visited this area in the past and wanted to have a local's look at this ancient neighborhood on the "other side" of the Tiber River from the famous monuments.
The Ponte Sisto crosses the Tiber to Trastevere.
We knew as soon as we met our guide Sarah and the two other foodie tour couples that we were going to love the experience. First stop was Pasticceria Trastevere, a popular site for authentic Roman pastries since the 1970s. The owner, Signora Vera, is a charming 89-year-old lady who seems to have found the Fountain of Youth. She still wakes early each day to open her shop which is truly a paradise for those who want to taste some of the most beautiful and delicious confections.
Signora Vera has a smile for each customer at the Pasticceria Trastevere.
Our guide, Sarah, holds the bigne, choux pastry buns filled with zabaglione cream that we sampled.
We moved on to Antica Caciara to sample real parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano cheeses offered by longtime owner Signor Roberto. Here we learned that there is real controversy now over the origin of pecorino romano as most of what is sold by that name actually comes from Sardinia.
Our guide presents the group a tray of cheeses to sample.
Antica Caciara has been run by the Polica family since 1900 and Signor Roberto is a local celebrity.
At I Suppli we were introduced to a somewhat messy but delicious Roman street snack, the suppli. It is similar to the deep-fried Sicilian rice balls that we grew up with, but it's filled with risotto rather than regular white rice in addition to savory meat. The small shop was crammed with locals who were buying their lunches on the go.
We weren't full quite yet, however, so we waddled over to Norcineria Lacozzilli where the signature picture of a hog in the window tells it all!
The shop is famed for its porchetta made from pigs grown on the owner's farm and raised on a diet of acorns. The sliced meat was served on pizza bianca and was truly delicious.
After this mini feast, it was time for dessert at Fatamorgana, a gelateria that is now our worldwide favorite. Our guide gave us some tips for selecting gelato from the thousands of shops in Rome. She told us to look for colors that occur in nature to be sure that artificial ingredients haven't been added, noting that bananas aren't yellow on the inside. She also said to avoid the fluffy ones that have been pumped up with air. Inside the shop we found a wide assortment of flavors from Tahitian vanilla with apple chunks to Kentucky Chocolate with an intriguing smoky flavor.
Now with our palates cleansed, we were ready for lunch at Casa Mia, where the house specialties are tonarelli cacio e pepe and spaghetti alla amatriciana, pastas with signature Roman sauces. The generous servings were accompanied by local red and white wines.
A stop at the San Cosimato Market introduced us to the stand run by Concetta and Emiliano. Concetta was literally almost born at this market when her mother's water broke on a work day announcing that it was time for her baby to be born. They showed us their wonderful displays of fresh fruits and vegetables and gave us skewers of melon and prosciutto to sample. The melon was the sweetest we had ever tasted.
Last stop of the tour was at Innocenti bakery for biscotti (cookies). We were treated to an assortment of freshly baked cookies that melted in our mouths and saw the largest cookie oven we could have imagined. The walls were covered with the awards that the bakery has received for excellence in the craft as well as photos of the many celebrities who are loyal fans.
The cookies are made from simple and wholesome ingredients.
Buying kilos of cookies for Sunday family dinners is a Roman tradition.
It was a perfect food tour starting with sweets and ending with them too. Our guide, Sarah, was extremely knowledgeable and friendly which made the tour one that we would highly recommend!