That was the slogan written on the chalk board outside a restaurant in Trastevere, a once working class but now trendy neighbourhood in Rome, West of the Tiber river. Oh how I can sympathise with that!
It’s not something you think about when living in your own city — you go to restaurants you like for specific foods or try new ones based on reviews or recommendations from friends. In Sydney, I know where to go for the best laksa, I have my preferred coffee shops, and I have a long list of restaurants and bars I have yet to check out. It’s much the same for Vancouver. But when travelling, distinguishing good restaurants from tourist trap ones is a difficult task, especially in a city like Rome, which apparently receives 39,000+ visitors a day. You don’t need to be good when there are visitors flocking to your city daily, and most of these visitors will never come back to see you again.
I’m usually keen to try out local cuisine when travelling and often only have a limited number of days to do so. As a result, I get disappointed when I end up wasting time, money, and calories eating below average food at above average cost. Take for example the breakfast I had in Budapest. Possibly the worst pancakes in the world. I wish I had taken a photo. I had ordered the “American breakfast” which included pancakes, eggs, and bacon. What arrived was absolutely pathetic…1 soggy piece of limp bacon, 2 eggs sunny side up, and 1 irregularly shaped pancake, blackened from a dirty pan. I’ve never been served ONE pancake before, and after one bite, I couldn’t even eat it. It was yeasty, chewy, and tasted like beer. Foul.
But I digress. For Rome, I’m trying to avoid another similar experience by combing the blogs and guides for recommendations for good value restaurants that do real Italian food. For lunch yesterday, we went to a little place called Sora Margherita in the Jewish Ghetto area of Rome and stuffed ourselves with traditional Roman food: fried artichoke, fried stuffed zucchini flowers, mozzarella di bufala (I think I’ve had this everyday since being in Italy so might need a reak from it now), and bucatini all’matriciana. All tasty and done in a very rustic, homestyle fashion.
For dinner, I introduce Carter to the joys of Apertivo, an Italian tradition of having some complimentary snacks with a drink of choice during happy hour at a bar. “Snacks” is a vague term that can range from cheese cubes and olives at some bars, all the way to full on buffet feasts at others. I practically lived on apertivo during my student days in Milan; they are great for socialising and eating out on a student budget.
I do some research and we wander to Trastevere in search of Freni & Fizioni, a bar that has a great apertivo spread, good cocktails, and cool atmosphere. How apertivo works is you pay for just the drink you order and can then help yourself to the food. For 6 euro each, we have a cheap dinner of an assortment of pastas and salads. The place quickly fills up with young locals and some tourists and people take their drinks and food to sit outside in the piazza by the bar. I love apertivo…much needed in Vancouver and Sydney!
Italian food photo homage…