Like much of Rome, I’m ruined.
Because now that I’ve tasted true Italian cuisine, nothing will ever compare.
I don’t even want to eat pasta anymore. Now that I’ve tasted hand-made pasta IN Italy, Ronzoni ain’t gunna cut it. Now that I know what real, fresh mozzarella di bufala tastes like, no other mozz ball will ever be as good.
Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic. But just maybe, because I’m not kidding – the food I ate in Rome was some of the best food I’ve eaten in my entire life. So accordingly, I ate as much as I could. Might have gained a few pounds but hey, it was ITALY. There’s really no other place where I would rather overindulge. I ate so much in fact, that I actually have to break this post on Rome into three separate posts, one for each day I was there… and they’re still going to be novels. #sorrynotsorry .
First stop: PIZZA! We arrived in the early afternoon and needed to fuel up before sight-seeing. We chose a pizzeria in our neighborhood of Trastevere called La Boccacia that had lots of really good reviews. Pizza in Rome is a bit different than what I’m used to. Unless it’s a personal pizza, it’s not circular. At pizzerias, pizza is in the shape of the large rectangle sheet pan it’s cooked on. The workers cut you a square in whatever size you’d like and the piece is sold by weight.
I like this because it allows you to try little pieces of a bunch of different kinds, which is of course what Danielle and I did. We tried four small squares – eggplant & mozzarella; mushroom & Swiss; zucchini, diced tomato, & ricotta; and zucchini, pesto & ricotta. The BEST part about the pizza was the crust. Holy moly. It was so crisp, yet somehow still just doughy enough. I think my favorite variety was the last one – the pesto tasted incredibly fresh, you could tell without a doubt that it was house-made.
There is a saying in Italy that I love, that reveals their perspective on the importance of fresh, quality ingredients: “La miglior cucina comincia dal mercato” – “the best cuisine starts from the market.” Every gustatory experience I had in Italy was a refrain of that mantra. There was one slight disappointment with the pizza we were served – it wasn’t hot. It was great otherwise, but it wasn’t life-changing… unlike the food I would have later that night!
After running around the city and casually exploring ruins from 1500 years ago, we made our way just outside Piazza Navona to a restaurant called Solo for dinner, another place we researched and read reviews of before making our reservation. [Side note: We actually had reservations for every meal that we dined out, and I would STRONGLY recommend that you do the same if you want to have any awesome food while you’re in Rome. We saw countless groups turned away from restaurants because they didn’t have reservations.] We started out with a couple of cocktails to celebrate making it to Italy! I ordered a peach bellini and I’m pretty sure the waiter picked the peach and blended it up right before pouring it into the prosecco in my glass. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, EVERY SINGLE THING I ate in Rome tasted as fresh and real as it could possibly be.
Next was our aperitivo (appetizer) – mozzarella, halved grape tomatoes, and basil. Except it wasn’t just any mozzarella, it was mozzarella di bufala, made from the milk of the domestic Italian water buffalo! TRUE mozzarella cheese is only made from water buffalo’s milk, mozzarella made from cow’s milk is actually called fior di latte mozzarella. There’s even a Consortium for the Protection of buffalo mozzarella, ensuring strict production standards are followed. And for those of you reading who are nutrition nerds like me, buffalo milk has a much higher protein, fat, and mineral salt content than cow’s milk. I couldn’t believe how silky, juicy, tangy and amazing this cheese was. It was tied up in fascinating knots and the way that it shredded was tantalizing. You’ll find it served at nearly every restaurant in Rome, and you absolutely MUST try it if you go.
For our entrées, we decided to order two different ones and share them (anyone who knows us knows we tend to eat this way as often as possible 😛 ). Our first choice was eggplant parmigiana – one of my favorite foods. Don’t be fooled by its humble appearance; it was HEAVENLY. The most tender eggplant I’ve ever had. Thinly sliced and not bitter in the slightest, as they can sometimes be. The only word that comes close to describing it is ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ (okay, maybe that’s four words). It wasn’t breaded, fried, nor greasy. And the tomato sauce really WAS incredible! I was so happy that it lived up to my expectations. Plus with more amazing mozz melted on top, it was layers on layers of deliciousness.
Our second choice was the chef’s special meatballs. Meatballs at your average restaurant can be hit or miss; there is a loooot of room for interpretation. But we figured we couldn’t go wrong in Italy, and we were right. We were served a plate of about ten small meatballs, in America what we’d call “appetizer” size. The meat was SUCH high quality (which again can be questionable with a lot of other meatballs) and it was finely ground which gave it a really smooth mouth feel. The seasoning was on point and the gravy complemented them perfectly. Unfortunately we gobbled them all up before I could snap a pic!
I want to also take a moment to talk about the portion sizes here (I AM a dietitian after all). The entrees were actually appropriate sizes. Not oversized American restaurant portions. They value quality over quantity here, and I’d venture the same for most of Europe. While we ate a considerable amount of food, we left feeling that good kind of full, the full you feel after eating just enough of nourishing food. Comfortable. Not stuffed, the way many people leave restaurants in America, but satisfied. In fact, after climbing the Spanish Steps and tossing our coins into the Trevi Fountain, we still had just enough room for some gelato.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of indulging in authentic European gelato, just try to imagine the creamiest, richest, softest ice cream ever. Yeah, it’s that good. At Gelateria Della Palma, the flavors I chose were Rocher (ever had those golden-foil-wrapped Ferrero Rocher chocolates?) and coffee, and it was a damn good combo. Since I don’t do super concentrated sweets too often, the Rocher flavor was actually on the border line of too sweet for me. But that’s okay, because the next gelato I had in Roma (don’t judge me) made up for it 🙂 !
Stay tuned for my upcoming post on Day 2 of Roman eats!
Have you been to Rome or Italy!? I’d love to hear about your experiences! Comment below!