The Hungry Traveller
Anna King Shahab's guide in the Eternal City has a nose for good food
Three nights in Rome was the final chapter on a five-week family trip through Europe. We were tired, our palates slightly jaded; we craved feeling at home rather than like tourists, but hadn't time to trek far. Luckily I had an expert on hand to help us eat like locals in the centre of one of the world's most visited cities: travel concierge and friend Quetta Locchi, an ex-New Yorker with an intimate knowledge of Rome (everflymsq.com).
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From crafting lists to securing bookings and tours, and in our case, sharing tips over an Aperol spritz or two — she's a nasoni of knowledge on the Eternal City. Nasoni? They're the large nose-like fountains dotted around the city, explained Quetta — there are more than 2500, and though most were built from the 1870s on, the fondness for fountains goes back to Roman times; for two millenia there's been no reason to buy bottled water in Rome.
Among Quetta's picks for us were some places around Campo dei Fiori, handy for exploring Centro Storico sights, but non-touristy. Roscioli Caffe for a typically Roman standing snack and espresso (the homemade pastries are glorious), Enoteca Il Goccetto for antipasti and aperitivi (if there are no tables, join the regulars on the footpath), fried baccala (salt cod) and puntarelle (read on) at Dar Filettaro, and updated versions of Roman classics at Supplizio.
Close to where were staying in Monti, Quetta directed us to Trimani il Wine Bar, the oldest wine shop in Rome, family-run and a great place to sample Italian wines and a bite to eat. Monti, despite being surrounded by tourist attractions, has a neighbourhood feel about it; we found plenty of good eating around Via Panisperna — you need to book, most places are crammed with locals.
For families, Mercato Centrale in Termini Station is excellent — order as you like from a dozen or more kitchens at this bustling food hall — from classic supplì and fried morsels to freshly made pastas and salads, we loved it all.
A highlight was the breakfast spread at a hotel where we spent one blissful night. Villa Spalletti Trivelli feels like a home because it is one — built by early 20th century artisans for an aristocratic family, who now run it as a boutique hotel. Breakfast was a perfectly curated selection of homemade treats — crusty bread, delicious cakes and local produce like beefy tomatoes, honey, the best buffalo mozzarella I've ever tasted, and olive oil from the family's estate.
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Later, on a balmy autumn evening we sat in the tall-hedged garden — an amazingly quiet haven just two minutes' walk from the hum of Trevi Fountain, nibbling on prosciutto and sipping a chilled glass of the family's Pomario rosato as the Roman sky above slid into a matching hue.
Puntarelle, a member of the chicory family, had just appeared when we visited in late autumn. The classic dish puntarelle alla Romana sees it trimmed back to tender stems, peeled into strips, placed in an ice bath, then served with anchovy dressing. Bitter, umami, crunchy; the perfect foil for Rome's heavy pastas and many deep-fried snacks.
Anna King Shahab: The Hungry Traveller returns in a fortnight. Next week, Elisabeth Easther's Wonderful World