My sister moved to Italy last year.
Rome is one of my top three favourite cities in the entire world (so far), so as soon as she told me her plans, I couldn’t resist booking a flight.
I picked up a surprisingly cheap British Airways ticket, left Gatwick at silly o’clock on a Saturday morning, and arrived in the Eternal City just after 10am. We had a brilliant 36 hours together, filled with food and laughs and beautiful Italian streets, and then I flew back to London on Sunday night.
It was short but sweet, and I managed to pack in a LOT of good food!
Ches works for an awesome company called The Roman Guy, who provide tours around Italy for English-speaking travellers. They offer a whole load of different tours all across Italy, including bike tours, visits to the Colosseum at Night, VIP early morning access to the Sistine Chapel, and loaaads more.
One of the experiences they offer is a Local Food Tour in Trastevere, and I was very excited when they offered to let me try it in exchange for a review. Gary and I never managed to make it to Trastevere on our visit last year, so this was the perfect opportunity to combine this v cool neighbourhood with my favourite hobby: eating!
Our lovely guide Luca spoke perfect English, and he was excellent, teaching us all about the local customs, and incorporating little bits of history as well as foodie knowledge. The tour group was a mixture of friends and couples, and everyone except us was American. They were all super friendly, and a couple of glasses of wine soon eased any weird awkwardness.
We visited seven different local establishments in Trastevere, and here’s what we ate:
Salumi is the collective noun for Italian cold cuts. The French have charcuterie, the Italians have salumi.
And it’s not to be confused with salami! Salami is a type of salumi, but so are prosciutto, pancetta, bresaola, and mortadella.
We started our tour with trip to a local norcineria (a shop that sells salumi) in Trastevere. Most of them also sell cheese, but this one was aaaall meat. As soon as you walk through the door you’re greeted by the sight of hundreds of dried sausages and cured hunks of meat hanging from the ceiling.
The team had prepared a tray with a whole load of different cuts for us to try, everything from salami (dried sausage) flavoured with truffle, to capocollo (thinly sliced dried pork shoulder), and Calabrian schiacciata (a type of salami heavily flavoured with paprika and chilli).
Filetto di baccala is, essentially, deep fried cod. But it’s like no fried cod I’ve ever had before.
We headed to a tiny local restaurant that’s been serving the best fried fish in Trastevere since the 1950s. Luca poured out glasses of white wine and we dug right into our pieces of fish in proper Roman fashion: with our hands.
The cod is as fresh as you’ll find anywhere, and their lovely flakey batter is simply made with flour and sparkling water. It’s light and crispy, and not greasy in the slightest. I definitely plan on going back for more of this on my next visit!
Next stop: cheese!
We tasted proper Peccorino Romano (a cheese that’s very similar to Parmesan), served in chunks and drizzled with honey. Then we tried a medium-hard goat’s cheese with fig jam.
We also had a couple of glasses of organic local wine, which were deeeeelicious.
(You can tell how much fun I was having by this point because suddenly there are a lot less photos of each restaurant!)
No food tour in Rome would be complete without pizza!
Roman pizza traditionally has a medium-sized chewy crust made with flour, water, yeast, salt and olive oil (which is what makes it chewier than a thin and crispy Neapolitan pizza).
You can obviously order whole pizzas in restaurants, but the other really popular option in Rome is to order a slice “al taglio” and eat it standing up at a bar.
There are plenty of these street pizza places dotted around the city, and most will offer a variety of different toppings. We had slices of classic margherita, but you’ll also find white sauce pizzas are popular in Rome.
FUN FOOD FACT: the margherita pizza was created in the 1800s, and named after the Italian queen at the time: Margherita. The toppings honor the colors of the Italian flag: red tomato sauce, white buffalo mozzarella, and green basil leaves.
If pizza is the queen, then as far as I’m concerned, pasta is the king of all Italian food.
The first time Gary and I visited Rome in 2016, we went for five days. I think I had pizza for ONE meal, and then about 90% of the rest of my meals were pasta. I love pasta. ♥
On the tour, we visited a local osteria (restaurant) in Trastevere for slabs of bruschetta (toasted bread topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic and olive oil) and giant bowls of the good stuff.
We tried two different sauces:
• Cacio e Pepe, a simple and traditional Roman pasta dish made with just black pepper, grated peccorino Romano cheese, and spoonfuls of starchy pasta water. This one was creamy and punchy, and unbelieeeeevably delicious.
• Amatriciana, another simple dish, made with tomatoes, fried guanciale (pork cheek), white wine, black pepper, and grated peccorino Romano. There are actually about a million variations for amatriciana, but apparently that’s the generally accepted basic ingredient list. It’s actually one of my absolute favourite pasta sauces, and this one made me very very happy.
And finally: gelato.
After an evening of eating everything put in front of me, you’d think I had no room for pudding. But if you think that, then you are WRONG. There is always room for gelato.
Now, the first thing you need to know about authentic Italian gelato is that it’s not like regular ice cream. (It’s a cool ice cream.)
Gelato is much creamier, and has a lower percentage of fat (yay!). It’s churned at a much slower rate, which means that it’s denser, smoother and has a deeper flavour than regular ice cream too.
And what flavours! I tried chocolate and red wine gelato, guys. Seriously. You’d think it wouldn’t work, but it made the chocolate darker and richer, and OH IT WAS YUM.
I couldn’t quite handle a whole cone of it though, so I plumped for a scoop of ricotta and a scoop of salted caramel instead. Delicious.
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I had SUCH a wonderful evening with The Roman Guy, and would 100% recommend them if you want to do a food tour in Rome. (And why wouldn’t you?)
The price of the tour includes all your food for the night, as well as multiple glasses of wine (or soft drinks if you don’t drink alcohol.)
You’ll explore a fabulous part of the city, learn a ton of interesting factoids about Roman food and drink and history, and might even make a couple of friends as well. Ches and I got on great with one of the young couples and we all ended up following each other on Instagram to keep in touch.
So food, wine, new friends, and a beautiful neighbourhood… what are you waiting for? Book your food tour in Rome today.
*** I was given a free tour in exchange for a review.