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Rome has been welcoming visitors for thousands of years and it is still a city of bars, cafes, and restaurants. Morning cappuccini are drunk in bars on the way to work and Romans go out to dine with friends and family as often as possible. There may well be a reason for this… historically, people living in apartments in ancient Rome were not permitted to light fires for cooking for fear of fires in a densely populated city. They could only eat cold food in their rented apartments or go out to eat. Clearly, old habits die hard.

The ancient Roman cuisine was fairly modest but with the growth of the Empire, the Roman legions were bringing back local specialities from their campaigns as well as people who could prepare them. The Romans grew accustomed to high quality produce which was very successfully grown in the soils of Lazio. This obsession with the best possible produce still persists today, thankfully. The people of Lazio adore their fruits and vegetables and the province is particularly famous for its artichokes, either marinated in oil or deep fried asĀ carciofiĀ allaĀ giudia,Ā a dish originating in the Jewish ghetto in Rome.

Rome, according to the Romans, is the birthplace of spaghetti alla carbonara, spaghetti all’amatriciana (from Amatrice), andĀ spaghetti alla puttanesca. Another very popular dish is gnocchi alla Romana made from a rich, custardy semolina dough. Regardless of their origins, everyone, rich or poor, is united by their love of pasta and gnocchi.

It’s not unreasonable to think that the Romans have an obsession with theĀ quinto quarto (the fifth quarter) which has resulted, over the years, in some delicious, thrifty dishes. Throughout Lazio rich stews, slow-cooked ragus, and huge hunks of meat roasted in the oven are the most common ways of preparing meat.

If you’ve ever wandered around a street market in Lazio you will have come across the countless vans offeringĀ slices of fragrantĀ porchetta, usually in a delicious bread roll. The porchettaĀ is a whole pig, stuffed with a mixture of herbs, garlic and, occasionally, fennel. It is then roasted whole, very slowly – the ultimate street food!

Avoid the tourist traps in Rome (and Lazio) and you will eat very well indeed.

 

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Benvenuti Al Sud
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