Thanksgiving is just over a week away and I’ve already placed my turkey order, arranged for cranberries to be smuggled into Italy, and begun assigning side dishes and desserts. This is such a fun and festive and fat time of the year I can hardly wait until November 24 (we are celebrating a few days late this year, since Mamma Parla is landing on Thanksgiving day). There is still a lot to do before now and then, but thankfully most of the errands can be done in and around the Esquilino neighborhood, a short stroll from my apartment.
Unfortunately, there is no one-stop-shop in Rome like the Thanksgiving shop in Paris, but, regardless of where you are based in Rome, you should be able to gather most of what you need for a bountiful feast. Here are some shopping tips:
Turkey: You should be able to order one from your neighborhood butcher with a bit of advance notice. If you let things slide until the last minute, you should be able to find one in the Mercato Esquilino, the new Testaccio market, or at Mercato Trionfale fairly easily. Many standard Italian ovens can accommodate a 7-8kg bird. Hande of Vino Roma has had success with the San Bartolomeo free range organic turkeys from Annibale. I’ve been very happy with turkeys from Macelleria Stecchiotti on Via Panisperna in Monti in years past. This year I’m getting a 16-pounder from Bottega Liberati.
Sweet potatoes: These are labeled patate americane and you are most likely to find them at the Piazza Vittorio, Testaccio, or Trinofale markets or in the international food shops in the Esquilino. They also sell them at Campo de’ Fiori but the prices are absurd. Pick these up a few days in advance. I waited until the eleventh hour last year and had to scramble to find 5 sweet potatoes in Piazza Vittorio. If you are down with marshmallows on your sweet potatoes, Castroni’s got em. You will also find various “patate americane” at Er Cimotto in Trastevere and in Campo de’ Fiori, but prices are generally lower in the aforementioned locations.
Cranberry Sauce: Castroni (several locations) and Selli International on via dello Statuto 28 both carry the vomitous canned stuff. For the real thing, you are probably going to have to get them in from France or Great Britain. Gillian McGuire suggests an alternative: “the lingonberry jam sold at Ikea is a terrific cranberry sauce stand-in.” She also adds, “I have bought fried onions there-an essential ingredient for greenbean casserole”. Her app Rome for Expats has lots of tips and resource for finding American ingredients, in general.
Stuffing: Last year I made stuffing with bread from Roscioli. I got 3 types, cut them into cubes and toasted them. I added sausage from Sartor in the Testaccio Market to the recipe. I gave this dish the humble moniker, “Best Stuffing Ever”.
Corn bread: Corn meal is sold in Selli, Castroni, and Elite supermarkets.
Apple sauce: Tart green apples from Trentino (widely available) will do the trick.
Squash: The international shops around Piazza Vittorio have a good selection of squash varieties.
Pumpkin Pie: Fresh pumpkins are sold all over Rome. Castroni carries the canned stuff.
And last but not least, if (like me) you break 6 place settings a year, you will need to stock up on new dishes and whatnot. For a variety of cheap household goods you might need (including napkins, silver wear, candles, glasses, bizarre centerpieces, and unsightly tablecloths), check out MAS. And even if you don’t need any of those things go to MAS anyway because it is completely weird and fun.
Updated from 2011 version.