/Roman Food Culture in the 21st Century

Roman Food Culture in the 21st Century

romeo-1
Lamb tongue pastrami sandwich at Romeo, part of the nascent gourmet sandwich trend.

In the spirit of last week’s “Some Myth’s About Rome The Need To Die”, I present a post dedicated to revealing 21st century Roman food culture. This is loosely based on a lecture I did yesterday at Temple University’s Rome campus for Professor Shara Wasserman’s Contemporary Rome class.

In spite of the aforementioned myths, I insist on posing the rhetorical question, “what is the real Rome?” How do we as residents perceive this city and the food and beverage it offers? How do we come to terms with the tragic and terrible disappearance of tradition while simultaneously celebrating praiseworthy innovation? A 90-minute lecture with 70 slides just barely scratched the surface, but here are some notable 21st century features of Rome’s food and beverage culture:

International Influences

Foreign dining influences have had both positive and negative effects on Rome’s offerings. The rise of pub culture and craft beer shops has fueled small business, created new jobs and provided (mainly young) people with interesting beverage options. On the other hand, the proliferation of boring and pointless brunch buffets is proof that locals don’t mind clinging to stupid trends or eating truly disgusting food and airborne bacteria.

chicken cesar open

Chicken cesar salad at Open Baladin, an example of the entrée salad that has entered into the Roman repertoire.

blind pig

Quality-driven American-inspired craft beer pubs like Blind Pig are a welcome addition to the city’s nightlife.

roma farmers' market

The first farmers’ markets arrived in Rome a few years back, offering consumers access to producers and offering producers access to urban markets. Held on weekends, the farmers’ markets take cues from US and UK equivalents.

noau

Lean burger patties (both raw and cooked) are ubiquitous. Though clearly referencing American fast food, the Roman version is void of fat and flavor due to the choice of designer meats meant to appeal to the local palate.

metamorfosi_a

The rise of foreign chefs like Roy Caceres and John Regefalk of Metamorfosi means diners finally have access to properly cooked meat.

eataly

Big box shopping arrived in Italy well before the 21st century, but large supermarkets have secured their hold on Rome’s consumers. Everyone seems to love one-stop-shopping though it demands compromising on quality.

trimani

Even respected family-run businesses like Trimani think nothing of serving microwaved seafood served in a charred plastic bag.

Innovation Rooted in Tradition

carbonara pizza tonda

The classic carbonara pasta condiment becomes a pizza topping at Tonda.

sforno 20-06-40

At Sforno, cacio e pepe, another classic pasta dish, sees its ingredients atop a thick-rimmed pizza base.

mordi e vai

Sergio Esposito’s Mordi e Vai, which opened in the Testaccio Market in July, sees Roman mains served on a roll. At nearby 00100, pizza bianca is filled with classic Roman dishes in the early 21st century invention, the “trapizzino”.

suppli' 00100

Speaking of 00100, it was one of the first places to break away from the classic suppli’ recipe and use different fillings like porchetta and white wine or braised beef and onions.

pasta suppli pizzarium

Gabriele Bonci takes the suppli’ experiment a step further at Pizzarium, where rice is replaced with pasta (and combined here with gorgonzola and artichokes).

2017-02-17T15:16:51+00:00 April 11th, 2013|Categories: Culture, Food & Wine, Gastronomic Traditions, Restaurants, Rome & Lazio|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. asliceontheway April 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    You have such great recommendations in this post! I cannot wait to get to Rome next year to try some of those pizzas at Tonda, Sforno, 00100, and Pizzarium. Especially that cacio e pepe at Sforno. I’ll be sure to send you a mention.

    • Katie April 13, 2013 at 11:23 am - Reply

      remember: the cacio e pepe pizza is best shared as it is so, well, cacio-ey! so much cheese, which is wonderful but after a while kills the palate. enjoy!!

  2. Rachel April 14, 2013 at 12:51 am - Reply

    In the small world department, Shara Wasserman was my art history of Rome professor when I studied abroad with Temple 24 years ago! Glad to hear she’s still there.

  3. […] local attempts to modernize the city’s cuisine either fall flat or feel forced. There are some recent exceptions to this rule, some of which have the common thread of looking to the distant past for inspiration. I stopped by […]

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