Roman Holiday

Savor the food and wine adventure that is Italy

By Allison Parker
Photos courtesy of Allison Parker, City Wonders, The Roman Food Tour and Walks of Italy

For foodies who love to travel and try native cuisine, a bountiful pleasure for the palate awaits when visiting Rome. With many flavors and temptations, it is a treasure to have an insider’s guide to sampling.

The Roman Food Tour is a highly-rated experience that allows patrons to see Rome as a true local. The Grand Hotel Palace, located on Via Vittorio Veneto, is a convenient lodging choice. It’s a short taxi ride or healthy walk away from starting the tour at the Cipro Metro Station.

Beginning the tour, multilingual guide Jess Rojas leads the group to a quaint breakfast pastry and coffee shop, La Pasticceria Siciliana. Breakfast is a cannoli filled with a choice of a freshly made filling in Mediterranean flavors such as orange, lemon or traditional (with vanilla creme). Rojas notes that a true cannoli is one filled while you wait. A made-to-order expresso or cappuccino serves as a perfect complement to the pastry.

With the light, savory flavor of the cannoli still on the tongue, the group takes a short walk to the next stop, Pizzarium. With Naples being the birthplace of pizza, it is a lesson in pizza history to meet with Pizzarium owner and chef Gabriele Bonci, affectionately known as the “Michelangelo of pizza.” Toppings are randomly chosen, giving diners a sense of adventure and a desire to partake in many samples. Featuring seasonal, local produce, each pizza presents a creative topping mixture such as potato and mozzarella and fig with prosciutto.

The third stop in the tasting exploration is a step inside Paciotti Salumeria. Here, visitors are given a delicate cheese sampling of Parmigiana Reggiano and a 30-year aged balsamic and Pecorino Romano touched with black truffles, as well as offerings of finely cut prosciutto di Parma, di Joselito and di Cinta Senese. Over a glass of wine, guests hear from Rojas and the the family proprietors about uses of olive oil as well as harvesting of rare truffles for flavoring.

After sampling cannoli for breakfast at La Pasticceria Siciliana, the tour headed to Pizzarium to meet Gabriele Bonci, the "Michelangelo of pizza."

A walk in Rome would not be complete without a visit to the local farmers market, Trionfale. The market is a mosaic of blooming delights — wooden crates and display cases filled with fresh, vibrant fruits and vegetables. It is a sampling paradise of many items, including local table wine, fresh buffalo mozzarella, melanzane (eggplant) parmigiana and a moist, boneless pork roast known as porchetta.

For lunch, the tour moves to a sit-down, family-style meal at Osteria delle Commari. With wine being commonly served with lunch in Rome, the group is offered a red, Castelli Romani by Tusculum. A knowledgeable waiter explains the three types of pastas to be served, each with a light sauce. Rojas shares a key cooking tip: the sauce should never overpower the pasta.

With dessert in mind, the tour concludes with a tasting at Fatamorgana, an artisanal gelateria. Here, Rojas explains that a too-bright color or mountain-like peaks over display canisters can be tipoffs that gelato is artificial. Authentic gelato contains fewer ingredients and is more natural in color. Without extra air whipped into it, it also falls flatter in canisters. Fatamorgana’s gelato excellence provides a tasty wrapup to an amazing palate-pleasing tour.

From cannoli to gelato and all the tasty tidbits in between, the half-day Roman Food Tour is a great way to experience the local cuisine. It also can serve as a springboard to additional cultural, historical and leisurely escapes in and around Rome.

Left: Pizza samples on the food tour offered a wide variety of combinations. Right: The tour guide shared a key cooking tip: the sauce should never overpower the pasta.
Left: Pizza samples on the food tour offered a wide variety of combinations. Right: The tour guide shared a key cooking tip: the sauce should never overpower the pasta.

Day Trip 1

Tuscan Towns, Winery

If one is intrigued by wine tastings, a day trip from Rome to Tuscan towns birthed in the Middle Ages, such as Pienza and Montepulciano, is wondrous.

Also, a stop in Montalcino is a beautiful way to experience Italy’s countryside. It features a jaunt to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo followed by a visit to a family farm and winery, Poggio Il Castellare.

The winery tour includes a home-cooked meal with a sampling of the renowned Brunello di Montalcino red wine, one of about 70 Italian wines with the prestigious D.O.C.G. (Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin) status.

The Tuscan area of Montalcino features farm and winery Poggio Il Castellare

Day Trip 2

Pompeii, Positano

To see the coastal region, a daylong excursion from Rome to Pompeii and then to the Amalfi Coast/Positano is beautiful and educational.

A morning spent viewing Mount Vesuvius and exploring the excavated ruins of Pompeii is a way to touch back to the past. For scenic views, nothing compares to the curving, descending drive into the Amalfi Coast area.

A dip in the cerulean blue Mediterranean Sea can be a refreshing experience when exploring the beautiful town of Positano. Souvenir favorites include the tasty lemon liquor, limoncello, and brightly colored artisan pottery showcasing local flora and fauna.

Exploring the excavated ruins of Pompeii is a way to touch back to the past. A drive into the Amalfi Coast area offers scenic views beyond compare.