Eating well and cheap in Rome

is not so easy. Like the structure of the city, the rules of finding the good eating places are not as transparent as you would like. The catering units of the neighborhoods visited by many tourists usually specialize in quickly bleeding them white. Nevertheless, as we will see below, even the most touristy parts have some excellent, cheap eating places. As a rule of thumb, if you want to eat traditional food for cheap, you should look for a pizza rustica, an antico forno, or the small bars of the locals. In these, you can have a hot meal for five to ten euros, and, in addition, a meal prepared by the Romans for themselves, not for the tourists.

The pizza rustica is a bar selling locally baked pizza, and sometimes also traditional, simple one-course dishes. These are made by and for the locals, and the regulars are those of the neighborhood. It is important to know that pizza is originally a poor food, a thin (!) bread dough, on which they put whatever would be at hand in a simple household: oil (pizza bianca), tomato mash (pizza rossa), tomato mash and one of the cheapest cheeses, mozzarella (margherita), and my favorites: boiled potatoes (patate) and zucchini flower with anchovy (fior di zucca). If you are lucky enough to be in Rome in the fall, you can also have mozzarella and yellow boletus (porcini), but, unfortunately, this is quite expensive.

Of course, creativity has no limits, but the more ingredients on a pizza that surely were missing in a poor household of old times (sausages, expensive cheese etc.), the more confident we can be that it is an eyewash for tourists. If you look at what the locals eat, they almost exclusively choose the simplest ones. This is likely due not only to the surrealistically conservative taste of the Italians, but also to the fact that the more worldly pizzas are much more expensive, and in my experience their dough is also thicker, so the buyer – the tourist – pays twice or three times as much for a slice the same-size of one had he or she chosen a traditional type.

Unfortunately, pizza rusticas seem to have begun disappearing in recent years, and even the remaining ones have become more touristy in appearance. And though with the crisis the pizza dough also seems to have become thicker, and the rosemary is gone from the pizza with potato (o tempora o mores!), nevertheless these pizza rusticas belong to the sites to be necessarily tested, because without them you simply cannot understand Rome.

Likewise is the case with the antico fornos. These are traditional bakeries selling bread, pastry and old-fashioned sweets as well as locally baked pizza and often also simple homemade dishes. In contrast to pizza rusticas, here you generally cannot sit down, but the crazily good almond and pistachio muffins make up for that. These are sold in bulk, in normal places for not more than 2-3 euros for a hundred grams. They readily weigh even one single piece. Take care, they are dense, so two pieces can often make a hundred grams.

In the somewhat less crowded streets and squares (sometimes only twenty meters from the flood of tourists!) you can find Italian-style small cafés, which, in the downtown, are often also the meeting and exhibition places of artists and students. They mainly offer sandwiches and traditional one-course dishes to a local clientele as well as to the tourist who is willing to get off the main roads, a taste of real Italian food and life.

Antico Forno La Stelletta – Via della Scrofa 33
That type of old-fashioned bakery, for which one constantly longs back to Rome.

Antico Forno Marco Roscioli – Via dei Chiavari 34
A traditional bakery. They sell a wide variety of pizzas, but they are not what I recommend here, because their dough is too thick, in my opinion. But try the dishes available in the back room! And their pastry, too.

Barnum Cafè – Via del Pellegrino 87
Near Campo de’ Fiori, pleasant, alternative design, inexpensive dishes.

Caffè Perù - Via di Monserato 46 (Piazza di Santa Caterina della Rota)
An old-style café in the immediate neighborhood of Campo de’ Fiori, with artists, university students, small exhibtions, traditional, simple food, free WiFi.

Ciao Checca - Piazza di Firenze 25-26
Pasta in a new edition. A completely new phenomenon, nothing like this existed a few years ago. They do not cook local recipes from traditional materials, but rather fit to an international trend by emphasizing certain elements of the Italian tradition. (It perhaps belongs to trendiness, that checca means homosexual women or men in Italian slang.) It is questionable, whether one must necessarily smear some business philosophy on pasta, and whether it is not better to shape one’s identity in a more sophisticated way than “I’m the one who does not eat hamburger”, but it is a fact, that their approach attracts the appropriate audience. In any case, they are near Piazza Navona, their pasta is quite complex, and they give a honest dose.

Dar Ciriola Via dei Banchi Nuovi 15
Another novelty in Rome. A small sandwich bar in the street behind Corso Vittorio Emanuele, among the many tourist-fleecing places, where you can stuff a traditional kind of bread with a variety of things. Delicious and cheap.

Della PalmaVia della Maddalena 19/23
150 sorts of ice cream. It is not obvious whether we should recommend it. First, in a few days you will spend your last penny on ice cream. Second, you will roam about unhappy and aimlessly later, for example in Berlin, that what you can get here is no ice cream. Its daily visit – which, if you are no fakir, and have no sore throat, you will certainly do – has one benefit for sure. Given that the Italians here elbow their way even more brutal than usual, as if they fought for their lives, seizing an ice cream amounts to the participation in a survival tour.

Fior di Pizza – Via Metastasio 20
An absolutely good-old-times, classic pizza rustica, a few minutes away from Piazza Navona.

Forno Campo de’ FioriCampo De’ Fiori 22 × Vicolo del Gallo 14
There is no more touristy place in Rome than Campo de’ Fiori (and not without reason, because the square is fabulous), and I do not really recommend to buy at the market, because it is really for the tourists. But the traditional bakery on the corner should be tried. Classic pizzas and wonderful cakes.

La Renella PanificioVia del Moro 15
One of the best and certainly the most popular traditional bakery in Trastevere, with fantastic pizzas, and enough seats to taste your way through them. The pizzeria is also a passage from the Tiber to the Santa Maria del Trastevere, which saves you a big turnoff, but makes you arrive a hour later. Next to the pizzeria, you cahn peek through the permanently half-open door of the bakery, and take beautiful photos on the oven and the fresh loaves of bread on the shelves.

Market in the Mars FieldPiazza Monte D’Oro
Not in the immediate neighborhood of Piazza Spagna, but it takes just a few minutes to walk here, and it is very worth, because only a few yards from the main tourist flow you can find an authentic, hidden small market. Here you can eat in three excellent places. If you approach the market through via di Monte D’Oro, then you get exactly to Monte D’Oro Pizza. Here, in a market stall, they sell traditional pizzas and ready meals to the locals at lunchtime. If you appreciate steamed vegetables with cheese or a little meat, the locals obligatorily take it with pizza bianca. A few meters away, at via dell’Arancio 60 is La Bottega di Cesare, a well-done country feeling small inn. A few people can comfortably sit here, they do not hurry with the service, but the food is gorgeous, and the prices low. On the other side of the square, at piazza Monte D’Oro 94 you can find a real traditional café, Caffè Monte D’Oro. Time has stopped there, so you should also stop for a coffee, sandwich, cake.

Paninoteca da Guido – Borgo Pio 3
In the close proximity of the Vatican, a few tables on the street, enough for a smaller company, a few types of simple home-made dishes for cheap. What else do you need?

Pazza per la Pizza – Via della Mercede 18
Next to Spagna and Barberini, a traditional, especially cheap pizza rustica, with touristy design, but old-fashioned, reliable and good pizza.

Pizzeria Vecchio Borgo – Borgo Pio 27
Pizza rustica next to the Vatican. It was one of our favorites already twenty years ago, when we came here for lunch from the Jesuit Historical Institute. Here I fell in love with pizza with zucchini flowers. Since then, it has only changed in as much it already has a Facebook site and a homepage. Both then and now it has been visited by locals. They also make sandwiches from pizza dough, you must try the one with roast piglet. And if by some miracle – not unusual in this holy district – you can still eat more, or you go with a company and you order with a wise apportioning, you should also try their ready meals. (I have to correct myself, just now I saw that they also have a Pope Francis pizza. This was not there twenty years ago.)

Pizza da Michele – Via delle Vergini × Via dell Umiltà
It is incomprehensible, how this pizza rustica could remain authentic in the immediate neighborhood of the Trevi fountain, in the middle of the tourist business, but the point is that it has remained.

Pizza il Capriccio – Via Giustiniani 18.
It looks a bit touristy, and a bit more expensive than usual – well, near the Pantheon you can forgive both –, but they sell real pizza (which of course is always good).

Pizza Rustica – Via Merulana 267
Next to the Santa Maria Maggiore, miraculously, a completely authentic pizza rustica.

Pizzeria Tavola Calda – Via Falegnami 69
Oh, the other old favorite. A few steps away from Via Arenula. Twenty years ago, whenever it was possible, I always made a little turn here when going to the city (and, possibly, also on the way back). Unfortunately, it has been a bit modernized, but the pizza is just as good, and if you’re tired of the much dough, you can also try their delicious vegetable meals.

Pizzeria Minerva – Via della Minerva 4
It is a pity, that this pizza rustica, next to the Pantheon, also fell victim to modernization. The pizza is still good, though not as much as it used to be, and I would prefer to see the old simplicity and prices instead of the present checkered tablecloths.

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