When in Rome: A Foodie's Guide
Upon arriving in Rome, I braced myself for a diet consisting of pizza, pasta and gelato, and boy, was I right about that one. I stayed in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, an area made up of college students, young families and of course, tourists.
As a native New Yorker, I naturally despise tourists, so my main apprehension about visiting the city was being a tourist myself, and as an avid foodie, I made a promise to myself to avoid eating at tourist-trap restaurants at all costs.
As I was staying in Trastevere, a major spot for visitors, I had no sense of the size of Rome and where I was, so that promise was inevitably broken on my first day. My friends and I were cajoled by a charismatic host to overpay for a mediocre panini and greasy pizza. From there on after, I decided to let go of my anxieties and embrace myself as the tourist I really was.
I indulged in Roman classics that appeared on every restaurant’s menu, such as homemade spaghetti carbonara and fried artichoke, and satisfied my after-dinner sweet tooth with a cone of creamy gelato every night. Luckily for me, I also got a localized experience, as my professor, Mary D’Ambrosio, knew the city well and had a Roman local show us around more residential neighborhoods and areas popular among immigrants.
We visited a food market run almost entirely by non-Italians, where people could buy fresh produce, fish, international spices and herbs and anything else if they ever got sick of pasta and tomato sauce — which I, by the way, got sick of by the third day.
After purchasing capers preserved in salt for my father, we moved on to the quiet and residential neighborhood of Testaccio to visit Volpetti, a meat and cheese store that Romans even from the opposite side of the city make the trek to. Here we were treated with a gorgeous plate of prosciutto, salami and cheese by one of the butchers, and I purchased a big hunk of parmesan for my cheese-addict mother.
With all the gifts I bought being food products, it’s safe to say I’m a firm believer in the way to people's heart is through their stomach. Apprehensions aside, I got the best of both worlds during my stay in Rome — while I’m sure the locals don’t eat pizza and gelato every day like I did, I still got a sense of where they shop, what they eat and how they live.