You probably already know how much I love food tours. I deliberately look for one in the city we are traveling to whenever I plan out our itinerary. It’s a great way to taste local food without having to spend a fortune in restaurants, or even stressing out where to find the best version of a certain dish. We enjoyed our experience with Eating Europe in Amsterdam so it’s just fitting to want to have the same in Italy.
Rome is the first city we are exploring in and I figured there’s no better way to start our Italian adventure than discovering some of the city’s best cuisine. We booked the Taste of Testaccio program of Rome Food Tour and we’re easily convinced that food really is at the very heart of Italy.
Off The Beaten Track: The Working-Class Neighbourhood of Testaccio
Testaccio may not be Rome’s prettiest neighborhood but it’s no-holds-barred Rome. It’s an old district pleasantly cramped with restaurants and local businesses that are the go-to place of Romans who value excellent food and authentic culinary vibe. It used to be an industrial center in Rome, but now it has recovered into a lively place filled with cultural events and art exhibitions.
The best part is that this area, though light on tourists, is where people come to eat real Roman food.
Emma, our tour guide, took us from one place to another, trying different Roman cuisines that I didn’t even know existed. In fact, from all the food we’ve tried, I am only acquainted with pasta and gelato – and these two don’t even come close to what I’ve been used to eating back home.
(1) Original pasta carbonara isn’t supposed to be made with cream, but eggs and cheese. The creaminess of the pasta comes from the egg yolks and pecorino romano cheese.
(2) The real gelato uses more milk than cream (seriously, why do we love putting cream in everything?) so it doesn’t have as much fat. It also tastes softer, denser and more flavorful. A good way to spot a fake gelato is if it’s arranged in huge mounds way above the top of its container. The real ones are soft, fluid and usually doesn’t stick above the rim of the tub.
It’s amazing how Italians give utmost importance in understanding the cuisine as a whole, from the selection of ingredients to proper cooking. They really do know their thing and learning about authentic food the Italian way was an eye-opener.
The rest of the tastings included Italy’s best cheese, meat, and street food — all are new to me but it was a surprise that there isn’t anything that I didn’t particularly like.
Here are three favorites that stood out in my palette.
Bruschetta is made with bread rubbed with garlic, then spruced up with toppings like tomatoes, cheese and onions. I don’t normally eat tomatoes uncooked, but Italian tomatoes are exceptionally ripe and sweet, it really tastes as good as a real fruit (if you know what I mean). It’s a surprised that a dish as simple as this can taste as good.
Bruschetta is usually served as an appetizer and is an Italian staple that is easy to find anywhere.
Best paired with wine (or sparkling drink in my case), Suppli are fried risotto balls mixed with tomato sauce, minced meat and mozzarella (everything tastes better with mozzarella, don’t you agree?). It’s made fresh and perfect as a grab-and-go snack. The mozzarella isn’t anything like the kind that you can easily find in grocery stores. This kind is moist and supple.
Simply put, panini is a toasted sandwich made with Italian bread and filled with delicious ingredients like ham, cheese, prosciutto or salami. It is pressed thin by a grill and is served warm. I love this dish because it’s quick and easy to make but filling, tasty and way more appetizing than a regular sandwich!
Overall, it was absolutely a wonderful food trip! Emma is knowledgeable, personable and full of life. I love how she engaged all of us in an animated way to keep our attention. She brought us to locations we wouldn’t even discover if we were to do this on our own.
All the places we’ve been to are local businesses and multi-generational shops that residents visit frequently. Some have been running for decades, some were even managed by different generations! There’s no doubt that these places are truly trusted by the Romans themselves.
Make sure to come hungry! The tour lasted for about four (4) hours and included 12 food tastings. The serving varies for each but rest assured that you’ll leave the tour feeling full and fulfilled.
Eating Italy also operates in Florence and Venice just in case Rome isn’t on your route. :)