May 11


FCI 002 – Traditional Roman Cuisine With Maria Pasquale

By Rick

May 11, 2015

maria pasquale heart romeAlthough Italy is a foodie paradise, Rome isn’t generally considered as one of the top culinary destinations in the Bel Paese. We think of Sicily, Naples, Bologna, and of course Tuscany…but usually not Rome.

My friend Maria Pasquale is helping to change that through her personal blog HeartRome, and the company she works for Eating Europe Tours,  where she manages their PR & social media.

My first encounter with Maria was last April when I went on her Daylight Trastevere Tour. I was blown away by all the little “secret” locations in my own backyard that I never even heard of. Then in October we were both guests on a fantastic blog tour in Verona, Mantova and Lake Garda in October.

Traditional Roman Cuisine

One of the challenges to finding a good restaurant in Rome is that there are just too many options. This is especially true within the historical center where they are all fighting ferociously for every tourist Euro. And even if you successfully avoid all the tourist traps and zero-in on a few authentic Roman restaurants, then there’s the cuisine itself to consider, which isn’t always immediately appealing to the uninitiated straniero (foreigner). Second courses often feature various frattaglie (innards) and scarti (scraps) that, while delicious when prepared properly, don’t necessarily translate well on the menu.

When I decided to start doing a podcast, I knew right away that I’d want to interview Maria. And then when I read her recent article about “The Return of la Pajata” (simply “la Pajata” in Roman dialect; in Italian, “Rigatoni con la Pagliata“), I knew what I’d want to talk about.

Most folks are usually ready and willing to try the typical pasta dishes (primi piatti) like carbonara, amatriciana, and cacio e pepe.  Trying the secondi often requires a bit more convincing. So where can you go to find the aforementioned la pajata and other specialties from the “quinto quarto,” such as trippa alla romana and coda alla vaccinara? In this podcast episode, Maria gives specific suggeChecchino Romastions for great restaurants where you can taste these authentic dishes. For example:

Checchino dal 1887 in Testaccio

Mordi e Vai (sandwich stand at Testaccio Market)

Try the Colatella at Flavio al Velavevodetto (I told you so!)

Try the Coda all Vaccinara at da Enzo al 29 in Trastevere

And for aperitivo, consider these  options:

Co.So from HeartRome
Co.So from HeartRome

Palatium Enoteca Regionale in the historical center

Freni e Frizioni in Trastevere

Porto Fluviale in Ostiense

Maria Pasquale

I would like to give a big “GRAZIE” once again to Maria for generously sharing all her suggestions with me.

And click the link to check out other episodes and see my list of the best podcasts about Italy.

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About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • Returning to Roma in the fall and there’s a few suggestions from your “guest” that I don’t have on my ever expanding list…how did I miss them??? Being a cook, I would find life absolutely impossible if we did not rent an apartment with a kitchen. Will be there for 3 weeks this time…lots of shopping and cooking to look forward to. My passion is for Italian cooking and I do a lot at home…but actually enjoying the fruits of Rome when there…well, fantastic! Coda here I come! Maybe that fellow should carry a tiny bottle of peperoncino around with him and perhaps some colatura! Thanks for all the tips!

  • I so enjoy all of the suggestions for eateries and shops in Rome. We two old Californians are planning our next trip as we speak, for the fall and are hoping for a little apartment near Campo di Fiori. Thanks to all!

  • I live in Testaccio, fortunately only a four-minute walk from Mercato Testaccio. It’s home to the best tomatoes, leanest prosciutto and most disgusting street food. Keep in mind that I was a traveling food columnist for The Denver Post for eight years. I’ve had to eat absolutely revolting cuisine, things like insects in Cambodia, live beetle larvae in the Amazon, bacon cheeseburgers in Hooters. I mean, the WORST.

    Here’s a quickie mini guide to Rome’s street food:

    Baccala’ (salted, fried cod): One of Rome’s few fried foods is quite good and isn’t very greasy. I’d take it over any fish n’ chips from a London takeaway.

    Panjata (ringed intestine of an unweaned calf): A friend secretly ordered this for me down Via Galvani at Angelina a Testaccio. When it arrived I thought it was rigatoni Bolognese. But when I finished the rigatoni, there at the bottom of the bowl were long links of intestine, looking like a carved-up snake. I don’t know what was worse, the taste or the texture.

    Trippa (inner lining of a sheep’s stomach): In my butcher shop it looks like the remains of a disemboweled farm animal which, basically, it is. If not served properly, with lots of tomato sauce and hard cheese, it tastes like that, too.

    Good luck, all.

    John Henderson
    Dog-Eared Passport:

  • My husband and I are Americans of European descent. He studied in Rome and I was an exchange student in a Roman family whose cooking I just adored, simple, flavorful, but not spicy.. When we go to Rome now from our home in CA, we are not experts, but I always try to go to these little places in Trastevere where my Roman host family, the Sportellos from Monte Mario, took me so long ago when I was a girl. We have never been disappointed. I love the simple and natural dishes in Rome, with fresh ingredients…I am not a cook and no expert on any of this, but I still love these little places there. I hope they don’t get too avant-garde or too overly fancy which is what happens with “Italian” restaurants in foody coastal cities of CA where we live.

      • I am glad. Fanciness does not translate necessarily in good food. What we are missing here in CA of course is the usual thing: As the original Italian and other immigrants have gone out of the restaurant business and their children moved on as well, there is literally no new crop of restaurateurs…the newer ones often not connected to Italy’s cuisine, develop ” Mediterranean ” restaurants of which we have many. Makes sense from a marketing point of view. Folks have to make a living. I get that…They abound in LA.

        We have one here in PS called ” Al Dente” that used to be very Florentine as the owner was from there, but people/customers did not take to it. She sold the restaurant and now it is generically Italian, not bad, but different…
        My husband loves cooking and learned it in Rome, so we do it ourselves a lot. Fresh ingredients abound in Ca…

        When I was living in Rome, I loved the ” basicness ” of my Roman family’s food. It was always simple and always fresh. My host father, Pietro Sportello, God Bless him always, used to go to Frascati to buy oil, wine, cheese and prosciutto from a farmer he knew. . With much of that , every meal was made in that house on Monte Mario in the late 50ies, early 60ies…Delicious!

    • There is a wonderful specialty shop in the Campo dei Fiori that specializes in all manner of pork products — both fresh and cured. I think such shops are known as norcinerie. I was fascinated and was able to buy guanciale (pig cheek or jowel) for the first time for a pasta recipe that is popular in Rome. When I go to Rome now, I rent an apartment with a good kitchen so I can experience the markets and cook up a meal with some of the best seasonal produce and food products on the planet. No more hotels for me. I like living amongst the locals.

      • Totally agree. Apartment stays are the way to go, especially if you’re in town for more than just a few days (and why wouldn’t you be?)!

  • When in Rome, I always stop into Filetti di Baccala restaurant. It caters to locals and features fried salted cod. In the warm months you can eat outdoors in the shadows of a small church. The long family-style tables are festooned unceremoniously with brown paper sheets instead of table cloths. Down and dirty and delicious!

    • Oh, yes, been there a few times. Did you stick your head inside the little church next door? In fact, it’s so little, my head is about the only thing that would fit inside!

      Great suggestion, Thomas!

  • Having walked over a month in Italy (and after many times having done the same in France and Spain) i find that the enjoyement of Italian food reminds me of the enjoyement of Japanaese food: the tastes are too subtle and sophisticated for me (and too dry), much to everyone’s horror I usually ended up asking for more garlick chillie and oregano. Take cheese for example: all you get is the same two or three types of cheese with subtle, but for Italians very important differences, in taste, I do not seem to pick up..give me a real stinky French cheese (or aged Spanish goat cheese…mmmm) any time

    Perhaps I havent eaten the right places..more probably my taste buds are ruined from having worked for years in India.

    But then there is always the coffee…the very best there is..everywhere.. even MacDonalds (yes I’ve done them too and what a cappuccino and croissont they served at 7 am: attests to the civlizational effects of their being in Italy)

    Will be doing parts of the southern Via Francigena this coming Fall

    Do enjoy your blog, and have been reading it (and your books) for years now..Keep on the good work

    james Heimann from Denmark

    • Hi James, very astute comments…and thanks for your kinds words about my writing.

      Yes, you’re right about the subtlety of the flavors, and I can certainly understand how a person accustomed to Indian cuisine would find many of the Italian specialties a bit bland.

      There are a few “stinky cheeses,” however. In fact, I’ve seen one called “puzzone,” literally the big stinker! But this is an exception rather than the rule.

      Congratulations on your upcoming pilgrim trail hike. The fall will be a good time to do it, as I assume many others will postpone until the opening of the newly announced Jubilee in December. Best of luck!

      a presto,

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