Food, wine and travel writer

Food in Rome

The Rome Digest Launches Today

header bannerThe Rome Digest, an online news portal for dining, drinking and food shopping in Rome, launches today.

I am proud to be part of this iniative, together with my friends and colleagues Sarah May Grunwald, Hande Leimer, Katie Parla and Gina Tringali. All women, all sommeliers and local food experts with a deep admiration for our adopted city.

The Rome Digest highlights 100 wine bars, markets and restaurants that reflect our beliefs in local, sustainable and seasonal agricultural initiatives. From crowd pleasers such as Pizzarium and La Barrique to a speakeasy near Campo de’ Fiori named The Jerry Thomas Project to La Tradizione, a salumeria that sells more than 400 Italian cheeses and salumi.

Having watched plenty of vacationers fall into tourist traps, we decided to take matters into their own hands by combining our expertise, and The Rome Digest was born. While our standards are high and the majority must agree for the group to endorse a venue, our selections fall across the board from casual to sophisticated and everything in between.

In addition to highlighting the best places to eat, drink and shop, The Rome Digest reports on local food-related news and includes Friday round-ups of Rome happenings, “Top Five” lists and an events calendar that compiles Rome Digest organized events and the founders’ individual tours.

Visit the site.

Our burrito pop up in Rome

Burrito Pop Up  - Rooftop

Any food that is not Italian is hard to come by in acceptable renditions in Rome, but this especially holds true for Mexican food. Why Mexican in particular? That’s hard to tell, I just know that the people who’ve stubbornly ventured out to try yet another Mexican restaurant always came back disappointed. For American expats a good burrito is almost as dear to them as their beloved hamburger, so you can guess their enthusiastic responses when my friend Luis and I suggested to organize a burrito pop up on our rooftop terrace. Friends were invited, who could then invite other friends, as long as they rsvp-ed. This concept appeared to be a wee bit difficult in Italy, since committing to anything on a Saturday night before Saturday afternoon is basically not done. We were expecting anywhere between 15 and 45 people.

guacamoleChoices for the night were:

  • Guacamole with nachos (to start off with)
  • Burrito with tinga de pollo (pulled chicken in a chipotle-tomato sauce)
  • Burrito with asado (braised pork in a chili-orange sauce)
  • Burrito with grilled vegetables and chilies

We decorated the rooftop terrace with improvised furniture, Luis made the most gorgeous colorful papel picado flags and we compiled a Mexican playlist. Friends helped out when it got busy – and a rush it was! In the end, we served about 50 friends and friends of friends. Luis and I were exhausted but happy as we looked around seeing friends chatting, laughing and chilling out on a magical rooftop on a warm September night in Rome.


Pictures by Sophie Lemaitre & Katie Parla

‘Pasta alla Romana’ – my app for pasta in Rome

If you want to know real Roman cuisine, start with pasta. I recently put together an iPhone app that will give you a nice primer on classics as Carbonara or Amatriciana and other classics. It tells you in what trattorie to eat them and where to buy fresh pasta. Plus you’ll learn about ‘al dente’, (forbidden) ingredients and pasta shapes.

In the Eternal City, hundreds of trattorias have been serving the same dishes since time immemorial and nobody ever seems to grow tired of them. But who would? Picture a steaming bowl of perfect al dente pasta glistening with a velvety tomato sauce, containing tiny bits of crispy pork and grated pecorino cheese. Hungry yet? And that’s only the Amatriciana! Wait until you hear about the others, like Carbonara, Gricia and Cacio e pepe.

With only a few ingredients, these pasta dishes are prodigies of the cucina povera (roughly translated as ‘poor’ or peasant cuisine). Unless they were part of the papal court or an aristocrat, Romans’ go-to fare was rustic and filling, characterized by quick and easy to make dishes, with seasonal and local ingredients. Romans still consume them at home or at one of the city’s many family-run trattorias, (generally) no-frills eateries with harsh lighting and simple tablecloths.

However, modest looks can be deceiving. It takes an experienced chef to get the pasta just right (which is al dente, with a bite), use the right ingredients for the sauce (no cream in the Carbonara!) and mix it all together to create a dish that is far greater than the sum of its ingredients.

This tour takes you to the trattorias where you’ll eat fine renditions of the classics. At each stop I’ll tell you something about the restaurant, but focus mainly on one single dish that they do really well. It tells you about the origins of that dish and the unbending rules of preparation. Plus tips on what to drink with them.

Get the pasta app here: