Food is obviously a very important part of living in or visiting Rome, and today we bring you an interview with someone who has an intimate knowledge of Rome and the food it offers: Eleonora Baldwin, who maintains four blogs at Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino, Roma Every Day, Rome City Guide for Kids, and F O R C H E T T I N E.
We asked Eleonora some questions about food in Rome, as well as a few questions about her personal view of the city.
Here is our interview.
Italian cuisine is very successful throughout the world. What do you enjoy most about cooking and eating the Italian way?
Every morning, Italian home cooks visit their trusted neighborhood purveyors for the day’s groceries. Supporting small, local specialty stores, farmers, butchers, fishmongers, cheese vendors, bread bakers, etc. is not a trendy fad. It’s how it’s been done here, for centuries. Healthy, fresh and local ingredients, traditional preparations, and the calendar define our cuisine. Cooking with such a wealth and variety of goods is a joy!
How would you describe Roman cuisine to someone who has never been to Rome?
Varied, seasonal and strongly rooted in tradition. For a clearer picture, one would have to mention Rome’s meat slaughtering culture, the importance of the marketplace, the influence of the Catholic Church and the ancient Jewish community, seasonal crops, conviviality and how all these elements inspired the birth of Roman cuisine, expressed in the very recipes still served in modern day trattorie.
What would you say that visitors should keep in mind when eating out in Rome? How about visitors with young children?
Be adventurous. Try new, unfamiliar dishes. Eat fried things. Ask the locals for restaurant advice. Don’t skip trying supplì, porchetta and offal. In the plant realm, don’t forego Rome’s prized globe artichokes, puntarelle (a kind of curly endive dressed with punchy garlic and anchovy dressing) and fava beans paired with sharp pecorino and sincere house wine. Stay away from places that advertise their multilingual tourist menus with photos, waiters outside the entrance hustling clients in, and chain restaurants in general. The city offers diverse dining options, including an impressive variety of street food. Rome is also all about child-friendly foods. Parents can’t go wrong ordering pizza, creative vegetable preparations, simple pasta dishes, healthy fish and gelato for their traveling mini-gourmands.
Your blog’s headline includes “Italian culinary adventures”. I find that food in Rome is generally still very traditional. What is your opinion? Do you think that Rome is ready for more innovative cuisine?
Rome’s seen it all: barbarians, kings, popes, emperors, invaders, fashions, wars. Fusion, sushi, molecular cuisine and other foreign eating trends may catch on and even be successful, it’s part of the city’s DNA to welcome change. But after the initial enthusiasm, Romans will invariably return to familiar flavors and habits: a steaming plate of amatriciana, a liter of vino della casa and their mamma’s home cooking. The adventures I blog about and that I offer in my culinary vacations are itineraries and sensory journeys that allow travelers to learn and appreciate the Italian culture through its food.
I have read your article about restaurants in Rome, which is great. What restaurant(s) would you recommend for very adventurous visitors?
I would definitely encourage ardent omnivores to try eating organs. La cucina romana is renown for its delicious offal recipes employing the “fifth quarter,” the lesser noble meat offerings. These were notoriously paid to slaughterhouse employees as tips, when at the end of the day oxtail, sweetbreads, tripe and other entrails would be leftover. They constitute a delicious part of our traditional local fare and are enjoying a veritable gastronomic renaissance. I eat my fried brains and coratella (aromatic mince of lamb’s heart, liver and lung, with artichokes) at La Campana (Vicolo della Campana, 18) and the best for stewed oxtail is Checchino dal 1887 (Via di Monte Testaccio, 30). For a plate of pajata (pasta dressed with a sauce made with intestines of a milk-fed veal), I trust Augustarello (Via Giovanni Branca 100). Other notable cucina romana shrines: L’Arcangelo, Al Pompiere, Roma Sparita, Nonna Betta, Il Quinto Quarto.
What annoys you about living in Rome?
The population’s lack of civic responsibility. The average Roman’s attitude towards community, care for public spaces, and mutual respect among citizens is slovenly. Ever marched down purported high-end neighborhood sidewalks with a stroller? Dodging dog droppings, parked cars, garbage and potholes is standard routine. Not good.
What is the biggest motivator for you to keep several blogs going?
Interaction with my readers! I update Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino regularly and keep three other blogs, Roma Every Day – Rome City Guide for Kids – Forchettine. In each one I express different aspects of myself, and of my surroundings. I am passionate about fine dining, travel, photography, and exploring my city with my little boy. With each different blog post, thanks to every engaging comment, in each heartfelt response, discussion or debate, I see how blogging is a mutual opportunity to make life richer. A very creative and ongoing, global conversation!
Thanks, Eleonora, for talking to us. Comments on this interview below!
PS: Intrigued by the idea of getting fresh and healthy produce while supporting local businesses? In a few days, The Rome Journal will publish a follow up article to this interview, discussing some of the ways you can really benefit yourself and the local business people – the people that actually make Rome what it is – making it a Christmas for all. Check back on the 20th before you do your Christmas shopping for food (and presents, if you really leave it that late!).Rate this article by clicking here.
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