Rome’s rapidly growing trend, “lo street food”, seems unstoppable. I’m not talking about food trucks, which really really don’t work or exist here the way the do in other cities, nor the ubiquitous pizza by the slice joints. I’m referring to a different approach to marketing food in which takeaways, cafes and restaurants peddle (relatively) inexpensive, portable snacks.
Of course, Rome has a long history of pizza by the slice, panini, supplì and other small bites that might be collectively called cibo da strada. But “lo street food” is something else–a new impulse in food production and distribution. Even its English moniker sets it apart from Rome’s established, indigenous models.
While the city’s street food movement is in full swing, even its pioneer is getting in on the action. Stefano Callegari invented the trapizzino at his pizza by the slice joint, 00100, in 2008. 00100 shuttered this past winter and reopened and rebranded under the name Trapizzino, referring to its main offering.
The name trapizzino is a play on words, combining tramezzino (a triangular sandw
Cesare and Alfredo Bergamini have been fishing for eels in the Tiber since 1947. Now 74 and 77, respectively, the brothers learned the profession from their grandfather. In post-war Rome, they shared the water with other eel fishermen–and a great deal more eels. But falling eel stock caused by pollution coupled with spiraling profitability due to collapsed demand has driven others away from the trade.
On a recent visit to the Bergamini brothers’ dock in Mezzocamino in southwestern Rome, Cesare recounted his daily routine while repairing his handmade nets. He goes out in his dinghy (water conditions permitting) at 7:00 each morning to check his eel traps, around 300 hand-crafted funnel-like nets. He said the quantity of eels they catch depends on the river level. Last week, the Tiber had risen more than 4 meters due to heavy rains, which meant Cesare couldn’t lay his nets and it was impossible to catch anything.
Decades ago, his haul on a good day would have been several hundred kilos, while today the catch is severely diminished. Cesare explained that the eels he catches are healthy and ada
Jaap’s tyre was not only down to the canvas, but through a couple of layers. As a result the 120km ride to Springbok was a rather tentative one. We did however arrive safely around lunchtime, and were hopeful of being able to track down a tyre for Jaap. However it was a Sunday and the day of Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and the tyre outfit was of course closed. Miraculously we met someone who knew the owner and called him for us, but less miraculously he did not hold the tyre size we needed. We spent that afternoon and the Monday phoning around trying to find some way to get a tyre to Springbok urgently. I was running out of time before my flight to NZ, and was keen to explore the back roads on the way to Cape Town, rather than having to rush down. Unfortunately locating a tyre proved difficult, and it looked as if Jaap would get his tyre on Wednesday at the earliest. As Jaap was staying longer than me in South Africa and would have time to explore after Christmas, I decided to head off for an explore with him catching up so we could hit Cape
Terminal tyreTerminal tyre
Sergio Esposito preparing a panino all’allesso.
When the new Mercato di Testaccio opened in July 2012, vendors and shoppers did not universally rejoice. Higher rents, a less convenient location, a sterile atmosphere and a competing weekend farmers’ market nearby were among the complaints. But in the two and a half years since the structure’s inauguration, the market has proven to be a success on many counts, especially for the new opportunities it has created for vendors: Da Aretnio (Box 90) sells biodynamic wines selected by Jonathan Nossiter and wood fired baked goods from Lariano; Dess’art (Box 66) sells Sicilian sweets and savory snacks, including cannoli filled to order and panelle, generously salted. But the single most important innovation can be found at Mordi e Vai (Box 15), where Sergio Esposito, a retired butcher, serves sandwiches and side dishes made from family recipes.
Panino con l’allesso alla picchiapò
Visit Sergio in the Testaccio Market from Monday through Friday from 8:00am until 2:30pm. Get all the meaty things and whatever you do, don’t wear whit
Waaaay back in December 2012, I wrote a post in which I put Flavio al Velavevodetto(and few other places) on notice. That year, Flavio, a Testaccio-based restaurant specializing in traditional Roman fare, had gone from being completely satisfying to wildly inconsistent, a change that was likely linked to opening a second restaurant, Velavevodetto ai Quiriti in Prati. Service glitches and food failures became increasingly common, which isn’t unusual for a restaurant to suffer following expansion. Many readers and app users reported negative experiences–so I was concerned–but I remained optimistic that things would turn around.
Fast forward to December 2014 and Flavio al Velavevodetto has more than just rebounded. It has surpassed its earlier reputation and is one of the few places in Rome that manages to maintain an extremely high level of quality, both in its raw ingredients and its final dishes. Meat comes from the restaurant’s own herds and flocks, while seasonal vegetables are cultivated on their land in northern Lazio. Ingredients are transformed into superb Roman classics like polp
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