Spaghetti alla Carbonara. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) By Aidan Fitzgerald
What is it that makes Italian food so unique? Well, it's exceptionally varied and every area in Italy has its own specialties. The North tends to use more cream, butter and parmigiano cheese while the south prefer to use olive oil, dried pasta, mozzarella and pecorino (sheep milk) cheeses. The pizza bases in Rome are very thin while the Sicilian pizzas are much thicker.
Don't worry about making a mess, as it can be quite hard to eat gracefully when in Rome! No one cares if you've dribbles of spaghetti or toppings of floppy pizzas around your chin! Just be sure to dab it off when the meal is over!
Breakfast - the most important meal of the day? The Romans don't agree! It's not really a big thing in Rome but instead; they make lunch the main meal of the day. They normally keep breakfast light with your typical morning fare consisting of a cappuccino, some sort of sweet pastry or just a shot of espresso coffee. Breakfast usually isn't eaten at home; instead Romans pop into one of the many coffee shops that line the city's streets.
Romans see lunch as the big meal! A typical meal begins with an antipasto - this is a type of starter, which can be hot or cold.
Then you'll have a primo piatto, which is a first course. Rice, risotto, pasta or other carbohydrates are popular choices!
The secondo piatto is your second and main course, with meat or fish being the main constituent. It's said that veal, pork and chicken are the most popular among Rome's citizens. This second course is usually served with a side dish consisting of either vegetables or a salad and then fresh fruit. This side dish is called the contorno. Sometimes a light dessert is had after the secondo. The Italian word for dessert is dolce. The meal is brought to a close with a coffee - caffe - or a strong liqueur.
Dinner was never a big thing but now it's similar to lunches. It's never eaten before 8.30 and you'll often see people sitting down to a four course meal as late as eleven o clock!
Most of us are familiar with the Italian specialities pizza, spaghetti alla carbonara and even lasagne. All of these have been adopted into the western world but only in Italy itself will you get the authentic taste of these! Be sure to enjoy pizza from one of Romes array of top pizzerias.
In Rome a wide range of recipes can be found. These are just a few popular ones that you'll see in original Italian restaurants. Veal escalopes with ham, 'saltimbocca'; the famous Roman tripe; as well as a delicious plate of roast lamb seasoned with rosemary and thyme, 'abbacchio alla romana'. Ham is eaten together with figs, and there is a wide choice of vegetables including peas, asparagus and artichokes
A typical Roman menu contains the essential bruschetta, which is grilled bread cut into finger sized slices and is marinated in fine olive oil and garlic. There are many classic pasta dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, bucatini all'amatriciana and bucatini cacao e pepe. Choosing what you want from the restaurants menu will be the hardest decision. My advice is to go for something different, after all it's not everyday that you're in Rome!
If your can't tell your chardonnay from your sauvignon blanc, I can't think of a better place to introduce yourself to wine than Rome. Italy has the best variety of Vino, ranging through nearly every colour, flavour and style imaginable. From well known Chiantis to rustic Pinot Grigio's, Italy's wine's are renowned to be the finest in the world.
For Italians themselves wine is food and no mealtime is complete without a glass of a fine white to accompany foul and fish, or maybe a sultry red to add to the flavour of a well seasoned pasta.
Italians waiters are among the finest in the world and will be glad to give you a taste of various wines before you choose which one you'd like to have to accompany your meal. And, if you're going to be really adventurous, why not enjoy a dessert of red wine and a selection of fine Italian cheeses, like Bel Paese, Gorgonzola and Romano.
Rome's best places to eat...
Wondering where to dine? Well Rome has loads of restaurants to choose form so you'll be spoilt for choice here!
If you see a place packed with locals, you know it'll be good, as the Italians love their food! You'll find a lot of restaurants are quite expensive, most commonly in the popular tourist areas like Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. If you're on a budget, avoid these as they are over priced and the food is just as good in other areas of the city.
On the other hand, there are many decent and reasonably priced eateries near by. The most popular areas being Campo dei Fiori, Trastevere, Via di Tor Millina (you'll find it just off Piazza Navona) and Via del Goveno Vecchio.
Popular restaurants include the Papa Re restaurant located in the Trastevere area (it boasts genuine recipes from Rome) or Dar Poeta, who're renowned for their pizzas.
If your looking for a vegetarian option, Marguta Vegetarian Restaurant is extremely popular and it is located at the corner of the Via Margutta.
If all you want is a tasty authentic pizza and a beer altogether it'll cost about �15.
If your dining Italian style, your typical three course meal can vary in price - it all depends on where you eat. At a midrange restaurant, a three course meal could cost about �30 and in a top restaurant the price ranges from �50 upwards.
Know before you go!
Tipping is not essential - it's your own choice but the least you can do is round up the bill. The Italians usually don't leave a tip but the tourists are expected to (about 5% of your bill in pizzerias and 10% in top restaurants).
Opening Hours in Rome...
The opening hours vary from restaurant to restaurant and waiting for a table is not unusual! The best way to get a table is by arriving before 8.30pm or later than 10pm.
Restaurants tend to open for dinner at about 9pm but in tourist's areas, doors' opening at 7pm is a common practice. Lunches are the main meal of the day and normally served from about 12.30pm to about 3pm.
Ready to dine in Rome...
So now you've read this article you should be ready to face Romes restaurants! A big part of your holiday in Rome will consist of consuming superb foods and gorgeous wine! Remember the most important thing is to choose foods you like to eat while embracing Roman tradition at the same time.
Whatever your individual interests are when visiting Rome; you're guaranteed to come across a restaurant that you'll love! Ciao!
Aidan writes for top travel and accommodation website PlacesToStay.com
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