Rome Food Guide

When we’re headed to a new city, the first thing I do after booking the hotel is start researching places to eat. We’ve traveled {are are going to be traveling} to places with amazing food cultures. I want to eat all the things. Everything. I don’t want to waste an opportunity on a bad meal at the some touristy joint. And I would say that about 90% of the time the research pays off and we eat well. What’s my secret? Expats. Or more specifically, expats who know their food.

When I started researching Rome, Katie Parla’s name kept coming up a lot. After graduating from Yale, she moved to Italy and has racked up a number of degrees all focused on Italian food. She has a blog, she co-founded The Rome Digest {another great resource}, and most importantly for us, she has an app.

Besides being full of great recommendations, this app’s map works offline–something I think would make most travelers jump for joy–and leads you to nearby restaurants that will knock your socks off. Seriously these places are so good!

Read on to see some of our favorites {and a couple places we stumbled upon that weren’t on the app}.

rome food guide{photo by the Kiwi}

L’Asino D’Oro
Following the app, our first stop was L’Asino D’Oro. It was relatively close to our apartment near the Colosseum, so when we set out to explore the area, we ended up near this gem. After a mysterious but oh so tasty amuse bouche, The Kiwi dived into his wild boar with chocolate sauce while I had lamb meatballs with peppers in a licorice sauce. For dessert we tried the Bavarian and  indulged in a pudding with sage and saffron. Everything was creative. Everything was delicious. We didn’t have reservations and lucked out with the last table outside. Loads of people started getting turned away. My advice? Make a reservation because this place is too good to leave it to luck.

Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach     Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach

Pizzarium
The next day we headed over to the Vatican to see St. Peters and to do the Vatican museum. Before we headed into the museum we were getting a bit peckish, so following the app, we nipped down the stairs across from the museum entrance and just down the road was the best pizza I have every had. This tiny little shop has at least 10 different pizzas on offer. You tell them which ones you want to try and they’ll cut off squares. In the end we tried these; {from top to bottom, right to left} roasted peppers and tomato sauce; tomato pesto and arugula; potato, Roma cheese, green beans and marinated onions;  and ricotta and pickled zucchini. They also have a number of craft beers to wash that pizza down with. Best. Lunch. Ever.

Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach {Pizzarium}

Colline Emiliane
After a long day of sightseeing that culminated at the Trevi fountain we fired up the app to find some dinner. We were directed to Colline Emiliane and, after a 2 hour wait {make reservations y’all!}, we finally got to feast. We started with melon and prosciutto, an amazing combination. For our mains we decided to carbo load. I went with their famous pumpkin ravioli while the Kiwi dove into the spaghetti carbonara. For dessert I had spied a lemon meringue pie on our way in so my choice was easy. The Kiwi chose the cheese plate and man were both delish.

Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach     Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+PeachRome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach     Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach

Armando al Pantheon
The next night we knew were were going to end up near the Pantheon so we went ahead and made reservations at Armando al Pantheon. I did not want to be waiting two hours for dinner again and the app says that reservations here are pretty essential. The Kiwi absolutely loved his duck with prunes and my guinea fowl with mushrooms and black beer sauce was pretty good too.

Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach     Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach

Panella
While walking around our neighborhood one day we came upon the coolest bakery/restaurant/food shop I’ve ever been to. We stumbled across it during the pre-dinner cocktail hour so they had all kinds of creative looking foods and baked goods laid out buffet style and I was dying to give it a try. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a table, so we decided to come back the next day for lunch. While it is kind of chaotic in there, the food was completely worth it. Between the zucchini blossom pizza, roasted tomato stuffed with risotto and rosemary potatoes, and the whole meal cake with blueberries we had that day, and the big loaf of seedy bread we got for lunches the next couple days I can safely say this place was a winner, even if it wasn’t on the app.

Donkey Punch
On our final day in Rome we found ourselves in the middle of the Trastevere and a downpour was imminent. We were starving and knew we needed to take shelter pretty quickly. As the first drops started to fall we ducked in to the first place we saw, Donkey Punch. This place could not have been any more perfect. After we ordered, the Metallica {pepper salami, cream porcini, mushrooms, and provolone} for the Kiwi and the Rolling Stones {truffle cheese, raw prosciutto, and arugula} for me, we settled in with our craft beers {an Italian IPA and a saison} and waited out the rainstorm while chatting about beer with the owner. This guy knew his stuff!

Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach {Donkey Punch in the Trastevere}     Rome Food Guide from Kiwi+Peach {Donkey Punch in the Trastevere}

{other Rome tips}

Most places don’t open for dinner until 7pm and if you don’t have reservations you might be waiting for a while. Plan accordingly.

Have I mentioned you should get this app?

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Naples Food Guide

Let’s take a day trip to Naples.

After Florence we made our way down the boot to Rome. While there, we took a day trip to Pompeii stopping on our way back in Naples just so we could eat some real Napoli pizza.

After some research, we decided on heading towards Starita. We had left Pompeii earlier than we’d planned because it started bucketing with rain, so we arrived at Starita {after navigating possibly the sketchiest part of Naples} around 5pm. It was clear that they weren’t open for dinner yet but a kind neighbor that was passing told us they opened at 6. That seemed like a reasonable time to wait. Besides, we had a awning over us and I had a good book. I could have waited forever. Which is exactly how long it felt like we ended up waiting. Turns out Mr. Kind Neighbor was mistaken. They don’t open until 7. Could we have gone elsewhere? Sure, but we would have been flying blind and we weren’t in a big hurry. I can tell you this though, it was worth every minute we waited to eat some of that pizza. Y’all, it. was. so. good.

Naples Food Guide | kiwi+peach    Naples Food Guide | kiwi+peach    Naples Food Guide | kiwi+peach

So what did we have? I got the classic margherita which uses all DOP {Protected Destination of Origin} marinara, buffalo mozzarella and basil on top the traditional Napoli pizza crust which in and of itself is unique. The Kiwi’s pie had pecorino, pumpkin flower, walnut cream, and zucchini on it. While mine might have been a classic, his was genius and so very tasty. As were finishing our pies, I was starting to feel as if I couldn’t look at food again for days, so naturally we ordered dessert. A dessert pie with fresh ricotta, almond slivers, and warm honey drizzled over top. There are no words. It was just… amazing.

And with that amazing meal, our short time in Naples came to a close as we rushed back to the main train station to catch the train back to Rome, the final stop on our Tour of Italy and food-wise, our most successful town to explore.

{I hesitate to call this a food guide since we only went to one place. Obviously this is not comprehensive, so if you have some favorite eatin’ spots in Naples, please share in the comments!}

Florence Food Guide

While Cinque Terre was my must-see for our tour of Italy, Florence was the place for the Kiwi. He was drawn to the history, the art, and, yes, the food. I can safely say that he was not disappointed and neither was I. Florence was simply amazing–and full of tasty places to grab a bite.

Florence Food Guide | kiwi+peachphoto by the Kiwi

Based on Lauren from Aspiring Kennedy’s glowing recommendation, the first place we headed to upon our arrival in Florence was Trattoria ZaZa. They have an entire truffle menu, folks. An entire menu. In comparison the only thing we get full menus of in Germany is asparagus. {Keep on with your truffles ZaZa.}

It was also just down the street from the apartment we had rented, so since it was so convenient, we ended up eating there more than was strictly necessary. Sure we tried other places, but its hard to beat fried polenta with truffle wild boar sauce or spaghetti carbonara with truffle seasoning. Or pizza with truffle cheese. Or baked herbed rabbit with steamed spinach and garlic. Or truffle french fries. Can you tell we were fans? If you only eat at one place in Florence, eat here. You won’t regret it.

Florence Food Guide: Trattoria Za'Za' | kiwi+peach     Florence Food Guide: Trattoria Za'Za' | kiwi+peach

Somewhere I read about a stand in the Mercato Centrale called Nerbone that we absolutely had to try, and since it was within spiting distance of Trattoria ZaZa, we really had no excuse. This place has been going since 1872, and whatever they have that day, is what they have. It’s the luck of the draw. I love places like that because, let’s be real, folks wouldn’t take the risk if it wasn’t all delicious. The line was long, but totally, totally worth it just for a bite of their shaved pork sandwich, roasted pork {with crackling} and bread skewer, and some delicious fresh pesto pasta.

Florence Food Guide: Nerbone at Mercato Centrale | kiwi+peach     Florence Food Guide: Nerbone at Mercato Centrale | kiwi+peach

This last place we found by accident. We had been trying really hard all week to make it to this place called Zeb by the city wall near Piazza Michelangelo. We went back three different times and they were closed each time. Real bummer too because I heard it was so good. But anyway. Each time we tried to go there we walked by this place, Bevo Vino, that had the best looking Aperol spritzes I had ever seen. It was always busy with Italians sipping and eating this comfy little cafe. On our last day we struck out again at Zeb, so we decided to give this place a go. It was lunch so the place wasn’t as chocka as we had seen it previously in fact we pretty much had it to ourselves, but y’all the food was so good! I had a sandwich on warm focaccia with with cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and capers. The Kiwi ordered the summer parmigiana which consisted of layers of grilled eggplant, thick slices of mozzarella, and juicy tomatoes sprinkled with basil. Yum!

Florence Food Guide: Bevo Vino | kiwi+peach

{other Florence tips}

Get the FirenzeCard. Just do it. It’s good for 72 hours and gets you into pretty much everything, you don’t have to make reservations, and you get to skip the lines in most places. It also gets you free wifi.

Climb all the stairs. We did the Duomo {stairs}, the bell tower, the Palazzo Vecchio tower, and climbed up to the Piazza Michelangelo. The views are stunning, and you’ll work off all that tasty, tasty food you’ve been eating.

Don’t miss the Galileo Museum. Things like the Duomo, the Uffizi, and Palazzo Vecchio are a given, but the Galileo Museum is a gem for science lovers.

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Cinque Terre Food Guide

When we started planning this Tour of Italy, I knew that no trip would be complete for me without a visit to the Cinque Terre. It has been on my list since before study abroad 4+ years ago. When I was over here for study abroad, we had only four weekends free to travel wherever we wanted to. Obviously I had a list a mile long, but we had to choose carefully. In the end we opted to travel places that we thought we wouldn’t come back to on holiday. Since pretty much all of us had been to Italy before and we wanted to check different countries off our lists and since Italy is like tourist destination no. 1 in Europe, the Cinque Terre didn’t make the cut. {Ironically, the places that we did choose were Prague, Amsterdam, Paris, and Interlaken. Man, us Capital T’s–T stands for thrill– were adventurous.}

There as no way I was missing Cinque Terre this time around. I couldn’t wait to see those colorful little towns nestled into the sides of cliffs. I couldn’t wait to hike the famous Sentiero Azzuro. Most importantly thought, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some of that pesto! I mean, this is where pesto was invented, so you know it must be good.

Kiwi+Peach: Cinque Terre Food GuideManarola

We stayed in Vernazza, so that is where we ate dinner most nights. I am sure there are delicious restaurants in each town, but this is where it made sense for us to eat.

The first place we hit was Taverna del Capitano. It is right there in the main square and while I was a bit worried it would cater to tourists, I was pleasantly surprised. As we sat there sipping our wine, we watched all the  neighborhood children running around playing as their parents stopped for a chat. Our waiter, an older man, was one of the most sarcastic, helpful, and hilarious waiters we had on the entire trip. He took the time to really explain what made the local delicacies special and then added that we should take our time, he had to be there until 11 anyway.  I went for the very local trofie al pesto. {Told you I couldn’t wait to try the pesto!} Trofie is a pasta made from chestnut flour that is pretty unique to that region. It’s simplistic, it’s rustic, and it’s so very, very tasty. The Kiwi ended up ordering the black seabream that came with a deliciously simplistic roasted tomato and homemade chips.

Kiwi+Peach: Cinque Terre Food Guide Kiwi+Peach: Cinque Terre Food Guide

On our last night, the Kiwi treated me to dinner at Belforte. The restaurant, which is in the old fort, is one of the nicest restaurants in town. We made a reservation a couple days before just to make sure we would have a table.  The views of the hills and the sun setting over the Mediterranean were just amazing. The staff, who speak perfect English by the way, made you feel like you were a part of their big happy family. Before the trip, I had read that it was one of the things you had to try in Liguria were the anchovies. While neither of us are huge anchovy fans, we decided that if they weren’t good here, they wouldn’t be good anywhere, so we took the plunge and ordered the mixed anchovy antipasti. Some were salted, some were fried, and some were marinated in lemon. It made a believer out of me. My favorite were the salted ones with the little banana peppers. For my main I had a delicious squid ink pasta with shrimp sauce which was better than I could ever have imagined. The Kiwi had a mixture of fried fish, prawns and a huge, spectacular-looking scampi. He says he’d go back. However, the rest of the the meal doesn’t hold a candle to dessert. Caramelized strawberries with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Enough said.

Kiwi+Peach: Cinque Terre Food GuideKiwi+Peach: Cinque Terre Food Guide

Kiwi+Peach: Cinque Terre Food GuideKiwi+Peach: Cinque Terre Food Guide

other Cinque Terre tips

Check what sections of the Sentiero Azzuro are open before you head out to hike. At the moment only the Corniglia to Vernazza and the Vernazza to Monterosso sections are open. There is an alternative route from Manarola to Corniglia though, but it’s definitely a bit harder of a hike than the Trail No. 2. If hiking isn’t your thing though, you can also access the towns by train.

From my take on the towns, I would say that Riomaggiore and Monterosso are the most touristy. If you’re looking to really feel like part of the the town, stay in one of the three middle ones.

The Kiwi thinks that Corniglia would be a great lunch stop, but we can’t vouch for that. I can however vouch for their frozen yogurt. I have no idea what the name of this place was, but if you see a sign for frozen yogurt with fresh squeezed lemon juice, honey, and nuts, go there!

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Milan Food Guide

After our lovely couple of days in Zermatt taking in all the mountain air our hearts could hold we headed on to Milan. We were only Milan for a quick minute, but it served our purpose as being a cheaper place to stay for our visit to Lake Como which was a ‘can’t miss’ for both of us. Even though we weren’t there long, I couldn’t let it go unmentioned because we had one really outstanding meal there.

Kiwi+Peach: Milan Food Guide

The joint was called La Bottega del Vino and its right near Park Sempione. It is actually a wine bar that has about 3 or 4 mains offered along with a bunch of appetizer type goodies. This was our first meal in Italy and therefore  we were out of the land of menus in Deutsch and in the land of menus in Italian. Y’all, I know zilch, zero, nada Italiano. So, after a brief moment of being completely overwhelmed with the fact that this was going to be our lives for the next two weeks, I got over it and randomly pointed to something. That something was seared scallops in a lemon pea sauce with bits of candied lemon peel. Thank the Lord I didn’t know what I was getting or I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. {I love, love, love scallops but the Kiwi is allergic, so I tend to steer clear so that he will still kiss me. Oh, the things I do for love.} The Kiwi also went with the randomly pointing method for ordering and his was a winner too! Strips of grilled beef over grilled veggies served on a piece of slate. So folks, the moral of the story is when in doubt, be adventurous. You can always swap with someone else at your table.

Kiwi+Peach: Milan Food Guide   Kiwi+Peach: Milan Food Guide

other Milan + Lake Como tips

Milan is a great base for a visit to Lake Como if you want somewhere cheaper to stay. There is a local train from Milan to Como that takes an hour and costs 10 euro round trip. It leaves every hour from Garibaldi {right near La Bottega del VIno}.

The fast ferry boat is fast, but the view is crap. We took the fast boat out to Bellagio where we spent the day exploring, but then we took the slow boat back so that we could take in the scenery, take some pictures, and work on our sun tans {read: burns}.

Climb the roof of the Duomo! It was seriously one of the most beautiful rooftops I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on a few. However, ladies {well really everyone}, if you want to go inside the Duomo afterwards make sure your knees and shoulders are covered or you have something with you to cover them or you’ll be turned away like I was.

Venice Food Guide

The Kiwi and I are getting so pumped about our Tour of Italy. {We leave in 4 days!} I cannot stop thinking about all the delicious, delicious food we are going to be eating. I’m just a little excited. Can you tell?

Since I have Italy and traditional Italian food on the brain today, I thought I’d share a few of my tips for where to eat in Venice. The Kiwi and I have both been to Venice pretty recently {him for the 2011 Biennale, me in April with my mom}, so we are not including it on the Tour. However, I do think that Venice is a must-see town if you’re in the area. Unfortunately, apart from the squid ink risotto, Venice is not necessarily known for great food, but I’m going to fill you in on a secret. Venetians love their cicchetti and they do it very, very well. This might as well be called “A Cicchetti Guide to Venice,” because every place on my list in a cicchetti bar.

Cicchetti bars were traditionally where folks stopped on the way home from work for a glass of wine and a bit of socializing. Here’s the rub though, folks didn’t want to be drinking all this wine on an empty stomach because they might end up in the canal before the dinner bell even rang. So cicchetti are small bites that you can have with your wine, but that won’t spoil the dinner that is waiting for you at home. Or you can do what we did–order several and make it your meal. {We saw Venetians doing this too. It’s kosher.} The best part about this is that they are generally pretty cheap and you get to try lots of different things!

So here is how it works. You walk into the bar and give the folks behind the counter your best ‘Salve!’ Most cicchetti bars are family run and the person you see behind the counter has probably been there since 5am. Smiles are nice. There will be a glass case full of cicchetti. Have a look at what they have to offer and get to pointing. “Uno {point}, due {point},” you get the gist. They will hand you your food and wine, and then you can find a spot to eat standing up with all of the other locals. I’m not going to lie, this is not for the faint of heart. You probably won’t have a clue what you are eating and it might not look like something you want to put in your mouth, but do it anyway. I never had a bad cicchetti. Not once.

Enoteca Al Volto
Calle Cavalli, San Marco

This was our first cicchetti experience and the owners were so incredibly sweet helping us figure out what to do/order. There is a restaurant part as well, but I can’t vouch for it as we just had cicchetti. The food was delicious {try the marinated artichokes, or the crostini with a big hunk of blue cheese drizzled with balsamic} and the atmosphere cozy. The whole ceiling is covered in wine bottle labels. A great first experience.

ProntoPesce
opposite the Fish Market, San Polo

Right opposite the fish market, the offerings change daily based on the catch of the day. It is pretty much a one man show. The owner gets the fish from the market fresh each morning. Then he cooks up some incredibly tasty bites and when it’s gone it’s gone. I think it’s safe to say that the bites here are a bit more of a modern take on traditional cicchetti recipes. I am not a I know little and less about wine pairings and usually defer to the Kiwi on that front. That said, I can remember that white wines go well with fish. This place has some great local whites that were just perfect with our little bites of brioche with smoked swordfish, mascarpone, and cherry tomatoes and a lemon marinated anchovy couscous that tasted like no anchovy dish I’ve ever had before {meaning that it was good and not crap}.

Cantina do Mori
just off Calle Arco, San Polo

This is said to be the oldest cicchetti bar in Venice. It used to be where people would go to refill their bottles of wine from these huge ‘kegs.’ {That’s not what they are really called. I can’t for the life of me remember their proper name, so I’m going with keg.} Anyway, it is now a bar that offers some heavier cicchetti. There were lots of sliced meats on crostini and fried veggies. Along with these bites they have some great wines that are still served from the ‘kegs.’

Another anecdote… In each square in Venice there is a old well. Each well is different. Way back when, if folks needed water they’d go to the well and fill their copper pots with water to take home. The walls and ceiling at Cantina do Mori are completely covered with those old copper pots.

All’Arco
also just off Calle Arco, San Polo

This is family run cicchetti bar is part of the slow food movement. I found it really interesting because they cook and prepare your food right in front of you when you order. The cook in me really enjoyed seeing how all of these spreads and bites are made. It takes a bit more time, but it’s definitely worth the stop. This is a lunch place and closes at 2.30, so get there early.

{Other Venice Advice}

I am not usually a big fan of organized tours. {My exception is bike tours, but we can talk about that another day.} However, I wholeheartedly recommend the Cicchetti Tour. Our guide, Cecelia, was a local whose knowledge of food culture and slow food blew me away. Plus it’s nice to be told what you’re eating one in a while, yea? Cantina do Mori and ProntoPesce were on our tour, but, as we were there the week after Easter, we apparently were not going to the usual places because they were closed for the holiday. So they may or may not be on yours.

If you’ve had enough of cicchetti bars and want to actually sit down to eat your food, Lauren over at Aspiring Kennedy has some great restaurant recommendations too.

Stay in one of the residential areas {the Dosoduro, the Cannaregio, or the Castello neighborhoods}. We stayed in an apartment in the Dosoduro and it was great! Nothing is really that far of a walk in Venice, but if it is, hop on a vaporetto.

Put down your map, get off the main route, and get lost. You see so much more that way!

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