Eating in Rome c/o Elizabeth Minchilli

Bad wifi connections and illness have silenced this blog for far too long. Enough. I’m pulling myself out of a post illness stupor to post some brief memories. Hopefully sharing these will help dissipate the cold, vomiting virus and final flu flogging that have been clouding my holiday recall.

One of the best things about travelling in Italy with a young child is Italians (here’s Oliver with his cheeky devil friend, Naoise). Italians seemingly love babies as much as they love food, and embrace their chaos with smiles and exclamations like ‘bella!’ (everyone thought Oliver was a girl) and ‘amore!’. I and my dear friend Bridge even got a personal escort to the front of the Vatican queues! Quite a change from the often hostile reception children and their parents will often receive in restaurants in Australia. Sure, there are exceptions in both countries… (On that subject, I’d love to start a list of child friendly eats in Brisbane… anyone got one already??)

The other best thing about Rome is Elizabeth Minchilli (the only woman pictured above not strapped to a baby). Here’s us loaded-up-mothers with Elizabeth at the start of one of her food tours. The tours and her hugely useful EAT ROME app were my secret weapons against the tourist food doldrums (how I hate them).

Without Elizabeth, I might not have engaged with the bittersweet temporality of Rome’s fresh food markets, where a vegetable like this

embraces spring for just two weeks before saying goodbye for another whole year. I wish I could remember what it’s called… anyone??

Cooked for just a moment in boiling water and dressed with nothing more than olive oil, lemon and sea salt, it was just the antidote to all that pizza and bread we were munching non stop. Not that I’m complaining. I’ll never forget the crystalline crunch of this pizza rossa from Forno Campo de’Fiori.

Or the flavour and crust of this bread from Roscioli

the best bread I’ve ever eaten (I now know what to aim for in my bread making, and, care of Andrew Whitely and his Bread Matters book, I’ll be stepping back into a daily bread making practice starting… today!!)

Without Elizabeth, I may never have gone to Regoli, the best of its kind of pastry shop in Rome.

Its cream-served-with-pastry rather than pastry-served-with-cream attitude is not one I’ve always embraced, but now I’d (almost) go through the flu again to have another chance with those wild strawberries tarts.

Without Elizabeth, I don’t know if I would have discovered this Jewish Roman specialty: deep fried artichokes.

The artichokes are fried once to cook them and then a second time to crisp them up into flowers. Even the spiky leaves are eaten. They taste like artichoke chips.

And I definitely wouldn’t have ventured in here.

Boccione, a Jewish bakery in the Ghetto, which bakes only 7 or 8 things, and burns them all! But Elizabeth is right, the burnt bits taste great. My favourite was this:

pizza ebraica, or Jewish pizza, as it’s nicknamed. I’ve no idea what that green jelly thing is, but it didn’t taste artificial. It’s nestled into a just sweet dough along with some transparent jellies of the same ilk, almonds, raisins and pinenuts, and the effect of the whole is so so much more than the parts- a bit like a soft biscotti dough, still warm after the first baking.

One of the things I love most about going away is coming home. Being in another place with different food traditions, I can see all sorts of possibilities for Brisbane. I left Rome flooded with ideas for little food enterprises to set up. I’ll let them simmer away for a while longer, let my body recover from the flu for a while longer, before I let them flow.

30 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Minchilli
    March 26, 2012 at 5:23 am | | Reply

    What a wonderful post Angela! It was so great being able to spend two days with you, and the day with the babes was too much fun. Hope to see you soon, on one side of the ocean or the other.

  2. Jeremy
    March 26, 2012 at 6:57 am | | Reply

    Agretti.

  3. Audrey
    Audrey
    March 26, 2012 at 7:23 am | | Reply

    The green veg looks a bit like samphire which I have bought from the farmers market here in London. Also found some on the Isle of Wight and had it raw in salad. It has a salty, souring taste and grows in marshes by the sea.

  4. Jeannie Marshall
    March 26, 2012 at 7:55 am | | Reply

    Hi – Italy is the best place to be with babies and small children. I love that you can go into any restaurant with children. In fact, they are often more likely to give you a better table when you have children. It must be good for them to feel so loved. And good for adults to be able to eat good food instead of being sent off to chain restaurants with washable, vinyl booths. This weekend I wrote an article for a Canadian newspaper about my experience raising a child in Italy. I’ll post the link here for you because it sounds like you experience some of the same problems in Australia with attitudes toward children.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/young-children/children-trends/what-the-italians-can-teach-us-about-child-rearing/article2378003/

  5. Caffettiera
    March 26, 2012 at 11:45 am | | Reply

    I hope you get well soon! I loved reading about Rome, one of the most exciting places for food anywhere. I’m still dreaming about the bread from Roscioli.

    I agree with Jeremy, the veg is called agretti or ‘barbe di frate’ (which means friar’s beard). It is definitely not samphire, which is not common at all in Italy (it is called salcornia in Italian, in case it helps). I’ve never seen it outside of Italy and I wish I could find it, it is the herald of spring for me.

  6. Kitchen Belleicious
    March 28, 2012 at 9:52 pm | | Reply

    okay i am loving the pics- glad you are back and that fried artichoke- let’s just say I am drooling and wishing i had them now!

  7. Tan
    Tan
    April 1, 2012 at 7:56 am | | Reply

    I’m fascinated by the burnt breads! I will rethink the occasional unintentional burnt outcomes from my kitchen as possible happy mistakes!! I loved this blog you really took me to Rome!

  8. enrico
    enrico
    April 5, 2012 at 10:36 am | | Reply

    These are called agretti!

  9. Kelly
    August 12, 2012 at 6:09 am | | Reply

    What a lovely post! We’re on our way to Italy soon with our 3yo and 3mo (eek!) snd may be out to Brisbane next year. I’ll be sure to add you to my reader!

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    We’ve just found out about Elizabeth and waiting to hear wether she’s around in August. Great to read your experiences with children, as we’ll be in tow with a rather spirited pair of sprites in my 7yr and 10yr old girls! I so so LOVE Italy and cant wait to share it with my girls now, after seeing all your photographs!

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