Recipe for a Merry Christmas – Panettone

December 24, 2013 - 3:41 pm 1 Comment

 

It’s Christmas time again. Santa has been busy filling up his sack with gifts, getting drunk on glögg and rolling around nude in the snow. Me, I’ve been busy baking, since we have no snow in Rome…

Panettone is an Italian leavened holiday pastry, something in between a cake and a sweet bread – laden with eggs, butter and candied fruit. The very special thing with Panettone is the leavening with sourdough and the very long fermentation and rising times.
During the last few weeks I’ve been struggling to find the perfect Panettone recipe – moist, not too heavy, not too sweet and with a clear christmassy aroma to it.
A Panettone should be slightly chewy, have a firm yet very airy interior and when you rip the crumb apart it comes away in strings rather than crumble. Candied fruit, raisins and vanilla are the most common flavors in a classic Panettone, but the chocolate one with chunks of dark chocolate in the dough is also very popular.
Finally after many more or less successful tries I composed a recipe that I am very happy with.
Since I did all the research and testing you won’t have to. Here’s my Christmas present to you – My Panettone recipe:

Enough for two 1 kg Panettone paper baking moulds:

First mix 25 grams bread flour with 125 grams of cold water in a pot¨making sure there are no lumps. Heat the flour and water slowly on the stove, stirring constantly, until it reaches 65 degrees Celsius or 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour it into a bowl and cool it down over ice.

dough170 grams milk
120 grams of the cold cooked flour-water mix
280 grams of egg yolk (about 18-20 egg yolks depending on size)
700 grams of strong bread flour with high protein content
180 grams of ripe firm sourdough (very important that it is ripe and has been fed on a correct schedule over the last few days)
280 grams caster sugar
80 grams honey
1 vanilla pod, scraped and seeds mixed in the sugar
5 grams of ground spice mix (I use a mix of black pepper, green pepper, Sichuan pepper, allspice, cloves and nutmeg)
360 grams of lightly salted butter, cubed
200 grams of raisins, soaked in a little bit of rum
200 grams candied fruit peels (orange, cedro, mandarin)
30 grams of whisky (you could also use rum)
Grated peel of half a lemon and one mandarin orange

Keep all your ingredients cold before you start mixing. I even put the flour and sugar in the fridge because the long mixing time generates a lot of heat and we don’t want the dough to get too hot.
In a kitchen mixer, combine flour, sourdough, the flour-water mix, half of the sugar, milk and 3 egg yolks. Mix with the dough hook on low speed for a couple of minutes until the ingredients have been mixed and the dough has just come together. Wrap the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Put the dough back in the mixer and start mixing on low speed again and watch how the dough gets a smoother appearance. Switch to medium speed and start adding, little by little, the remaining egg yolks, sugar, honey, spice mix and fresh citrus peels.
It is important to check the temperature of the dough while mixing, and not let it rise above 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. If the dough gets too hot, stop mixing and put the mixing bowl and covered dough in the fridge for a while until it cools down, then resume mixing. When these ingredients have been incorporated the dough should be very smooth and soft. On medium speed we now start mixing in the cold butter, little by little, and add the whisky slowly. Once finished the dough should be slightly shiny, very elastic and be able to stretch into a very thin translucent membrane, the “windowpane test”. Do check the dough temperature often to make sure it stays somewhere around 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this stage we add the candied fruit peels and raisins to the dough and mix on low speed just enough to distribute the ingredients in the dough.
risingPut the dough in a transparent container, plastic or glass and cover it with cling film, this makes it easy to monitor its rise. Let it rise in warm room temperature, about 27-28 degrees Celsius (80-82 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 12 hours. The dough should rise about one and a half time its original size, that is, not really double. If the dough rises faster, we just go ahead and proceed with the next step even if 12 hours has not passed.
We then divide the dough into 2 equal parts on a floured surface. Leave it to rest covered with cling film for 30 minutes. Give each piece a round shape, just like when shaping a bread boule. Put the pieces into the special Panettone paper baking moulds. Cover with cling film and let rise in warm room temperature, 27-28 degrees Celsius (80-82 degrees Fahrenheit) for another 12 hours. Keep an eye on the dough, when it rises up almost to the height of the paper mould they are ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit). If you have a baking stone for your oven your results will be even better, let it preheat in the oven. Very gently, cut a cross on the top of the dough with a razor and put a small knob of butter in the center of the cross.
Put the Panettone in the oven and bake it for 45-60 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 93 degrees Celsius (199 degrees Fahrenheit).
Remove from the oven and pierce long metal or wooden skewers straight across the panettone (including the paper mould) very near the bottom so the skewers are parallel. Hang the Panettone upside down over a large stockpot and cool completely, about 6 hours.
Wait at least one day before eating the Panettone so that the flavors have time to develop fully. It keeps great for the first 4-5 days, after that I would recommend heating it up slightly in the oven or a toaster and eat it with a sweet mascarpone spread.

bakad

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

We are The Robots

October 19, 2012 - 8:12 am 2 Comments

Cooking robot

Scientists are pushing hard to make kitchen appliances more “intelligent” and increasingly independent, requiring less and less user interaction. It no longer seems like an if, but rather a when will we cross the line between having just a smart kitchen appliance and a fully independent kitchen robot, maybe even of humanoid design? Could chefs and robots be working shoulder to shoulder in restaurant kitchens in a near future, or will the the quest for low-wage (or no-wage) unrelenting workers completely chase humans out of the kitchen and into mere supervising roles?
Would we accept robot-made food becoming a future standard? A realistic picture of the large food industry I’m sure, but wouldn’t you disapprove of having your upscale restaurant meal cooked by a machine?

 

Will it ever be possible to make a robot think outside the box?

 

Recently Evan Selinger and Evelyn Kim discussed the matter of robot cooks and their hardship to acquire tacit knowledge in their article “Can a Robot Learn to Cook?” in The Atlantic

There are a great many aspects on the theme of advanced robots in the kitchen, but the most interesting one to me is the one concerning tacit knowledge – skills and know-how embedded in personal experience, hard to transfer to another person and often virtually impossible to express accurately in words.

 
Would a robot ever be able to replace a chef?

First of all we need to understand that not all cooking is the same. Home cooking, industrial cooking, chain restaurant cooking, café cooking, street cooking, Michelin star cooking. They are all very different and require different instruments and considerations in their respect. Robots could surely replace or complement chefs in certain situations and in certain types of cooking.

We know that robots are already making a lot of food, especially in the industrialized food sector. Butchering, cutting meat and fish, washing, stirring, cooking, frying, baking and packing are some things that are all automatized. One of the aspects with robot-made food is that robots (or simply machines) are specialized in performing one single task, and do not have the versatility of a human chef. I don’t doubt the quality of robot-made food. On the contrary, monitoring hygiene and cleanliness is easier with machines than with human beings. More, a machine could for example work in a chilled environment to minimize the risk of food spoilage, something that a restaurant cook cannot always do.
Situations where robots might come in very handy are found in the kitchens where production is based around many repetitions of the same task or the same dish. Think banqueting, institutional caterers and canteens. Here the human would to a certain extent take on a part as supervisor, with the bulk of the work being executed by machines.

Cooking at higher levels of cuisine is, however pretentious it may sound, closely related to other art forms. Their relationship stem from the desire to create and innovate, to produce something unique, but most of all from the inherent wish to express something truly personal. To reach the higher peaks in cooking (as any truly great chef) one must have a story to tell (and a concept to sell). Error 412 – robots have no story to tell.

Could a robot make a painting – not a copy of a painting – but a real painting made out of experiences, ideas, dreams and feelings while playing around with color choice and techniques? Does any such thing as an artistic robot exist? If concurrently looking at a copy of a painting and its original – I might see the same thing, but what I feel is different. Knowing that behind the original lies a human mind, a person, complete with imperfections and all, lends a bigger value.
The same goes for food – surely, eating industrial, mega-production food would stop my stomach from growling, but when I’m aware of eating something prepared by an actual human being, preferably with passion, the feeling is different. And I’ll probably pay 10 times as much too. Humans need paychecks, robots don’t.

I think, and hope, that robots will not replace chefs, but there’s nothing saying we couldn’t share the same space working alongside one another.
A human chef is such an incredibly complex creature thanks to the way we can combine our advanced senses and analytic thinking in a million ways.
A robot substitute would need such a huge amount of sensors, functions, processing units and artificial intelligence to even come close to a chef with a medium-sized brain, that the whole thing seems highly unlikely to me.
A much better idea would be the cooperation with specialized robots executing specific tasks or handling particular situations alongside the real chefs.

 

Talking about robots cooking, here’s a video that totally gives me the creeps:


 

After having focused on the topic Robot vs Chef, please explain, what does it actually mean to be a chef?

The truth is, chefs can also be robots sometimes. In some cooking there is no art element, blindly following a recipe or cutting meat and veggies in a certain pattern does not leave room for any ‘ad lib’. Imagine a cook in a chain restaurant outlet wanting to give a little personal “touch” to the dishes. Goes without saying that it would be out of question. But if we talk about a different level of cuisine, our sense of taste and the ability to assess flavor compatibility becomes much more important, and there is a higher percentage of ‘ad lib’ work, tasting, seasoning and adjusting, often with the base recipe settled by fixed measurements.

As you continue further up the scale of the various cuisines you will reach a point were the act of performing well, over and over again is just not enough. In addition to a job well done, there are boundaries to be pushed.
Even given that we all have different taste, in all cooking there are still culinary standards to aim for.
A cutting-edge chef though, is responsible not only for reaching up to these culinary standards, but ultimately changing these standards, making us look at food in new ways.

 
Would the introduction of robots in the kitchen ultimately change what it means to be a chef?

In some ways definitely so. In the future a chef’s job might become less physical and more intellectual. Robots would be able to take over some of the “less rewarding” tasks, the purely mechanical ones where no human mind is needed. In that way the chef, and not least the other human cooks in the kitchen could free up time to concentrate on performing more advanced assignments. On the other hand, in many restaurants, I’m sure, this readily available workforce of perpetual energy would lead to lay-offs in money-saving efforts to maximize margins. This is exactly what has already happened in many other professions.

Implicit knowledge
Why did recipes in old cookbooks always say to use a copper bowl when beating egg whites? Chefs knew that the egg whites were superior when beaten in copper, but no one could tell you why.
Not until recently was it explained that copper ions form a strong bond with the conalbumin in the egg white, thus producing a much more stable foam.
Much of the knowledge that a chef possesses is of the implicit type, something quite abstract. These are things that after a number of years of work in the kitchen is “just there”. You might not know how you learned it nor when you learned it. You use this knowledge it to execute tasks and resolve situations around the kitchen everyday.
This type of knowledge goes way beyond the usual and straightforward cause-and-effect knowledge but still has its roots in the latter.
It’s also this type of knowledge that is hard, sometimes even impossible, to teach and transfer to another person.
Mentoring is one way, a shortcut as such, since it limits the experience required from the apprentice to obtain a certain knowledge. Mentoring is a fast way to let the trainee “tap in to” the mentors experience and consequently in a faster way acquire similar knowledge. Though no matter how good your mentor is, acquired experience can never be transferred to the apprentice, but the lesson learned by the experience process can.
Most chefs know very well how important mentoring is when it comes to developing new skills, progress in the kitchen hierarchy and to one day grow from cook to chef.
But could you upload 10, 20 or 40 years of in-kitchen experience to the CPU of a newly built robot?

The work of the chef is very much a logical process, revolving around things and facts that are easy to describe, monitor and explain. But there are also the other side – a much more inspirational, creative job that’s all about feeling and intuition – trying to transmit not only flavors but also emotions and the chef’s philosophy.
Top chefs are driven by curiosity and passion, an ambition to please their guests and a wish to show off newly invented creations.

 
Could all the aspects of cooking be replicated by machines or technology?

Surely most of the mechanical tasks in the kitchen could be executed by a robot, some of them already are today, and some will be in the future with further progress in the field of robotics. But when will you be able to let a robot also take over the creative tasks, assignments that require personal views to be taken into account?
Would you like to discuss wine pairings with a robot, without the human values, personal experience and opinions of a sommelier?

A lot of knowledge can be codified and expressed in personal instructions, recipes or robot programming. But what about all that “other” knowledge?
Things that will be hard for a machine to learn are the processes and tasks where a human being uses many of its built-in “tools” to receive sensory data, process the information in the brain, always based on knowledge and experience, comes to a conclusion and act upon it, also taking into account a variety of variables connected to the kitchen, ingredients and maybe even the end-user, the eater.
Tacit knowledge applied in the kitchen might be as simple as correctly seasoning a dish – but how would a robot know what is “just right”?

Sometimes the success of a recipe used for the first time depends on the ability of a skilled cook to “fill in” gaps in the recipe where it isn’t detailed enough for the novice cook to succeed.
But one of the most fascinating applications of tacit knowledge to me is to be able to “taste” the result of a recipe, just by reading it!
Most of this knowledge needs to be acquired, not only by seeing and replicating, but by seeing, replicating and ultimately understanding. Is a robot capable of having an “aha moment” – representing that short instant when all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly comes together and you learn a lesson for life?

Other things that will be very hard to implement in robots is the ability to make decisions based on personal judgement. Would a robot be capable of determining if the fish delivery is fresh enough or it needs to be sent back? If a cucumber is crispy enough? Where to trim the asparagus stalks to get rid of the woody ends? If a piece of meat has been seared enough or if it needs another 10 seconds in the pan? If an emulsion is emulsified or is beginning to split? Problems might arise when the answer to a question or a problem is not simply “black or white”.

Another field where machines so far cannot compete with humans is creativity. A robot cannot dream up a new dish for tomorrow’s menu. It could surely combine ingredients and cooking techniques in random or systematic patterns with the help of databases and basic flavor pairing – but the human brain is way more complex than that, and has a less limited creative freedom.

On creativity, it all boils down to this: Will it ever be possible to make a robot think outside the box?

Cooking with your (robot) heart
Humans are so incredibly complex beings, which has its positive sides but of course also its negative sides. Our intricate interaction between physics and brain makes us achieve things, that in any other animal or machine for that matter, would be impossible. In advanced cooking the brain has its natural place, as does fine motor skills, but you won’t get far with only this. The chef needs a heart too. The old saying “put some love in your food” is not without reason. Cooking with your heart for me represents a wish to always do your best, always give more than you take and to offer something that has a higher value than the sum of the ingredients on the plate.
Until someone creates a robot that moves like human, thinks like a human but most importantly, in its own eyes feel like a human – we will only have specialized “robot helpers” in the kitchen.

 

Animation Robot chef


 
What part of cooking could be helped by technology?

In their article Evan Selinger and Evelyn Kim were talking about progress in the chicken butchering area.
I’m quite certain that a robot could be designed to butcher whole chickens (as well as any human chicken processor) – perhaps not by following a pre-programmed pattern, but rather by combining a computer-generated model based on 3-dimensional x-ray with flexible cutting tools and dynamic programming. We might not see it tomorrow, but the possibilities exist.

I imagine that a robot in the everyday work in a kitchen, apart from simple mechanical duties, could be able to analyze and control things like saltiness, acidity, temperature, firmness, color.
But would it be able to make smaller adjustments based on occasional circumstances?
Could it take into account that a cut of meat has a slightly different muscle structure today as opposed to yesterday? The apples might be floury, the tomato not sweet enough.
Can a robot take into consideration a guest’s special needs, likes or dislikes? Could it translate praise from a diner about the Asian flavors during the last meal into a wish of doing something even better and therefore tweaking the duck dish with galangal, star anise and palm sugar glaze?

On the other hand, the big advantages with robot workforce are quite clear: Robots are not subject to fatigue, to fear, to anger. Robots don’t loose interest, don’t get into fights, don’t complain, need not be fed. Stress does not change the behavior of a robot as it does a human. Robots does not need praise or love to feel good.
But could a robot taste a finished dish and go: “Wow, this tastes wonderful together!”?

Speaking of robots and their possibility to acquire new skills on their own:
How much knowledge needs to be already in the robot by programming and how much would it be able to learn as time goes by? (provided the hardware is adapt for the new tasks)

In some ways we already have a move towards machinery-backed kitchens with equipment such as intelligent ovens, immersion circulators, pacojets and thermomixers.
Today’s ovens have functions that go beyond simple cooking with auto-start, auto-off, self-cleaning and a number of automatic programs that takes into account both temperature and humidity. But at the end of the day, it’s still just a finely tuned heat source regulated by computer programs. You couldn’t ever teach it to make a cup of coffee, debone a leg of lamb or to take out the trash before it shuts itself off for the day.

In an article in Slate magazine, Evgeny Morozov argues that you wouldn’t want too much help either in the kitchen, since it would actually risk making us worse cooks by depriving us of culinary challenges. Morozov writes about scientists developing helpful surveillance systems which guide the cook through the different steps of a recipe by projecting instructions and symbols onto the ingredients and workspace.


Is there anything in a chef’s job that might require long periods of training to get right?

Many things, definitely. For example, I am very fond of artisan bread baking, and it takes a lot of experience (a good recipe helps a lot too) to be able to recognize what’s happening in a bread dough in its different stages and whether or not things are going as expected. When baking in a normal restaurant kitchen there are so many variables that could make you trip on your way to a good result. The flour might be very dry, or contain high amounts of humidity. The room temperature might be a few degrees higher or lower than yesterday. The sourdough might be weaker today and stronger tomorrow. The ater might be warmer or colder than usual. The fresh yeast might have lost a bit of its strength.
I’ve never had any teacher in bread making, so all knowledge is from hit-or-miss experiences using written and non-written recipes. My first memories of baking bread by myself are from the age of 15 I guess. I remember meticulously following the recipes, one in particular, but I ended up with different results every time. Very frustrating to not understand the mechanisms behind it all, and what caused these random (so it seemed at the time) results. I have during my years in the kitchens made lots of bread – relying on a generous pinch of luck to get good results. It is actually not until during the last years that I have come to understand the processes that transforms flour and water into the beauty we call bread. My insights comes through technical literature and hands-on experience, but unfortunately without a mentor. A lot of this knowledge are things that are almost impossible to describe in text and you simply need to experience it. It’s an incredibly complex mechanism that most chefs wish they knew more about. But once you have acquired a certain amount of knowledge about the happening behind the scenes of the dough, you manage to see, understand and correct problems before they happen. Result: Better bread.


Are there parts of cooking that a machine will NEVER be able to replace?

An incredible amount of what we know in cooking (science of cooking, procedures, methods, techniques) are all results of trial-and-error during thousands of years. The same goes for science in general – many important discoveries comes from curiosity, trial and error and a bit of coincidence or luck.
A machine does not make mistakes and can consequently not make progress in this way.

The difference between machine and man is the wish to evolve, the ambition to always raise the bar a notch or two and the urge to each day get better and better at what you do.
A machine will do what it’s been told or programmed to do, whereas a chef will (hopefully) always try to do things a little bit better every day, a little bit faster, a little bit tastier, a little bit more beautiful.

Moreover, a problem for future robotic chefs might be the fact that certain things in the learning process one has to understand by oneself – they are impossible to transmit by words or act (or a data cable). Only with understanding and contemplation can these things be “learned”. A simple example: I can teach you about communism, but I can never teach you to think like a communist.

My general standpoint on technology in the kitchen is that as long as science doesn’t strangle creativity and the wish to progress, I’m all for it.
 
And in any case, should there be problems – just pull the plug!

 

Chef’s guide to Rome

May 18, 2012 - 4:00 pm 11 Comments


 

Updated April 28, 2013

So, you’re visiting Rome? Maybe for the first time? And you’re wondering where to eat and drink? I’ve had lots of requests for tips like this from friends and foodies lately. So I decided to help my everyone out  by recommending a few places around Rome that I think offer quality food, drinks and all things related. Basically “Rome from a chef’s point of view”. Yes, it’s all about eating and drinking – if you’re looking for fashion shopping tips, I’m sure there’s a blog for that too…somewhere else.

Apart from the obvious recommendation which is Ristorante Metamorfosi, the place where I am working, I propose a number of places in or near the center of Rome.
Most names on my list are places where I tend to go back time after time since I have found them to keep offering a constant high quality. The rest, a few places in here, I have found very interesting at first visit, and they have a good probability of becoming my future favorite hangouts.
 

EATING


Er Buchetto

This tiny hole-in-the-wall is more of a snack bar than a real restaurant, but this does not mean you will leave hungry. The name “Er Buchetto” actually means “small hole” – very suiting considering its size. This is one of those typical places that chefs love – excellent food in the simplest of ways. The place has a long history and is one of those unbeatable spots to find a bit of the atmosphere of ancient times. The porchetta is the way to go. Either as stuffing in a piece of white bread or on its own. Have a plate or two of marinated vegetables and cheese on the side and wash the whole thing down with a carafe of house red. If you’re lucky (or willing to wait) you might find a seat inside, otherwise a porchetta sandwich to-go is the perfect snack while touring the city.
Via del viminale 2F (Termini)


Franchi

Just next to the Castroni shop on Via Cola di Rienzo. This is a historic bottega  in 2 sections, filled to the brim with Italian specialities. One section of the bottega offers buy-and-take-home products like cured meats, cheeses, pasta, conserves, truffles and spirits, the other part offers cooked food, both hot and cold, meant to be eaten at one of the standup tables or even taken home. Some  examples – cooked meat and fish, salads, pasta, lasagna, vegetables and one of the best Roman fast foods – supplì  – deep-fried risotto balls!
Via Cola di Rienzo 204 (Prati neighborhood)


Gaudeo

Head to this Panini shop in the Monti neighborhood if you’re looking for a quick meal of good bread filled with Italian quality ingredients. Don’t expect to sit down since the place is tiny, and bringing your panino to the nearby piazza where seating is plentiful is a great idea anyway! You will find an ample choice of different panini and obviously beer and wine to go with that. Service is excellent and they will happily guide through their selection of panini, even in English.
Via del Boschetto 112 (Monti neighborhood)


Pastificio on Via della Croce

Pastificio is a generic name for the shop of a pasta maker. This particular pastificio makes pasta of course, but as a bonus it also serves  bargain plates of pasta for lunch on weekdays. These guys offer at least two varieties of pasta a day – all of them classic recipes from Rome and beyond. Lunch starts at 1 pm. Sharp. So sharp you can set you clock by it. Probably the only thing in Rome that begins on announced time. For 4 € you get a fresh pasta dish served on a plastic plate and then you help yourself to a glass of wine at the counter and some water from the bottles at the tables. A couple of minutes before 1 pm a line will start to form and business begins, so be there on time. Some examples of what might be served here are tonnarelli cacio e pepe, meat-filled ravioli, gnocchetti with tomato and tuna sauce, taglioini with butter, ham and green peas or amatriciana.
Via della Croce 8 (Centro storico)


Roscioli – Salumeria e Ristorante

Roscioli is a upscale delicatessen-cum-restaurant where you can have a outstanding lunch or dinner. Start off with  some cold cuts, burrata with sun dried tomatoes and a dish of pasta. The Roman classics  Carbonara, Cacio e pepe and Amatriciana are prime choices. They also have loads of foodie bling-bling to take home – oils, pastas, jams, salts, wines and so much more.
Via dei Giubbonari 21 (Centro Storico)
Tel: +39 06 6875287


Antico Forno Roscioli

This is one of the best bakeries in town, serving sandwiches made-to-order and sublime thin-crust pizza as well as selling delicious  bread, pastries and scrumptious biscotti. Try the pizza bianca with a slice of mortadella, the pizza rossa and a handful of “brutti ma buoni” cookies for those with a sweet tooth.
Via dei Chiavari 34 (Centro Storico)


Pizzarium

A definite foodie destination – even featured in Anthony Bourdains No Reservations.
Gabriele Bonci makes pizza al taglio (by the slice) extraordinaire. Slowly risen dough, first-class flour and highest quality topping ingredients makes for a special treat. (And a higher-than-normal price)
Apart from pizzas with both classic toppings and loony new combinations, Bonci has some of Rome’s best deep-fried rice balls.
Via della Meloria 43 (Vatican)


Metamorfosi

Situated in the Parioli district, just north of the city center. This modern restaurant holds one Michelin star and serves contemporary cuisine with Italian flavors interpreted by young chefs. This is the place to go when you want to splurge on a memorable meal with first-class service, or just to enjoy a contrast to pizzas and pasta-laden trattorias.
Via Giovanni Antonelli 30/32 (Parioli neighborhood)
Tel: +39 06 8076839


Antico Arco

On top of the Gianicolo Hill (which is just west of the Trastevere neighborhood) you will find this restaurant that successfully blends traditional flavors and modern preparations in a contemporary setting. Service is friendly and what comes out of the kitchen is proof of the chef’s solid skills. Try the varm mozzarella in crispy phyllo dough or the anchovy, burrata and zucchini flower gratin. Don’t miss the carbonara with truffles or the excellent amatriciana.
Piazzale Aurelio 7 (Janiculum Hill)
Tel: +39 06 5815274
 

La Gatta Mangiona
In Monteverde, south-west of the center and just next to the Pamphilj park you find this restaurant and pizzeria. The atmosphere here is noisy and effervescent – just the way it’s supposed to be in Rome!
This place offers an extensive menu, so finding something for everyone’s taste shouldn’t be a problem. The menu includes some of the best fritti in town – crispy supplì with new and old flavor pairings, deep-fried zucchini flowers, baccalà and potato crocchette – then a long list of pizzas from their wood-burning oven, and on to tweaked pastas and secondi from the traditional cuisine. They offer a nice selection of wines and artisan beers. And don’t forget to scrutinize the chalkboard thoroughly – the seasonal specials here are well worth a try.
Via Federico Ozanam 30 (Monteverde neigborhood)
Tel: +39 06 5346702


Nanà Vini e Cucina

In an extremely central location like this (just next to Fontana di Trevi) finding a decent place to eat can often be a nightmare. Romans themselves steer clear of these areas when it comes to dining since it’s hard to find a restaurant that actually serves you anything that could be categorized as flavorful and genuine. Nanà is an exception to that rule. The restaurant offers Neapolitan cuisine with simple but very tasty seafood dishes, pastas and pizza. Good coffee and traditional Neapolitan desserts.
Via della Panetteria 37 (Centro storico)
Tel: +39 06 69190750


Da Danilo

A very good trattoria choice on the Esquiline Hill, not far from the main station Termini. The obvious picks here are the traditional pastas, especially Carbonara and Cacio e pepe. The mixed antipasti is a great way to start your meal.
Via Petrarca 13 (Termini)
Tel: +39 06 77200111


Trattoria Monti

Another good restaurant on the Esquiline Hill, just a few minutes walk from the Termini station. The cuisine has its roots in the Italian region “Le Marche” which is situated on Italy’s east coast, between mountain and sea. Although one might find inspiration from other regions on the menu, many of the dishes are classics from the Cucina Marchigiana.
Via di San Vito 13 (Termini)
Tel: +39 06 4466573


Tempio di Iside

Never mind the service which at times can be more than a bit confusing. Come here for the food. Excellent raw and cooked seafood starters, as well as risotto “frutti di mare” and pastas.  For main course fresh fish and seafood can be chosen from a display and cooked to order. It can seem a bit pricey, but it’s still great value for money when we’re talking really fresh seafood.
Via Pietro Verri 11 (On the corner of Via Labicana)
Tel: +39 06 700 4741


Sforno

I would no doubt dub this one of Rome’s best pizzerias. The pizzas here are much closer to the Neapolitan thick-crust style than the Roman thin-crust style. The soft dough is carefully crafted from quality flour and is left to ferment and rise slowly with great results. You can find both traditional toppings and more creative combinations.
Its location is a bit out of the way, but with the Metro A line it’s still pretty easy to reach.
Via Statilio Ottato 110/116
Tel: +39 06 7154 6118


Tonda

Pizzeria Tonda is actually a cousin of Pizzeria Sforno, and you notice it by looking at the menu which offers basically the same selection of well-executed pizzas and excellent deep-fried appetizers. The spot is a bit out of the way in an residential area and you might want to catch a cab to get there. Tonda has one ace up its sleeve though, it’s open on Sundays!
Via Valle Corteno 31 (Montesacro neighborhood)
Tel: +39 06 8180960


Pizzeria Florida

Very good “pizza al taglio” (by the slice) in a great downtown location, where trying a few different pizza slices won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Great place for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack while sightseeing in the neighborhood.
Via Florida 25 (Just across from Largo Argentina)

 
L’Arcangelo
Excellent fritti, supplì and pastas. Chef Arcangelo Dandini serves very finely executed versions of classic Roman dishes. This is upscale “Cucina Romana” at its best.
Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli 59 (Prati neighborhood)
Tel: +39 06 3210992
 

SWEETS

Mondo di Laura
When I don’t bake my own cookies, this is my supplier. Laura Raccah bakes cookies and baked goods with inspiration from Tel Aviv, London and New York. All products are kosher, made from organic ingredients and are sold in very cute, gift-friendly packaging. The best and most convenient place to buy them is Lauras little shop in the Ghetto. Don’t forget to try the cookie named “Pepita” – dark chocolate chip cookies with pink Himalayan salt. Divine!
Via del Portico d’Ottavia 6 (Ghetto)


S.A.I.D

Does anyone of you like chocolate? This is a real chocolate factory from 1923, renovated in later years and now complete with chocolate shop, café, bar and restaurant – decorated with old chocolate moulds and factory equipment.  The buffet lunch is good value for money and the setting is nice. A bonus is that you from here have a great possibility to explore the San Lorenzo neighborhood where most tourists never go.
Via Tiburtina 135 (San Lorenzo neighborhood)


Regoli

Old-school pastry shop where both décor, recipes and flavors are well conserved from an epoch long before I was born. The shop dates back to 1916 but the pastries are fresh! You won’t find fancy looking cakes or patisserie a la francaise, but you will find classic Roman sweets and a variety of simple but tasty calorie bombs.
Via dello Statuto 60 (Termini)


SHOPPING


Mercato Esquilino

This is a cool place to visit even if you’re not planning on doing any actual grocery shopping. Definitely the most multi-cultural market in Rome is situated just a stone’s throw away from Termini train station. Here you will find – in addition to the common fish, meat, vegetables and fruits – heaps of exotic ingredients from Asia, Africa, South America and beyond.
Via Principe Amadeo & Via Ricasoli (Termini)


Mercato di Campagna Amica del Circo Massimo

This Farmer’s market is held every weekend in the Circus Maximus neighborhood, bringing regional produce (fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, wine, olive oil etc) from all over the Lazio area closer to the city people. Here you will find good local products offered at honest prices straight from its producers. And it’s a lot of fun to walk around here too, especially when you observe how much the offered produce changes from season to season. Open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Via di San Teodoro 74 (Circus Maximus)


Aromaticus

On a cobble-stone street in the Monti neighborhood (and just next to Tricolore bakery) you find this charming little boutique in the herb-dealing business. This is a real promised land for a chef, with a huge amount of fresh herbs in pots, shoots, leaves, salads, spices, seeds, plant growing utensils and more. Simply put, a great place to go when you need to add some herby fragrance to your cooking (or your balcony).  At Aromaticus, owners Luca and Francesca also serves light lunches from 1pm. Herb-filled salads, fish carpaccio, and hand chopped steak tartare are some examples from the menu. For sure, a shop of this type is bound to become all the rage among us city dwellers.  Even the old Roman retirees living across the street has learned to pronounce “urban farming” in near perfect English.
Via Urbana 134 (Monti neighborhood)


Er Cimotto

This is the greengrocer I go to when I need to find something out of the ordinary. It can be an exotic fruit, a hard-to-find vegetable or a particular berry. They always carry a good selection of fresh herbs as well as bread, pasta and other staples.
Piazza della Malva 6 (Trastevere neighborhood)


La Tradizione

One of my favorite shops in Rome. Few places has such an outstanding selection of quality cured meats and salami. A fair selection of interesting cheeses makes it even harder not to buy more than you planned.
While you’re in the neighborhood don’t forget to stop by Pizzarium for a pizza slice, it’s just a few steps away.
Via Cipro 8 (Vatican)


Beppe e i suoi formaggi

This cheese (and wine) shop in the Ghetto carries an impressive selection of cheeses from both Italy and France. There’s also salumi , rustic bread and a selection of gourmet products. You can buy to take home or sit down and eat in the small wine bar section.
Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9a/11 (Ghetto)


Castroni

This gourmet food shop has multiple locations throughout the city. Here you will find tons of food and ingredients from all over the world – a wonderland for expats and exchange students looking for a taste of home – or for a chef looking for unusual ingredients. They are also well-known for their own coffee blends and in some of their locations they serve very good coffee, in others I prefer to  just stay away from the coffee.
The biggest and best Castroni shop is on Via Cola di Rienzo 196. (Prati neighborhood)

 
Peroni
When you are looking for kitchen equipment and tools, this should be one of your first stops. A well-stocked shop with a good mix of home kitchen tools and professional gear. Peroni sells a multitude of products ranging from knives, pots&pans, home appliances, utensils and drinking accessories to a big selection of pastry molds and necessities. Maybe you are looking for some Italian specials like an automated ravioli maker, a parmesan grater or the useful tagliapuntarelle?
Piazza dell’Unità 29 (Prati neighborhood)


DRINKING


La Barrique

Wine bar in the Monti area with a nice atmosphere, a good selection of Italian and French wines and a small but well-composed menu of tasty dishes, ranging from cheese and cold cuts to scrumptious pastas and classic main courses.
Via del Boschetto 41 (Monti neighborhood)


Open Baladin

This is the place to enjoy a great selection of Italian craft beer both on tap and bottled. They also serve quite a range of beer-friendly fare – burgers, flavored potato chips, fried scrocchette and pastas. The atmosphere is very informal and the comfy sofas can easily make you stay longer than planned.
Via Degli Specchi 6 (Centro Storico)


Machesietevenutiafa

Small and unpretentious little beer pub where all the passion and energy goes into selecting and serving many great beers from around the world. Staff is exceptionally good at guiding drinkers in choosing the right beer according to their taste.
Via Benedetta 25 (Trastevere neighborhood)


4:20

An amazing beer pub with a wide selection of international beers and whiskys. Decent pub grub too! Slightly off the beaten track for tourists but well worth the effort to seek out. Open late, until 4 in the morning Thursday to Saturday (to 2 am the other days). Can’t get any better!
Via Portuense 82 (Between Trastevere and Testaccio neighborhoods)


Il Goccetto

A nice long list of wines by the glass makes this a great place. Pair this with friendly service and some traditional Italian snacks and we have a winner.
Via dei Banchi Vecchi 14 (Centro Storico)
 


Vinoroma

If you want to learn more about Italian wines, here’s an excellent start. I went to a very interesting tasting a couple of years ago with Vinoroma founder Hande Leimer and have been a proud supporter ever since. Vinoroma does guided tastings, seminars, wine & cheese lunches and more. Tastings are held in a downtown wine studio with a thousand year old wine cellar.


Vino al Vino

This is a small neighborhood wine bar, often packed with wine lovers and quite noisy but it’s the perfect place to hang out with locals. They serve simple cold and hot fare, cheese and cold cuts, pies and their legendary caponata. The wine list is interesting and the prices are very reasonable.
Via dei Serpenti 19 (Monti neighborhood)


Caffè Paranà

This café serves a good espresso, and the fact that it is just in front of the Termini station makes it the best shot in this area.
Piazza dei Cinquecento 39 (Termini)


Tazza d’Oro

Just steps away from Pantheon, this is one of my favorite coffee roasters in Rome and a good place to start exploring Rome from a coffee drinker’s perspective.  Apart from the normal espresso, one of their big sellers is the Granita di caffè con panna, coffee granita with whipped cream – a good way to cool down in summer.
Via degli Orfani 84 (Centro storico)


Ai Tre Scalini

This charming little place in the Monti neighborhood can be found in the ivy-covered building on Via Panisperna (between Serpenti and Boschetto). It’s the perfect place for an after-dinner drink on a warm summer’s night. Usually packed with people both indoors and outdoors, occupying (more correctly “blocking”) the narrow street outside.
Via Panisperna 251 (Monti neighborhood)


Domus Birrae

Beer! My shop and tasting area of choice – drink-in or take out. Vast assortment of artisan beers, especially from Italy and Northern Europe. They also sell all the supplies needed by a home brewer.
Via Cavour 8 (Monti neighborhood)


Salotto 42

This is the wine bar of choice for a chunk of Rome’s chic crowd when having an aperitivo or an evening drink. The bar itself is very stylish and quite welcoming, but my favorite custom (especially on a warm summer’s evening) is to take my drink outside into the small Piazza di Pietra and marvel over the 11 gigantic columns of Tempio di Adriano just in front of the bar.
Piazza di Pietra 42 (Centro Storico)


GELATO


Fatamorgana
No doubt some of the best gelato in Rome is to be found in this hole in the wall shop conveniently located in the Monti neighborhood. An array of flavors ranging from traditional zabaione, stracciatella or pistacchio to more modern creations like pear and gorgonzola, tobacco-flavoured chocolate or Amarena cherry and beer. Although having been open for less than a year, its new location on a quiet backstreet piazza, has quickly made it a favorite spot. Ice cream lovers from all over Rome as well as tourists queue up here on sunny days. Piazza degli Zingari 5 (Monti neighborhood)
 

Gelateria dei Gracchi
On fair walking distance from the Vatican, this is the perfect spot for an ice cream after a visit to the Pope’s crib. Great gelato made from fresh ingredients and seasonal fruits makes this a favorite spot with both locals and visitors.
Hazelnut, pistacchio and chocolate & rum are three praised classics to try.
Via dei Gracchi, 272 (Prati neighborhood)


Neve di Latte

Excellent gelateria close to the Maxxi museum in the Flaminio neighborhood, just north of the city center. Slightly off the beaten track maybe, but well worth the hike, especially in combination with a visit to the museum. They don’t have a very big selection of flavors, but the ones they do have are spot on! Both their pistacchio and hazelnut ice creams are illegally good.
Via Luigi Poletti 6 (Flaminio neighborhood)
 

SPECIAL MENTIONS


Katie Parla

Whenever I have doubts about any food or eating-related issue in Rome, I usually turn to Katie Parla, an autodidact authority on the subject of eating out in Rome. She’s got both a nice blog (Parla Food) with lots of information about Rome, as well as a superb app called Katie Parla’s Rome with tons of suggestions on food, drinks and shopping.
You can even book a private food tour of Rome with this lady!

 

Now have a great time in Rome!