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Best Roman Bites: The Small Plates of Rome

Roman Street Food For When You Don't Feel Like Feasting


One of the really great things about a city like Rome is that you can have whatever you want, (almost) whenever you want it. Sometimes you want little, maybe because you just want to sit at an outdoor table and watch the unfolding scenes happening in a famous piazza--or maybe because you just finished downing a gut-busting lunch.

You don't have to worry these days, nibbling is all the rage. And if you've decided to test the cultural waters by renting an apartment for a week or two, we'll lead you to the places that will let you take out a feast or a single cutlet--or un etto (a tenth of a kilo, almost a quarter of a pound) of the best salami the boys at the deli could find in Italy.

The list below isn't definitive; it's the places I really like.

1. Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara: Filetti di Baccalà

rome bites picture
James Martin, Europe Travel

In a little piazza off Rome's celebrated Campo di Fiori is a place I've been meaning to try for quite a while and now I count myself among this institution's initiated. What's inside is one of those restaurants that does one thing and does it well: a cook batters and fries fillets of cod as a throng of hungry people order it. You can get other things as well, but those things are for people you bring with you that don't like fried cod (except in the cold months when you absolutely must try the puntarelle salad). This is one of those places that proves the wisdom of the old saying, "never trust a thin chef."

It is Roman bedlam inside most nights. It's a good bedlam, something to be experienced and savored. Who wants to sit in a silent restaurant in Rome?

Largo dei Librari, 88 in front of the Santa Barbara Church, look for the lighted sign "Filetti di Baccalà"
Tel: 06 6864018
Mon-Sat: 17:30-11:00
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2. Tastevere KmZero

rome bits km0
James Martin, Europe Travel

After spending about a half hour in this Roman restaurant without a stove I came away feeling quite good about life on the boot. Young people with new ideas are changing the face of Roman culinary life by seeking out producers of the best food in the region of Lazio and putting it on a plate in a way that makes you think you are eating little slices of heaven. If this is the way Italy leaps out of it's economic doldrums, then I say more power to this movement against industrial crap food!

Those producers even drop in occasionally. I had the good fortune of meeting Giuseppe, who shepherds his sheep on the transhumance, the seasonal movement of sheep from the mountains to the sea. He was eager to  explain the benefits of the meandering lamb with reference to  a better taste and taster's health.

There are a few tables, so come at odd hours or reserve.

Tastevere KmZero Review with map

Vicolo de’ cinque 30/A, Trastevere
email: tastevere@gmail.com
tel: 06 95584404

(I was introduced to Tastevere KmZero by The Roman Foodie and you can go on the same recommended foodie tour.)

3. Verso Sera

rome verso sera picture
James Martin

Verso Sera is tucked into one of the most romantic little spaces ever. It's just out of the tourist buzz of the Campo dei Fiori although the likelihood of hearing English here is pretty good in the peak hours.

Most folks have a glass of wine and appetizers, but you can have a whole meal here. Pastas run about 10 euro.

Verso Sera Enoteca, Piazza del Biscione, 84
Tel: 06 68898022

4. Supplizio

supplizio rome picture
James Martin, Europe Travel

Ok, this one is a little controversial. Folks generally love the food, which concentrates on the fried, sometimes stuffed rice balls called suppli. Italian grandmothers might call them re-done leftovers, but now they're hot stuff.

Folks sometimes can't come to grips with the price--a plain one will run you three euro. You decide.

Supplizio is in a very good location between the Campo di Fiori and Castel Sant Angelo.

Via dei Banchi Vecchi 143, Roma | tel. 06/89160053

5. Il Trapizzino

il trapizzino rome picture
James Martin, Europe Travel

If you want to eat traditional Roman food, you head toward the Testaccio district of Rome. These days a reshaping of traditional dishes is taking place in the venerable quarter of Rome.

To make a  trapizzino they bake little square loaves, then cut them so that they're two triangles. Then they stuff traditional foods inside. So you've got a sort of triangular pizza sandwich stuffed with things like the traditional oxtail stew, cuttlefish with peas, chicken caccitore, and so forth. There are 9 regular flavors on the menu to which they add seasonal flavors. A trapizzino is an easy way to carry out your trad food. Modern street food, you gotta love it.

Il Trapizzino
Via Giovanni Branca 88, 00153 Roma
Tel: 06 4341 9624

There is also a location outside the center at Ponte Milvio.

6. Pizzarium - Pizza by the Slice

pizzarium rome picture
James Martin

If you're a Rome foodie, you know the bread making wizardry of Gabriele Bonci. If you get out of the center of Rome and go north of the Vatican, you can walk out with some of Bonci's work at Pizzarium. There's a small bench outside--but if you don't go when it opens forget about the privilege of sitting on it.

Yes, I know, everyone who writes on the subject of saving money in expensive Rome mentions grabbing a slice of pizza instead of sitting down to a proper meal. Fair enough. But you don't get to Rome very much, do you? It would be a shame to eat just "ok" pizza. Have a piece from the "Michelangelo of pizza" and at least you can say you "did" Rome properly.

You point, they place a knife at a particular point on the pizza you desire, you say if you want less or more, and they cut, weigh, and charge you.

Then, if you're like me, you go looking for a place to sit down and be amazed.

Via della Meloria, 43, 00136 Roma
Tel: 06 3974 5416

7. La Tradizione

la tradizione rome picture
James Martin, Europe Travel

Not as well known as another outlying deli listed below, Volpetti, La Tradizione is just around the corner from Pizzarium and has every kind of cured meat you can think of--and they've chosen the best producers. All of that means anything you buy here is going to be more expensive than in the supermarket, but the quality of their selections is worth it. For example, I can get my favorite type of salami from the Abruzzo called Ventricina for around 2 euro for 100 grams, or nearly a quarter pound. At La Tradizione the same thing cost me over 6 euro. But what a difference! Splurge here if you're after a little meat and cheese to nibble at night on the terrace of that vacation apartment you had the sense to rent. I mean, 6 euro for great, mind-bending salami, 5 for a little artisan pizza, a bottle of wine and you have a great light meal for 2.

They only offer 400 different cheeses, so come early.

La Tradizione
Via Cipro 8/e, Roma
Tel. 0639720349

8. Gastronomia Volpetti

volpetti rome picture
James Martin, Europe Travel

Is Volpetti as good as they say it is?

The highest honor bestowed by the Italian Republic may well be some kind of knighthood --- Cavaliere del Lavoro is one --- or an honorary degree. But for me, recognition from Rome's Emperor of Prosciutto and Cheese, the celebrated Claudio Volpetti of E. Volpetti & C., is the real summit. ~ Author David Downy

Well, that's some praise for this Testaccio institution. Buy things from the helpful brothers, or head down the street to Volpetti di Piu (more Volpetti) where they'll make you a sit-down, hot meal of the stuff they sell in the deli and purchase at the market.

Whatever you want, it's here. Stuff you've never heard of? It's here too, and you probably should try it.

Gastronomia Volpetti
Via Marmorata, 47, 00153 Roma
Tel: +39 06 574 2352

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