Rome is an ancient city with a palpable feeling of glory and history. Walking among the stoned streets, the haggard merchants and young lovers it oozes history. A day roaming Rome wears down the body and the mind. To keep sharp and maintain energy levels it can’t be all pasta all the time. Here are five tips on eating great and having a great time eating.
1. Know the difference between Ristorante and Trattoria
It’s important to know the differences between different Italian eateries. When traveling abroad it’s easy to make quick translations and hope for the best. But in Italy there are cultural cues you can take from the names of eating establishments. Knowing the differences will go a long way to helping you decide if you should try a cute little place in an alley. The term “Ristorante” may seem like “Restaurant” but it’s strictly used for high-end, more formal restaurants. To get a little less formal you’ll need to go to a “Trattoria.” These restaurants will offer a less formal atmosphere at a reasonable cost. You’ll get a more authentic feeling of Italy in Trattorias.
2. Leave the pizza for later
For lunch it might be tempting to grab a slice of pizza and think “when in Rome.” But in Italy, pizza is reserved for dinner. If you’re having pizza at lunch you’re more likely at a restaurant catering only to tourists. I recommend a salad at a Trattoria to keep your energy up and avoid the afternoon energy zap. Explore the menu. Expand your horizons and use that phrasebook to decipher the best items.
3. Drink Italian style
An “Osteria” in the past has been an inn which offers a small eatery, sometimes only sandwiches or snacks but it also just means a small restaurant. It’s much less formal than a Ristorante and at times on par with a Trattoria. Osterias offer a quick meal at a decent price if you’re passing by. A “Taverna” is more likely a bar-like setting that offers some food too. You’ll find that you can get your stronger drinks along with a small meal at a Taverna. A “Caffe” is merely a coffee shop but may offer some light snacks too.
4. Take a siesta or enjoy a cup of coffee
In the afternoon, many Italians take a siesta. It’s nice to plan a day around taking an afternoon nap but if you have a tour or a big group who can’t decide one thing then another option is to relax in a “Caffe.” Take a breather from the hot sun at the hottest part of the day. Get some shade in a little cafe and watch as others rush in and out. Make sure to drink plenty of water along with your coffee. An italian coffee is served Espresso style. If you want a regular cup of coffee order the “Cafe Americano”.
5. Experience an authentic Italian deli
For the more adventurous try a “Paninoteca” which is an Italian deli. You can get a sandwich made by just asking and then ordering your choice of fresh meats and cheeses on display. Typically they are small cramped stores so you won’t have room to eat inside. Take your sandwich to the streets on any of the numerous benches or tourist waiting areas. Makes a great day of eating out among the history of Rome.