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Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City

Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City

by Elizabeth Minchilli
Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City

Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City

by Elizabeth Minchilli


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Elizabeth Minchilli has been eating her way through Rome since she was 12 years old. Eating Rome, based on her popular blog Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome, is her homage to the city that feeds her, literally and figuratively. Her story is a personal, quirky and deliciously entertaining look at some of the city's monuments to food culture. Join her as she takes you on a stroll through her favorite open air markets; stop by the best gelato shops; order plates full of carbonara and finish the day with a brilliant red Negroni. Coffee, pizza, artichokes and grappa are starting points for mouth-watering stories about this ancient city. Illustrated with Minchilli's beautiful full-color photos and enriched with her favorite recipes for Roman classics like vignarola, carciofi alla romana and carbonara, Eating Rome is the book that you want if you are planning your first trip to Rome or if you have been to Rome a dozen times. And even if you just want to spend a few hours armchair traveling, Elizabeth Minchilli is the person you want by your side.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250047687
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/07/2015
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 391,987
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

ELIZABETH MINCHILLI is the author of six books on the joys of Italian life. She has written for over 40 magazines and today shares her passion for Italy through her blog and best-selling apps. She lives in a rooftop apartment in Rome with her husband, Domenico.

Read an Excerpt

Eating Rome

Living the Good Life in the Eternal City

By Elizabeth Minchilli

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 Elizabeth Minchilli
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-04784-7


the city that feeds me

When I was twelve years old, I decided I wanted to go away to camp. I'm not quite sure where this desire came from, since I was far from sporty. I was definitely the one who was picked last for soccer and the entire idea of dodgeball still gives me nightmares. So it couldn't have been the lure of water-skiing or canoeing that made me think I'd like to spend two months by a cold lake in Wisconsin. I think I must have been more attracted to the idea of s'mores by the campfire and perfecting the baked beans I had learned how to make at a Girl Scout cookout.

Once I got to camp I soon realized my mistake. After failing to ever stand up on my water skis and downright refusing to go for any frigid 6:00 a.m. wake-up swims, I tried to stay in the craft house, working on my ceramic and weaving skills while counting the days until I could finally return home and get back to the life I knew and loved in St. Louis.

While I was away at camp my parents decided to go on their version of camp as well. A three-week trip to Europe for the first time took them to Venice, Florence, and Rome. It was 1972 and Italy must have appeared to be almost like a different planet from suburban St. Louis. The language, the food, the life was like nothing they had ever seen. Rather than take home simple souvenirs of their time in Italy, they took home a plan, which they shared with me on my first day back at home from camp.

As I was happily unpacking my trunk, my mother came in to tell me that I'd soon be packing it again. "We're moving to Italy," she said. My father had sold his business, an art gallery, to our next-door neighbor, and the house where I had grown up was already rented to another family. They were arriving on September 1. And we were leaving.

How they had the courage to pick up three young children and move to a country where they didn't speak the language and knew no one is beyond me. I am pretty sure my grandparents thought they were insane. I know I did.

I was aghast. My school, my friends, my Barbies! Everything that I knew, and that I had desperately missed over the two months spent at camp, was being ripped away from me. But as I dried my tears and packed my Barbies (there was at least that small comfort) I got ready for what was to be one of the most important events in my life.

While there were the usual hiccups of moving to any new city—missing the school bus on the first day; making new friends—I soon shed the fears and misgivings that any twelve-year-old would have, and traded them in for a head-over-heels, lifelong love affair with this ancient city. Although we only spent two years living in Rome, they were impressionable ones. Many of the strongest memories I have from my childhood date from this time, and—not surprisingly—most of them have to do with food. The discovery of pizza bianca, hot from the corner bakery; the sharp smell of piles of artichokes in the open market; a cone filled with melon gelato that was like biting into the sweetest, juiciest piece of fruit I'd ever had. Food has been one of the most important things in my life for as long as I can remember. And my relationship with eating, cooking, shopping, and feeding my family is intricately tied to the rhythms and traditions of this ancient city.

I came back to Rome—and to Europe and Italy—as often as I could over the following years, not only for vacations during the summers with my family but also for several semesters abroad in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy while studying French, German, Spanish, and Italian.

Eventually, I moved here on my own. In graduate school I chose my topic well: Sixteenth-century garden architecture would essentially guarantee that I would spend at least two years in Italy. I applied for and received a grant that allowed me to read my way through Medici documents in the archives in Florence. My mornings were spent sorting through ancient shopping lists and architectural sketches in a back room at the Uffizi. Afternoons were spent not only writing but also shopping, cooking, and wandering through the cobblestoned streets of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

After two perfect years, my time in Florence ran out. I had finished my research and now had to face the facts (a) I had to actually write the dissertation, (b) I had to move back to the United States, and (c) if everything went according to plan I would hopefully get a job teaching art history at some university far from where I really wanted to be: Italy.

So I was already rethinking my commitment to academia when the inevitable happened. I met and fell in love with the Italian man of my dreams: Domenico. I left Florence and settled down permanently in the city I had always truly considered home in my heart: Rome.

In very quick succession, I found myself with an Italian husband, an Italian dog, an Italian home, an Italian baby, and a brand-new job in Italy. A friend had recently launched an art newspaper in New York and asked me to begin contributing features for the magazine section. I figured that since I was just sitting around being pregnant, why not?

After four of my features appeared on the cover, a check arrived in the mail. My shock was considerable. After eight years of graduate school, I didn't realize that you could write about art and actually get paid to do so. I could do this for a living!

I soon expanded my coverage to include interior design and architecture as well as travel, food, gardens, and just about any other lifestyle topic that came my way, for publications such as Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Town & Country, and The Financial Times. At the same time, I began writing big, fancy coffee-table books about beautiful things like Tuscan villas, Umbrian castles, and handmade ceramics.

It was when it came time to publicize my last book, Italian Rustic, that my publisher suggested the trifecta of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. After a life spent writing away in the solitude of my own little garret in Rome, I found the wide world of social media exciting and inspiring. Although I had been writing all of my life, I had never had direct contact with my audience.

At the beginning I had a hard time wrapping my head around what I wanted to say on my blog. Coming from a professional world of detailed assignments, it was difficult to know exactly how to frame it. So, rather than make any decision, I just decided to record what I was up to, day by day.

As it turns out, most of what I do, every single day, has a lot to do with food, and since I am living in Rome, the city provided a framework. So while I never planned to write a food blog from this ancient city, that is exactly what it turned out to be. My blog, Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome, lets me share what I love best—eating, traveling, cooking, and all sorts of other good stuff. My Eat Italy apps, Eat Rome, Eat Florence, and Eat Venice, are guides to my favorite restaurants, coffee bars, markets, and gelaterie in those cities.

Eating Rome is my homage to the city that feeds me—literally and figuratively. It is a personal, quirky, and (I hope) fun look at the city through my own food-focused vision. This is how I experience Rome, day by day, bite by bite.


a sweet start to every roman day

Breakfast is still something I have issues with in Italy. While I embrace all other mealtimes with open arms, and traditional Italian recipes fill not only my blog but my life, Italian breakfast has made almost no appearance. And when you think about it, I'm not alone. While there are cookbooks out for everything from Italian market cooking to Italian baking, I don't think I've ever seen anything giving culinary advice about Italian breakfasts.

That is for a very good reason. Italian breakfasts are nonevents. Whoever decided that breakfast is the most important meal of the day was certainly not speaking in Italian.

If you ask most Italians what they have for breakfast many will respond, "Non mangio niente" ("I don't eat anything"). A quick espresso—either at home or at a bar—will do them until lunch. And those who do actually eat something? If they happen by a coffee bar then a cornetto (that would be Italian for "croissant") is standard.

At home? It's cake or cookie time.

Even though Domenico has become completely Americanized over the years, when it comes to breakfast he is pure Italian. There's nothing he likes better than a handful of cookies he can dip into his caffèlatte while he reads the paper. Yes, Italians eat cookies for breakfast. While in the States you have entire supermarket aisles dedicated to cereal, in Italy you can walk down breakfast cookie lane.

While these packaged biscuits are a relatively modern development, having a slice of cake in the morning is something that is more rustic and traditional. In fact, when Domenico and I first started dating in Florence, I am pretty sure he ended up marrying me because I served him a corn flour breakfast cake, amor polenta, for breakfast. I think I bought it because the recipe had the word amor in it, and I thought it would make him "amor" me all the more. It did.

For about the last ten years there has been a new trend in Roman restaurants to serve brunch. When I first starting reading about this new phenomenon I was thrilled. Finally, I thought, we can go out to a restaurant and get eggs, pancakes, and, hope beyond hope, even bagels.

I should have known better. When Italians co-opt American food phrases they often get them slightly wrong. In this case, in Rome, when someone (and by someone I mean a trendy restaurant) says brunch, what they really mean is an all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet at a fixed price that starts at noon and goes on until about 3:00 p.m. But at least in my informal survey of the most popular brunches around, no identifiable breakfast foods make any appearance whatsoever.

In our own home, I've tried over the years to dedicate Sundays to preparing a traditional American breakfast. And if Sophie is a big fan of anything to do with pork, Emma has the sweet tooth in our family, and truly American Sunday breakfasts are one of her favorite meals. Pancakes, of course, are easy since flour and eggs are pretty universal ingredients. Maple syrup? Not so much, so cherry preserves usually play that role. Bacon and eggs similarly become pancetta and eggs, which is all right with me.

And then there are times when I just give in and decide that a sweet and fluffy treat is OK for breakfast. That's when I head out to my local coffee bar for breakfast. This was definitely something that took some getting used to. I'm a slow riser, and lingering over a mug of coffee and eventually moving on to breakfast while reading the news is my idea of an acceptable start to the day. The Roman ritual of stopping by the local bar takes a whole other level of early morning social skills.

Every Roman has a favorite coffee bar. This is a very important point to make and involves several deciding factors. First and foremost is location. Italians are creatures of habit, and so the bar where you stop for your first coffee of the morning has to be on your morning route, not only for convenience but also from a social point of view.

On your way to work, you may decide to stop at the bar below your home, or one nearer to your office. It could depend on the quality of the coffee, but more likely it has something to do with your desire to chat with people from your neighborhood, or people from work. Or maybe you meet other parents for a quick coffee after droppingthe kids off at school. The point is, since the timing is the same every day, you don't really have to make plans to meet up with people, it just naturally happens.

And then there is the interaction with the owners of the bar. I find it pretty amazing how much I know about the personal life of the guy who has been pulling my espresso for the last fifteen years.

Once you've ordered your coffee (and see chapter 6 for that) it's time to decide what to eat. And this is where choosing your breakfast locale correctly becomes essential. Not all cornetti are created equal. And certainly not all bars bake their own.

The Holy Grail in terms of breakfast bars is to find one that is also a pasticceria, or "pastry shop." There are some bars that make excellent coffee, and then there are pastry shops that bake fresh pastries—including cornetti—on the premises, every day. Most bars, while serving cornetti, buy them from a bakery. A recent trend for some bars is to buy frozen, unbaked cornetti, and bake them on the premises. It's not a bad alternative. And some bars do indeed get superb cornetti brought in daily.

But much better to go to a place that does this sort of thing professionally—makes both pastries and coffee. You would think that this kind of combination would be easy to find, but instead it's a dying breed that survives, for the most part, in the areas of Rome that are heavily residential, and in neighborhoods that I, and probably you, wouldn't necessarily go to. They are the types of places I always hear people talk about, but somehow never make it to.

One I had heard about for ages is the Pasticceria Siciliana Svizzera. I'd always been fascinated by the name. Friends talk about it, in loving terms, as one of those Roman classics. When I ask, "What do you mean? Switzerland and Sicily? What's that about?" they just kind of give me a blank stare. Like, duh, of course there is a pastry shop in Rome that combines traditions from southern Italy with those north of the Alps.

It has always remained a bit of a mystery to me due partly to its location. It's along the Via Gregorio VII, in a weird piazza that's not really a piazza, Pio XI. I'd seen it many times, as we were heading toward the Aurelia, on our way out of town. But if you know Rome, and you've ever driven on Via Gregorio VII, then you will understand why I couldn't simply pull over. Gregorio VII is one of the most frustrating streets in Rome: stoplights where you don't expect them, seemingly nowhere to turn off, and absolutely no way (that I can see) of making a U-turn once you've driven past a delicious-looking pastry shop. In other words, a typical Roman street.

But recently I had to take our car in for its annual checkup, which is something my daughter usually does and why I never realized the garage is located in Piazza Pio XI! Once I got the car all settled in for its overnight visit, I took my life in my hands, crossed the "piazza," dodging drivers who were obviously as confused as I always felt, and eventually got through the front doors of the pasticceria.

I finally understood what all the fuss was about: Cases groaning with Sicilian goodies. Baroque cassate, with crowns of candied fruit.

Mini versions of cassate, cannoli, and other almond-based pastries. What was Swiss? I guess it must have been the more ornate cakes, piled high with whipped cream, chocolate, nuts, and berries. They certainly didn't look Italian to me, and since I don't quite know what Swiss cakes look like, they convinced me.

It turns out I was right. According to their website, in the nineteenth century a few famous Swiss pastry makers moved to southern Italy—to Palermo, Naples, and Catania. The result was a marriage between the Arab-influenced Sicilian tradition and the more refined Swiss. And so the southern Italian repertoire was enriched by about a hundred recipes using things like whipped cream, chocolate, and pastry cream. In other words: fancy cakes.

Since it was 9:00 a.m., I thought it best to skip the whipped cream and chocolate and, instead, went straight for the morning pastry section, which all the obviously regular locals were doing already. Although the doughnuts and brioche looked tempting, I fell for the cream- and raisin-studded Danish. And don't think I'm just calling it a Danish because I'm American. They actually call them Danese. So there.

Another pastry shop that I don't get to as often as I should is Natalizi. Again, this treasure is located in a neighborhood—on the border of Parioli—that usually lacks any reason to go to. But on my yearly visit to my accountant I make the effort to get there by breakfast time, before they run out of cream-filled maritozzi, egg-glazed yeast buns.

I actually hadn't been to Natalizi in a few years and was a bit scared it might not be there anymore. Thankfully, nothing had changed at all. It is one of Rome's oldest pastry shops and its kitchens below the shop take care of catering some of Rome's fanciest parties in private villas. The glass display case still stretched along one side of the small store, filled with old-fashioned éclairs, cream-filled puff pastries, and my personal favorite: a sugar-encrusted, whipped cream–filled choux pastry. I paid the cashier, picked up my pastry, and wiggled myself a space standing at the curved bar between neighborhood regulars. An espresso certainly woke me up on that rainy morning, and the sweet treat definitely gave me strength for my visit to the accountant. (I'm shallow that way.)


Excerpted from Eating Rome by Elizabeth Minchilli. Copyright © 2015 Elizabeth Minchilli. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

1 the city that feeds me 1

2 a sweet start to every roman day 5

3 shopping in the markets of rome 13

4 please do not eat within ten feet of any monument 23

5 not one-stop shopping 35

6 how to order coffee like a roman 41

7 the leaning tower of artichokes 51

8 "mi piace la cicoria!"-the roman passion for vegetables 69

9 how to eat pasta like a roman 79

10 storing my pantry 89

11 bringing home the pancetta 101

12 eating the whole animal 111

13 trattoria behavior 119

14 how to feed a roman dog and raise a roman baby 127

15 to panino or not to panino? that is the roman question 135

16 cooking like mama 143

17 Sunday lunch-the best meal of the week 151

18 rome's perfect restaurant (at least for me) 159

19 how to eat getalo like a roman 169

20 learning to love roman pastries 179

21 the best time of day 187

21 counting in Italian 201

21 how to eat pizza like a roman 207

24 learning to love grappa 219

25 the eternal city 225

index 229

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