One of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to is Rome, where modern-day buildings sit atop 2,000-year-old ruins, everyone rides a scooter and there is a panini truck outside The Forum. I started each morning with a foamy cappuccino and ended each night with an espresso. I devoured pasta, pizza, gelato and red wine almost exclusively. It’s important to take everything in when in Rome.
Italians are super-polite, especially when driving. They drive at breakneck speeds but slam on the brakes to allow you to cross. Everything is smaller in Europe–people, streets, portion sizes. If you like a large, American-sized coffee, don’t go to Starbucks—just ask for a “max cappuccino.”
Dinner in Rome is a leisurely affair, and while you don’t have to order every course, it’s customary to order at least two. In the charming artists’ town of Trastevere, there are many restaurants and pubs, but only one with traveling Roman musicians. At Osteria da Meo Patacca, you may hear the very clichéd “That’s Amore,” for your benefit, but you’ll be treated to Italian classic as well. As a first course, spaghetti alla carbonara ($17), is tossed in a whisper of rich cream and salty, aged pancetta. So creamy and satisfying, I longed for a Venti-sized bowl of it.
Across the Tiber near Piazza Navona, locals know to head to Antica Taverna. A trough-like platter of freshly-grilled seafood requires strategic planning and careful savoring when there’s buttery, rich salmon; large, firm prawns; tender, chewy calamari; salted codfish from Norway; and tender, white sea bass. “My mother used to say when you eat,” our guide said, “you fight the death.” I was fighting hard.
After visiting the Colosseum, walk a half mile to La Mela D’Oro for pizza that is so ethereal, you’ll want to kiss the Pope. Order a classic margherita with a wondrous crust that is paper-thin and crisp, impossibly full of flavor and bubbly with areas of delightful charring. Plump, ripe, sweet tomato sauce and a veil of mozzarella is so fresh, you’ll feel like you’re eating tomatoes off the vine next to a cow.
Rome is a memorable place with lovely people, rich history, and a Colosseum full of cats. I am counting the days until I return. My only regret is that I ran out of time and room in my stomach.
Mary was born and raised in New York City where her family owned restaurants. Instead of eating dirt on the playground, she ate duck blood, beef tripe and pork belly. She cut her teeth at The Mandarin Oriental and The Ritz-Carlton hotels, working with Barbra Streisand, Vanessa Williams, Michael Stipe, LeVar Burton, Jane Krakowski and others. Mary founded Girl Meets Food in 2009 as a cover for her debilitating addiction to fried chicken and was named Washington Post’s “Favorite Local Foodie.” After 13 years in hospitality, she started freelance writing for USA Today, The Washington Post, Eater, Washington City Paper, and more. Today, she provides digital marketing for hospitality clients as a content creator who’s contently creating content.