I’ve already written about my weakness for granita. Here are some other things I love to eat that you can find quite easily in Rome, although tragically not all year round (Adieu fair granita. I count the days until I can greet you again in May).
Potato pizza. I regret all the years that I disrespected the potato pizza–about 20 in all. I mean it seemed like overkill. Gilding the lily. I don’t remember when or why I finally gave in to the siren call of the potato pizza but I’ve been hooked ever since. It is a staple at takeaway pizza places and it’s easy to see why. At Desideri di Pizza, where I most often get mine, the potatoes are crispy and brown-edged, dotted with mozzarella and rosemary. No tomato sauce, ever. Super comforting comfort food.
Puntarella. An ancient Roman vegetable and type of chicory, puntarella (‘little tip’) is available only during the winter months. Puntarella is fiddly to clean–not that I’ve ever tried–and it needs to be soaked in cold water for a few hours until the long skinny stalks curl up. Luckily you can buy puntarella at the market already cleaned, soaked and and curly. It is most often served in a salad with a garlicky anchovy dressing. You can do other stuff with it too. The leaves are somewhat bitter and very outdoorsy tasting, kind of like eating wet crunchy grass. But in a good way.
Burrata. A very fine cheese, Burrata is basically a big mozzarella filled with cream and more bits of mozzarella (called ‘ritagli’ meaning scraps or rags). It’s traditionally wrapped in asphodel leaves and the greenness of the leaves indicates the freshness of the cheese. Buratta is rich and buttery (the word actually means ‘buttered’) and scrumptious. It doesn’t keep and ideally should be eaten within 24 hours.
Fiori di Zucca. Apparently, zucchini is not a vegetable at all but an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. Ewww. The flowers (there are male flowers too) are yellowy orange and very pretty and delicate. They are often stuffed with cheese–mozzarella or ricotta–and sometimes an anchovy or two and then deep fried in a light batter. That’s how I like ’em.
Carciofi alla Giudea or Jewish artichokes used to be found only in the Jewish Ghetto at Portico d’Ottavia but now you can pretty much find them anywhere. A good thing too for they are wonderful. Roman artichokes are much smaller than the globe artichokes we have back in the States and you can eat the whole thing. The carciofo alla Giudea recipe involves cooking the artichoke in water, smacking it on a hard surface until it opens up a bit, and then frying it in olive oil. When finished, it looks like a browny-green flower and tastes like a hot crunchy artichoke chip. Did you know that Marilyn Monroe was California’s first Miss Artichoke (in 1947)? True story.
Don’t even get me started on Lardo di Colonnata, to which I could devote an entire post. And probably will. You have been warned.