So I finally made it to Venice! There are many ways to get to Venice, from the train, car, boat, taxi, plane, and bus. I tried several times to get to Venice because everyone told me how amazing it was/is. This time, I told no one where I was going and went. When I landed, it was pouring with rain. My taxi driver had no umbrella. The rain splashed up my legs like clamoring cats.
I bought an umbrella for 10 euro. I found my hotel and they suggested I try their affiliate restaurant for an early lunch. As my room was not ready and I was already wet, I decided to go see this city of mystery and passion.
There were many small streets and many canals. No trees in sight. I walked around and through puddles taking photos that I hoped conveyed the specialness of the buildings and atmosphere of Venice. Finally, I had spent enough time so that I could go to lunch. It was a lovely quiet place off the main drag. As an appetizer, the chef gave me a “cichetto” (a small open faced appetizer like a tapa) or whipped re-constituted dried cod (baccalo) on a piece of baguette. I was surprised that the appetizer was warm. It was soft. I then had excellent pasta. I was the only customer in the restaurant but the Bangladeshi cooks and the Italian waiter ate their meals before starting their work shift.
Later, as I was finishing up, some Italian ladies came in bringing a cloud of perfume and shiny gold purses, to order their dinner for the pre-arranged dinner they had planned. I was a bit cold from being wet but as the sun came out, I felt that I needed to take a few photos with the blue sky as a background.
Then, I took a nap. Later, I went on a group tour of the canals including the grand canal. It was impressive. I was reminded of the days of the grand tour when everyone was on show. Today, the tourists are not as elegant as those tourists from the nineteenth century but if I squinted, I could imagine them swanning about in their puffy sleeves and silk stockings.
At night, I was abruptly jarred back to modern times as I tried to find a place to eat that was not touristy or unavailable. I kept getting lost and eventually found a place where they would let me eat. The Three Lions was filled with French, German, and American tourists, but the place felt a bit like a secret place nonetheless. The waiters spoke French and English and they were quite nice.
I went back to my fancy palace bedchamber and listened to the assignations on the street below as I drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, before dawn, I took a water taxi to the airport. At 140 (150 because it was night) euro, this was worth the private ride across the lagoon and into the svelte modern water taxi port at the airport.
So, now that I have seen Venice, what can I say? I saw it. It was lovely and it was easy to find streets all to myself. Would I say that one must see it? I guess so. But, I do not think I would go back.
Putting raw fish on a piece of rice does not make sushi. But here it seems to suffice. This is my short list of places to get decent sushi and ramen in Rome.
Kohaku: This is a new restaurant in the Ludovisi neighborhood. It’s a warm elegant place and I am trying to try everything on the menu. So far, their soy sauce ramen (they have three types) is the best I’ve found here.
Hamesei: This is an old reliable place. Very quiet and and elegant. Down near the Spanish Steps and very busy.
Sushisen: This is also an old staple down by the pyramid so far away from the tourist area. Down in a basement and with a sushi conveyor belt.
Yusa Ramen: Way out to the south in the southern part of Rome.
Akira: There are several branches in Rome. This is a go-to place for ramen. I thought the meat was tough.
Mama-ya: This is a bit to the south in Rome but they seem to have a loyal following.
Hiromi: Although this is a pastry shop, they do sell savory items like ramen and curry.
There are other places that I have not tried yet, like Rokku, but as there are so many Japanese restaurants in Rome, I had to draw the line somewhere. I’m not obsessed.
While I went on a food tour in Riga, in Vilnius, I was lucky enough to have a local show me the food. We even had some of the classics like beet soup, stuffed cabbage, and crepes. But, I also tried a surprise.
The surprise was deep fried rye bread smothered in garlic, bacon, and cheese. Like Baltic nachos. They were equally delicious.
When I visited, there was a street fair so I was able to see many of the other foods of the area from smoked fish to sausage.
Another surprise was a popular confectionary shaped like a mushroom. Mushrooms are a popular staple in Baltic food but these sweets were a sad knockoff.
But, the beet soup was yummy and such an arresting color!
Estonian food is so different than Italian food. But in a way, very familiar. I went a well known restaurant, Rataskaevu, in old town Tallin and ate in a picturesque tavern.
Of course, I tried the elk. But I did not like it as much as the salmon soup and the rye bread.
Near me was an international group of friends who had travel over from Stockholm, Sweden, for lunch, emphasizing how small the distances can be up here in the Nordic-Baltic region where the transportation and WIFI are fast.
In Tallin, all the restaurant staff spoke excellent English. It make visiting quite easy.
Tallin is a favorite city for many people and I asked one where he thought I should eat. He recommended Moon, and it was delicious.
When I admitted to the waitress that I did not like the pickled appetizer platter, she admitted that generally one needed to be drinking vodka with it.
The “Chicken Kiev” was the best I have had. It was light, moist, juicy, buttery, crunchy, and delicate.
Who knew that this would be a thing? But, just as TexMex is trending, so is Vietnamese food, just in a quiet way. The selection is not great here but this is what I have managed to find:
Thien Kim Roof Garden, Via Cassia 927: Located on the roof of a strip mall out to the north of Rome, way too far for me.
Banh Mi, Via Otillia 10: the only banh mi in town. They get their food products (beef jerky, bread rolls, etc.) from Thien Kim. The owner, Mara, is married to a Vietnamese man. The restaurant opened in October 2022, just two blocks from the Coliseum. They serve rice noodle bowls, banh mi sandwiches, summer rolls, papaya salad, and rice ravioli. Check them out. They are delicious. Also many vegetarian options.
Nunu, Via Varese 38/40: Good food. Not sure what their soup is like. Indoor and outdoor seating. Located near the train station.
Pho 1, Via Meruluna 115-116: I wanted to like this popular place. It was okay but the soup was not soul pleasing.
Mekong, Via Enea 56a: I have not been here. They are only open at night. The reviews show mixed reactions and the owners are aggressive online so I’m too afraid to eat here.
I had heard about Bonci pizza for a long time. Was it worth the wait? And the weight? When I finally went, it was strategically on a cold Sunday morning. There was no line. Modern music blared. The guys were friendly. The pizza was heavy from the toppings but the bread itself is light and crunchy. A lot of the toppings are served cold. The combinations are modern and unique. Scrambled egg with spicy salami, ground chickpeas/garbanzos with artichokes, and many other combinations. I’m not sure I would go again or find it worth the hype.
Apparently children make terrible tourists. So I’m told. So what to do with them? There are things that cost money and then those that cost a little money, and those that are completely free. Here are some ideas.
Take a golf cart tour with Rolling Rome or Rome Golf Cart Tour. You can see Rome by foot, bike, Vespa, bus, buggy (tuk tuk), horse cart, car, and so many other ways. This is a city for walking. But very hard on strollers.
Visit Ostia Antica (it has ruins like Pompeii, but also has a beach nearby), for the day. It is on the coast and it is about an hour from Rome.
A really good thing is that Italians LOVE children and they will be extra friendly and helpful around children. The fastest meal in Italy is a children’s menu at a restaurant — it’s plain pasta with no sauce or butter. Followed by a main dish of fried chicken cutlet and fries. Even if not on the menu, it is always available. It may take 40 minutes for your glass of wine… but your kid will be served immediately. (I usually order the kid’s pasta for myself).
It’s the new year and time for new fashions. The Italians are fashionable and this includes what type of food they eat. When not eating Italian food, they eat what is trendy.
A few years ago it was all about sushi. Last year, it was all about poke (but most of these places are not serving Hawaiian poke. They are serving stuff on a bowl of rice). My guess is that the next trend is the ever-loved-by-gringos: tex-mex. As I have mentioned before, wherever I go in the world, and no matter how yummy the food, someone will always ask me where they can find “Mexican food” and American Tex-Mex. I wrote about the top ten Mexican restaurants in Rome, back in 2020. Once I got to Rome, I asked my gringo friends and they told me which ones they recommended…
Pico’s,Vicolo della Renella 94, 00153 Rome Italy, in Trastevere has grown so much that they had to re-locate to a larger space further down the street. I like that this place has normal height tables. This restaurant was started by two Italian guys who had traveled to Mexico. Sometimes the cooks are American, Bangladeshi, Canadian, and Italian.
Jalapeno, Via Aurelia 483 (on the outside of the Inerio Market) is located on the outskirts of Rome so it’s not so easy to get there but the good thing is that there is a small shop next door where they sell Mexican food items.
La Cucaracha, Via Mocenigo 10, Prati: Is highly recommended.
Lu’um Mexican Bistrot, Via Agri 20 in Parioli. The owner lived in Mexico for a long time. He and his family decided to open a Mexican place in 2021. I found the tortillas to be overcooked but otherwise things seemed good. Once in a while there was a bite of spice.
Tacos Kings, Via degli Esqui 56: Is a new Honduran restaurant but you can still get really good nachos (addictively good) and guacamole. Really good prices too. Their tacos have only meat inside because the meat is fully marinated so does not need sauce, or lettuce, or anything… It was perhaps cheeky of me to lead off a photo of non-Mexican tacos, but of all the ones I have tried in researching for this article, theirs were the tastiest.
Pulgarcito, Piazza Attilio 41, Garbatella: This place is a bit far out but if you want a pupusa, then this is the only Salvadoran restaurant in Rome. They also make tacos but those were not as good as their “pasteles” which are deep fried corn pasties/empanadas.
Along with Lu’um, there appear to be a few new places to try:
La Punta Expendio de Agave, 4.4 stars.
Los Cabos APS Las Calaveras, 4.1 stars, Via di Monte. Testaccio, 91
Fiesta y Siesta, 4.2 stars, Via Nomentana 155
Along with the increase in “Mexican” restaurants, avocados are appearing on more and more menus. More Tex Mex products are available in stores as well. It will be nice when Italy grows avocados all along the peninsula and not just in Sicily.
I’m done with my research having had some fairly mediocre tacos along the way. But, I’ll be going back to Tacos Kings for another tamarind margarita and those corn tortillas.
After having more than 30 visitors in the last year, I thought I would share my “food tour” of Rome. This is an addendum to my “Tourist Information for Rome.” While I recommend going on a tour with a professional guide as they are worth it because it is a rigorous test and it takes two years to pass the test to be a licensed tour guide. Not sure what the regulations are for food tours. But, maybe you want to do one or two things, in which case, you can try some of my suggestions. Many of these places are mentioned in my list of Roman restaurants to try.
Go to three markets to see three different markets: where normal Romans shop, the touristy version, and zero kilometer (everything produced from within a 100 km/68 mile radius of Rome). I recommend going to Trionfale, Campo de’ Fiori, and the San Teodoro (Campagna Amica Circomassimo) farmers market. I wrote about local markets earlier. Trionfale is the large central market and you will experience real normal Romans doing their shopping. Campo de’ Fiori will bring you into a mix of what was once a real local market now overrun by tourist tat vendors (limoncello, spice mixes etc.), and San Teodoro (only open on weekends) will show you a yuppy farmers market where many social media influencers can be seen filming. But, ignore them and hone in on that fact that everything, from olive oil, cheese, meat, wild greens, bread, honey, pasta, and wine, was made locally.
Markets are open Monday-Saturday from 7:30-2, generally. The San Teodoro market is only open on weekends (closed all of August) from 8-3. If you want to go when it is quiet, try 9 am. If you love the crush of old ladies in housecoats cutting in front of you in line, go at 11:30 am. I do not recommend going after 1:30 pm, as the vendors are hangry at that point (they have been up since 4 or 5 so not in the best of moods at 1:30 pm). If you want to go to another “real” market, try a local one or Esquilino. For a market with a combination of local, touristy, and influencer plus with more restaurants, try Testaccio.
Trionfale, Via Andrea Doria (near the Vatican so you could do it on your way).
Campo de’ Fiori, Campo de’ Fiori (it is a plaza).
San Teodoro, Via San Teodoro 76 (near the corner of the Circus Maximus, around the corner from the Mouth of Truth, and behind the Palatine hill).
Testaccio, Via Aldo Manuzzio 66B (but any taxi driver will know where it is — say, “mer-CAT-oh-test-AH-chi-oh”)
Grab breakfast at the market. Or explore and eat at a bakery or coffee shop. The “cornetto” (croissant) is a normal breakfast food, but so is pizza. Any “forno” sign you see is a bakery. Buy a piece of white pizza (no cheese and no toppings other than salt and oil) and enjoy that or get something more substantial.
Forno Monteforte is my favorite Italian bakery/cafe. Via del Pellegrino 29. You can sit down and people watch. This is the place for you if you like classy elegant types of places.
L’Officina della Pizza, Via Cicerone 22: Not only the most delicious and varied pizza “al taglio” (by the slice, but really by weight), but they also make fantastic house sliced potato chips. They only have high tables but you can take your pizza to Piazza Cavour which is nearby and eat your breakfast there. Or eat it while walking and let the olive oil run down your hand. Yummy!
Stop for some gelato. Gelato can be eaten any time of the day from 8 am to after midnight. It is not dessert. It is a separate thing. I like Gunther’s but Neve di Latte is also good. Otaleg in Trastevere is one of the best in Rome and they make the best sorbetto (non-dairy sherbet/sorbet).
Osteria del Rione, Via Basento, 20 (near Villa Borghese): This place is a real local place located in a basement. They have an extremely limited menu (basically what Bruno, the owner, tells you he has), and a set menu for 10 euro. The food is always good and “on point.” The only downside is that this place is mostly a lunch place so go at 12:30 to get a table.
Fuoco Lento, Via Flavia 63/65: Old school waiters, outdoor seating, never had anything bad here (But I would avoid the proscuitto as it is house cut and too thick for my liking). It’s my “go-to” place. Open on Sunday night as well. Outside the touristy area so much easier to get a table.
Saltimbocca, Via di Tor Millina 5, is on a small street off Piazza Navona so if you find yourself down there, you could go here for lunch (even at 3:30 pm) for an authentic Roman experience.
Then do some food shopping. Go to a wine tasting. Or olive oil tasting. Or cheese tasting. If you go in to a cheese shop, they will usually let you try their cheeses.
Beppe and His Cheeses, Via di S. Maria del Pianto 9A (in the Jewish Ghetto so a good anchor for your visit to the area of Rome that had Jewish people 500 years before JC). This shop/restaurant will vacuum pack your cheese so you can take them with you. The last time I was there, I sampled seven cheese, including one they put on a piece of bread, and they gave us a glass of Prosecco… it’s a fun place. Also, sells pasta and many other delightful things. Take a sturdy bag with you.
Castroni, Via Cola di Rienzo, 196/198: Visit this emporium and buy gianduia gold nuggets. There are other branches of this store but I like this big one. This is also a place where you want to take a backpack or other sturdy bag as you will invariably buy many things.
Colline Emiliane, Via degli Avignonesi 22 (near Piazza Barbarini): This place makes delicious food. It is the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Modena, Parma, etc.). Small and with no outdoor seating. But, they have a window where you can watch the pasta being made fresh every day. You have to call to make a reservation. It is a very popular place so I recommend walking past one night and making a reservation for the next night.
Tratteria Valentino, Via del Boschetto 37 (in Monti): great local place on a side street in Monti. Near Quirinale palace. Hidden in plain sight because they kept the old facade from when the space was a ice shop. (Not to be confused with Trattoria da Valentino on Via Cavour, which is also fine.)
MiVa, Via Ezio 23. This is a bit out of the way (although not far from the Vatican) and they make excellent food with modern offerings but NOT molecular cuisine. There may be foam but it will play a supporting role, not be the WHOLE dish.
I list other places but these places are currently on my “Rome in Two Days” food tour when people visit… which are doing a lot…
Also, check out my Instagram @madventures.me to see what I’m up to on the daily.
As my time living in Rome draws to a close, I decided to travel to see other parts of the former Roman empire. One such place was just across the water in Budva, Montenegro. Budva was part of ancient Greece and it became part of the Roman empire in 200 BCE (150 years before Caesar, 200 years before Jesus).
If you want to avoid the crowds of Dubrovnik, visit Budva in the off season. I recommend staying at La Villa boutique hotel. Be silly and enjoy yourself making your own Game of Thrones video clips. Even if you have never seen GOT, Budva will charm you.
The old town of Budva is a walled medieval city sitting on a peninsula in the harbor of Budva. It’s a tiny walled town with paved streets that match the same taupe stone buildings. Most of what one can see today in the old walled town of Budva was build in the 15th century CE (500 years ago).
Montenegro is part of the European Union. If you enter by land from Albania, the border crossing may take you over an hour. Once we got on the road, Budva was only a couple of hours away (if you land in Albania), mainly because there is a stretch of road that is not highway. One gets a nice “local” route, bumping through neighborhoods and increasingly beautiful views. It all seems like potential for commercialism. Budva seems to be all resort hotels and construction, which contrasts so nicely with the old walled town. The staff at La Villa gave us good advice to park in the public parking and pay for a day pass (minimum is two day pass at 20 Euro) because otherwise the rate is per hour!
On your way in or out, visit the other towns of Sveti Stefan and Bar. Sveti Stefan is another tiny jewel of a town. It was bought by a private resort so no longer open to the public during tourist season. Can you imagine?
As the year draws to a close and the days are finally getting longer here in Rome, I am thinking about fresh snap peas and pea shoots. I love fresh peas and I look forward to them. But, I’m also a sucker for pea shoots. Perhaps partly because they look so artistic. Like edible dancing decorations.
While visiting Malta, we went on a traditional food tour which was interesting. The variety of foods in Malta is as mixed as their culture so we tried Japanese, Italian, Maltese, and fusion (well, it was all sort of fusion).
But, then one evening, we found a really delicious restaurant. It is called Grana Bistro and woah was it yummy. I only include a few photos but we had soup, spaghetti alla vongole, salt baked fish, grilled vegetables, bread, and. those amazing scallop and shrimp agnoletti (big ravioli). There were lots of pea shoots used on the various dishes.
One of the things to see in Rome is the keyhole of Malta. Visiting Malta is so much more than that glimpse into the world of the knights of Malta. The tiny central island just off of Sicily is as fantastical as one imagines it to be.
I visited on a cold winter day with torrential rains bucketing down like biblical times. Yes, I still loved it.
Maybe because of the weather, it was a better experience — free of the millions who flood the island every year searching for Gladiator or Game or Thrones…
The island of Malta has a long history as a embattled island due to its central location in the Mediterranean. To borrow from the Visit Malta site, “the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines” and then the Berbers, Knights of Malta, French, and British all had influences on the island.
St. Paul was shipwrecked here in current era 60 (AD). This is a big deal. Christianity is a big part of the island. The Knights of Malta were a Christian order which is considered sovereign, but now they are a Christian humanitarian organization. They have had different names at different times in history but they ruled Malta from the 1500s (when they were given Malta as a territory after fleeing Rhodes after the rise of the Ottoman empire) to the 1800s.
Valletta has been the capital for 450 years and has a uniform look to it because it was built in three years. The buildings of the old town are all made of the same pale yellow rock that was quarried from the exact place where the buildings were built. In some ways, Valletta reminded me of the towns of Apulia like Lecce, Bari, and Polignano a mare. Maybe that is why I liked it so much. The stone is the same color as the stone used in Jerusalem.
Malta had a capital before Valletta was chosen. The old capital goes back 4,000 years and is located about 20 minutes drive from Valletta. Mdina, not to be confused with Medina, is the old capital and right outside its gate is Rabat, not to be confused with Rabat.
The language of Malta, like the people and culture, is also a mix. It has many words that are the same in Italian but I did not understand Maltese at all. No matter as they speak English as well.
Another reason to go to Malta is to see a Caravaggio painting. The church is also beautiful but to be in front of a Caravaggio is a special moment. This brings a visit to Malta full circle. Many consider Caravaggio to be the first cinematographer for his use of dramatic light and shadow. Malta, with its dramatic history, seems most famous now as a movie location.