The Eternal City: Recipes and Stories from Rome
By Maria Pasquale
Meet the people and recipes that make the city. Discover Rome’s incredible food through the city’s stories and its people. The Eternal City is a maze of winding cobblestone streets where ancient history waits at every turn.
Within these storied laneways, Rome’s culinary traditions are honored and transformed by local chefs, pizza makers, cheesemongers, butchers, wine experts, bakers, and more – who make Rome one of the great food capitals of the world.
Visit the places where Romans eat every day, from the trattoria to the home kitchen, through the dishes that define these locations. With 70 recipes shared by iconic eateries, chefs, and Maria’s family and friends, The Eternal City is a love letter to Rome that takes you past the monuments and into the lives of modern-day Romans. This is an invitation to their tables. Embrace la dolce vita and pull up a chair.
Excerpt from The Eternal City, Recipes and Stories from Rome
I will forever cherish my first memories of eating at what has now become my very own trattoria di fiducia. The phrase literally means ‘my trusted trattoria’, but locally it is used in a protective way that indicates, ‘This is where I go to eat; this is where they know me.’
Different to a restaurant, the quintessential Roman trattoria is where you go for a casual meal with family, colleagues or friends and where you don’t expect fancy food or service. Trattorie can be found across the country, but one of the few things Italians can agree on is that Rome is embodied in la trattoria Romana – casual and boisterous, like its people.
In the trattoria Romana – where the tablecloths are usually made of paper, and the table turnover is fast – there are no wine glasses, just your average household tumblers, and, in some cases, not even menus. The wait staff will reel off a list of plates of the day; on Thursdays, you’ll find gnocchi on most menus, and often on Fridays, more of a focus on fish.
In Rome, even if it’s your first time in a trattoria, the staff will address you as if they’ve known you forever. And if you’ve become a regular at your neighborhood’s, as I have at my own trattoria di fiducia, Da Enzo al 29, a visit can be like a homecoming! They know my life story and I theirs because every time I visit, we each share a story or two.
The generosity I see in Roman trattorie never ceases to amaze me – from offering half-portions of dishes when a patron can’t seem to decide what they want to eat, to completely rearranging tables to accommodate families with kids or even a pram.
Especially nowadays, most of Rome’s reputable trattorie use prized produce that is often locally sourced. They may even have a wine list that extends beyond the vino della casa (house wine; generally cheap and not created equal – in some trattoria, it’s decent and in others, not so much!).
You go to a trattoria in Rome to eat cucina Romana – all the traditional Roman dishes that are simple, relatively inexpensive, and made to be eaten in good company.
This is home to those dishes that locals and visitors to Rome come to expect, from fried artichokes and stuffed zucchini (courgette) flowers to lush primi (pasta dishes), like the classic Roman quartet of carbonara, cacio e pepe, amatriciana and la gricia.
As a secondo (main course) you might have flame-grilled lamb, abbacchio allo scottadito (‘scottadito’ literally means ‘burn your fingers’), saltimbocca alla Romana (pan-fried veal with prosciutto and sage), or the heartier pollo alla Romana (roast chicken with bell peppers).
Dolci (desserts) are often fatti in casa (homemade) and range from the classic tiramisù to pannacotta or the extremely popular tarts.
And while at the end of the meal, an amaro might be offered, even on the house, Romans sometimes head instead to the bar for their coffee. In fact, some old-school trattorie in Rome don’t even have a coffee machine.
Dining establishments and trends come and go in Rome, but every Roman has their one neighborhood trattoria that is their go-to for the warm and uninhibited Roman hospitality as much as for the food.
Carbonara by Da Enzo Al 29
There isn’t a more debated dish in Rome than carbonara. It is to Rome what pizza is to Naples; that is, iconic – and, traditionalists will say, untouchable. Nowadays, you can find many chefs in Rome experimenting with ingredients and often adding seasonal twists like asparagus or artichokes, but for me, nothing beats the classic.
Everyone has an opinion on the matter; ask any Roman about where to eat a good carbonara, and they will tell you only their choice is the best in town.
A few things to note about real-deal Roman carbonara: under no circumstance does it contain cream. Don’t let even the creamiest one you try in the Eternal City mislead you. It’s made with crispy guanciale (cured pork cheek), Pecorino Romano and eggs. Roman carbonara is unlike any you’ll taste elsewhere, but re-creating it at home is easy – with a lot of practice.
The difference between a smooth one and a scrambled egg on pasta is merely a matter of seconds. In fact, a chef once told me, ‘Carbonara is a lot like life. If you’re not watching closely, you’ll screw it up!’ This recipe is from my favorite trattoria in Trastevere, Da Enzo al 29. Their version rarely disappoints because it has just the right amount of saltiness and is decadently silky.
About Maria Pasquale
Born to Italian parents in Melbourne, Australia, Maria always knew Rome was her destiny.
Based in Rome since 2011, she is an award-winning food and travel writer and journalist and contributes regularly to USA Today, Condé Nast, Fodor’s, CNN, and The Telegraph.
She has interviewed some of the world’s greatest chefs and spent thousands of hours talking and learning from passionate and dedicated food lovers the globe over.
An unabashed romantic (Rome being her one true love), Maria created the lifestyle blog HeartRome in 2011.
The blog has readers in over 100 countries, a 45,000-strong social media following, and has been featured in BBC Travel and Vogue, among others.
In 2021, Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper named her one of Rome’s most influential travel experts.
In Rome, you’ll find her walking the streets of Trastevere, checking out the latest bar for an aperitivo or dining at a local trattoria with friends.