When you visit a city fairly often, you notice things that may not have leapt off the page before. For sure the dining season is a’changin!
It’s not that we don’t love a great steak or burger. We’ve enjoyed fantastic steaks in Italy, grilled over a wood fire, the Italian way. Eating a good burger once in a while is just the ticket and was almost the first thing we did when we returned from Rome! On one of our wanders around Rome we noticed a restaurant called T-Bone Station and I wondered, hey what’s going on here! Of course there are Burger King’s and McDonalds but we tend to view them as a blight on the cityscape! Besides the steaks, T-Bone Station serves everything from burgers, Buffalo wings, and nachos to good old Pepsi! Did I mention the onion rings, fries, and that totally Italian veggie, corn on the cob? We both wonder what the market or demographic might be? I can see tourists or exchange students longing for a taste of home and I suppose there are Italians who consider American food exotic or something. And…wait for it…T-Bone Station delivers; simply place your order on-line! WOW is this great or what! Who knew that a few years later this would be the norm?
Let’s move onto Hamburgeria di Eataly shall we? Brought to you by those folks from Eataly. You just never know when you’ll need a hit of a North American burger joint! Forget all that amazing Roman cuisine…it’s so “yesterday.” What all us tourists are clamoring for is a burger, right? Again, I wonder about the market/demographic. It seems the average price at Hamburgeria is around 40 Euros. All I know is when we travel; we want to immerse ourselves in the cuisine of the country! I can see, like in Vancouver, fusion cuisine happening because of our various Asian influences. So taking the good old North American cheeseburger and putting an Italian spin on it by using pancetta (Italian bacon), cipolle (onions), a tasty, Italian cheese, maionaise ( mayonnaise is used in Italian cooking), senape (Italian for mustard) and a great bun, perhaps something from Gabriele Bonci or the Roscioli folks. Sounds damned good doesn’t it!
All large cities offer a variety of cuisines and Rome is no different. Not that long ago most other cuisines of the world were not welcomed with open arms in Italy. Italians clung to their own regional fare even with the influx of immigration from different cultures. As a visitor, trying local foods provides an insight into the culture. Our experience from travelling in Italy, is the moment you begin talking to people about food, well next thing you know, you are having the best time!
It’s a plot! Now Starbucks is coming to Milan! Seriously…all our Italian friends can’t get over it, nor can we! I know lots of you adore Starbucks. Italian coffee is amazing. Starbucks by comparison, well, let’s not compare! OK…we’ve figured it out…IT’S ALL ABOUT FREE WI-FI…that’s what it’s about at these places. And all those Italian coffee bars, trattorie, osterie are going to have to suck it up somehow and provide it because everyone needs to be connected all the time! It probably won’t be cheap to do but if they want to keep customers, there may be no alternative. If you’ve been to Italy you’ll have noticed that free WiFi is not that easy to find, so these “smart” folks have found the hook!
We wanted to check out the Eataly location in Testaccio but failing to see the signs at the Piramide/Ostiense station pointing the way to the abandoned air terminal building that houses Eataly, we got lost (what else is new). By the time we figured it out we were in need of lunch. So much for Eataly! I wanted to see what all the fuss is about! And I am still curious! Founded by Oscar Farinetti, an entrepreneur formerly involved in the consumer electronics business, hooked up with the Batali/Bastianich Hospitality Group (Mario Batali, Lidia and son, Joe Bastianich) and they have been busy opening them all over the place. We were able to watch a tour of one of the locations on T.V. which gave me a good overview of what’s on offer. It reminded me of a large, glitzy food court. Friends in Rome were discussing Eataly with us and I asked “who shops at Eataly in Rome?” They didn’t seem interested in doing so. I guess I can see the appeal in New York City or elsewhere in the States if finding certain ingredients is a challenge. Or maybe this is a way for American Italians to rediscover their heritage? But in Italy?? What concerns me is, won’t this type of large Supermarket, with its one-stop shopping, have a negative effect on the bottom line of smaller shops that have been in business for years? Volpetti not far from Eataly in Testaccio, comes to mind. Or even Castroni, a group of shops in Rome who sell typical Italian products of better quality, a wide assortment of ethnic foods, coffee, tea, spirits and sweets.
Since originally posting this, both Volpetti and Castroni survive. Although Volpetti was sold and has changed quite a bit, opening a Taverna just around the corner.
At the top of this page is a beautiful bouquet we saw around Campo dei Fiore. A place to shop, have an espresso or a slice of Antico Forno’s pizza bianca, oozing with EVOO, sprinkled with sea salt or simply wandering about taking in what was once a traditional way of life.