Roughly twice a year, my mother asks me to forward an email I wrote containing highly guarded information to someone we know who is going to Rome or Venice and wants to know where to eat.
Tomorrow is Rome. The next day will be Venice. Florence I don’t love, and I’ve only been to a horrible dinner there and a really good chi-chi ridiculously expensive dinner I didn’t pay for, so I really can’t recommend anything in that city.
Today, however, we will talk about some general tips for the eater:
In general in Italy, there is a kind of eating schedule, which you should follow if you want to eat well. For breakfast, grab a pastry and a coffee standing up at a bar in the morning; lunch is between 1PM and 3PM; and DO NOT GO TO DINNER BEFORE 8PM. Seriously. You will have better food and better service if you go later, I beg you. And take your time eating, because the staff will sure as hell take their time waiting on you. You do not have to leave until you want to, and you MUST ask for the check because they will not give it to you. Also, do not get frustrated if the first three things you order are not available – Italians believe in serving what’s fresh and it is a good sign if the place has run out of a lot of stuff.
Your body might be a little whacked from jet lag, but you really shouldn’t deviate from this schedule if you can help it. If you’re hungry at odd times, have a gelato or something.
You should try spaghetti carbonara once while you are in Rome, preferably at Taverna Romana (see tomorrow’s post). Do not have it anywhere else in the world, or even in Italy, because they make it wrong.
If you are going to the Vatican and the Vatican museums in Rome, DO NOT PLAN ANYTHING ELSE FOR THE REST OF THE DAY but eating, drinking and sleeping. It’s overwhelming. Go to a bakery in late morning, get white pizza and carb up. Get there around noon (when all the lame tour groups leave and go to lunch), spend all afternoon in there, go get more pizza by the slice and take a nap, then eat a huge dinner. (Not that I have done that or anything.)
A note about water fountains: there are running spigots all over Rome, on corners, at curbs, and in piazzas. You can drink out of any of them. If you want to drink out of it and not fill up a water bottle, here is the trick to looking cool and not getting soaking wet: stick your finger in the spigot hole. it will force the water to come shooting up through another, tinier hole halfway up the pipe, and it acts exactly as a water fountain.
A note about being a germ freak about the water fountains: don’t be. Dogs drink from them, old ladies fill up pots from them, and people stick their heads under them on particularly hot days. It’s still fresh spring water. If you’re a germaphobe, just don’t use them – but don’t be that tourist who tsks when someone lets Fido get his drink on.
OK, enough for today. Check back in tomorrow, when we discuss ROMA!