ig chain supermarkets are not common to Rome. Food stores with 40 or more cash registers are concentrated in the four or five mega-malls located outside city limits. While the 21st century surge in urban supermarkets has certainly put a dent in the small-scale businesses that promoted genuineness as a selling point, Rome’s network of neighborhood and artisan food-sellers refuses to go away.
Despite the convenience of mass-distribution, Rome still prides itself on a tremendous array of small shops that sell an assortment of high quality foods and beverages.
Here is my shortlist of Rome’s best specialty stores and local foodie shrines, divided by the items on which they focus.
Volpetti I drive all the way to Testaccio for Volpetti’s rare cheeses, white truffles (in season), prized salumi, octopus carpaccio, dreamy bufala, Sardinian bottarga, salumi made from cinta senese pigs, savory quiche-like torte rustiche and balsamic vinegars. Ask for brothers Claudio or Emilio, and with their engaging tell-and-taste show, you’ll be in for a veritable gastronomic epiphany. Via Marmorata, 47. Tel. +39.06.574.2352.
Roscioli I make up excuses to come here. Magnets include prosciutto San Daniele, pedigreed legs of pata negra, a drool-worthy burrata and the house oil-preserved partially sun dried tomatoes. But the delicatessen choices are boundless; Roscioli’s shelves carry 450 different kinds of cheese, more than 100 different types of cured meat, and a wine list of 2200 labels. If you happen to stay for lunch, your table may be among the few pushed up against the deli counter, or beside the 50’s red Merkel slicer. At that point, all you do is order the best plate of carbonara on the planet, and pinch yourself. You’re not dreaming. Via dei Giubbonari, 2. Tel. +39.06.687.5287.
Franchi As one of Rome’s oldest “alimentari,” or local food stores, Franchi is a true Prati white-collar institution. Don’t be surprised to see crowds lined up outside the store entrance at lunchtime, the nearby courthouse and many office workers flock here to savor Franchi’s tavola calda fare. Here you can shop for high-end groceries or grab a quick meal, like a portable supplì — in my mind the best breaded and fried, mozzarella-laced risotto ball in town — or a tub of pasta e ceci to go. Via Cola di Rienzo, 201. Tel. +39.06.687.4651.
Castroni Next door to Franchi is another mandatory glutton-stop. Castroni is stocked with a broad range of hard-to-get foreign foodstuffs from all over the world. This is where you come to find specialties like Argentine yerba mate and dulce de leche; Asian spices, condiments and herbs; Mexican staples, and good old maple syrup, canned baked beans and Thanksgiving ingredients. There are also plenty of Italian treats, and among the city’s best coffee roasts. Via Cola di Rienzo, 196. Tel. +39.06.687.4383.
Di Origine Laziale This Centocelle gourmet deli keeps a handsome supply of überlocal Lazio cheeses, salumi, breads, organic produce and legumes, baked goods, preserves and honey, spreads, truffle products, dry pastas, olive oils, wines and spirits. Via Domenico Panaroli, 6. Tel/Fax +39.06.2430.0765.
Angelo Feroci The meats offered at this beautiful macelleria at a stone’s throw from the Pantheon aren’t exactly a steal, but I turn a blind eye. I also try to overlook the hot Polzella family heirs working cleavers and mallets behind the counter and focus on the exquisite sirloin, ribs, rounds, shanks, killer filet mignons, the prepared meat dishes that only need a hot oven or a nonstick pan, and the city’s best ground beef for burgers: 200 grams — roughly seven ounces — of combined sirloin, filet and short rib, perfectly balanced percentage of fat and medium grind. Via della Maddalena, 15. Tel. +39.06. 6880.1016.
Antica Pescheria Galluzzi The historic Termini fishmonger has been selecting, boning, eviscerating and filleting fish and seafood for 4 generations, providing its loyal clientele with champion catch arriving daily from Gallipoli, Terracina, Porto Santo Stefano, Anzio, Sicily and Sardinia. Common clients battle with restaurant chefs for Galluzzi’s farmed or wild-captured crustaceans, tunas, swordfish, calamari, squid, mullets and gilt-head sea breams. I always keep a stash of their homemade oil-preserved anchovies, sold in glass jars; and for a complete hassle-free meal, Galluzzi also offers quality Italian white wines and a convenient delivery service. Via Venezia, 26. Tel. +39.06474.4444.
POULTRY & EGGS
San Bartolomeo The Vetralla farm raises free-roaming farmyard chickens and turkeys, strong and sturdy ruspanti breeds more suitable for the outdoor lifestyle. San Bartolomeo has two stores in the city that — besides poultry, eggs, and bread — also carry a number of rare specialties, such as French organic dairy, Gazzosa Lurisia, Menabrea beer, Baladin Ginger, and ethically butchered meats from nearby Lazio farms. Via Tommaso Salvini, 31/Via A.G. Bragaglia 23/19e (Olgiata). Tel. +39.06.807.8251; 0761.354438.
La Tradizione Besides churning their own family’s pecorino, scouting out and selecting rare regional specialties, and aging cheeses and salumi in a natural cave, Valentino and Renzo’s La Tradizione stocks over 300 different kinds of Italian cheese. The most prized is Caciocavallo di Botte, aged in a barrel within the cave for as long as six years. But I also come here for their washed Taleggio, Formaggio di Fossa, the refined Gorgonzolas, high mountain Raschera d’Alpeggio, blocks of Sicilian Ragusano and a myriad goat milk cheeses. Via Cipro, 8. Tel/Fax +39.06.3972.0349.
Beppe e i Suoi Formaggi Newly inaugurated cheese shrine that will see more of me than legally permitted by my thighs. The spacious rooms, refrigerated displays, tasting cellar and stocked pantries accommodate cheese producer Beppe Giovale’s Alpine dairy products and other treasures like his native Piedmont wines, spreads, breadsticks, canned and bottled goods, premier dry pastas, and all things crumbly, moldy and stinky. Last week my last pennies were exchanged for a fuzzy Le Catal, a Toma wrapped in walnut leaves and homemade robiola. Via Santa Maria del Pianto, 9/A. Tel. +39.06.6819.2210.
Pasta MEA Orazio always smiles when I walk through his strand curtain doorway. No wonder, I’m a really good customer! He motions me to the back of his shop, and proudly shows me what he’s making. As I watch the eggs and flour being kneaded and extruded through bronze dies into rough-edged casareccia dough, I can either decide to buy what’s available or being made at the moment, or order any among MEA’s fresh tagliatelle, ravioli, fettuccine, tonnarelli, lasagne, cappelletti, and pick them up at the end of my shopping round at the market. There’s also a list of prepared dishes made daily, which only need warming in the oven for a few minutes. Among these don’t miss the roasted eggplant slices with olive oil, white vinegar and garlic emulsion, and the house lasagna. Piazza Testaccio, 3. Tel. +39.06.575.0843.
Antico Forno Marco Roscioli The Roscioli dynasty of Roman bread-makers is vast and branched out, so many otherwise unconnected bread bakers in Rome call themselves Roscioli. Marco is the man responsible for the Giubbonari gourmet sanctuary mentioned above. Cutting boards are graced with perfectly baked thin-crust pizza bianca or with toppings, loaves of pane di Lariano (a bread made in the namesake town near Viterbo, baked in a wood-fired oven, made with natural leavening agents) in different variations added with raisins, walnuts or green olives. And if you’re also looking for Kamut products for the gluten intolerant, delicious ciambelloni, vintage tin boxes of Gentilini cookies, pies and all kinds of organic, home-style breads made with locally sourced flours, you’ve come to the right place. Via dei Chiavari, 34. Tel. +39.06.686.4045.
Panetteria Panella~l’Arte del Pane Prices here may be over the top, and the service frosty, but the variety and deliciousness of the crusty crumbs, makes the occasional Panella indulgence a must. I come for the regional bread and pastry products baked with natural starters, the slabs of perfect pizza al taglio topped with seasonal inspirations, and for the creative bread sculptures, a Panella trademark. Via Merulana, 54. Tel. +39.06.487.2435.
Trimani Trimani Vinai a Roma dal 1821 is one of Rome’s most famous enoteca, or wine shops. With its 10 street-side windows, Trimani occupies an entire block near the Termini station, and possesses the city’s largest list of Italian and French wines, champagne, spumante, grappa and other liqueurs. At Trimani Il Wine Bar (Via Cernaia, 37/b. Tel. +39.06.446.9630), meals and wine-tasting accoutrements are served for both lunch and dinner. Via Goito, 20. Tel. +39.06.446.9661.
Buccone Buccone is another historic Roman wine shop, its wall-to-wall shelves are loaded with quality wines, spirits and rare vintages for all budgets. The ex-coach house’s ambience has been preserved with the original beamed ceiling, ancient demijohns and an antique till. Lunch is available daily, and dinner is served on Fridays and Saturdays. Buccone also offers guided wine tastings, sells designer wine paraphernalia and arranges a nifty overseas shipment service. Via di Ripetta 19. Tel. +39.06.361.2154.