hough most of my work is published on the web, I’m an old school pen-and-ink gal. I have a callus on the pen rubbing side of my middle finger. I like to scribble and keep notes in a bulging, dog-eared Moleskine notebook. I also have a passion for sending handwritten… postcards. Yes! Remember those?
When it comes to work, I hardly ever compose my stories directly on my laptop. Instead, I almost always start with a ballpoint outline.
My food-related writing takes me to places and puts me in situations where I’m often to take notes or write while eating, and eat while writing. This comes easier in some venues than others.
A wobbly café table in the middle of a busy sunlit piazza can sometimes provide more inspiration than a quiet cloister. Over time I’ve come to realize the flow of the writing often depends more on the nibbles than the surroundings.
There are a few Rome open-air I tend to gravitate toward when it’s scribe time. Besides the comfort of the seating and folklore in the faces, it’s the nosh that most galvanizes the drafting.
Here is my shortlist of favorite spots for writing and snacking in Rome.
Bar San Callisto True, after 3 sgroppini (lemon gelato spiked with vodka), my handwriting may become a little messy, but the atmosphere of this 70-year old Trastevere hangout is priceless. Locals often meet here for a loud hand of briscola and cheap beer, or to take time out to roll dubious-looking cigarettes. A writing moment needs good refreshments, and here they’re homemade. In winter, don’t miss the hot chocolate with signature whipped cream, a true Trastevere must. Bar San Callisto. Open Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.-2 a.m. Piazza San Callisto, 3. Tel. +39.06.589.5670.
Caffè Bohemien This Monti café-bookstore is a true turn-of-the-20th century salon, complete with piano, purple walls, glass chandeliers, frazzled artists and absinthe-drinking dandies. Sink into the plush armchairs while sipping delightful teas, gather inspiration at the overflowing bookshelves, and take advantage of the evening apericena (aperitif-style dinner) with its innovative pasta dishes, soups and salads. All of it comes with your drink at only €8. Caffè Bohemien. Open Wed.-Mon. 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Via degli Zingari, 35/ Tel. +39.339.722.4622.
Totò I like coming early to this popular Jewish Ghetto sidewalk cafe. The morning light is beautiful, and the cappuccinos are served steamy in monumental bowls beside crumbly pizza ebraica cake and almond macaroons. As the weather warms up, be sure to sample the house granita di caffè, the city’s best shaved frozen coffee delight. To the right of the entrance check out the little slot in the wall, it’s an ancient charity donation box for the orphans who lived in the walled neighborhood. Totò. Open Sun.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Via Portico d’Ottavia, 2.
Tatì al 28 This trendy, contemporary-styled restaurant-lounge and cocktail bar is located just a few steps away from the Frank Meier-designed Ara Pacis Museum and boasts comfy licorice leather sofas and armchairs. It’s also home to one of the city’s bests aperitivo hours. Food accouterments vary and can include couscous salads, homemade potato chips and house panini. Tatì’s cocktail menu and wine list is both ample and attractive. Tatì al 28. Open all day. Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 28. Tel. +39.06.6813.4221.