I am by no means a skinny girl.
Actually, I prefer the term “pleasantly plump”.
After spending thousands of dollars on personal trainers over the past 10 years, I realized life is just too short to be eating nothing but steamed spinach and grilled fish.
I NEED FLAVOR IN MY LIFE.
Little did I know that the Rome Food Tour with Walks of Italy would single-handedly ruin my taste buds forever. (Cue: The Sandlot – “FOR-EV-ER”)
Our guide for the day was the very warm and exuberant Simona. With her passion in tow we followed her through what would be the pinnacle of my food tour experience.
We started out in the historic Campo dei Fiori market (name comes from the fact that it used to be a meadow!). This has been an important market for Rome locals for over 140 years! It is here where we set the stage for my world to be rocked and everything to change.
But a few things first.
I have to say that I’m always so incredibly jealous of European markets. If I take anything away from my travels abroad, it is that cooking fresh and in season really changes EVERYTHING. Most of the food found in this daily market (where even Simona does her daily shopping) can be easily found within 100 miles of Rome. That is a big deal. This allows for a more specific food palate and flavor for every region of Italy.
I reveled in the October colors. Reds and greens of the oncoming winter tomatoes, the deep purples and reds of the summer’s end berries – everything just became magical.
But it was here when I learned something life changing.
What I thought was quality turns out to be trash – I’ll explain a bit. Basically, all the food that is imported from Italy is the leftover “crap” that Italians won’t eat. All olive oil that doesn’t reach Italian standards gets shipped out – along with balsamic vinegar that is made in the region.
And so the tasting began.
I’ve never tasted olive oil so velvety in my life. The subtle flavors were out of this world.
The balsamic was thick and sweet like honey. My mouth was in love. I kept stuffing the bread pieces into my mouth.
They also had tastes of truffles (white AND black), pesto, chile sauces, artichokes… the list goes on. I just kept slathering it on my bread. Did I ever mention my white truffle obsession? It just melted on my tongue.
Everything was divine.
How am I supposed to go back to the United States and buy the horrible stuff again? I can’t. UGH. I guess this is where ignorance is bliss.
We discovered Roscioli, I family owned cheese shop. They brought us platters of fresh mozzarella di bufala (or mozzarella from water buffalo – the REAL way to make it), pecorino, and parmesan cheese. The mozzarella was so soft, so light, a bit salty (due to the proximity to the sea) and as you bit into it, a small bit of milk fills your mouth. The pecorino is a bit like parmesan (you can only call cheese certain things if they are made in certain areas), hard, and packs a punch. At 18 months aged, I can only imagine what the more expensive ones have in store. And as a special treat, we tried 36 month aged parmesan. GOOD LORD it packed a wallop. I think I’ll stick to my mozzarella.
We moseyed on over to Norcineria Viola where we were in cured meat heaven.
If there is one thing I love about Europe, it has to be their love for cured meat.
Another family owned business, this meat market has been passed down from father to son for a few generations. Everything is made in house and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I can taste the family love. NINE different meats were laid out in all their glory for us to taste – everything from fennel, to dried, to liver, to well, I don’t know, I kept stuffing it in my face.
And although I could feel my stomach filling, we weren’t done yet.
This is where you get the ultimate Italian experience… MAKING YOUR OWN PIZZA.
I think Shaun was a bit more excited than I was seeing as though I was head cook for PIzza Hut during my teen years and it lost all its glamour but that doesn’t negate the fact it was still AWESOME.
(Let me say awesome one more time.) AWESOME.
A quick demonstration and we were left to our own devices to roll the dough, place our toppings, and wait to eat.
Did I mention we were damn sexy in our aprons?
I do have to say that my pizza came out the best. I think it was all my previous pizza training.
Now, normally this is the part you eat and get to have a nice Italian coffee with the bubbly Simona, however as we were about to miss our train we had to head out early.
All I can say is that you can’t miss out on this experience with Walks of Italy. If you like food at all, make it happen.
Disclosure: We were complimentary guests of Walks of Italy