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An Authentic Roman Food Experience Through Just 10 Tastings

Over the summer, I did a whirlwind tour of the Mediterranean.  Since I was bouncing from city to city, I was having trouble deciding where I wanted to eat.  After all, each restaurant would be the experience in that city.

While researching tours, I came across a company called WithLocals that offers local food tours (WithLocals ended up being useful in multiple ways, but that’s a story for later).  They have a “10 tastings tour” which takes you through the 10 bites you should have in each city.

I decided to book that tour for Rome.  I picked Rome for a few reasons.  First, I’ve been to Rome before.  I have my local favorite restaurants.  But because I’m only in Rome (usually) for a limited time, I don’t get to try new things if I return to my favorites.

Also, I was traveling with my family and I didn’t want to anchor my family by my favorites.  I, of course, took them to my favorite restaurants as well, but I didn’t want their experience to be limited by my little slice of Rome.

I was overall very happy with WithLocals’ tour and I would do it again!

Booking the 10 Tastings Tour

When you book the tour, you are able to select from a variety of hosts.  This is sort of the airbnb of city tours.  You can watch a video from to host, see what languages they speak, and send a message

Each host has their own spin they put on their tours as well.  I chose Mariangela, who was dubbed “the life lover”.  She seemed extremely positive, so I was excited to meet her.  She immediately reached out and I described some mobility issues we needed to work around.  She came back with suggestions of how she could modify the tour.

Campo de’ Fiori

We met in the Campo de’ Fiori and toured the market at first.  While wandering the stalls, she explained that this food tour is exploring Rome now.  We are learning what it’s like to eat as a local.  We won’t be eating plate after plate of traditional Roman food (unless we wanted to modify the tour to do that), so we wouldn’t be seeing carbonara at all.

Red old bike in market on Campo di Fiori, Rome

The Campo de’ Fiori hosts a market every day except Sundays.  There’s a variety of vendors ranging from local produce to olive oils to souvenirs to limoncello.

(click any image to make larger)

We first tried some fresh produce and learned the difference between the locally grown tomatoes.

After that, we moved onto a cheese and pasta shop to try some fresh cheeses.

We started with some fresh ricotta.

And then moved onto smoked mozzarella.

I used to have ricotta fairly often with raspberries and a little but of honey on top.  But I’ve never had ricotta that tastes quite as good as this.  The cheese was fluffy and light and delicious.  I’d definitely get more next time I’m in Rome!

We also got the local favorite, pizza bianca.  This was not what I expected given what we call pizza bianca in the United States, but I was not disappointed by it.

Bread shops sell bags of small pieces of bread (sort of, but not quite like focaccia).

You can buy a these bags and snack on the pieces, sort of like you are snacking on pita chips.  Just much more delicious than pita chips.

We had to force ourselves to stop eating these since there was no way we’d be able to finish the rest of the food on the tour.

Restaurant Hopping

After we departed Campo de’ Fiori, we did a little bit of restaurant hopping.

The first place we went to was a hipster bar.  Long drinks (think: Tom Collins, Gin Fizzes) are currently trendy in Rome, and our guide explained that 20 year olds like to gather in divey/hipster bars and have these old-school cocktails with old-school sandwiches.

So we did just that.

The next stop was one of my favorites, so I’m a big fan of arancini.  We got suppli, which is very similar.

There are small cafes that specialize in different flavors of suppli.

We got a few different flavors to share.

The suppli cafe we went to also had that sort of hipster/old school feel to it.  (I don’t mean hipster in a bad way here!  I just mean it to describe the aesthetic.)

Next, we headed for some dessert and grabbed a heaping bowl of gelato.

I got coconut because, well, if coconut anything is on the menu, that’s what I’m getting.  But I was surprised by the amount of unique gelato flavors on the menu.

And then we moved onto more dessert via pastries.

I was getting to the point where I couldn’t finish each dish, though the desserts were quite good.

Having the fresh pastries made me realize that I’m used to them being a little soggy (in the United States) from sitting in the case so long.  They filled our cannolis moments before we ate them.  And they were fantastic.

I also took a look around at the specialty cakes being made.  The one on the right is made of candied fruit.  The tray on the left is full of orange peels being candied.

We moved onto another bakery to grab some coffee and decompress.  We made it ice coffee because it was incredibly hot in Rome when we visited!

The Final Review of WithLocal’s 10 Tasting Tour

This was such a fun, whirlwind food experience.  I would absolutely do it again in another city, just to get a quick taste of everything.

Our host, Mariangela, was fantastic as well.  She has an upbeat attitude, was really fun, and I’d definitely book another tour with her in the future.

The pros of the WithLocals Tour:

  • You aren’t going around in a large group from location to location
  • You can personalize the tour to your own parameters
  • There was a huge variety in what we tasted/looked at
  • While not pictured in the food tour photos, Mariangela also took me to some shops she thought I would love (I did)
  • It is not cost-prohibitively expensive

There’s only one negative I see associated with it.  Since your tour experience is so personalized, the experience really depends on your connection with your host.  So that can ultimately make or break the experience.

In addition to doing the ten tastings again in a new city, I saw they have a Michelin tasting tour as well.  (I don’t think this was on the website back when I booked my original tour).  I might have to try that next time I’m in Rome!

If you sign up for WithLocals through my link, you will get a 30 Euro credit towards a booking.  (I will also receive a credit, through their usual refer-a-friend program).  You do not have to go through my link, of course.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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