On a recent trip to Rome, I stayed with a friend who was kind enough to take me to some of her local gourmet food shops. As a former chef and caterer, it was an enriching and delicious experience, and I saw first-hand where Romans do their food shopping. Here’s a list of my favorite shops.
In the upscale Prati neighborhood, lined with handsome Art Nouveau buildings and architecture, is a local institution: Castroni. A family business since 1932, Castroni is the premiere gourmet shop of Rome, stocking the best of Italian and international food products. Perusing the aisles, the shelves are packed with hundreds of delectable foods from every continent – everything from cheeses, olives, pasta, and couscous to risotto, jellies, jams, truffles, and paté. It was a hoot to see the American section with foods such as Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Ocean Spray cranberry juice, Betty Crocker cake mix, Fluff, and Campbell’s soup! Castroni is also known for its high-quality espresso, coffee, and coffee beans. There’s also an extensive wine, beer, and liqueur department along with imported ciders and flavored syrups. Food is always the perfect gift to bring home to friends, and I purchased some Italian chocolates.
Castroni has two other locations in Rome in addition to the shop in Prati, and if you can’t get to Rome, there’s an online store.
2. Sciascia Caffé
After the thrill of shopping at the bustling Castroni, we stopped for a coffee around the corner at Sciascia Caffe, which was established in 1919. We sat outside under a white umbrella, and the macchiato was one of the best I had on my entire trip – the perfect combination of full-bodied espresso topped with a hint of foam. While waiting for my coffee, I went inside to admire the interior’s dark wood shelves, white marble floors, and vintage photos and posters lining the walls. Hovering over the glass showcases, the locals were pondering which delectable pastry to have: cannoli, pine nut cookies, fruit tarts, or biscotti?
In a corner was a selection of chocolate bars, including one flavored with strawberries, raspberries, and cherries alongside confections, panettone, bonbons, and biscuits, which were attractively packaged with bright colored boxes, tins, and foil. You can also purchase bags of ground coffee, coffee beans, and capsules.
Sciascia Caffe is also famous for its aperitifs, served in an extended cocktail hour from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Its reputation was cemented when it won the prestigious Gambero Rosso award for Best Bar in Italy in 2016.
3. La Salumeria Roscioli
There are several great food shops near the Campo de Fiori market square, one of the best in Rome. La Salumeria Roscioli is a combination salumeria, Italian deli, restaurant, and wine bar.
The cases are packed to the gills with the most appetizing Italian delicacies including balsamic vinegars, pickles, olives, capers, anchovies, pasta, risotto, extra virgin olive oil, truffles, jars of red peppers, whole and sun-dried tomatoes, tomato sauce, artichokes, and mustard.
At the counter, you will salivate over the selection of prosciutto and other types of cured ham, including bresaola, mortadella, soppressata, sausages, and Italian cheeses such as Pecorino Romano, buffalo mozzarella, and gorgonzola.
At the restaurant, you can enjoy a multi-course menu of antipasti, soups, main courses, salads, cheese plates, cured meat platters, fish, meat, and oven-baked bread on the premises. Mouth-watering offerings include burrata from Puglia, caponata with eggplant, dried fruits, pine nuts, pasta carbonara, traditional Roman-style meatballs with smoked ricotta cheese, fresh tuna carpaccio, and fusilli with a lamb ragu and aged Comté cheese. For dessert, indulge in house-made tiramisu, gelato of the day, and pastry layers filled with pistachio cream and white chocolate.
At the bar, there’s a wide selection of Italian wines, grappa, limoncello, rum, beer, cognac, and vermouth.
Pro Tip: Roscioli, il pane, la cucina e Roma is a cookbook with 30 recipes from La Salumeria Roscioli along with the fascinating history of the beginnings of the shop, when 11 brothers and cousins came to Rome in the late 1950s and started the business.
4. Antico Forno Serpenti
Antico Forno Serpenti is a newly opened bakery in the Monti district that uses the same methods of generations of bakers from before who made traditional pizza, breads, and biscotti. The retro design of the bakery is in the Art Deco style.
Antico Forno Serpenti has a broad range of sweet and savory baked goods, all using stone-ground organic flour and baked directly on the premises. Savory specialties include bread, olive oil, nuts, olives, baguettes, whole grain loaves, breadsticks, and pizza with white, tomato, and potato toppings. The pastry menu offers cream puffs with ricotta or cream, strudel with honey, amaretti, biscotti, meringues, marmalade, and pine nut tarts.
The shop also sells a range of artisanal food products including organic jams and jellies, sauces for pasta and risotto, condiments, and wine.
Antico Forno Serpenti supports emerging artists and sponsors music events with musicians and singers from the Saint Louis College of Music who perform rock, jazz, pop, and blues.
5. Norcineria Viola 1890
One of my favorite food shops I discovered when I was at the Campo de Fiori market was Norcineria Viola 1890. The compact shop had dozens of salamis, sausages, and meats hanging from the ceiling, along with butcher cases filled with other cuts of meat and cured meats and cheeses. One of their specialties is wild boar, which is in many of their products.
Salami and sausage flavors include wild fennel, wild boar, white and black truffle, red wine, and spicy. Other cured meats that are offered include culatello, bresaola, mortadella, smoked pancetta (Italian bacon), speck, pastrami, coppa, and spicy soppressata. In the cheese department, there’s la caciotta with spicy bits of pepper or truffle, aged Pecorino Romano, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
The shop sells pre-packaged, vacuum-packed slices of meat and salamis, and I took some home with me.
Norcineria Viola 1890 has been around since 1890 and uses tried and true methods from past generations and only sells high-quality meat exclusively from Italy.
6. Antica Pizzicheria Ruggeri
On the other side of the Campo de Fiori market is another excellent butcher shop, deli, and grocery store: Antica Pizzicheria Ruggeri. Originally opened in 1919 by Vito Ruggeri, who came from a small village near Perugia, Antica Pizzicheria Ruggeri started out as a butcher shop, mainly for pork products. In the following decades, the third and fourth generations of the family expanded the store, turning it into a gourmet grocery store. Still family-owned today, Ruggeri recently celebrated its centenary in 2019.
Products at Antica Pizzicheria Ruggeri include freshly made pasta, hams, sausages, cured meats, cheeses, olives, extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, and prepared food.
I had an early evening flight home and instead of getting an overpriced sandwich at the airport, I decided to get a sandwich at Antica Pizzicheria Ruggeri. You can design your own sandwich with any of the appetizing ingredients in the deli counter, and I chose marinated artichokes, mozzarella, red peppers, and a thin veal cutlet on a crusty roll, costing just 8 euros.
7. Eataly Roma
Eataly Roma is a humongous, 170,000 square foot food store and food complex, laid out on four floors with just about every Italian food product under the sun and then some. On the ground floor there are food stalls with meats, cheeses, produce and vegetables, pasta, and packaged foods along with cafes, a coffee bar, a bakery, a section for pastries, desserts, and chocolates, and sandwiches. The second floor has a pasta and seafood restaurant, pizzeria, and a wine and craft beer bar. One restaurant on the third floor serves classic Italian fare and the second restaurant, Bosco Umbro, has cuisine by the well-known Italian chef Paolo Trippini. There’s a series of kitchens on the fourth floor that offer cooking classes and demonstrations by some of the top chefs in Italy. Classes include pizza and pasta making, desserts and pastries, chocolate making, and cooking classes for children. There are also wine tasting classes.
Eataly has two locations in Rome. The larger one is in the Testaccio neighborhood near the Ostiense train station, and the second, smaller one is in the Termini train station.
8. Regoli Pasticceria
One must-try pastry in Rome is a Maritozzi, which is a cross between a soft cream puff and a donut, with a sweet dough made of sweet olive oil, sugar, pine nuts, raisins, and a hint of candied orange peel filled with sweet cream. Locals and tourists patiently queue up at Regoli Pasticceria for their fantastic version of maritozzi. The over one-hundred-year-old bakery also sells other classic Italian pastries such as tiramisu, jelly-filled tarts, cannoli, amaretti, sfogliatella, and biscotti. There’s an outdoor café where you can enjoy a cappuccino or espresso to go with your pastry.
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