A Gastronomic Pilgrimage Far From Rome's Tourist Trail

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Katie Parla


The Via Ostiense and decaying industrial zones stretch south from Rome's center to the Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura—the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls. The hulking pilgrimage site dedicated to the Apostle who reputedly was beheaded there in the first century sits at the end of a sprawling lawn littered with the ruins of (pagan) tombs and studded with benches and modern sculpture. Just a few hundred meters away, Via Chiabrera, in the aptly titled San Paolo district, attracts pilgrims of another sort: those seeking sustenance rather than penance.

At number 40, Danielgelo serves artisanal gelato from cases divided by genre. On the left, nine classic Roman milk-based flavors like pistachio, hazelnut, and stracciatella (chocolate chip); on the right, nine dairy-free fruit flavors. An uva fragola (Concord grape) and anguria (watermelon) combo makes a fine homage to late summer in Rome. An entire wall of the shop is dominated by freezer cases displaying gelato cakes, sorbets, and tartufi.

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Katie Parla

Across the street at number 13/15, Il Fornaio Leandro is a one-stop shop for baked goods. Thin and crispy pizza by the slice is topped with seasonal toppings like fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers) and funghi (mushrooms). Ricotta cakes, crostate, and other typical Roman baked items are sold by weight. And they sell lottery tickets to boot. Small children fill in bubbles for the pick-six as their grandmothers gossip and swap recipes while they queue for loaves of bread.

The atmosphere is less chaotic up the street at Emporio del Gusto (Via Chiabrera 58/a). Chalk it up to Pino Perrone, owner and whiskey aficionado, whose enviable collection of prestigious single malts draws doctors, lawyers, and restaurateurs from all corners of the city. Though whiskey is the specialty, Emporio also sells a well-chosen selection of grappas, wines, and Italian craft beers. Dry pastas (look for Mancini from Le Marche and Pasta Flaminia from Umbria), olive oils, and vinegars are presented on shelves along the walls. A brightly illuminated refrigerator displays fresh and aged cheeses from all over Italy.

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Katie Parla

A single region reigns at Cu Mangia Crisci, a Sicilian rosticceria and pastry shop at number 162. Large, gaudy postcard art depicting Sicily's tourist highlights papers the walls of this narrow shop. At the entrance, pasta dishes, eggplant parmesan, and caponata are sold by the portion. Buccellati, cannoli, cassate, marzipan, and other sweets are served at the far end of the counter. The highlight at Cu Mangia Crisci, however, is the street food. Arancine (fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs), rizzuole (deep-fried dough pockets filled with meat and peas), pizzette (small pizzas with sweet dough), and pane ca' meusa (sliced spleen sandwiches) are snatched up by hungry students and passersby who stroll along the Via Chiabrera with their portable Sicilian snacks.

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Katie Parla is a food historian and sommelier based in Rome, Italy. Follow Katie on her blog, ParlaFood.com, and on Twitter at @katieparla.

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