74. Roman Meal

It is often said, at least by me, that you can’t get a bad meal in Italy. The shared standards are too high, and food is just too culturally important there, to scrimp on ingredients or take shortcuts on methods.

One would do well, however, to avoid places overlooking major tourist attractions or with posted tourist menus out front. They will be perfectly fine, likely better than than most “red gravy” restaurants in the U.S., but if one spends a trip to Italy eating only in such places, one might reasonably wonder what all the fuss was about.On our recent trip to Rome, Maria and I wandered into some trattorias that just looked good to her, no Yelp reviews but just a hunch. Here are some shots of what we sampled at these places.

Pureed baccala (salt cod).

Bruschetta with super-fresh ingredients.

And we had fantastic, creative meals, with fresh seasonal ingredients and distinctive flavors, not the spaghetti and meatballs one might imagine. In fact, one can’t even get spaghetti and meatballs in Italy, as their idea is that the pasta course, the primo, should come before the meat course, the secondo, not plopped one on top of the other.

Meatballs without spaghetti.

There is one new trend, however. It used to be that variation in cuisine was strictly determined by geography: one village’s pasta was a slightly different shape than the next, or a special dish could only be found in one particular town or province. Then, kebab shops started popping up, and now, it is common to see eateries or shops featuring food from all over the world. Whether these restaurants are meant to cater mostly to travelers and immigrants, or whether Italians are expanding their palates, I cannot say.

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