Rome, on principal, adores taking traditional dishes and creating new and exciting twists on them. Bruschetta, for instance, was originally nothing more than grilled bread rubbed with garlic and oil olive, has since become enriched with different toppings – although the original “semplice” is a classic for good reason.
Likewise, supermarkets with long hours and great produce have made great cooking and inventive dishes at home even easier. One thing that remains relatively unchanged though, is coffee. Rome has notably few coffee chains.
However pressed for time, however bad the traffic, every morning Romans head for their chosen bar to enjoy their first coffee served by a barista who knows whether they prefer to drink from a glass or a cup, whether they prefer black or ‘stained’ with milk. Some of Rome’s coffee shops have become iconic, and it is reassuring to see these family businesses thriving, moving through generations as they adjust to meet changing needs without compromising standards.
The tradition of family businesses isn’t limited to coffee, the city is full of successful familial joints that are growing and changing constantly – and always for the better! - with the times. For instance, Angelo Feroci has enlarged its offering to include ready meals; Panella now offers freshly baked bread with enticing innovations; and Enoteca Trimani has added a wine bar to their enoteca. Quality never comes cheap, and many people only visit these shops on occasion, but they are revered and respected.
Four generations of the Galluzzi family have supplied fantastic fish to top restaurants and appreciative customers from this small shop in the centre of Rome. The patriarch Franco goes to the fish auctions in the early hours, and his shutters are up long before most of the bars open to serve the first coffee of the day.
At auction Franco buys fish from Sicily, Sardinia and Gallipoli in Puglia, and arranges it on the marble slab in front of the picturesque tiled walls. There is always a colourful display and he will take orders to try to satisfy special requests (although he is quick to mention that it depends on the sea cooperating!).
The shop is only open in the morning, and by midday most of the fish has been carried off by happy customers so get there early!
Angelo Feroci has been in the same spot since the 1890s, and their fame spread when in 1924 they won a gold medal at international trade fairs in Italy and London. The shop still sells superb meat, and the fourth generation Polzella heirs, sporting their colourful bandanas, look like swashbuckling pirates as they skillfully cut and carve the meat displayed on the original white Carrara marble countertop.
The shop sells Chianina and Danish beef, Dutch veal and local lamb, game and poultry. Even at the busiest times, when the crowd presses forward clutching the tickets that mark their place in the queue, the young men behind the counter remain calm and charming, offering cooking advice and occasionally even a recipe (keep your ears open for these, they are invaluable and will win you lots of points when you next cook for your loved ones!).
There is an inviting display of trimmed meat ready to be cooked, such as rolled, stuffed chicken legs, crown roasts and succulent beef tagliata marinated in thyme and balsamic vinegar.
Moving with the times, there is also a glass case containing a delectable feast of prepared dishes and a regiment of carciofi alla romana (Roman artichokes) stands proudly beside trays of succulent meatballs, veal involtini and stuffed vegetables. At Christmas and New Year there is a long list of special dishes that can be ordered in advance for a luxurious twist to your holiday feast.
Enoteca Trimani has been supplying Rome with wine since 1821, when Francesco Trimani opened his shop near the Piazza Navona. In 1876 the shop moved to its current location in Via Goito, making it the oldest wine shop in Rome. Until about fifty years ago most enotecas in Rome sold bulk wine and olive oil, and some wine bars still sport the original signs that says, “Vino e Olio”.
Wine would be stored in two tanks, red or white, and piped through to the shop to be sold on demand from taps. Trimani has preserved the original wine fountain, and when modernising in the 1990s they kept the basalt floor slabs and the Carrara marble-topped counter.
There are large labelled jars that used to hold the wine being cooled by running water, and on the wall a price list dating all the way back from 1919.
The two corridors of wines are arranged by region, and they introduce the public to many small producers as well as the bigger brands. European and New World wines are represented in their stock of six thousand bottles, and there is also a section just for ‘bubbles’ for those rare special occasions when wine (even the great wines you find here!) simply isn’t enough.
Augusto Panella opened his shop in the 1920s and his daughter and grandson have expanded the business with great success ever since.
The German ‘Matador’ oven is kept busy by four bakers, and five pastry chefs are needed to create the mouthwatering fruit tarts and apple strudel that they sell to contented customers.
Regional breads take their turn, from the Piemontese biovetta to the Sicilian sesame- seeded mafalda.
Over seventy types of bread are baked during the year using a variety of flours including rye, corn and oat, as well as the more common wheat, and it’s important to note that Panella was one of the first bakers to produce gluten-free bread. On most days you can find walnut or onion bread as well as the delicious sourdough campagnolo made with a starter dating from 1938.
The poppy-seeded grissini (long thin breadsticks) baked here are very popular, and the great baking trays of pizza rustica carried out from the ovens are sliced and sold before they even have a chance to cool.
The window displays are worth the visit in their own right, the owners create visually exciting displays in line with seasonal themes such as Christmas Nativity and Easter.
Ancient Rome has also been entirely recreated in bread here, and many window shoppers make a detour simply to admire the ever-changing spectacle.