Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The great bagel bunco

I know, it's been a loooooong time. Forgive me. But I'm back with a post about bagels... in Rome!
Here in Rome, everyone and their mother has been adding bagels to their menus lately. Being the bagel-lover I am, I went and tried almost every single one (I won't name names but I'm sure most of you can figure it out) and I can safely say THOSE ARE NOT BAGELS! They're just buns shaped like bagels with some seeds sprinkled on top. Mind you, they're tasty buns, but they ain't bagels and it really gets my goat that they're trying to pass them off as such. It's an outrage, it's scandalous, it's misleading, and it's sad that Romans will think they've eaten a bagel but have no idea what they're missing out on.
But wait... so as not be all doom and gloom, I have to point out that there is one place that makes a somewhat authentic bagel, meaning it's as close as anyone in Rome has ever come to a real bagel: a restaurant in Trastevere called Alle Fratte di Trastevere. The owner's wife is American and a few years back she started making bagels and selling them on the weekends. She has expanded her business and operates during the week too, and her bagels are decent. Mind you, they're no Ess-a-Bagel bagels, but they sufficiently satisfy my bagel cravings.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

New discovery in Trastevere

It's nice to see new places popping up in Trastevere... things had been stagnating here while neighborhoods like Monti and Pigneto were blowing up with all sorts of fun things. Needless to say, I was ever so jealous till now!
On my way to my favorite produce vendor in Trastevere, I spotted this tiny shop that I'd never seen before: Pasqualino.
He just opened this shop one month ago but had been at the Ettore Rolli market for years. It caught my attention because I spotted PECANS - both whole and shelled!! I stepped into his tiny shop and was amazed by the products, most of which are sold in bulk: black beans (from Mexico), dried spices, seeds (flax, sesame, you name it!), goji berries and all kinds of dried fruit and nuts, farro + lots of other grains, reasonably priced Italian whole wheat pasta, different kinds of pâté, sauces, dried olives, fresh porcini mushrooms, PAN masa harina, etc.
Bravo Pasqualino!

Via Portuense 96/E
cell: +39 339-244-1350 or +39 333-912-0732
(they'll be updating the website soon with new address and info)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nothing gold can stay...

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic with that title but I am genuinely bummed out about what’s happened to my beloved Farmers’ Market in Garbatella. Backstory: In March 2013, the market was moved from its convenient (for me, at least) Testaccio location to the current Garbatella venue. That in itself was a bit traumatic for me, as it would now take me 45-60 minutes to get there by transpo, BUT my love for this market was great enough for me to overcome that hurdle. And week after week, I schlepped myself and my granny shopping cart there.

Just this month however, I discovered that some of my favorite vendors are no longer part of the market: Giulio Pace who sold to-die-for spelt bread; the man (whose name I don’t know but he had impressively ornate sideburns/facial hair) who sold drool-inducing cheese that people would wait in line forever for; the chatty lady who sold jams and honey; the rosy-cheeked organic produce vendor who sold hard-to-find butternut squash amongst other things (he still has a stand at the Via di San Teodoro market and I discovered he has a shop too!); and a few others.
Apparently when the city (or whoever runs this market, it’s not very clear to me) first decided to create this market, it was viewed as a trial run, so they didn't ask vendors to pay rent. Cut to September 2014, they realized the market was profitable and now wanted to be paid rent. Seems fair enough to me but some vendors didn’t want to pay for some reason or another, so they left. As for my spelt-bread man, he was actually from L'Aquila in Abruzzo, and at the start was allowed to partake in the market (which is strictly for Lazio producers) only because they wanted to help out his company after the devastating earthquake. But I guess the city no longer deems that necessary so they tossed him out. And so, yet again, Rome has managed to ruin what was once a perfect setup...

I wouldn't want this to come across as a gloom & doom post so I must point out that a handful of the vendors from this market- including my absolute favorite produce dealer Leopoldo Antonetti & family and the lovely lady who sells potatoes/Asian pears/etc. from Azienda agricola Provvedi Alessandro - have opened up a shop in Trastevere where you can find the same products (and more!!) on sale EVERY DAY... well, except for Monday.

La Bottega di Campagna Amica di Trastevere
Via Bernardino Passeri, 6/8
cell: +39 339-5214733
closed Mon
Tues Wed Thu Fri Sat 8:00- 20:00
Sun 8:00- 14:00
(I'd suggest calling to double-check the hours on holidays and during the month of August)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"che ci vuoi fare"

I read this article today about the five crucial mistakes expats make in Italy and though I understand the point the author is making, I can't say I agree with her 100%.
I personally don't think there is anything wrong with trying to better the place you live in as a native or an expat- be it your building, your block, your neighborhood, your city, and so on. Actually, more people should start speaking up and taking an active part in bettering the world.
Problems with littering and bad customer service shouldn't just be brushed off as unlovable aspects of Rome, they are things that can be changed! If you see a heathen toss his/her litter on the street, you should say something. You'll probably be told off, but so what? Maybe, just maybe, some of your words might stick and the heathen will think twice before littering - if anything, only out of fear of being publicly shamed again. Any civilized Italian would speak up (yes, I can assure you there are lots of Italians who do!), so I don't see why an expat should feel it's wrong to do so. Same holds true for bad customer service- you should file complaints, write letters/emails when service is shady instead of just thinking "Oh well, I'm in Italy". I for one have written lots of letters to companies and even state agencies, and I have seen some positive results. I've even had companies thank me for my constructive criticism because it helped them build a better business and/or offer better customer service. I can't say it happens all the time, but it's worth 5-10 minutes of my time to try and make a difference.
So does this make me an expat who's not well-adjusted? I don't think so... if anything, it makes me a good "Roman" who is trying to better the place she has chosen to live in. Italy, and more specifically Rome, is stagnating because too many people have been chanting that passive Italian mantra "che ci vuoi fare" for far too long. It's much easier to say that than to actually find viable ways to help improve your surroundings. If we were all to adapt that "you’re not going to change Italy" attitude, organizations like Retake Rome would never exist. Expat Rebecca Spitzmiller would've just said "Oh well, Rome is dirty, I can't change it"... but she can and she is!

So while I do realize there are limits as to what we expats can do in our adopted cities, I think it is important for us to maintain our civic-mindedness and to do what we can to better Rome without being accused of being idealistic foreigners.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


I use rely on public transportation to get around Rome, so when I first heard about the plan to extend the 8 tram to Piazza Venezia I was one of the few people who supported the idea, and I still do (more or less). Everyone was griping about what a waste of money it was to extend the tram line 400 meters but what I kept saying was it would create for easier transfers.
We all know that Rome's public transportation is dismal not that great and what makes it even worse is the lack of easy transfers. Not just for tourists who might be schlepping suitcases but also just for regular residents of Rome who always have to sprint when changing from one bus to another. For example, have you ever seen the 8 - 75/44 dash? Grab a bag of popcorn and stand by the Ministry of Public Education , you can sit there for hours watching people, young and old alike, frantically getting off the 8 tram and running like wildfire to reach the 75 or 44 buses to Monteverde. It's sad and amusing at the same time. We need seamless transfers, we need transportation hubs- like what we now have in Piazza Venezia (more or less).
BUT, here's the hitch, from what I saw it seems they've removed the Largo Argentina tram stops in both directions. So now the only stop before Piazza Venezia is Piazza Cairoli - which is downright stoopid (yes, with two O's). Let's say you're on the tram and are aiming to take a bus from Largo Argentina, you now have to sprint or lug your suitcases from Piazza Cairoli. Sure it's only 100 meters or so away from the old stop but the the sidewalk to get to the main bus stop is too narrow to accommodate that kind of foot traffic- making it anything but seamless.
A well-designed and well-thought-out transportation network would make it easy for riders to get from one place to another, to change buses/trams/metro without having to jump through too many hoops, without having to sprint through intersections and dodge cars. 
What's worse is, apparently now that the tram is situated in Piazza Venezia, there is no chance in hell it will ever reach Termini, like it was initially supposed to (how lovely would it be to have the 8 tram going up Via Nazionale?). Not really a win-win situation, maybe more like a win-lose situation... 

If you can read Italian, this Roman blogger wrote a good post on the topic:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Prima di...

Have you ever seen this TED video about Candy Chang's project "Before I die I want to..."? If not, watch it... then come to Piazza San Cosimato from May 5th - 12th because the project will make its way to Trastevere! Come share your thoughts and participate in "one of the most creative community projects ever"!
You can like the event/group on Facebook:

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

caffeinated crack

I finally made my way to Puglia, Lecce to be exact, after years of daydreaming about it.
Needless to say, I was NOT disappointed. I won't go into the details of how incredibly beautiful the city and region are, instead I'll share with you the most amazing caffeinated crack I discovered while there:

CAFFE' IN GHIACCIO= a shot of espresso with almond syrup (some say "almond milk" but the ones I had were all made with almond syrup) on the rocks. So incredibly delicious and refreshing.
This will be my summer beverage.
Thank you, Lecce!