My 3 Favorite Cheap Eats in Rome: Gelato Edition

Recognize the brand? Hint: This photo was taken in Monti.

Recognize the brand? Hint: This photo was taken in Monti.

Rome is one of those wonderful places that has a gelato store around every  corner. By following Katie Parla's "avoid places with the Smurfs flavor" rule, I can safely say that I haven't had bad ice cream in the eternal city. (Smurfs in Italian = i puffi, which is why a printout of Smurfette is sometimes used to indicate the bubblegum flavor). That said, I do have a preference, one that's gotten so specific it's severely cut down on my gelato intake. You see, once a girl has had awesome gelato, its hard to settle for mediocre.

So, where are my go-to places?

Because I'm about to very conspicuously omit La Romana and World Gelato, I'll caveat my preferences by saying I eat a pretty low sugar diet. This has lowered my  tolerance for sweetness, so I tend to prefer desserts with subtler tastes. My preferred flavors are also nut-based (pistachio, almond, hazelnut) as opposed to vanilla or chocolate. This skews my opinion quite a bit.

Best Flavor Selection: Fatamorgana

When in Monti, no matter how cold the weather, I always make this gelato stop. I recommend going with friends. That way, you can maximize your tasting experience by trying other people's selections. I've tried my best not to repeat choices, but I have a weakness for Ricotta and Figs, Cardamom Almonds, and Zabaione with Wild Strawberries. For fans of the classics, Tiramisu, Coffee, and Dark Chocolate is a great combination.

Best Texture and Toppings: Come il Latte

If one were to compare vanilla to vanilla (or chocolate to chocolate), I think Come il Latte might win over Fatamorgana by a hair. When it comes to texture, creaminess, and high-quality ingredients, this place is hard to beat. In addition to the usual "cream or no cream" dilemma, you also get dark chocolate as an option. It's a topping I can never bring myself to turn down. 

Best Overall: Gelateria dei Gracchi

Gelateria dei Gracchi is responsible for the sharp fall in my gelato consumption. Yes, you read that right--"sharp fall." You see, unlike Fatamorgana and Come il Latte, both of which are located in areas I frequent on a regular basis (Monti and Via Veneto, respectively), Gelateria dei Gracchi a bit out of the way (near Piazza Regina Margherita). Because I like it best, I often decide against wasting calories on the other places, turning the act of eating gelato into a calculated decision instead of a convenient snack. In my humble opinion, this gelateria strikes the perfect balance between innovative flavors and overall taste and texture, which makes it one of my favorite cheap eats in all of Rome. 

It took me over a year of living here to settle on this extremely subjective list. Close runner ups include the aforementioned La Romana and World Gelato, as well as Pompii (which has the best tiramisu, pretty decent gelato, and is perhaps the most conveniently located for tourists--aka, near the Spanish Steps). 

Do you have a favorite (cheap) place to eat in Rome? Let me know in the comments!

My 3 Favorite Cheap Eats in Rome: Street Food Edition

I may or may not buy prosciutto in bulk...

I may or may not buy prosciutto in bulk...

Let me preface this by saying I am in no way, shape, or form a gourmet. Being from Thailand, I have also not fallen head over heels in love with Italian cuisine (*gasp* No!! How can you not like pasta? It's like noodles).

Don't get me wrong, I like the food here. I AM head over heels in love with the fresh fruits and vegetables. I can also, very happily, subsist on prosciutto, bresaola, tomatoes, and cucumbers (aka my at-home lunch).

Perhaps because I can get affettati (cold cuts) on the cheap and gorge on seasonal fruit (currently, peaches and strawberries), I am somewhat stingy with my "eating out" budget. The average per-head for a mid-range restaurant here is 30-40 €, so the cost of each leap of faith is on the high side. As such, I've gravitated toward il cibo di strada (street food). 

Here are my 3 go-to places (the few dining establishments in Rome I've revisited on a semi-regular basis). 


Alright, I know this place isn't exactly on the Spanish Steps (where I make a point not to eat). Both locations are a bit out of the way, where selfie sticks are nowhere to be found. However, it is totally worth making a trip. 


Even though I'm a pretty adventurous eater, I cannot finish a whole plate of trippa alla romana (yes, trippa is tripe) or lingua in salsa verde (and lingua is tongue). I need to be initiated to such delicacies in small portions, which makes Trapizzino's formula pretty darn perfect.

Onto a very delicious triangular-shaped hunk of pizza bianca (aka bread), these guys dollop "traditional roman cuisine." The flavors range from plain old sausage or chicken, to squid and innards. On stock is also a very decent selection of birra artigianale (artisan beer). Although there's seldom an available chair to sit on, the food is definitely worth it.

By the way, you can always combine a stop at Trapizzino with other activities. Ponte Milvio has a flea market on the first Sunday of every month, and the covered market in Testaccio is always worth a look-see (wine, cold cuts, cheap shoes–there's something for everyone). Once you've pre-burned the calories, you can refuel guilt-free for around 10€ (+/- 5€, depending on how many you can eat). 


This humble joint seems to be a lunch-time go-to place for many an office worker bee. At a little less than 5€ a slice, these thin-crust pizza al taglio are hard to beat.

Yes, you'll have to eat on the sidewalk.

Yes, you'll have to wait in line.

People do it anyway, and despite the ominous-looking wait, they work so fast you'll be filling your stomach in no time. Though not exactly in the historic center, they are central enough and easily reachable via public transport

Once you're done, head around the corner to Come il Latte, and finish off your meal with some gelato.


While I'm not too fond of their name, I am a huge fan of their pizza, especially when I've got the urge to forsake the super-duper-thin-crust roman-style pizza found everywhere else (aka the type you'll find at Pinsere). When pizza is one's main snack food, it helps to differentiate.

Though not as thick as pizza napoletana, the fluffy-crust pizza as StrEATart is very easy on the jaw, and their toppings are definitely different from what one finds elsewhere (I recommend the Rucola e Porcini...given, one can never go wrong with porcini mushrooms.)

Okay, I admit, they made the list mainly because they're around the corner from my house, on Piazza Buenos Aires (where there is both a convenient Taxi stand, and a not-so convenient bus and tram stop). Nearby are the mid-end shopping establishments on Via Po, where you can find made-to-order shirts, a shop dedicated to olive oil, a fresh pasta shop, several butchers, and a bunch of decent cafes. 

Via Po is also a reasonably short walk from Villa Borghese (the museum within which is a must-see for Art History fans).

So there you have it, the very few pearls of wisdom I've gleaned over the past few months. Do you have a favorite (cheap) place to eat in Rome? Let me know in the comments!

An American in Rome - 5 Things I Miss About America

Before you get the wrong idea, I'd like to caveat this by saying I love living in Italy. Hands down, this has been the easiest move, and I'm already dreading the day, two years and eleven months from now, when we'll be forced to leave.

What do you think? We painted the faux marble finish two weekends ago.

What do you think? We painted the faux marble finish two weekends ago.

When my husband started his job, I attended a spouse's orientation, where a number of presenters gave advice on medical evacuation, financial planning, and even the logistics of divorce. Of the many topics covered, one had been the 4 stages of culture shock.

At week six, I'm well past my honeymoon stage, the end of which was marked by my choice to paint pillars at home instead of exploring the city. I should be experiencing the plunge to frustration and hostility right about now. But since this stint in Rome came after a year in Karachi and two in Abu Dhabi, I'd characterize my current mood as a slight slump, marked by mild lethargy and occasional crankiness. Before I start on the upward slope toward assimilation, it seemed appropriate to list the things an Americana (female American) might miss in Rome:

1. Seedless Grapes: The grapes here taste better than the ones in the States by several orders of magnitude (I am not exaggerating, I swear). Nonetheless, cracking open a bitter seed mid-chew has become an occasional source of irritation.  

2. Insinkerator/Disposal: To be fair, few places outside the US have in-sink disposal units. Old cities have it worse since the plumbing and sewage systems aren't equipped to handle chopped up organic refuse. I've gotten the hang of straining out tea leaves and dumping them in the trash, but I do miss being able to rinse out my pot and getting rid of the waste with the push of a button.

3. Weekend Store Hours: Last Saturday, my husband and I traipsed over to the ferramenta (hardware store) at around 4 in hopes of buying an extension cord. As we half-expected, it was closed. An Italian lady in a very chic skirt-suit (they dress nice around here) had gotten there before us. She stared at the locked door, threw up her hands, and stomped her 4-inch stiletto. "È Sabato, tutto è morto! "(It's Saturday, everyone/thing is dead!)–her words, not mine. Believe it or not, outside the touristy areas, weekends in Rome, especially during August, remind me of scenes from the The Walking Dead

4. Demineralized Water: Every tourist who's read about Rome knows how lovely the water is. We've been advised to carry around bottles, which we can refill at the various nasoni scattered all over the city. There's even an iPhone app to help you find these watering holes. Here's the thing–the water here might be delicious, but the calcium content is so high all the supermarkets sell additives to "decalcify" your lavastoviglie (dishwasher) and lavatrice (laundry machine). Unless all stainless steel surfaces are wiped dry, white streaks form, which requires yet another type of cleaner. You even need special water to spritz over your clothes while ironing!

5. 4G/LTE Networks: Theoretically, phone carriers here offer 4G, but I've yet to set foot in the mythical locations where such speeds exist. For the most part, I get 3G, which at times dwindles to Edge (even downtown). Internet speeds are also affected by the number of people using it. My data works fine at 7AM, but not so much at 7PM. 

Thus ends my list of little gripes, which I'm sure I'll get over within the next few weeks. If any other expat is reading this, drop me comment and let me know what you miss about home. 

An American in Rome - First Steps (or 100k steps, to be more precise)

I'm officially done moving into our new apartment in Rome. For those acquainted with the area, we're located to the northeast of all the touristy locations, between Villa Borghese and Villa Ada. I love this neighborhood (which, I believe, is called Parioli). It's out of the way enough to be quiet and relatively safe, but only a twenty minute walk to the city center (and my husband's workplace, which cuts both commuting cost and time).

The view from my apartment building's rooftop, which sums up what I've seen of Rome thus far. 

The view from my apartment building's rooftop, which sums up what I've seen of Rome thus far. 

To my complete surprise, both our Household Effects (HHE) and Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB) were already waiting for us in Europe, so I got to spend my first week here putting our new home to rights, (By the way, I'm described by the US government as an EFM or Eligible Family Member. Weird as the acronym may sound, it's definitely a step up from "trailing spouse".)

So while my husband got to snap awesome photos on his morning commute to work, I literally walked over 100,000 steps, all more or less inside the apartment itself or within the vicinity of our building.

My husband's 1st week in Rome. (This is his office's hallway ceiling.)

My husband's 1st week in Rome. (This is his office's hallway ceiling.)

My 1st week in Rome.

My 1st week in Rome.

Suffice it to say I've discovered very little of the city this week, but here are a few things I've observed about daily life in Rome. I probably would have found this out beforehand if I bothered to buy a travel guide, but oh well...

1. Fruits & veggies are cheap, delicious, and addictive. I've been here 9 days, and I've only gone out to eat once, mainly because I tend to go a bit nuts in the grocery store. And then I went to an open air market, which was a whole new level of awesome. Yes, the shelf-life is pretty short, the produce doesn't look nice and shiny like they do in the US, and the grapes have seeds, but everything is yummy!

2. I learned this in class and then promptly forgot, so it bears repeating. An etto = 100 grams, which is a tad shy of 1/4 pounds. This is the unit of measurement used when buying cheese, cold cuts, and olives, which I've been doing quite a bit of. A good phrase to know is "Vorrei un etto (or due etti) di  questo ("this," which gives you the opportunity to point), per favore."

3. Google & Google Maps can be an excellent resource, given that one's search is in Italian and that one is very specific. For example, searching both supermarket and supermercato (nm.) yielded niente (i.e. zip, zilch, nada). But searching "Carrefour," "Punto Simply," or "Tuodì" got me where I needed to go. Likewise, searching for "ferramenta" does me much more good than "hardware store." [Side Note: We discovered a huge gaping hole in our language training. While we can give our opinion on global warming if we absolutely must, neither of us knew how to say "light bulb" (nf .lampadina), "lighter" (nm. accendino), or "plug/plug adaptor" (nf. spina).]

4. Tabaccherie (lit. tobacco shops–but all the signs say Tabacchi), is the place where one (a) adds money to a pre-paid cell service, (b) buys bus tickets, (c) pays fines, and that's just what I've figured out thus far. This is perhaps why such establishments can be found everywhere (although Romans do seem to smoke a lot).

5. It pays to have a spare bus/tram ticket in one's wallet because most tabaccherie (along with other small shops) are closed on Sundays, between 1-3:30PM, whenever the person working there feels like taking a break, and the first two weeks of August (or so I've been told).

And that's all the blogging enthusiasm I can muster this week. Hopefully, resting at home tomorrow will get me energized enough to go exploring this weekend. I'll report back if I find anything cool!