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). 

Trapizzino

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. 

Why?

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). 

Pinsere

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.

StrEATart

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!

The Art of Snacking

My snack bag for the DC-Rome trip. 

My snack bag for the DC-Rome trip. 

So our flight out of Reagan is delayed, which really didn't come as a huge surprise. Since I'm crossing my fingers this won't be the epic kind of wait (comparable to the one that resulted in me starting a novella), I've decided to channel my energy into a short blog post. 

I'm not a picky eater by any stretch of the imagination. After all, I have sampled brain curry off a roadside stall in Mumbai (not one of my better decisions). But the combination of flying and airplane food has the potential to turn sitting next to me into a live viewing of The Exorcist. For the sake of fellow travelers, I endeavor to knock myself out with a well-timed dose of Dramamine long before the smell of food assails my nostrils. 

Since our journey to Rome will likely total 14 hours (perhaps more if this delay continues), and sustenance is a necessity. Which brings me to a few travel tips for frequent fliers. 

  1. Pack dry snacks--the kind that do not require napkins for clean up and do not create an overly loud crunching sound (this might be my over-politeness coming into play, but still..). I'm a huge fan of toasted unsalted almonds, raisins, and apricots. Because my husband is a bit on the cheap side, we buy them in bulk and create our own "trail mix" bags. That said, I'll make a messy-exception for dark caramel-filled chocolate. 
  2. Pack an empty plastic water bottle (note: this doesn't work in all countries). While security will not let you bring liquids in, you can fill up your canteen once you're waiting at the gate. If you made the mistake of bringing a beverage, you can drink/dump its contents before getting to the X-ray machines and refill once you're inside. Remember, hydration is very important on flights since you sweat quite a bit without being conscious of it.
  3. Pack tissues, napkins and/or a small wash cloth, just incase you spill something. Wet wipes and hand sanitizer might also come in handy. Klutz that I am, I once coated the carpet beneath several seats with coffee. 
  4. If your flight is longer than 6 hours, consider bringing a toothbrush and toothpaste, or, at the very least, some mouth wash.  

The Art of Packing

Short time lapse video using a Go Pro Hero 3 Black Edition of movers packing up (and yes, they gave us permission to film). 

Welcome to the inaugural post for No Flip Flops, where I'll be taking a break from my usual romance author duties and writing about traveling. If you want to stay apprised of adventures in Italy and beyond, this is the place to visit. For updates about my books and those of my fellow writer friends, please continue to visit my regular author blog.

The Road So Far...

My husband joined the Foreign Service in February 2010. Since then we've lived in the Middle East, South Asia, and of course Washington, D.C. We'll be in Rome, Italy for the next three years. 

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My Top Packing Tip

Compartments make all the difference! Rather than throw things in your suitcase, try and place your clothes, chargers, toiletries etc. into smaller containers. While a bit on the pricey side, the Eagle Creek packing system is a nice perk for frequent travelers (and a must have for my obsessive compulsive husband). In the off chance someone ends up going through your stuff, there's a possibility this packing method will leave your suitcase organized. A more economic option, of course, are cloth shoe and bag covers that occasionally come with your purchase, toiletry pouches from airlines and hotels, and extra large Ziplock bags. 

Remember, unpacking is the hard part! Imagine arriving at your destination and being able to simply lift containers out of your suitcase for placement in drawers and closet.  

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Tara Quan

Globetrotter, lover of languages, and romance author, Tara Quan has an addiction for crafting tales with a pinch of spice and a smidgen of kink. Inspired by her travels, she enjoys tossing her kick-ass heroines and alpha males into exotic contemporary locales, fantasy worlds, and post-apocalyptic futures. Visit Tara at www.taraquan.com

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