After meeting the local butcher, Luna introduces us to Alvato, the 84 year old fishmonger. Absolutely besotted with our beautiful guide, Alvato was a picture perfect veteran stall holder, not shy in sharing with us his adoration of lovely Luna. While going to Testaccio just to meet Alvato would be well worth the trip, his array of beautiful mediterranean seafood - from filleted anchovies to bright silver sardines and ruby red and pink barbounia is an exciting visual indulgence.
Next on the tour was the tomato poet, Carmelo. Where Alvato was the extrovert, Carmelo was a more quite type and his trays of tomatoes in all shapes and colors absolutley spoke for themselves. While just viewing the amazing array of tomatoes was a delight, we had the added pleasure of tasting a range of tomatoes. Some were bursting with sweetness, others a little more salty and savory but all were absolutely divine. I'm afraid to say there is just no comparison with Australian tomatoes, unless of course you have grown them yourself. While Carmelo was quiter than Alvato, his rich and time honored advice was certainly not lacking. Before making a purchase, the lovely Carmelo will want to know exactly what you are making and only then will he select the tomatoes for you to purchase. Such care not doubt comes from the fact that all of Carmelo's tomatoes are tenderly hand picked.
What goes better with tomaotes than slightly sour and salty buffalo mozzarella - oozing creaminess. That was indeed the next tasty delight on our tour - a walking caprese salad. While were not munching on any basil during the tour, the smell of basil eminating from the fruit and vegetables stalls was so strong and fragrant, that the smell in itself was enough to complete the remaining ingredient for our walking salad. And as for that buffalo mozzarella. Words rather fail at this point. There was such a depth of flavour and texture that I don't think I will ever be able to eat regular cow's milk mozzarella ever again. While we were in all in a state of quiet awe over the cheese, Luna offered the helpful suggestion that buffalo mozzarella should never be kept in the fridge as it looses all of the beautiful flavour. Kept in a cool place, with the watery contents of its package - your buffalo mozzarella really should be eaten pretty much on the day it is purchased.
From the covered market, Luna led us further into Testaccio. The suburb of Rome that used to be the home of the slaughterhouse ( now a contemporary art space and weeked organic market) and the working men and women of Rome. While Testaccio may have been known in the past for its real grittiness, our next stop, E Volpetti was a polished temple of gourmet perfection. Also recommended by Catherine Fulvio, E Volpetii had an absolutley breathtaking array of the best of all Italian produce. Baskets of truffles, pink prosciutto di San Daniele, salamis, artichockes, olives, sun dried tomatoes and other tempting antipasto items as well as ready to go fried mozzarella, pizzas - you name it, they were all on offer. The kind staff at E Volpetti were extremely generous with their tastings, a delicious pecorino al tartufo being a real highlight.
While you think this excellent tour may have been specially designed just for those with a savory palate, those with a sweet tooth will not be disappointed. After E. Volpetti, our next stop was at Barberini for thick creamy coffee soaked tiramisu in little individual chocolate cups and the Italian breakfast staple, buttery cornetti, filled with lucious specks of real vanilla beans. And then it was time for lunch!!!!!
In the cool of a cellar, dug out and created out of thousands of years of dumped ancient amphora (ancient roman pottery used to store and transport wine, olive oil etc) escaping the summer heat, we were treated to an award winning carbonara made with smoky sweet guanciale (pig's cheek), amatricana and the Roman classic cacio e pepe - a simple, elegant pasta made only with pecorino cheese and black pepper.
There were a number of other stops along with way with Luna during our four hour tour. The day ended with a lesson on how to spot a real gelato from a fake and a delicious cup of Gelato from Giolitti, also recommended by Catherine Fulvio. While there was a warning that some requested flavour combinations may be rejected (al la soup nazi style) Mr K and I were given the nod of approval with a strawberry and cream combo, and a pistachio and cream combo.
Our day spent with Luna was an absolute highlight of our time in Rome and we could not recommend the tour more highly. It's a great way to start your time in Rome, armed with the knowledge of how to find a real gelato (did you know you are always entitled to two scoops??) and a long long list of recommendations for you stay in Rome from bakeries and wine bars to resturants.
Eating Italy Food Tours Rome