Now in its sixth series, the Taste of Rome is a delicious showcase of the city’s best and “up and coming” restaurants and star chefs. This year it was held in the Auditorium Parco della Musica – a great outdoor space to host such an unprecedented culinary event.
For those of you who want to sample the exclusive (sometimes expensive) fare featured, this is the venue for you. There were a variety of ticket options but I decided to go with the discounted VIP Saturday lunch ticket which included: fast-track entry to the festival, access to the VIP lounge, €25 Taste Credit, a bottle of water, finger food and tasting opportunities, a glass of beer Birrificio of Angelo Poretti, a cup of illy coffee, and a free gift by Castel Romano Design Outlet. Well worth the €50 in my opinion.
Excited to start eating, I arrived 5 minutes after the doors opened at noon. I wasn’t expecting a line, after all we were in Italy where people were always fashionably late. But apparently not when it came to food events! Fortunately for me, the VIP line moved quickly so I was on the other side in no time.
It was still pretty empty, but I used this to my advantage and did a quick run-through to get better acquainted with the layout. I made my way over to the VIP lounge where I was welcomed with a special gift bag, a glass of prosecco and canape of smoked salmon, cheese and basil. The gift bag contained the event brochure and map, some coupons, a copy of Tustyle magazine, and last but not least – a wine glass and little bag I could wear around my neck. How perfect!
I sat down with my bubbly and began carefully mapping out my route. I must have spent about an hour meticulously reviewing all of the restaurants and their offerings. Each featured restaurant created a total of 4 menu courses, all uniquely themed. But you would have to choose one. And with only 25 points, I had to choose wisely. I recognized two of the restaurants right off the bat (from my own research last year when I first arrived here), Imago All’Hassler and Il Convivio Troiani – two of the finest dining establishments in Rome. The cheapest plate of pasta would cost you €30 but luckily now, I would be able to sample their acclaimed cuisine for much cheaper.
As for my remaining “tastes” or “points”, I would just have to see what caught my eye as I wandered around.
I was like a kid in a candy store - I had to stop myself from running around the place. But I stayed focused. I wanted my first taste to be at Angelo Troiani’s famed Il Convivio Troiani. All of the courses looked intriguing but I went with their ‘sandwich’ which I knew would be far from an ordinary one. And was it ever. Made with zucchini flowers, buffalo mozzarella and anchovies, it looked more like a sculpture than a panino. It was a shame I had to eat it but I would. The flavors were explosive. I normally despise anchovies, but it was the perfect accompaniment.
I was happy to find that the portions were bite-sized, so I wouldn’t have to worry about feeling too full too soon. I wandered around some more to see what else was going on. There were several cooking classes (sponsored by Electrolux) and a couple of food demonstrations. I stopped to watch a few before I found myself getting hungry again. Now the hottest part of the day, I was craving something cold and refreshing. That’s when I found LiVello1’s stand, where they had 4 colorful plates on display. Each one was paired with one of their signature cocktails. Exactly what I wanted! I went with the chef’s favorite – the tacos and balos. The fish taco was tiny but packed with large flavors from the homemade tomato, cucumber, walnut, hazelnut and watermelon. And the cocktail was a complex mixture of Tequila Espolon, orange Curacao, lime and watermelon juice, served in a pepper-rimmed glass.
After a brief siting break in one of the common areas, it was time to get back up and walk around. I needed to build up my appetite for my next mouthful. Seeing a large crowd formed around one of the stands, I decided to stop and see what all the commotion was. It was a food demo obviously. What else would draw such an eager crowd? I had no idea what they were preparing but I waited patiently nonetheless. Finally, the spoons were distributed, each one containing a fried ball of cheesy dough nestled comfortably on a dollop of bright sauce made with tomato, pepper and oil. And on top, a sprinkle of sugar. A strange combination, but absolute perfection.
Determined to find some other free tastes, I did another lap around and came across a cheese shop. After which I accidently stumbled on a beverage tasting – prosecco made from Belgium chocolate. It was interesting, but I needed a drink with a little more substance. It was the opportune time to claim my complimentary beer so back to the VIP lounge I went. I’m not a huge fan of beer but the rose brew was pretty tasty. I looked at my ticket and saw I had two more goodies to cash in - one was a food tasting at a specialty shop, the other was a bottle of water (which I would grab on the way out). I wanted to keep my bathroom trips to a minimum.
The shop, San Pietro a Pettine, punched a hole in my VIP necklace and then disappeared off into the back room. I had no idea what they were doing but after a few minutes, they came back out with my treat: a decent-size ravioli filled with cheese and sprinkled on it was some more cheese, pepper, and tartufo. Wow. I definitely took my time eating this one.
I glanced at my watch and couldn’t believe I had only one hour left. Those four hours really flew by! And with that, it was time to redeem my final taste.
Without knowing it, I had saved the best for last. Imago’s #TastetheWorld offering was apparently their signature dish for over 10 years and appropriately titled ‘cappellotti doppio umami, 10 anni di Imago’. Everything about it was perfect. The preparation, presentation and taste. Four wonton-shaped homemade pasta sat in a savory broth bath of mushrooms, onions, snap peas, pancetta, peperoncino, and other flavorful seasonings which I couldn’t quite identify.
I went home on that note, as there was no topping my last course. The Taste of Roma 2017 exceeded all of my expectations, and then some. Looking forward to next year’s event already!