The last thing that comes to mind, when thinking about Italian cuisine is “Take Out.” The term sounds a bit like culinary blasphemy when deciding on what and where to eat when holidaying in Italy but when out and about sightseeing, be sure to stop by a rosticceria to pick up a delicious dinner which is straight from the Italian cookery books. What could be better than bringing home a local feast to enjoy in your private surroundings on beautiful china, with not a pot or pan in sight?
Partaking in the food culture in Italy, can become just as important as experiencing the sights, the sounds and the art. And, just as food is an important part for those who come to visit, it is equally so for the natives. We have all heard stories, had our own experiences, or merely just salivated at the thought of a proper Italian home-cooked meal. Grilled aubergines and courgette, roasted chicken stuffed with herbs from the garden, lasagna with a slow simmered ragù sauce, fried polenta and vegetable minestrone. So, if not at Nonna’s, where do the Italians go for proper home-style-cooked meals? The local rosticceria.
Little known to tourists, a rosticceria offers a quick option for a simple but hearty meal. Offering roasted meats, a rosticceria may not sound like much, but during lunch and dinner hours, these places are hopping with Italians, who eagerly wait in line for some home-cooked goodness to take on the run.
When in doubt, follow the locals. On a recent trip to Florence, one of our villa specialists did just this and found herself at Rosticceria La Spada. A small rosticceria which, in a matter of moments was teaming with hungry Italians who were undoubtedly regulars. The man and woman behind the counter greeted each one of them by name, with a smile and a “Come va?” (“How are things?”). She decided to step back and see what the regulars ordered, what combinations they made and to see what daily specials were up for trying.
Soon enough, she was speaking with one of the three owners of La Spada, a kind gentleman named Agostino, who was clearly passionate about his rosticceria, its service and food. In asking about the different dishes, he led her through the daily specials and the every day staples. In detail, he told her about the cooking processes, stating honestly and proudly that La Spada is known for its meat. Every morning and every evening, the various meats, from whole chickens, to steak to pork, were grilled to perfection on the slow-turning wood fire spit or on the “brace,” of wood embers. He smiled and laughed when she asked him if he eats there, and said “Yes, of course!” He went on to talk about a recipe called ‘Stracotto di Campanello alla Vernaccia.’ They make this dish once a week from large beef cuts with carrots, celery and onion. It is slow cooked all night in Vernaccia. Each rosticceria has its own take on traditional recipes and, even if these dishes are found everywhere, each place personalises it with a touch that makes it their own.
After a quick tour of the wood fire and behind the scenes of the rosticceria, it was time to place an order. She started with a light and savory ‘Sformatino di Verdure’, (a type of vegetable quiche), followed by chicken which had been dressed in garlic, sage, rosemary and salt, before being sandwiched in between bread and roasted on the spit. Hearty cuts of delicate roast beef with roasted potatoes and a hint of fresh orange came next and it was then finished off by a one of kind specialty, the ‘Buddino di Marroni’ – chestnut pudding with a caramelized chocolate top and a creamy centre.
Whether it is slow roasted meat, grilled or marinated vegetables, soups, pastas or a cornucopia of side dishes that you seek, a tried and true home-cooked Italian meal is just one stop away from your table. On your next visit to Italy, remember there is a no mess, no fuss way to have a simple and simply delicious meal, without cooking or hiring a cook and without an evening at a restaurant. Just keep your eyes peeled for the signs, or simply follow the locals to their favourite local rosticceria. And, if you are at a loss for what to order, just ask the cooks what they recommend,they're always full of helpful advice and love to talk about their recipes.
For more information about planning a villa holiday in Italy, speak to our Italy travel specialists on +44 (0) 1242 787 800.