Rome – Centro Storico – a night of Jewish cuisine in Ghetto di Roma

The Ghetto di Roma is the old Jewish ghetto, on the east bank of the Tiber, due north from the Isola Tibernia. A lot, but not all of it, lies in Rione XI Sant’Angelo. Neighbourhood map here. City map here.

For over three hundred years, from 1555, Jewish people were required to live here by law, under the patronage of the Catholic church, under whom they suffered many ignominies. The ghetto walls, and most of the buildings in it, were pulled down when the Papal States were unified with the rest of Italy in 1870.

The Jewish community in Rome is most likely the oldest in the world (the first written record of Jews in Rome was in 161 BC). Over time it has developed its own distinctive local cuisine, known as Cucina Ebraica Romana (Roman Jewish cuisine). Classics include the Carciofi alla Giudia (deep-fried artichokes) which I had at La Campana, and also Fiori di Zucca (fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella), Abbacchio alla Giudia (roast lamb with rosemary and garlic), Stracotto (literally ‘overcooked’, chuck steak stewed in tomato passata and red wine), Aliciotti e Indivia (anchovies with endive), and Concia di Zucchine (fried and marinated zucchini), to name a few.

Many Roman Jews are Sephardic Jews who came from Spain and Portugal, bringing baccalà (saltcod) with them. Intererstingly (for me as someone with Norwegian roots) Roman baccalà varies from Venetian baccalà in that it is preserved by salting, whereas the latter is air-dried (stockfish).

I wanted somewhere special for my last evening meal in Rome…

Piperno Restaurant (High Intermediate B+), 9 Via Monte Dè Cenci,

One of Rome’s oldest restaurants, since 1860, located in a secluded square in the old Jewish ghetto. I recommend booking several days ahead for a table outside.

The menu offers high-end Jewish fare. I began with the Fritto Scelto All’ Italiana; deep-fried, battered artichokes, lambs’ sweetbreads and brains, which was fine if unremarkable (B).

The Tagliolini alla Pescartora; a long pasta with mussels, clams, cuttlefish, oil, garlic and chilli which was fabulous (A).

At this point it got too dark for the photos to turn out well but for my main I had Saltimbocca di Vitello alla Romana; veal escalope with ham and sage, also excellent (A) and a side of Cicoria bitter greens. The two wines I tried, a Malvasia Puntinata white and a Piceno Bacchus red, were fine (B). As ever I was looking for local things that I hadn’t tried before so for dessert I had Le Palle di Nonno Fritte, which was worryingly translated as ‘Fried Grandpa’ Balls’. In fact they are deep-fried balls of ricotta and chocolate but the name is better than the flavour, although they may be related (C). A glass of Limoncello went well with this.

The food was good if a bit on the expensive side but I’d still go back for the atmosphere, preferrably with a friend.

There are many other good restaurants to try in the old ghetto ao I’ll definitely be adding to this post in the future.

Moving on to the next neighbourhood down the river…

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