A kosher cafe in Rome. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber
By Ruth Ellen Gruber
The Forward newspaper runs a piece by food columnist Leah Koenig on kosher dining in Rome, particularly in the old Ghetto area. In the past few years, the Ghetto has undergone considerable development. The main street, via Portico D'Ottavia, is a pedestrian area, the Jewish grade school has moved into the neighborhood, and many new kosher eateries have opened. (Also Judaica stores).
Koenig mentions several places that I myself have recently sampled. The famous kosher pastry shop is a popular attraction -- it produces the best pastries in town, including a unique type of biscotto that combines spices and nuts.
Non-Jewish friends of mine recently introduced me to the newish restaurant Ba' Ghetto, a meat restaurant whose menu includes Sephardic, Ashkenazic and typically Roman Jewish dishes. When we dined there a few weeks ago, we started with appetizers that included a Roman-style torte of endive and anchovies, plus a Middle East platter of Humus and baba ghanoosh, plus a type of Yemenite puff bread. Two of us went on to cous-cous, while the third chose goulash. (The waiter also brought us a sample of excellent grilled steak.) Wine? We chose a kosher Italian red - but I can't remember which....
We reminisced with the waiter about the time, years ago, when there were no kosher restaurants in the Ghetto -- and only one in all of Rome, a Middle Eastern place called Da Lisa that was near the main train station. I don't think it exists anymore. But the family that runs Ba' Ghetto also has a place near piazza Bologna, outside the city center.
Earlier this month, when I was in the Ghetto to cover the pope's visit to the main synagogue, I grabbed a piece of pizza Romana (a sort of focaccia) stuffed with a little turkey mortadella at the Kosher Bistrot mentioned in Koenig's column. It was OK, but I was astounded at the price -- 5 euro, nearly twice what I expected to pay. The woman at the cash desk was unapologetic. "What do you expect," she told me. "It's all kosher, all controlled."
After the papal visit, I went with a friend to grab a slice at a kosher pizzeria a few doors down from the Bistrot -- it wax excellent pizza and only cost 1.5 euro.