I’ve cruised to Civitavecchia many times, but I didn’t feel like I understood Rome until I had lunch at Salumeria Roscioli a few weeks ago.
Several articles had mentioned this small but popular salumeria in the Centro Storico district on the Via dei Giubbonari, a few minutes’ walk from the Campo de Fiori, so my husband Chris and I — tired from days of overly scheduled sightseeing — decided to take the ship’s transfer from the port of Rome and wander toward the restaurant, sightseeing as we meandered through the city.
After a morning of shopping (shoes for me, glasses for him — after all, August is summer sale time in Rome), we sat down for lunch at Salumeria Roscioli. We had set aside plenty of time for a long, leisurely afternoon meal, the type that Italians usually like to recover from with a nap.
The menu is extensive and full of too many good things to try them all at one meal. We decided to start with a tray of Italian salumi, followed by spaghetti carbonara and Roman meatballs with chestnut polenta. As soon as we placed our order, though, we wondered if perhaps we had made a mistake by not getting the burrata, a spreadable version of mozzarella.
We called our waiter over and, since service had just begun, he decided that the amuse bouche of the day could be burrata and brought us — and everyone else seated in the restaurant — a taste. It was soft, creamy, and rich, but mild. We were glad we had chosen bolder flavors for our one and only lunch in town.
When the waiter marched over with our tray of salumi, it again confirmed our choice: The plate was layered with prosciutto, parma, speck, capocollo, and mortadella studded with truffles. On top were chunks of salty parmesan, and on the side, a basket of bread. We both grew up in the Philadelphia area and were raised on Italian cold cut-filled hoagies; we were surprised at how much bolder the flavors were here, and how much better the textures of the meat were. “Pasteurization,” explain the waiter, “makes the meat spongy.”
The spaghetti carbonara was equally revelatory. Carbonara, at its best, is a simple dish of spaghetti dressed with egg yolk, pepper, pecorino, and pancetta. On cold nights in New York, it’s a comfort food I whip up in less than 20 minutes. Chris occasionally orders it at restaurants, and always pronounces mine better. He took one bite of the carbonara at Roscioli’s and gave me a smirk. “Sorry, honey.”
Of course, Roscioli tops its carbonara with thick hunks of gamy guanciale that’s been fried until crispy. The restaurant also sources every ingredient from the best European purveyors. Who can compete with that? I’m happy not to — as long as I can eat here on every Mediterranean cruise.