(Roman Jewish cooking, cucina ebraico-romanesca,
quinto quarto cooking, fish cuisine)
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Even though you will find a lot of fine fish restaurants in Rome, true traditional Roman cuisine is based on two mainstays: Jewish cooking on the one hand, and old-fashioned poor-man's cooking based on the quinto quarto (literally "fifth-quarter"), meaning the cheapest parts of the cow: head, tail, tripes, kidneys, brains. Lamb meat is also found in Roman cuisine, but traditionally served at Easter time.
Fried Artichokes, fried vegetables and cod dishes are just some examples of Roman Jewish specialities. Carciofi alla giudia (crispy-fried artichokes, Jewish style) is a common antipasto or contorno in Roman cuisine. Traditionally they were mostly served around Easter, but now artichokes can be found all year round). Torzelli, a deep-fried curly endive that is another Roman specialty.
How did this Jewish Roman cuisine develop ? The need to find substitutes for forbidden foods and comply with Jewish dietary laws resulted in the creation of specialities and meatless meals like many cod dishes, dairy and vegetable dishes. For the same reason oil or goose fat were used for cooking, instead of butter or pork fat. Read more about the origin and characteristics of Roman Jewish cuisine.
Of course, as in the rest of Italy, pasta is an important part of the Roman menu. The original receipe of Spaghetti alla carbonara was conceived in Rome. Bucatini all'amatriciana, originally from the town of Amatrice, pasta cacio e pepe (cacio is a typical Roman cheese) and pasta alla gricia are also very popular in Rome. In season, mushrooms are served either with pasta or lightly fried as an antipasto or main dish. Popular Roman dishes based on the quinto quarto are coda alla vaccinara. Other typical Roman dishes are Saltimbocca alla Romana. Suppli, fried rice croquettes stuffed with mozzarella and tomato juice make a tasty snack.
Typical cheeses are the pecorino romano, a rather strong cheese made of sheep milk and the cacio.
Seafood and more expensive fish were found in papal and regal cooking, and as such it was not really typical of Rome alone but found and prepared in much the same way everywhere in ancient Rome and medieval Italy where these products could be found. Recent influences have contributed a lot to add new accents and savours to roman fish cuisine and some Roman fish restaurants now count among the finest of the city and even of Italy.
A Taste of Ancient Romeby Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa (Author),
Anna Herklotz (Translator)