Eating Kosher in Rome

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By Holly Magady

Over the summer our family spent a glorious 8 days in Italy. One of the reasons we chose Italy was for its plentiful kosher dining options. Rome, in particular, has at least a dozen kosher restaurants, located in 3 different neighborhoods, the largest of which is in the old Jewish Ghetto. There, in the shadow of the magnificent Great Synagogue of Rome (which also houses a fine Jewish museum), one can find a bevy of kosher restaurants and shops, most of which are located on or near a charming cobblestone street called Via Portico d’Ottavia. Although we peeked into several of the fast food joints, we were looking for serious Italian cooking and so chose the fine dining experience for all of our meals in Rome.

Our hands down favorite was the wonderful Nonne Bette, a lovely dairy restaurant specializing in traditional Roman Jewish food. Although it was hot and the air conditioned interior of the restaurant was most inviting, we chose to eat outside at one of the sidewalk tables. It proved to be a good choice, as the atmosphere on Via Portico d’Ottavia is lively and as the night wore on (Italians, like most Europeans, tend to dine on the late side) the narrow street took on the feel of a large, festive block party.

At 8 pages, the menu at Nonne Bette is filled with such tempting delicacies such as fiori de zucca (fried pumpkin flowers with mozzarella and anchovies), risotto scamorza e radicchio (smoked cheese and radicchio risotto), and of course pizza and pastas galore. Having just arrived from Israel and hungering for authentic Italian food, we ignored the page of Middle Eastern selections. Everything sounded wonderful, and choosing was difficult.

For starters, I ordered the carciofo alla giudia or artichoke Jewish style. It was delicious and unique – a whole artichoke, lightly seasoned and deep fried. My son’s ministre e fagioli (bean soup) was likewise superb — rich with a slight kick of something spicy. For the main course my husband had a lovely tagliolini cicoria, cacao e pepe (fresh pasta with chicory pecorino and pepper) and the kids had pizza and gnocchi al pesto. I still dream about my sformato di carciofi (baked artichokes in cheese sauce). These were no canned artichoke hearts…they were fresh and meaty and the parmesan cheese was bubbly and rich, bearing virtually no resemblance to the fluffy bland stuff that we shake out of a plastic red container at home. All agreed that the pizza, with its hot crispy, almost impossibly thin crust, was the best we’d ever tasted!

On both evenings we dined at Nonne Bette we found the service to be excellent – helpful, extremely friendly and efficient. Figure on spending around $50 per person, without wine.

Nonna Betta, Via del Portico d’Ottavia,16, telephone 39.06.68806263. Reservations recommended, particularly in the evenings after 8pm.

Other restaurants we enjoyed in the Ghetto were Yovata, another dairy restaurant that serves great pizzas and produces their own artisanal cheeses, and Ba”Ghetto, a meat restaurant specializing in Jewish Roman and Meditteranean cuisine. For a full list of restaurants, bakeries and kosher markets in Rome visit www.Jewishitaly.org.

Holly Magady has recently re-discovered the joy and wonder of foreign travel and she hopes to do a lot more of it! She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 3 children.

4 thoughts on “Eating Kosher in Rome

  1. it was so nice to read this! We also just took a two week vacation in Italy, and our last stop was Rome. Of all the places we ate all over the country, Nonne Betta was my favorite also! Thanks for bringing back good memories!

  2. Yotvata dairy restaurant in the Jewish ghetto in Rome was our favorite when our entire family went to Italy last summer.
    The homemade gelato (italian ice cream) there was amazing and the kids loved every morsel of the various pasta dishes they ordered. My favorite item on the menu was the battered fried vegetables! Absolutely incredible!!
    This restaurant is a must-see when in Rome!

  3. A year ago we also had the pleasure of visiting Rome. For Shabbos, instead of eating take-out food in our hotel room, we went to the home of a local woman who caters Shabbos meals in her home. We got her name from the local Chabad Rabbi.

    This friday night experience was extraordinary!

    This woman lives in a quintessential elegant european apartment. All the food, challahs, and pastries were all home made, delicious, varied and plentiful. Too bad here was no eruv in Rome! I would have taken all the extra food back to the hotel!

    But the food was only part of the story. The woman, whose name is Simcha, had a distinct regal bearing, and boy does she have a story to tell! She is a walking history book. Our family was riveted as she related her personal stories.

    Our hotel was about a half hour walk from her apartment, but it took us 4 hours of wandering through the streets of Rome, until we found our way. But, that was part of the fun (just don’t ask my 8 year old!).

    Her apartment is on the Via Imperio. There is a hotel around the corner also. Just call the Chabad Rabbi for info about her.

    What great memories!! Good luck!

  4. thank you, holly. I’ve seen your article on the jerusalem post, I’m so glad for this! thank you so much and i hope to see you again early in rome.

    umberto

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