Walks of Italy loves Italian food in all its forms. We want to share this love with you. You can learn more about the Italian Jewish culture by taking our Rome Local Tour, which takes you through the Jewish Ghetto. Italso.com has more tours and experiences.
One of our favourite neighborhoods in Italy is the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. It was originally created to protect the Jewish community, but it has had a profound impact on the city’s culture, particularly in terms of food. Food from the Ghetto is still a staple on every list of things to eat in Rome.
Since at least the Renaissance, Jewish culture has had a significant influence on Italian cuisine. It was when Jewish recipes for geese (a favourite protein of Jews in Po Valley for centuries) entered the papal kitchens and were adopted by Bartolomeo Scoppi, the celebrated chef. The 1939 edition by Pellegrino artusi of Italy’s most renowned modern cookbook Science in the Kitchen, which features Jewish cuisine, is also a tribute to the culinary arts. The most powerful expression of Jewish recipes can be found in another classic cookbook, Eating Italian by Fernanda Momigliano, a Jewish-Italian author who wrote her landmark work in 1936 on the eve large-scale antisemitic persecution in Italy. Even though her family was murdered in concentration camps, and Momigliano had just been released from internment, her cookbook preserved the tradition of Jewish cooking in La Cucina Italiana.
Rome, like New York with its bagels and New York, has taken many jewish food so seriously that it is no longer considered Jewish Italian Food. They are now just Roman Foods. The Ghetto, a hidden gem in the city’s heart, is the place to go for these delicious treats. It is a popular spot for lunch and dinner, with both hip Romans as well as savvy tourists. Because of its long history and beautifully-preserved streets it’s also considered one of the most authentically Roman places in the entire city. You can find our Visitors Guide to the Jewish Ghetto if you’re interested in going.
Some of the most famous Jewish Roman dishes are from the period of the Ghetto’s curfew. This was between the 1500s to 1800s when the three gates were locked by law after sunset. They use what were considered humble ingredients at the time, such as artichokes and codfish. Pancetta is replaced by dried beef, and the offal is roasted to get rid of any blood.
Cucina povera was the name of this game, which literally means “poor cooking”. Rome’s Jewish community lived with little money and limited freedoms. To add flavor, they also started to fry food. They fried everything, including zucchini, mozzarella, and little finger fish taken from the river. Another wonderful culture of cucina potera originated in Tuscany. To learn more about delicious regional specialties, visit our blog to read more.
These dishes survived the test of time because of their quality and the Ghetto’s cultural isolation. They were then updated, modified, or improved for modern tastes. You’ll find classics as well as Mediterranean influences in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto’s cuisine, such as hummus, couscous, and falafel. The food is delicious, hearty, and based upon long-standing culinary traditions, regardless of what option you choose. It’s also some the best food in Rome.
Are you unsure what to eat? Here are some suggestions from Rome’s Jewish neighbourhood:
Carciofi alla giudia
Guidia is the Roman dialect of Italian’s word for “Jew”. The “Jewish-styled” artichokes, which are spring delights, are first fried until they are tender and then sliced open. They are simple and delicious. You shouldn’t expect to be able to enjoy them all the time. They are only available in Rome’s top restaurants from February through April. Although you can buy them outside of their season, we do not recommend it as they are one of the best things about an Italian vacation. You can find more information on what to eat when in our blog on seasonally eating in Ital and .
Concia is a unique way to preserve produce by deep-frying and marinating in vinegar. It was brought to Rome’s Ghetto by Sephardic Jews fleeing persecution from Spain in the 15th Century. Concia is a Roman term that refers to a Roman zucchini that has been deep fried in olive oils and then marinated in white wine vinegar and fresh herbs for hours. This simple seasonal favorite is full of flavor.
Baccala, an Italian term for cod that has been preserved and salted is called. Although cod is not found in the Mediterranean, it would have been quite common to see it in large white sheets in Roman markets. It was imported from places such as the Bay of Biscay. Italians love their Baccala, and they can eat it in many different ways. You guessed it, the Jewish version is fried. The cod fillets must be soaked for at least 24 hours in order to get rid of salt. They are then deep-fried and serve as a main dish or as a snack. A fish that has already been cooked in butter can be fried to create a delicious, intensely savory flavor.
Suppi are a must-have when visiting Rome. This is not a typical Roman dish, but it’s also one of the most delicious and popular dishes in Rome. It goes well with beer or wine. This deep-fried rice ball is a cousin to the Sicilian arancini. It also originates from Rome’s Ghetto. These egg-shaped snacks are made from rice, tomato sauce and raw egg. They are then rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried. It is an italicization of “surprise”, a french word that refers to the savory treat in the middle. Offal was once used to surprise, but you will find stringy molten mozzarella today. A good suppli should be broken in half to resemble a telephone, with its two ends connected by a handle of gooey cheese. This is why their longer name is suppli al telefono.
Amatriciana alla giudia
Amatriciana, a popular Rome pasta sauce made with pig’s tongue (guanciale), tomatoes and Roman pecorino Cheese is known as one of the most loved. The Jewish version removes the pig from the mixture and replaces it with salted beef. This keeps it delicious and Kosher. It’s not a lesser version. Some prefer beef and swear by its deeper, more savory flavors.
Jewish Pizza is not a dessert, despite the name. This sweet bread is also known as pizza Ebraica, pizza Romana or pizza Romana. It’s a sweet loaf of bread that is filled with almonds, pine nuts, and candied fruits.
Jewish bakeries can be your first or last stop when you want to taste the authentic Italian Jewish food. The most well-known is Boccione in the heart the ghetto. The Roman institution serves hot slices ebraica pizza, as well as a variety of classic Jewish desserts. The wild cherry tart and ricotta are two of the most popular desserts. This recipe has not changed in over 2,000 years.
Are you familiar with Rome’s Jewish cuisines? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.