See what it’s like to take a Rome street food tour with Devour Tours. Starting in the historic Jewish Ghetto, this fun walking tour combines centuries of Roman history with Rome street food favorites.
Our hearts fluttered with aniticpation as we crossed the winding Tiber River and approached the Portico D’ottavia, an ancient Rome structure that operated as a fish market for centuries. It was golden hour – just the right time to see the all intricate cracks, bricks and recessed lettering on this nearly 2,000 year old structure.
Today, its ruins are yet another landmark in a city center filled with landmarks. But this landmark is special with flaws reflecting a tumultuous human history of community, governance and repression. It’s located in the Jewish Ghetto, a living neighborhood where you can still feel remnants of Rome’s formerly large and vibrant Jewish community. And, with that tumultuous history, comes a food history that’s the root of Roman street food
We first encountered the ancient portico when we visited Rome in 2009. We still remember the scores of bishops in town for a funeral during that trip and how it rained so hard that we feared the city would float away.
The phrase “ghetto in the ghetto” entered our vocabulary during a dinner near the portico when we were relegated to the restaurant’s tourist-filled ‘Siberia’ during an otherwise excellent meal. Just as memorable – we also discovered the joys of eating sweet Jewish pizza and savory carcofi alla giuda (i.e. fried artichokes).
Ironically, we didn’t eat our first supplì, Rome’s oblong mozzarella and sauce-filled answer to the arancini, until years later. Needless to say, that first supplì wasn’t our last supplì. Now, we eat the breaded and fried risotto balls every time we return to Rome.
Jewish Ghetto & Historic Center Food Tour With Devour Tours
It’s easy to find and eat street food in Rome – the stuff is sold everywhere from pizzerias to neighborhood food markets. However, there’s something special about eating Roman street food with a local who knows the best spots.
We’re proud to partner with Devour Tours. The company is uncompromising when it comes to selecting family-run food spots that have been favorited by generations of locals. We’ve previously taken Devour tours in Barcelona, Lisbon and Paris. They were all excellent.
Jewish Ghetto – History Sets The Stage
Our Rome street food tour started at the historic Portico D’ottavia.
Constructed as a temple in 146 BC and later repurposed as a fish market during the Middle Ages, it was an auspicious starting point. We were guided by Giulia, a Rome native whose passion for Roman food runs deep.
She set the tone with her explanation about how Jews were segregated in the Ghetto in 1555 at the decree of Pope Paul IV and how he also limited their activities to specific professions. One of those professions was selling fried food – something Jews have been doing in the district for centuries.
For over 300 years, Jews in the ghetto weren’t allowed to own property and had to adhere to a nightly curfew. They also had to get creative with food to survive.
Giulia shared this history with us as we strolled along Rome’s black cobblestone streets past the city’s most famous synagogue. Those same sidewalks now have brass stumbling stones, each designating the final residence of a Jew who was deported during the Holocaust.
Twelve thousand Jews, give or take, lived in Rome before World War II. Approximately 1,800 Jews, including more than 1,000 Jews in the ghetto, were deported by the Nazis. While it’s estimated that 10,000 Roman Jews outlasted the nazis, only fifteen men and one woman deported from the ghetto survived deportation.
Since our tour was on a Friday evening (i.e. the Jewish Sabbath), the ghetto wasn’t flowing with people. Some businesses were closed but we still found plenty of street food to taste including carciofi alla giudia. Though they originated in the ghetto, these fried Jewish artichokes have a become a cuisine staple throughout the eternal city.
Stop 1 – Carciofi Alla Giudia At Bona Pizza Romana In Teglia
Eating carciofi alla giudia (i.e. Jewish style artichokes) in the Jewish ghetto is a must for anybody who visits Rome. Bona Pizza Romana In Teglia, located just steps from the Portico D’ottavia, serves a great version with golden crispy fried leaves covering a pleasing, savory heart.
While this barebones kosher pizzeria specializes in Roman-style pizza sold by the slice, it also sells textbook carciofi alla giudia. They do this all year by double frying each thistle flower in olive oil (not EVOO!) until it’s GBD – golden brown and delicious.
Plan your tour from February to April if you want to taste these golden beauties in peak season.
Stop 2 – Filetto di Baccalà at Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara
We developed an appreciation for salt cod during our month-long stint in Naples where we learned that it was literally the fish that changed the world centuries ago. However, this appreciation has waned since we now live in a city that serves salt cod practically everywhere.
Color us surprised to rediscover the joys of eating salt cod the best way possible – breaded, fried, wrapped in paper and served with crisp white wine.
Located in the shadow of the charming Santa Barbara church, Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara is a classic Rome joint that serves one thing and one thing only. That thing isn’t a mystery. The words ‘Filetti di Baccala’ are emblazoned on its wall and the aroma of fried cod permeates the air.
Guilia shared that the Dar Filettaro crew washes its salt cod for exactly 18 hours before frying it up using a secret recipe. Unfortunately, she didn’t share the recipe since, as noted, it’s a secret.
Stop 3 – Pizza Bianca and Pizza Rossa at Forno Campo di Fiori
Most stops on our Rome Street Food Tour were hidden gems. Forno Campo de’ Fiori wasn’t one of them. All Romans know that this shop sells two of the city’s greatest breads – pizza bianca and pizza rosa.
Crowds flock to the famous bakery located on the edge of the Campo de’ Fiori market to buy the two legendary flat breads. Some also buy Italian sweet treats while they’re there.
A good number of customers prefer Forno Campo de’ Fiori’s pizza bianca, simple white focaccia-like breads flavored simply with olive oil, that can be stuffed with fillings. Others prefer the bakery’s pizza rossa topped with tomato sauce.
As for us, we like them both.
Stop 4 – Birra Artigianale at Johnny’s Off License
Drinking craft beer in Italy is nothing new. We’ve done it before in cities like Bologna, Trento and Verona. But holy moly! Johnny’s Off License has more Italian beer on its shelves than we imagined possible plus additional European brews for good measure.
Stopping at this local bottle shop was well timed. Not only did we get a much needed break from walking on cobblestones, but we also sated our thirst with Italian craft beers chosen just for us.
Stop 5 – Supplì (Cheesy Rice Ball) and Graffe (Donut) at Fiore
It didn’t take long for our supplì wish to be granted. In fact, the two supplì we ate at Fiore were two of the best we’ve ever eaten.
For the uninitiated, Rome’s supplì is similar to Sicily’s arancini but better. Both are fried rice balls but Rome’s version has two bonus bits – ooey-gooey mozzarella cheese and tangy tomato sauce.
We shouldn’t have been surprised by the quality of Fiore’s supplì since the family that operates this Rome snack shop hails from Naples, an Italian mecca for fried Italian snacks.
We also tried a graffe, a sugar-coated donut named after Austria’s krapfen. Just like other global donuts we’ve eaten, this fried sweet treat was finger-licking good.
Stop 6 – Porchetta Sandwich at Porchetteria La Rinascita
You might be thinking that we were starting to get full at this point and you’d be right. But then porchetta happened.
A specialty food around the world, porchetta is street food in Rome. The herbaceous porky meat is made by roasting a pig, rolled with a special herb and spice mixture, for hours. The finished roast pork is then sliced to order.
Porchetteria La Rinascita sources whole pigs from Ariccia and roasts them with rosemary, salt and black pepper. The Rome cheap eats spot serves the Italian food favorite in a variety of savory sandwiches. We shared a simple, unadorned Il Classico sandwich during our tour.
Unlike some dry versions of porchetta we’ve previously encountered, Porchetteria La Rinascita’s mix of succulent meat and crispy bits was plump and juicy with just the right amount of fat. In fact, our sandwich didn’t need any extra ingredients or condiments to taste great.
Stop 7 – Gelato at Gelateria del Teatro
We suspect that there’s an unwritten rule that every Rome food tour should end with gelato. This tour was no exception since it ended with gelato cones at Gelateria del Teatro – one of our favorite Rome gelato shops.
Daryl was thrilled to find lavender & white peach on the menu since he has fond memories of eating the seasonal flavor two years earlier. The same goes for Mindi and her repeat flavor choices – orange sacher torte and cheese & cherry.
Food memories, like all memories, can be disappointing. Luckily, our memories of Gelateria del Teatro’s gelato held up. Our portable cones were a fitting end to a tour filled with a variety of Rome street food favorites.
Tour Time and Duration
Our tour started promptly at 10:30 pm and lasted for three hours and thirty minutes.
We arrived at the meeting point in front of the Portico D’ottavia 15 minutes before the tour’s official start time. This gave us time to find our guide without feeling rushed.
The tour ended at 8:15 pm at the Piazza di San Salvatore in Lauro.
Tour Size and Accessibility
At the time of our tour, the participant limit was twelve. Our tour had just four participants. We walked at a moderate pace during the tour and stood during most food stops.
This tour can can be modified to accommodate people with certain diets including vegetarians and vegans. You can and should address any dietary limitations prior to booking the tour.
Our tour included seven food tastings. It was enough food that we didn’t need to eat dinner after the tour but not so much that we were overly full.
Be aware that some of the establishments we visited may be closed depending on the day of the week or the season. Some may permanently close. In other words, don’t be surprised if your tour includes some different food stops.
Cost and Availability
At the time of our Rome Street Food Tour, the tour cost 59€ for adults and 49€ for children between five and twelve years old. These prices are subject to change at any time.
Consider the following Devour tours if this tour doesn’t fit into your schedule. We personally experienced and enjoyed them both.
Also consider the following Devour cooking classes. We attended both and give each a big thumbs up.
Rome Street Food Tour FAQs
Yes! Taking a Rome street food tour provides a great way to learn about Rome and its street food history. Plus, you’ll interact with local food professionals and fellow food-focused travelers while eating tasty food.
Each tour company sets its own prices. The Rome street food tour we took cost 59€ at the time of our tour. Your best bet is to check tour company websites for current pricing based on your dates.
Each Rome street food tour is different. The tour we took was 3.5 hours from start to finish Your best bet is to check tour company websites for details based on your trip dates.
Hungry For More In Rome?
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
View the latest Web Story.
Original Publication Date: September 23, 2023