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Monday 22 March 2010

Rome Guide: Antica Caciara

OK, so we've enjoyed our coffee at Sant'Eustachio, have we not? Oh, great; I'm so glad you liked it. And that crostata was beautiful, wasn't it? You think so? Really? You know what, (insert your name here), you really are a gourmet! You should let me take you around Rome and decide what you're going to eat and drink more often.

(Some recent Internet research has made me aware of people who think that the water at Caffè Sant'Eustachio has bicarbonate of soda added to it to give the coffee that good [read: perfect] taste, by the way. I have chosen not to believe them. You must make up your own mind. Even if it were true, I would still go there. For the uniforms, you do understand.)

Now I'm going to suggest we go to one of my favourite areas of Rome, which is actually nicer at night time (in my head, this is about midday), though we'll have dinner there too, so don't worry. It's called Trastevere, and we have to cross over the Tiber to get to it. I suggest we take either the Ponte Garibaldi, or the Ponte Palatino to do so. And the reason? Well, I like to see the little island in between them, the Isola Tiberina, which I have been told many times, and by many people, is the smallest populated island in the world.

Just like the story about bicarb. at Sant'Eustachio, you'll need to decide for yourself about that one.

Another one I have heard, though I don't know if this used to happen on Isola Tiberina, is that in ancient times, executed criminals had their lifeless, dead bodies flung into the Tiber by angry citizens. Which is a lovely image when you're out for lunch (thanks for that, Mr. Other P!).

I digress. It's too early for lunch yet. I fancy a bit of food shopping. I'm taking you to Antica Caciara, which is basically the best cheese shop on the planet. You can see this for yourself, because happily, as well as my photos, there is a website!

We (me and him indoors) just happened on it when we were in Rome on holiday, more than a few years ago. People seem mainly to come for this:

Fresh Ricotta.

But I always come for this:

It's the real deal.

The reason I like this shop, and always buy my cheese here, rather than in the supermarket (which is next door in the underground level, if you prefer), is that all of these cheeses are sourced by the owners, and they don't sell poor quality stuff. They sell good stuff. And they've been doing it for more than 100 years!

How do I know? They told me. Not in Italian (I only speak menu Italian, though I am planning to change this), butI do have funny, stinted conversations with the gentleman who always serves me (he usually shakes my hand and says 'Nice to see you again!', though actually, I think that he's probably thinking, 'Oh lordy, it's that English bloke again who always wants his cheese vacuum packed.'). No, his wife speaks lovely English and sometimes tells me a bit about where the cheeses are from, and how to eat and store them and so on.

Just so you don't accuse me of not sharing this information, here's what I recommend you buy:

  • Pecorino Romano - because what else are you going to have on your pasta?
  • Parmigiano Reggiano - apart from this of course. But I like both.
  • Montasio - from Venice, and very wonderful indeed as part of a cheese board.
When I bought all that last time, I was told (at least I think I was - stinted conversations can only ever be half understood), that the difference between the first two cheeses, basically, is the milk. I thought they were the same thing, but it turns out that pecorino is a sheep's milk cheese, whereas the other two are made from the milk of cows.

Anyhow, apples is apples: all you need to do is ask the lovely staff to vacuum seal your cheese for you (sometimes the sealer is broken, in which case I'm all for taking the risk of your cheese spoiling on the journey back to whatever country you're visiting from, but it's your bag at the end of the day!).

DO NOT PUT THE SEALED CHEESES INTO THE FRIDGE. (I learned that in another stilted conversation - they will keep, vacuum packed and without refrigeration, for a fortnight).

When you get home, open the cheeses, and store in the refrigerator, wrapped in a clean cloth. If you can get muslin, do. But a tea towel would be fine.

They favour De Cecco at Antica Caciara. And so do I.

Antica Caciara also carries wines from all over Italy, and a lovely selection of pasta, oil and vinegar, as well as dried mushrooms and cured meats. I could happily spend all day there.

So what are you going to have?

Antica Caciara
Via San Francesco a Ripa 140, Trastevere
06 581 28 15


  1. Ah Rome, I haven't been since September 2000. It was an amazing place and I would love to go back. Love De Cecco pasta too, am having it for dinner tonight.

    BTW thanks for your compliment about photos on my muffin post. I need to work on my composition though.

  2. Ooooh I'm going to Italy on Thursday and now you've got me all excited!

  3. Molto Grazie!

    Please keep posting about Rome..I am going in 2 years ( I promised my niece when she turns 16) soo i need lots of places to visit

  4. You had me at "Formaggi"

    One word: Yum.

    Followed by slight drool.

  5. Lovely photos--I can just smell the formaggio! I've never been a fan of pecorino. It's a little too pungent for me. But I can think of few things that aren't improved by a little parmigiano.

  6. We're hoping to make it to Europe summer 2011, and Rome is on our list. My twelve year-old son is crazy about cheese. I just read him your post. We've got this cheese shop on our list. Thanks.

  7. This was so fun to read... cute! :) Thanks for the tour... Can I have around a tonne of that ricotta? Yeah? You think they can manage that? Cool.

  8. i'm SO utterly jealous of the fact that you get to travel so much around europe! it's sooo far away from where i live and it's always a big production when we go, so needless to say, it doesn't happen very often. *sigh* some people are just born lucky, i suppose. ;)

  9. All of those cheeses-you must have been in heaven! :o

  10. You're killing me with those pics. I can practically smell the cheese shop from here. Bellissimo!

  11. Ah! This post brought back such fond (and cheesy) memories. I stayed in Rome with a family when I was younger. Not only did I learn against refrigerating sealed cheese, I discovered cured meat can apparently sit out on the counter for days, weeks even (at the time I was 17 and ever a vegetarian... I found this all quite disturbing).

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Best wishes.

  12. Ooooohh.... you could kill someone with that cheese wheel, and what a delicious way to die.

    (btw, I may have failed to invite you to the gnocchi party but I have a wee prize for you at my bloggins)

  13. You know, Americans are pretty terrified of European non-refrigerated dairy products. It's sad what the FDIC has done to us over here *raps table indignantly*.

  14. Wow that's great to know, I really want to see Rome sometime and I will! If you ever want any Sydney info, it's on my blog!


That's what he said.

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