Of course, I met an Italian boy while I was in Rome. He turned out to be the best company that I could ask for: charming, smart, and a food guide! A friend from Bologna put me in touch with Andrea’s company, Do Eat Better Food Tours, and thanks to him, I will always have good memories of my time in Rome. One of my favorite days was spent in his hometown, Bracciano, a lovely town just an hour outside of Rome.
Bracciano might not be as picturesque as the Tuscan villages, but it has its own medieval charm and a bunch of food shops and restaurants that make it worthwhile to visit. It makes a great food escape and a great get-away from the tourist saturated state of Rome.
As soon as we got off the train from Rome, Andrea took me to a bakery where we had a Roman classic: pizza bianca, a simple and crispy pizza bread that was just drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with some salt. Hot and crispy, it just shows how simple is always best. I ate all of mine before we got to the next street corner.
We then wandered over to a place called Pasticceria Gelateria Nazareno, owned by a guy (Nazarene) who brought his knowledge of Italian pastries and gelato to the town. You might be able to find some of the best gelaterias in Rome, but in Bracciano, you’ll find flavors that are unique to the gelaterias there. At Nazareno you will find their special ricotta, fig, and caramel combination. But Andrea wanted me to try their zeppole, a fried dough that is filled with vanilla custard cream and sprinkled with icing sugar, which is popular seasonal treat during carnivale. The zeppole is more cream than dough, so be careful not to make too much of a mess like I did when you bite in.
Next up is a place where Italians from all over the country would travel for. The porchetta at Fraschetta dalla Moretta comes from Signora Canini’s long family tradition. Andrea told me that fraschetta is the Roman version of a bistro, and Moretta means little brunette (the little brunette is Giacomo’s mother). The oven that they use to slow-cook the pork every evening has been in use since the 1200’s. He also told me that Canini’s family is well-loved in the area because they are known to share their food with the people in Bracciano during times of poverty and war.
Stop by and enjoy appetizers with a nice glass of fresh house wine and a plate of bruschettas with a platter of pecorino and house-made charcuterie. As you can see, Andrea and I enjoyed a great selection of ionza, salami,coppa, coppiette and salciccia di cinghiale.
We walked around Bracciano’s charming little alleys and walked to the top of a hill with a beautiful view of Lake Bracciano where you can see the two towns Anguillara Sabazia and Trevignano Romano down below.
Before we could even get hungry, we headed down for lunch in the old square under the medieval castle. Pane e Olio Osteria has delicious and seasonal pasta dishes. One not to miss is their creamy carbonara, in the summer they add delicious fresh asparagus to this classic dish.
Another is lombrichi braccianesi which is a type of pasta that is unique to the area around Rome. The pasta dough is made of water and flour which gives it a udon-like texture. Andrea told me that Lombrichi means worms, and that they were traditionally rolled by hand, which is why they have an irregular shape that makes them different from spaghetti. The sauce we had at Pane e Olio Osteria was simple: cherry tomatoes and burrata.
And of course, we ended our day-long food tour with dessert. Back in the day Caffè Grand’ Italia had the first telephone and first television in Bracciano so it became a gathering spot among the locals. Other than that, they have some pretty amazing desserts that draw people into their doors today. Their specialty gelato flavor is pear and chocolate, but we went there for their famous mousse desserts. We had their pistachio and tiramisu mousse, which were creamy and rich, with a genuine taste that respected the ingredients that made those flavors. The pistachio was my favorite, because you can really taste the intensity of the nut with each precious spoonful.