“Do as the Romans do,” they say, which only means one thing: carbs, carbs, and more carbs.
Rome has so much to offer like history, art and spectacular architecture, but one of the best perks about living in Italy is of course the food, and I wouldn’t be fully immersing myself into the culture if I didn’t try all of it, right?
On every corner, there are hundreds of options for dinner, but a majority of those options are a variety of pasta and pizza dishes served with a side of bread. Beware, however: you will get charged for bread in Italy, and don’t think that you have an option because they will bring it to you and you will eat it! It would simply be offensive not to.
The pizza is thin and light, so you eat a lot of it, which is luckily very socially acceptable here. Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) is the best late night snack when roaming the streets, even if you’ve already eaten it during the day. And of course, a meal isn’t complete without some gelato.
However the most important “P” of the Italian carb trilogy is pasta. The Roman classics, Pasta alla Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe (pecorino cheese and pepper), are my go-to’s and on every restaurant’s menu. The best (and most delicious) game is to find which restaurant makes the best versions—once again with bread always served by its side.
The diet in Italy, though amazing, is actually quite difficult to adjust to. I am very spoiled in San Diego with a lot of healthy options. It’s never hard to find a great salad on campus or a yummy fruit smoothie. In Rome, if you order a salad, you will receive a strange look from your waiter, and he or she will suggest an assortment of formaggi (cheeses) instead.As college students on a budget, the cheapest options in Rome are always the pastas and pizzas. Good meat at a decent price is not the easiest to come by, and chicken isn’t utilized a lot in Roman cuisine. It’s really hard to be healthy, and when you try to avoid the carbs, you will fail miserably.
The hardest part is simply that the variety I have in California isn’t here. Italians take a lot of pride in their traditional food (as they should—it’s amazing), but my San Diego favorites like burritos and sushi are nonexistent. When you do find it, it’s nothing more than a sad attempt.
While the rotation of pasta, pizzas and panini can get repetitive, luckily it is all amazing and with all the options, one can never get bored.
It isn’t all that bad though. Every meal out feels like a home-cooked meal in, and at the end of the day, it is all delicious. Every time I think I should lay off the pasta, pizza or gelato for a night, I just tell myself, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do…”
I am easily convinced.
Kassandra Ferrante is earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Rome, Italy this fall.