I’m just finishing up the App for eating in Rome, and as I near the final edits for version 1.0 I keep telling myself : basta! Enough. I can always add in more in the second version. At some point I’ve just got to stop and get it out there. Right? Wrong. Obsessive compulsive me wants to check out one more restaurant, one more gelateria, one more food store.
So, of course, Saturday saw me heading out in the Smart to Centocelle to visit a new alimentari. For those of you who don’t know Rome, heading out to Centocelle to visit an alimentari is sort of like saying I’m heading to the South Bronx because there is supposed to be a really great deli there.
But I had a good reason to suspect this would be worth the trip. I had been hearing about D.O.L. for a while. This stands for Di Origine Laziale, and the store sells only products from Lazio. Well, ok. But a lot of the farmers markets are selling local stuff these days, so I wasn’t quite convinced.
But while attending the pizza making class with Bonci I realized that almost all the amazing toppings that were going onto our pizzas were coming from D.O.L. Guanciale Cotto nel Vino was a aged guanciale cooked slowly in white wine. Conciata di San Vittorio was a raw cow’s milk cheese, aged in a crust of 15 herbs for 90 days. Now maybe you can understand why I wanted to chat with the owner , Vincenzo Mancino, and see what his store was all about.
I usually find writing about things I love pretty easy, but finding the right words to describe just how incredible this place – and Vincenzo – is, is surprisingly hard. Vincenzo is one of those guys who is so committed to what he is doing, and that what he is doing will make the world a better place, that it takes your breath away. He takes the concepts of sustainability, local culture and traditions, social awareness and civil responsibility and somehow ends up with some of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever.
Vincenzo has gone around Lazio and worked hard to find traditionally made cheeses, cured meats, olives….you name it, and bring these products to Rome in a way that makes sure they are affordable for everyone. He acts as an outlet for these food artisans, cutting out any middle man and mark ups. These are the kinds of foods that usually don’t make it much beyond their villages, much less into Rome.
The result of his exhaustive sourcing and minimal mark up is – I can safely say – some of the most absurdly delicious food in Rome at almost ridiculously low prices. For those of us used to paying through the nose at La Tradizione or Volpetti, you will be shocked.
But you’ll be just as blown away by the tastes.
It’s hard to point out just a few things that I loved, but I’ll try. Certainly the Conciata di San Vittorio that I had during the pizza class, but sadly that won’t be available for a month or so. The Guanciale cotto nel Vino? Food of the gods. Susianella is a very rare salame made from liver, heart and other organs, not dried but cooked, from near Viterbo. One of my new obsessions is the Caciotta di Buffala crusted with herbs and oddly goat like.
I could go on and on, but better if you just go out for a visit. We left with four huge sacks full of goodness. Cheeses, salame, pasta, bread, eggs, olives….it was hard to stop. When he added up our bill, I was sure he had made a mistake. But no, the prices are just that low.
When I asked him why he was located out in Centocelle, and not closer to the center of town he responded “Why, you don’t think the people here deserve to eat well too? And look at you, you made it out here. If people want to come to the store, it’s not that hard.” And really, it isn’t if you have a car. If you are taking public transport, it’s a bit more complicated. But let me tell you, it’s worth it. Go. Now. If you are visiting Rome, and want to stock up before you leave, this is the place to do it and well worth the taxi fare.
As we were leaving the store, one woman said to us “Actually, I wish he would move away. It’s just too dangerous having this store right down the street. The temptation is way too strong: I’m here every day!”
Lunch back on our terrace.