Want to know what the latest dining trend in Italy is? 

As an adopted Roman and Melbourne girl born and bred, it was impossible that I wouldn’t end up writing about food all day long. My hobby and passion – dining – has become my profession and I have no complaints!

I have had the pleasure of dining in 1000s of restaurants. From cafes to pubs to bistros to tea rooms to hotel restaurants to multiple restaurants with Michelin stars in cities across the world. No it doesn’t make me an expert on every single thing food, but it certainly means I have an appreciation for quality, in whatever format that might be.

Dining at Osteria Francescana – #1 in the world

Interviewing Massimo Bottura

Dining at my favourite trattoria in Rome – Da EnzoThis week I was honoured to be at the table with the Food Guide of La Repubblica (Le Guide Repubblica) – Italy’s longstanding, national newspaper. They publish detailed guides annually (available at newstands across the country or online here) with listings of the best addresses to eat. Their latest initiative, #repsocialfood, brings together their administration, namely Giuseppe Cerasa the director of the Guides, face to face with digital influencers and bloggers in the food sphere.

Each event focuses on a different theme and this one was on the concept of what Italians have coined, the Bistro Chic. And in English, what we call – the casual outlet of a famous chef. The upshot? An a la carte dining experience that is not fine dining, but quality dining that is less formal, less expensive and generally, less time consuming.

And a concept which our dining destination for the evening, Aroma, has recently adopted. Perched on the terrace of the boutique Palazzo Manfredi this place has an unrivaled and unobstructed view of the Colosseum. The best view in Rome in my opinion.

The unbeatable view at Aroma, Palazzo ManfrediThey have recently started offering a mid-range entry point to their chef Giuseppe Di Iorio. While a tasting menu at Aroma will set you back around €200, this alternative is around the €60 mark. And therefore provides a way for fine dining restaurants to cast a wider customer net. Post-global financial crisis, many prominent chefs in Melbourne did the same thing, after acknowledging that the market for high end meals was changing (for example George Calombaris with his Hellenic Republic and Mastic brands vs The Press Club).

Surprisingly, this format enjoyed in culinary cities like Paris, London and New York for some years is reasonably new to Italy. I said reasonably new, not foreign. In fact, some of Italy’s Michelin star chefs have recently opened side projects that cater more for the masses and a clientele that is keen to eat well but not looking for the orchestra of a fine dining degustation.

Some of the ones I’ve sampled include Massimo Bottura’s Francescetta 58 in Modena and more recently, Cristina Bowerman’s latest venture and the biggest restaurant to ever open in Rome – Romeo & Giulietta, more casual and less expensive than Glass, but not in any way lacking in quality. Another related trend is Michelin star consults for openings like the Cipro bistro Secondo Tradizione where Anthony Genovese – two starred chef of Il Pagliaccio – worked on the menu and the young head chefs trained under him; it’s here where Michelin and deli combine in a wonderful way.

Oops! I dropped the lemon tart by Massimo BotturaA more casual affair at Franceschetta 58Bistro dining at Secondo TradizioneCristina Bowerman at the new Romeo Chef & BakerI don’t discriminate when it comes to dining – I will generally try anything once and while you’ve seen my weakness for multiple course fine dining, I am also a very big fan of this style. Because I love the opera of a meal – the ordering, the talking, the enjoyment and the food. I don’t like stuffy or uptight service and places where I feel as though I can’t ask the waiter a question or I have to keep my voice down. To that end, even the fine dining establishments I go to are chosen very well to avoid this! But the beauty of the bistro format by renowned chefs is that – guaranteed – you can sample some of their finest without the fanfare.

Discussing serious food stuff over the following dishes, was an absolute pleasure. Follow the tags #GuideRepubblica #repsocialfood on social media for more info.

Octopus with parsley pesto and lemon potato foam  Warm veal carpaccio with black truffle Shaken carbonara with kamut pasta Sword fish involtinoBeef cheeks on red cabbage purée White chocolate sphere on matcha tea crumble with olive oil biscuit and salted caramel sauce Signing off from Trastevere

Baci, Maria

Acknowledgements: I was a guest of Le Guide Repubblica and Aroma Restaurant. All thoughts expressed are my own – nobody tells me what to write. 

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