Artisanal food stores in Rome are making a comeback, and they’re cooler than ever
Our Here, Now column looks at the trends taking hold in cities around the world and how to experience them the next time you hit the city.
âWe already have a lot of regulars, and it’s only been four months,â Valerio Spadaro Guerra tells me when we meet one rainy November morning in his shop, Casadora. âI thought it would take longer to get clients, but it’s not. The response was really beyond my expectations. “
We’re in Rome Prati, a stately neighborhood just north of St. Peter’s Square, and Spadaro Guerra is showing me around the space he and five friends opened last August. Casadora is a pastificio-a pasta-making lab that sells fresh pasta daily, as well as a selection of artisanal and small-batch products such as olive oils, sauces and natural wines.
The place is light and airy, with a cool mid-century modern aesthetic. In its center is a large open workshop where the chef and pasta maker, Giulia Ghisellini, is busy breaking eggs and measuring flour. She is no nonna: Ghisellini is 30 years old and has cut his teeth in many Michelin starred restaurants in Europe. Thirty tables fill the rest of the space, which doubles as a weekday lunch restaurant and serves dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
The vibe is hip and young, with every design detail thought out perfectly. It couldn’t be more different from the classic pastifici of my childhood – old-fashioned, take-out-only places, usually run by families who have worked there for generations. But that’s exactly the point.
âWe wanted to create something that was contemporary, while honoring our culinary traditions,â says Spadaro Guerra. “We are a bottega for the Roman of today.
A bottega (literally translated as “workshop”) can take the form of anything, from a craft store or a workshop specializing in certain products – pasta, bread, meat, dairy products, and so on. – at a neighborhood grocery store in Italy. Until the advent of the big supermarket chains, Botteghe was the only establishment where people like my grandparents did their shopping. While they still exist today (and, in cities like Florence, are still quite strong), they have become somewhat rare in Rome.
At least until recently.
Over the past year, a number of cool new botteghe like Casadora have moved to the Eternal City. They offer everything from buffalo mozzarella to pizza and fresh bread, and often also serve as restaurants and sometimes cocktail bars – come do your weekly groceries, stay for a drink. Unsurprisingly, the locals jumped on the board.
âWe have really filled a void in the neighborhood,â says Andrea Ceccarelli, owner of Aventina, a stylish new bottega in the quiet area of ââAventino that offers meats, cold cuts, cheeses and other artisanal products ( which you can buy and taste at the on-site restaurant). âWe opened in July and people come back time and time again. It’s like they’re waiting for a place like Aventina.