Rome can sometimes seem an immovable feast. Whether it’s down to reverence for tradition or sheer amour-propre, Romans just can’t get enough of their own country’s time-honored grub. As Gore Vidal once observed, “Rome is the only city in the world where a Chinese restaurant can open with great fanfare one week and be serving bucatini all’amatriciana the next.”
But what the eternal city lacks in true culinary cosmopolitanism, it makes up for in variety of a different kind. Until 1871 Italy was a free-for-all of truculent principalities, kingdoms, and client states. To this day, the country remains a fractious potpourri of 20 regions that vary widely in culture, customs — and, above all, food. As the capital of such a dizzying cornucopia of regional flavors, dishes, and styles, Rome’s cup runneth over with restaurants specializing in these distinctive cuisines. So when Romans want to take a walk on the gustatory wild side, they don’t go out for Ethiopian or Thai — but Sicilian, Sardinian, or Ligurian, among others.