Erik and I spent the last eight nights in Italy (with the whole Wolfe family, we are not gay, not that there is anything wrong with that), four in Florence and four in Rome. I’m not going to lie to you, it was pretty rad. We ate and drank like kings. Also, I’m pretty sure I gained about a pound a day, but it was worth it. I’ll let Erik elaborate on the food aspect, but highlights included Mercato Centrale, Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, Florentine tomatoes, the quest for the greatest pizza, punchy arugula, and hole in the wall restaurants with mean waiters and amazing food.
Of course, while in Italy we had to sample the beer. We found that generally, every restaurant would offer Peroni or Birra Moretti for about 4 euros, which is a ripoff compared to the price of fantastic wine, especially with Florence so close to the Chianti region. We most definitely drank our fair share of Chianti, but we also wanted to check out the burgeoning Italian craft beer scene that we’d heard about, which we found no trace of until we got to Rome.
We first encountered Italian craft beer, which comes mostly from the North of Italy, in a deli near our hotel. They carried the entire range of the Birrificio del Ducato, a craft brewery near Parma. Erik bough them all and we drank them all. I personally enjoyed the very malty Chimera Dark Ale and the peppery Verdi Imperial Stout, but all of their beers were good if not great, not bad for wine country.
Craft beer encounter number two happened a bit by chance. When in Rome, scour the city for the best pizza the Romans already know about, which is exactly what we did (“do as the Romans do” is played out). At out of the way Pizzarium, arguably Rome’s best pizza by the slice (it was definitely delightful), we found a stellar craft beer selection that included international and italian craft beers. I can’t remember what we had (all Italian things start to sound the same to me after a few beers), but you must visit this place if you are a disciple of the heavenly pizza and beer combination.
Later on we hiked a long way from our hotel to the trendy Trastavere neighborhood, which was, from the looks of it, foodie heaven in Rome. There were so many amazing looking restaurants (trattoria, osteria, ristorante) and wine bars (enoteca) on the way that we almost didn’t make it to our destination. Bir and Fud and Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa are two hole in the wall beer bars conveniently located across the street from each other. I found them recommended on BeerAdvocate.com and they did not disappoint. Bir and Fud serves only Italian beer and there is only an Italian menu. We relied on the waiter, who initially told us to wait because he was busy eating, to help us out. We first had an American Pale Ale because that is what he brought us without necessarily confirming that is what we wanted. It was a great rendition of a hoppy west coast pale ale. In the next round, we got to choose our beers. I had a delicious imperial stout and Erik had a malty real ale, both were wonderful. When you can get it, Italian craft beer is quite delicious. At Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa, we were presented with many intriguing international choices. Erik had a Cantillon Lambic and I had a Danish IPA, which were, again, both quite tasty.
If you are ever in Rome, you do not want to miss these two beer bars or Pizzarium. You will be happy, and fat. In other news, I speak Italian now. Grazi mille!