Loading…..New Message….Invitation: Testacccio Market Visit Friday @ 10:30AM. I smile at Chris’ confidence that the rest of the students and interns are going to roll out of bed at a frankly reasonably hour to make it to this activity. It had precisely what I was looking for at the time: food, food, food, and a good excuse to get off my computer from playing Hearthstone even though I just got Deathwing. Look out Justin, I’m coming for you. Kevin and I both RSVP to accept.
We exited out of the apartment into the thick baking Roman air Friday morning. When we get to the good ol’ Trastevere Bingo, we count two other interns waiting for us. Both Cinthia and Julia were waiting for Chris. “Is it just us?” asked Julia. “It appears to be” I respond. Next comes one sweaty Chris jogging down the street. Smiling, “hi guys, we all here?” as he cheerfully prances down the walkway. “All set to go? It’s 10:30!” he says enthusiastically. “You betcha” goes Kevin. I swear, he must mix fairy dust into his coffee to be so springy in the morning.
We move over toward the Carlo Porta bus stop while the cars, mopeds, and trams clamber their way to get to their destinations on the royal Viale Trastevere: the street of all streets here in the neighborhood. You can find essentially everything you would need here: pharmacies, grocery stores, coffee shops, loads of local bars, retail stores and comes complete with a train station! We took the German approach and waited for the signal to turn green before passing the venerated via; a practice that I should get more in the habit of.
We made our way to the bus stop to see a new electronic tabella! The automated computer screen will tell you which buses are on their way along with the wait time before their arrival. This was a big deal for Chris. He exclaimed that we needed to take the 719 and sure enough it was on the top of the list. Five minutes..five minutes. The longest/most pestersome things we have to wait for in this existence always seem to take a dreaded five minutes. Which of course is 20 minutes or a lifetime. I think the key to Italian longevity is that these annoying things are portrayed to take short amount of time, while in reality they take a lifetime. The locals here truly believe that these things will come at once, but they are just constantly waiting until they reach 100. Ask the Sardinians they know the secret. Sure enough the tabella had the 719 skip us two rounds. Chris explains that this is just Italy working within its nature. The bus miraculously appears around the corner after about three buses and Saturn pass by. The doors open up and fresh cold air spills out onto us. “Let me on!” shouts Kevin. The doors close and we were off.
The red ATAC buses are the newer models as opposed to the gray ones. There is more standing space and there is almost always AC blasting. For me, I usually just take the 75 of which I have a love/hate relationship with. Regardless, taking the 719 is like staying in the Bellagio hotel in comparison to the dingy 75. The ride was as short as a corgi’s tail. Took less about 5 minutes to arrive at the destination…suspiciously.
Before we enter in, I notice that the building was actually quite modern; large, square, and white. Chris explained that nearly 100% of all energy consumed was produced by solar panels from up above. We started right into it by walking through the ultra clean pathways in between all of the different kiosks. There were fruit stands, vegetable kiosks, even shoes stores, and a place that sold hand-made purses and wallets out of recycled comic books and newspaper.
Chris had mentioned that the market was the cheapest place to buy shoes. He wasn’t kidding either! 20 euro for a pair of flats, made in Italy. A very reasobable for the responsible shopper! There were close to 100 different kiosks all with their own friendly and helpful staff. “Ok, let’s find Box #89, Alimentari di Lazzerini”, said Chris. “Sounds good, as long as we eat something”, I thought. The market was overloaded with smells of ripe fruit, cheap leather, fresh cheese, and hot coffee. It was an assault to the olfactory complex, life as a dog must be torture with all these scents around. We continued going down aisle after aisle with what seemed to be a rather disorganized mode of setting up the kiosks. We would pass 37 to 45 to 46 to 61. We finally made it all the way to #88 to find that #89 was nowhere in sight. “Ok Kevin, you’ve been here for over a month now. Time to practice your stuff”, Chris exclaimed. Kevin shrugged and looked at the ground really quickly but mustered up the confidence and approached one of the guys behind kiosk #85. “Scusi signore, un’informazione. Dov’è numero ottantanove? Si chiamano Alimentari di Lazzerini”, Kevin asked. Thank you Prof. Silvia for your help on this one. To our dismay the master of #85 gives out a large, “Boh” (translates to a simple “I don’t know”) and we were left without a clue. “Dai ragazzi, let’s find another place, it’s not like there is a food shortage in here” says Chris aka Virgil incarnate.
We got to a fruit stand where there were three young guys and a gentleman who appeared to be the father. All the locals shoppers were swarming around these guys, it looked as if they were renting two boxes in the market! I think they may have had the largest variety of produce in the entire market too! Chris grabbed half of a melon, kiwi, grapes, and cherries. It was cool to see him go in the back of the kiosk as if he had already been there before. Before we knew it, we had slices of melon in our hands and the frenzy began. The five of us went through all the fruit as were discussing our shopping tendencies. I mentioned that I lived in a pretty small town and that we did have one farmers’ market go on every Saturday throughout the year. Italy is about 71% the size of California with about 59 million people as the population. Given that the majority of food here is produced here in Italy, it’s like a localvore’s dream here. It would be like living in California and all the food you eat comes from the state.
We did some more walking around and sat in the sun-filled epicenter of the market. It was about 11:30 and the sun beamed down on our heads. Chris said for us to hang on a minute as he dashed away into the kiosk maze. We continued chatting about grocery shopping and how it made us feel more independent while we were living here. Personally, I find grocery shopping to be somewhat therapeutic. You are literally walking around actively investing into your survival. We all have the biological instinct to eat and drink so when we go out and shop I can only imagine we are tapping into this drive, even though it is very much separated from our distant ancestors. As much as I would be down to shoot a wild boar with an arrow during a coffee break, I don’t think I will see one walking around the Monteverde neighborhood.
Chris returned with pears and a white crumbly cheese in hand. “This is pecorino romano”, Chris explained. It was a light absorbing off-white chalky color. He took a plastic knife and divided it all up and passed the pears out. “Try them together,” he says with a mischievous grin on face. I almost didn’t trust him until it hit me. Now, I’m no food connoisseur but it doesn’t take a genius to tell you that eating these two foods together produces oral fireworks of flavor. I must be frankly though, the grapes with the cheese, no so good in my opinion.
From here we went to the main event of the day, Mordi e Vai. Super close to the entrance, Mordi e Vai is tough to miss especially with the aromatic forces it was producing. The logo of the restaurant was nothing related to reality. Their munching mascot was an anthropomorphic mouth with eyeballs and blue sneakers jogging towards what I am guessing was the delicious food or whichever objective he had in mind at the time. They had loads of different options, sausage, spicy beef, artichokes and eggplants, lamb, and meatballs; all of them cooking within their own sauce. Chris then explained that these were all fillings with their homemade bread. Chris went first. “Un bulito, per favore”. The man behind the counter skewered a chunk of meat that was soaking in the seasoned broth. The man cut 3 hefty slices, dunked half of the bread in the juice, threw some chicory on top, completed the assembly with the other piece of bread and then handed it right over. His eyes rolled back
in his head upon the first bite. I could smell the sandwich from where I was standing too. I had to get the same thing. “Un panino bulito per me, grazie!”, I shakily say. The guy behind the counter chuckles and begins the process. Chris then blurts out “Piú succo!”. I didn’t know what he meant until I saw the man behind the counter fully submerge both pieces of bread into the broth. My mouth instantly entered into waterfall mode. The first bite was one of a delicious meaty sponge. The only thing it was missing at that point was my bed to pass out in due to a gastrocoma coming on.
Satiated, we waddled from the sandwich king’s palace over to Scaramura to grab some gelato. “There is always room for gelato”, laughed Julia. “Noooooo there’s no room”, said Cinthia. “You gotta make room!”, Kevin responded. We approached the counter and saw a glass-lined freezer the size of a sarcophagus full of homemade treats in jars. Hand-made gelato were stacked like honeycombs all displaying their unique flavors to the viewer: tiramisu, agrumi, fragola, cacao, even a birramisu! My stomach lining was already pushing critical max at that point so I just had a bite of Kevin’s birramisù which did not really taste like beer at all! After the dolce we headed back over to the MACRO center to take the bus back to home base. More photos can be viewed here!