Volpetti’s

When you first enter the shop, the smell of cheese and ham is overpowering.

Claudio Volpetti in his shop


Volpetti’s: probably the best deli in Rome; definitely one of the main reasons we’re still here, particularly since it’s only a ten-minute walk from our house. We eat at their self-service restaurant, Volpetti più, at least once a week. So after almost three years we get great service to go with the great food – exchange of pleasantries, extra goodies for the kids, gluten-free meal for my son, lasagne hot from the oven and a complimentary glass of bardolino.

A final point in its favour is that it opens at 5:30, which suits our northern European routine of eating before 9:00. (Our kids are in bed when most Italian kids are eating dinner.)

For such extraordinary food, the restaurant is surprisingly unpretentious: self-service, plastic cloths on the tables and cheap metal chairs. The crowd is unpretentious too, mainly locals from the neighbourhood, Testaccio, a traditional working-class area built around the defunct city slaughterhouse, converted into a mediateque.

Testaccio is one of my favourite quarters of Rome. Its market is as colourful as the more famous one at Campo di Fiori, but the prices are lower. One of the stalls sells only tomatoes – 42 different varieties.

When the slaughterhouse was the main employer in the neighbourhood, the workers were given the cheap cuts as a perk of the job. This is why many of the restaurants boast of their … tripe specialities.

After a dinner of sweetbread, you can go round Monte Testaccio to one of the many clubs built into the base of the hill, which is itself made entirely from pottery shards.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

You better believe it, baby.