It’s hard to avoid stumbling upon Rome’s delis when you visit the Eternal City.
With their vintage signage, artful window displays and an alluring odor of fresh cheese that greets you the second you step inside, Rome’s delis are an enduring part of the city’s cultural and culinary heritage. Not to mention, they’re one of the best places to stock up on local products and gourmet gifts!
The Roman Deli
Delis in Italy come with a wide variety of names: they’re most commonly referred to as a salumeria, gastronomia or an alimentare. And in more rural, small-town settings they can be called a norcineria, pizzicheria or salsamenteria.
These salumerie (as we’ll call them here) are treasure troves chock full of gastronomic treats, from cured meats and aged cheeses to dried pastas and pickled vegetables of every variety (artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes…). They’re also a great place to stock up on regional olive oils, honey and herbs.
These gastronomy shops were originally born as a one-stop-shop to sell local products and, like other institutions in Rome, have ended up with an identity that exists far beyond their function. A salumeria, after all, isn’t just a place where a transaction takes place between a vendor and a customer. It’s part of a daily ritual and serves as a community watering hole: a place to catch up with a trusted friend, exchange daily news and pick up a few ingredients along the way.
Within these product-packed walls, buyers and vendors greet each other with warmth and, more often than not, light banter, before turning their attention to the latest arrivals and exchanging family recipes on how to prepare nonna’s famous lasagna.
With specialty goods, delis are also an expression of Italy’s rigorous quest for quality and provenance, a feature that sets the country apart from many due to its zealous devotion to local and seasonal products. Delis are cherished venues because they bring together the best of a territory and champion time-honored traditions.
The 21st Century
Rome has a well-known tendency to look towards the past—but even the most beloved traditions need to evolve to keep up with modern times, and many of the city’s most famous delis have risen to the challenge. Far from being stuck in time, Rome’s salumerie are enjoying a renaissance thanks to some savvy entrepreneurs bent on saving their family businesses.
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Roscioli Salumeria is one of the best examples of this trend. A household name in Rome, Roscioli is a business and brand that commands deep reverence from locals and tourists alike: it is one of the few venues that has withstood the test of time and constantly reinvented itself.
A family-owned enterprise for four generations, brothers Alessandro and Pierluigi transformed the original grocery story into a multifunctional deli that boasts a restaurant and wine bar serving hundreds of varieties of Italian cheeses, cold cuts and wines. Dinner at Roscioli is a special treat and it brings together Rome’s VIP, food enthusiasts, intrepid travelers and more to snack on mouthwatering plates of burrata with sundried tomatoes, tangles of carbonara and smoked tuna with lemon and olive oil. The novelty aspect is enjoying a gourmet, traditional meal illuminated by the glow of the deli counter, an avant-garde idea when the deli was converted into a restaurant in 2002.
Insider’s Tip: The Roscioli brand includes four delicious venues in total. Don’t miss tasting pizza al taglio at Antico Forno Roscioli, ordering a cappuccino and cornetto at Roscioli Café and joining a wine tasting at Rimessa Roscioli.
The success of Roscioli has no doubt inspired countless delis in the city to rethink their own venues in order to attract a new wave of consumers interested in all-day dining and more modern décor.
Ercoli, for instance, is a gastronomia that has been serving locals in Rome’s elegant Prati neighborhood since 1928 and undertook a complete redesign in 2017 to keep up with emerging trends in the capital.
In addition to boasting one of the city’s most amply-stocked deli counters, it now includes a bright, upscale restaurant and a champagne cocktail bar to satisfy all your drinking and dining needs. And open 7 days a week from morning to midnight, it’s a convenient place to stop by for gourmet goods (or a glass of bubbly) any time of the day.
Volpetti, a 45-year-old deli in Rome’s Testaccio neighborhood, similarly opened Taverna Volpetti in 2016 to complement its popular grocery store and give its loyal customers a place to enjoy its local specialties in-situ.
With checkered floors and wooden tables, the atmosphere here is decidedly rustic though the menu provides a modern twist on traditional fare. Beef tartare is served with apples; balsamic vinegar and parmesan cream and tortelli filled with pumpkin are garnished with marinated herring and buffalo milk provola cheese.
It’s not always easy to update a tradition without losing sight of its core essence but Rome’s delis prove that it’s possible to honor the past while preserving it for the future. Their form may have evolved but their function remains the same: to provide a helping hand in nourishing their community.
Join our Testaccio Neighborhood Food & Market Tour to visit emblematic Roman establishments like these. Your support of the Testaccio neighborhood’s historic family-run delis and trattorias will help make sure they stick around for a long time to come.
Livia Hengel is a Rome-born journalist, storyteller and culture enthusiast. She has spent the past decade traveling throughout Italy and seeks to share a fresh perspective on the country: one that goes beyond the stereotypes and provides insight into its the cultural nuances and longstanding traditions.