Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pasticceria Linari, Another Gem in Testaccio

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Right across the street from Santa Maria Liberatrice in Testaccio, Pasticceria Linari welcomes the neighborhood in for a light snack and conversation. The day we discovered it was the feast day of the patron saint of the church and the place was buzzing with people who were pouring out of the church. Besides the religious holiday, this was a celebration day for the entire neighborhood of Testaccio. You could see the camaraderie of the patrons, they were people who knew one another.

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With all the pastries on offer, it was difficult to make a purchase at the cash register without knowing the names of all the items, but a tourist could manage with a few Italian numbers and the word “paste” (pah stay) meaning pastries and the adjectives grande  and piccolo. Once that was cleared up you had to fight your way to the bar where your order would be filled. There was definitely a lull at the moment this photo was taken, since I recall fighting my way through a line 3 people deep, similar in nature to a working man’s bar during the “last call”. People were placing their receipts down with a few coins on top to encourage service.

Here’s some of what you can expect to find (you can enlarge each photo by clicking on it):

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If you’ve ever wanted to travel and live like the natives then a bakery like Linari is a good choice for your experiment. It’s located in a working class neighborhood that is not flooded with tourists and the items are made for the local taste and priced to be affordable. You pick up local customs if you pay attention, like offering a few coins with the receipt for faster service (although looking dazed and confused worked very well for me) and feel as though you could easily blend in if only you could keep your mouth shut! We were greeted by several locals who seemed slightly amused, but happy that we were able to see something of their daily routine. It was a win win situation and I look forward to going back ther on our next visit to Rome.

Linari like Bernini is also more than a bakery, it also serves gelato and sells other items including wine. Here are some photos of the gelato that are decorated with the main ingredient of each flavor. Cute idea, especially for children who cannot yet read.

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And now for a little something different:

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Mercato Testaccio

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Not much to look at on the outside, Mercato Testaccio is a vibrant neighborhood market in the working class neighborhood of the same name. It is a quintessential mercato providing its neighbors with house wares, clothing, leather goods and food at affordable prices. Some think it is the most classic market in Rome. I have no idea, but I can tell you for a fact that leather goods were being offered at very good prices.


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Perhaps they were older or unpopular styles, but I was very happy with my leather shoulder bags for 50 euro each. They came in suede, cow hide and lamb skin and were better than prices I’ve paid in the San Lorenzo market in Florence. “That’s my brown bag in the lower left corner”, she said with pride. I also came home with a large black shoulder bag that will come in handy for future trips since my travel umbrella fits inside.


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Shoes were in plentiful supply in the many stalls that carried them. They were divided into men’s, women’s and children’s stalls and served a broad range of tastes. The market was bustling that day and the crowds were so heavy around these vendors, I was beginning to wonder if shoppers came here from all over the city. The jostling was so bad, I lost half of my photos because they were out of focus. Too bad because many of the styles of women’s shoes were better than those you see here.


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Beef reigns supreme at this market, but as you can see by the top photo on the left, horse meat is also a popular product here and throughout Italy. Donkey meat is also part of the local cuisine in the rural south, but no vendors were present at this particular market. The bottom photo on the right is actually a salumeria that specializes in pork products.


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The reason I use the term supreme in describing the beef is that there was quite an amazing selection of Chianina beef in this mercato. A special breed of cattle, the Chianina are raised and slaughtered for the best beef available in Italy. Think of it as grass fed, prime grade American beef, but better. Every authentic Steak Fiorentina is produced from Chianina beef. Don’t bother trying it in a restaurant in any country other than Italy.


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Besides the Chianina, horse, and swine, you could quench your blood thirst with rabbit, lamb or poultry, if you were lucky enough to shop at this market. As a tourist, you might consider eating a roasted pork sandwich that is commonly sold at markets such as this one. I did see a vendor, but didn’t get a good photo. If you’re really hungry, try Palombi (also reviewed here and in RestoReco) across the street from the market on the east side of Piazza Testaccio.



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At least 3 fish vendors supply the neighborhood with very fresh fish, all side by side in the market, all yelling out their offerings like you would see in a travelogue of the Mediterranean. It’s quite an attention getter, but so were the metallic plastic ribbons swirling around their heads, in an attempt to keep flies off of their wares, some of which are pictured below:


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Some of the fish mongers were also selling freshly filleted anchovies. Other items I failed to photograph were shellfish such as clams and mussels, something you always see at the markets in season. Red mullet is another very typical fish sold all over Italy as well as orata and swordfish. Salmon was a bit of a surprise for me to see.


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This is a great spot for a break because I happen to love fresh porcini and chanterelles. As you can see, these are precious commodities in Italy too, but you don’t need many to really make a recipe sing with their earthy taste. Take a look at how firm the porcini appear, that is the best way to buy them. If the stems feel a bit spongy don’t buy them.


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There were plenty of produce stands selling fruit, but after reviewing my photos, it seems I missed plenty of them, instead focusing on cherries and the loquats that fascinated me by their size. They were almost as big as apricots and I was lucky enough to be offered some with my breakfast in Matera, Basilicata. But more of that later. It was nice to see vendors selling pastry, nuts and prepared antipasti. One could be very content to live in Testaccio and shop at this market.


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The bakery stall wasn’t that big, but it sure packed a lot into a small space. The pizza bianca, the long flat bread above is typically Roman as are the rosetta rolls next to it on the left. I’d never seen the rolls in the larger photo before, but hope to try them on my next visit, because they look so flakey. I doubt they are buttery, but find their shape and the fact that you can pull them apart intriguing. The pizze in the photo below look delicious and you’d be hard pressed to choose just one. They are from left to right tomato paste, zucchini, mushroom and potato with rosemary.



Mercato Testaccio is located on Piazza Testaccio just west of Via Marmorata


Open Monday to Saturday 8:00 a.m. thru 2:00 p.m.