This is the 4th post in my Best Bites of Italy series, a round-up of the best eats during my 2 week trip through Rome, Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre. Other good eats include Renato e Luisa, La Gelateria del Teatro, and La Pizza del Teatro in Rome.
Next up on the Best Bites of Italy series is this fried artichoke from Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia. While I wouldn’t say it was one of the best bites of our Italy trip, I thought it was unique enough to write about it on le blog.
After a long day of being tourists at the Colosseum, Roman Forums and other Roman hot spots, J and I took the walk from Central Rome over to Trastevere, which is considered the “Brooklyn” of Rome. On our way there, we walked through the Jewish Ghetto and spotted Giggetto, a restaurant that we kept hearing about. First from our food tour with Sophie, and then a few other times from other people’s lists of Rome recommendations. It’s one of the few places everyone goes to for fried artichokes, so of course I was intrigued.
Carciofi alla giudia, or Jewish-style fried artichokes, is a signature dish in Roman Jewish cooking and a very popular dish in Rome. Fried artichokes is as it sounds, fresh artichokes that have been fried in olive oil. The quality of artichokes in Italy is just phenomenal, so this particular preparation just lets the ingredient shine. Since the artichokes here are a bit younger, the leaves are able to separate more as it fries, turning it into a full blooming flower. I loved the bouquet of artichokes that are often featured in front of restaurants and in markets.
At around 8pm on a Saturday night, the restaurant was still half empty, so J and I thought we had a shot to do a quick dine and dash before our real dinner reservation at 10pm. But when we started talking to the hose, he wouldn’t let us sit down to just have the appetizer without a reservation – the restaurant was going to be full he said. With a bit of back and forth, we realized that they weren’t going to let us sit down to try this speciality. J asked if we could bring it to go but the server kind of shrugged us off.
We stood there waiting for about 5 minutes – a bit lost and confused – just lingering around hoping they’d come around. Our determination pulls through as someone who looks like the manager comes up to us and asks us how many we wanted. Two we said, and voila, €10 and 10 minutes later, the server came out with a to go bag of 2 fried artichokes for us. Score! Ze stupid American tourist strikes again. 😉
With so many outdoor piazzas around in Rome, we decided that we could just walk around to find a bench to enjoy these artichokes. But the longer we walked, the more the foodie inside me was screaming: What if these fried artichokes become soggy!?? You must eat it NOWWWW!
So as we were crossing over one of the many bridges over to Trastevere, I begged J to stop so we could just eat it on the the ledge of the bridge – just in case we couldn’t find a bench soon enough. So as the sun was setting over the water, and as couples walked hand in hand over this romantic bridge, staring into each other’s eyes, J and I planted down our to-go container of fried artichoke hearts and started stuffing our faces with our grubby hands. Now, that’s true romance my friends. 😉
We weren’t really sure what to expect – I mean, how good could a fried artichoke be anyway? We were told to just eat the whole thing, however J and I found that the outer edges of the artichoke were too tough to eat. As we tried to eat the entire first layer of leaves, we ended up discarding quite a bit of it cause we couldn’t really chew through them. However, as we continued to pick off more layers, the more tender as we got closer to the heart of the artichoke. And that’s when the awesomeness of this dish started to shine.
The thin pieces were crispy on the edge, and tender in the middle. Like a delicious vegetable chip. It was covered in an amazingly fresh olive oil and a hint of salt which made each piece an awesome bite.
I’ve read some mixed reviews about dining at Giggetto (touristy, etc etc), however getting these €5 fried artichokes to go was definitely a good call for a pre-dinner snack. So in the question of if we’d do this again if we came to Rome? J would tell you, worth it! Plus we got to enjoy it while watching the sunset.
Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia | Trip Advisor
Via del Portico D’Ottavia 21/a-22, 00186 Rome, Italy
☎ +39 06 686 1105