After San Giovanni’s, Monte Verde‘s and Monti‘s walks, the hosts of the Home Sharing Club in Rome explored the Esquilino neighborhood, leaving the “recommended by Airbnb hosts” stickers in some of their favorite shops. Some of them have been living here for a long time, some others only recently moved to the neighborhood.
What brings them together is the Association Rione XV that’s developing new cultural initiatives to make Esquilino a more vibrant neighborhood, appealing and neat.
During a June afternoon, guided by Andrea, an associate in a creative agency and a host in the area, the Home Sharing Club visited shops and local businesses that hosts recommend to their guests when they are in the neighborhood. Esquilino is a melting pot of cultures, languages and traditions and it’s famous for some amazing food spots.
Palazzo del Freddo, the gelato’s kingdom
Fassi is a gelato institution worldwide. It was founded over a century ago, in 1880. In its first few years, it moved to different locations, but since the ‘20s can be found in Via Principe Eugenio 65/67.
The “Palazzo del Freddo” is an authentic artisanal gelato factory, created by Giovanni Fassi. He was the king’s confectionery, then, with his parents, “ice” entrepreneur and inventor, really, of our contemporary gelateria. Thanks to him, his wife, Giuseppina, their family and collaborators, gelato classics were created: “San Pietrino”, parfait covered with chocolate and tribute to Rome’s streets paving, “Ninetto”, the very first gelato on a stick, that was dedicated to Giuseppina by her husband. The location is unique, with a porch and a room dedicated to exhibitions; their gelato is made with fresh ingredients.
“I owe it to my great-grandfather and all the ones before me,” said Andrea Fassi, 33 years old and great grandson of the founder, with a big smile. Today, he is the general manager here. Before taking the lead of the family business – at its fifth generation – he studied political science, traveled the world, and met many people. He is committed not only to keeping the pace with his business on an international scale, but also to keep it as an asset for the neighborhood and the city. He recently collaborated with well-known Chef Rubio to create an educational project about the cultural differences for the schools of Rome. #OneTasteEsquilino teaches the youngest ones the enrichment different cultures bring, something that Esquilino knows very well.
La pizzicheria Radici. Roma meets Lecce
Last year, Davide and Andrea, one communicator, the other illustrator, restored the location of the old “pizzicheria romana,” in via Emanuele Filiberto 38. The original shop opened in the 1960s and closed in the 1990s. Davide and Andrea took the place over to create “Radici” (“Roots”) in order to create a place that would tell customers about the story of their home town, Lecce and the Salento area, in Apulia.
“We brought our roots to a neighborhood that has many colors, in the city we have chosen for us since we were students,” they said. The pizzicheria is the traditional Roman gastronomy that sells cheeses, cold cuts and other local specialties. They also have rustici and focacce, wines, tomato sauces, coffee; South Italy’s gastronomic heart. The ceiling recalls the foliage of a tree. The name of the shop tells a lot about the bond between the shop, its neighborhood, and between the owners and their home town. An original and positive encounter.
Machiavelli’s club. History and food
In this restaurant, hidden at the end of an alley in via Machiavelli, the menu changes every Tuesday and often surprises you, with dishes from many regional cuisines. The place looks like a family’s home and maybe that’s why Airbnb hosts recommend this place so often to their guests.
Mauro bought the place 10 years ago; in the early ‘900 it was a historical Osteria, then a beer storage, also used to keep the ice for the nearby food market in Piazza Vittorio. From here, it was carried with carts whose rails can still be seen in the corridor’s entrance. Mauro, who grew up in the same building of the restaurant, is a historian and often organizes history lessons here through recipes and ingredients, with menus that are a tribute to tradition, and with themed nights.
Norcineria Cecchini, where Romans go for their grocery shopping
The Cecchini Norcineria can be found at via Merulana, the big road that connects the neighborhood with Piazza San Giovanni, made famous by Carlo Emilio Gadda’s novel. It’s another shop that helps make the history of Esquilino, and, founded by the owner’s grandfather, Virgilio Cecchini, has been here since 1930. It’s where many locals choose to do their food shopping.
Originally from Norcia, in Umbria, the Cecchini family has brought to Rome the Umbria knowledge on the cold cuts production, and on gastronomy more broadly. They make many of their products, thanks to a kitchen right behind the workshop. “It’s a shop with a small head but a gigantic body,” says Virgilio, referring to the small dimensions of the shop compared to what is behind the scenes. Among the specialties, the “Dolce Cecchini”, a high-quality, incredibly tasty prosciutto crudo. And cold cuts with wild fennel or green pepper.
Gatsby Cafè. The transformation of a historical shop
Piazza Vittorio is a square almost completely covered in porches, with a big garden in the middle of it: it’s a one-of-a-kind gem in Rome, in the heart of Esquilino. Many of the shops here have closed overtime due to the recent economic crisis. Last year, though, five young adults from the area decided it was time to try to make some changes to the square and so opened the Gatsby Cafè. “We wanted to take care of a project that would bring a change to our neighborhood. We encouraged each other to come up with an idea,” said Mauro, one of the associates. So they rented the very same space that belonged for many years to the old hat shop Venturini and opened a bistro that kept that 1950s allure (and the hats!), but brought an international appeal to it, inspired by Northern Europe.
The Café is spread across three floors: it features an open kitchen, a living room and a covered terrace with a sophisticated flair. The cocktails on the menu are inspired by the esoteric tradition of the Esquilino.
Some evenings, swing dancers meet in front of the Gatsby to dance together. Then, the music and laughters take over the square.