The Eternal City: Recipes and Stories from Rome

Image of The Eternal City: Recipes and stories from Rome
Release Date: 
February 28, 2023
Smith Street Books
Reviewed by: 

“Maria Pasquale takes us on a leisurely tour of Rome, the markets, restaurants . . . and eateries. . . . Pasquale’s rich descriptions of life in Rome are sure to take the reader on a delectable armchair adventure.”

Maria Pasquale’s book, The Eternal City: Recipes and Stories from Rome is part travelogue and part love letter to the city that stole her heart.

Pasquale, known for her popular blog HeartRome, was born in Melbourne, Australia, to Italian parents. Her love affair with all-things Italian started at an early age, where her formative years were spent in a household of Italian immigrants. Italian food, language, and customs were part of her childhood.

“The indelible ties I have to Italy have been ingrained in me since I was a child, nurtured as a teen and have ultimately defined me as an adult,” she writes in the introduction to her beautifully photographed and designed book.

A trip to Italy as a 16-year-old was a turning point, she writes. “It was the first time I had been exposed to nose-to-tail as a concept, and it sparked my curiosity in food and the things that defined Italian culture—the language, the way of life and the people. That trip changed me forever, and I just knew that one day, I would live in Italy.”

In 2011, Pasquale moved to Rome, a city she fell in love with more than 20 years before. It was natural for Pasquale to find her way in an alien city through its food culture. She began writing her blog as a way of connecting with people back home, but soon the blog gained traction and she found herself working in a dream job of food tourism.

All the knowledge she gained living in Rome is shared in the pages of this cookbook. Pasquale’s writing style is warm and engaging as a bowl of creamy cacio e pepe and the images she paints with her vivid vocabulary will stay long after the reader closes the book.

The recipes in the book are part of Pasquale’s food life in Rome. These are dishes she ate in restaurants, in homes of friends, from street vendors or ones she made herself. They are authentic Roman classics.

According to Pasquale, dishes should be identified and defined by where you eat rather than by how you eat or when you eat, and so each chapter focuses on a distinct dining concept that is part of daily life for most Romans.

La Trattoria is a quintessential Roman eatery. Here tables are covered in paper, service is fast, and menus are optional. La Trattoria serves simple, relatively inexpensive and delicious food, in true Roman style.   

So the recipes in this chapter reflect the warm hospitality of a La Trattoria. Cooks will find Carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish fried artichokes), the famed Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara and Mousee di Mascarpone con Fragoline di Bosco (Mascarpone mousse with wild strawberries).

At the La Friggitoria, all things fried are celebrated and served. This is street food with a classic Roman touch. Famous Suppli (fried rice balls), Fiori di Zucca (fried zucchini flowers), Olive all’Ascolana (fried stuffed olives) and Mozarelline Fritte (fried mini-mozzarella balls) are a few recipes in this mouth-watering chapter.

The Il Forno or bakery in Rome sells more than just bread. Here the shelves are filled with biscuits, pizza, Pizza bianca (Roman version of focaccia or flat bread). Anything that can be baked in an oven can be found at the Il Forno.

Crisp and burnt (yes, Romans like their pizza crusts charred) Pizza Rossa (or pizza with red sauce) is a popular food in Rome. The Il Forno chapter includes such delicacies as Pizzette (puff pastry rounds that are a favorite appetizer), Brutti Ma Buoni (ugly but good biscuits) and Crostata di Marmellata (jam tart).

But it is in the Italian market where true cultural experience is linked to the Italian way of life. Il Mercato is where Romans build relationships with vendors, fruit sellers and fishmongers. The market is the heart of Italian cooking because the diet is heavily based on seasonal fruits and vegetables. The recipes in this chapter are varied and will appeal to a vast array of tastes. Vegetables, pasta, meat and fish are the staples of the Roman diet, and the recipes reflect the centuries-old Italian culture.

Pasquale takes us on a leisurely tour of Rome, the markets, restaurants (several chefs are featured between chapters) and eateries. This culinary journey will leave the reader hungry for crispy pizza, mounds of garlicky pasta and for a taste of wild strawberry mousse. Pasquale’s rich descriptions of life in Rome are sure to take the reader on a delectable armchair adventure.