For what seems like the past decade, Monti has been proudly wearing the badge of Rome’s “it” neighborhood, rising out and up from its working class past to being a top hipster spot. And we can’t really argue — Monti is quite cool. It has just that right mix of rough-around-the-edges vibe in its graying architecture and stylish pouting residents, and unmitigated charm with its picture-perfect vicolo (alleys) and one-of-a-kind boutiques. Monti’s main piazza, Madonna dei Monti, is the go-to mecca for afternoons and evenings, and its new and renovated restaurants are firmly cemented scenes.
But Monti is more than merely a hangout; it’s a food lovers’ hamlet, an urban garden of gastronomic delights. Less than a square mile in area, the neighborhood is overflowing with independently owned businesses and small boutiques, many dedicated to KM0 (items produced less than 100 kilometers from where they’re sold) food, urban gardening and made-in-Rome products. With gourmet sandwiches, designer shakes, gelato, freshly roasted coffee and chocolate, the neighborhood is literally full of flavor. It’s easy to achieve intestinal enlightenment just by walking the area.
Here are a few of the standout stops along Monti’s streets:
Antico Forno ai Serpenti (via dei Serpenti 122) is a decades-old bakery, recently renovated and reopened, that has fresh sweet and savory pastries from early morning to mid-evening, including Roman favorites — fresh pizza al taglio (by the slice) and biscotti.
Antico Caffè del Brasile (via dei Serpenti 23) is a charming, traditional neighborhood café — perfect for your morning cup of cappuccino. Antico is also torrefazione (roasting), grinding and serving its own selection of coffee beans.
Aromaticus (via Urbana 134) is a hybrid garden, herb shop and café. Aromaticus has all the trappings needed for urban gardening, and a delicious light lunch menu (salads, tartar) with wine pairings.
La Bottega del Cioccolato (via Leonina 82) sells artisanal snack creations and delicious candy confections, year-round and seasonal, with an extreme emphasis on chocolate.
Ciuri Ciuri (via Leonina 18) is a tiny Sicilian bakery, with several shops around Rome, that has cornered the market on all things sugary, including traditional cannoli and delicious cassatina, a tiny sponge cake covered with sweetened ricotta cream, marzipan and pistachio paste.
Dall’Antò (via a Madinna dei Monti 16) is the latest food boutique to hit the area. Dall’Anto is an artisanal bread shop with many traditional specialties. Make sure you taste the farinata dei ceci, a baked Ligurian flatbread made from chickpea flour.
Espressamente Illy (via Urbana 93) may be part of a huge brand, but Illy style is undeniably beguiling. Whenever there is an Espressamente Illy café in your vicinity, you almost feel obligated to go in — whether for the extraordinarily well-made coffee beverage selection (cold, hot, shaken) or a glimpse at the mod and playful interior design — and this location is no exception.
Fatamorgana (Piazza degli Zingari 5) has fun gelato flavors such as banana sesame, chocolate wasabi and Andalusian gazpacho. In other words, the place is an invitation to experiment. The bewitching address also has traditional flavors (hazelnut, vanilla bean, chocolate) and a divine zabaglione (a custard-like dessert).
Gaudeo (via del Boschetto 112) is the spot for a gourmet panini, with a menu listing tons of artfully crafted sandwiches made with Italy’s very best and revered meats, cheeses, vegetables and even fish. My favorite? The baccalà (codfish) and fig sandwich.
Panificio Monti (via Urbana 22) may be less stylized than the rest, but it is the neighborhood’s unquestioned leading bread shop, providing freshly-made bread and sliced pizza daily.
Zia Rosetta (via Urbana 54) is the picnicker’s dream with a menu of gourmet Italian meat and cheese sandwiches (placed on the rose-shaped rosetta bread), salads and even picnic boxes. For visitors who juice, Zia Rosetta also offers a fantastic selection of centrifughe (blended fruit and vegetable juice), spremute (pressed fruit juice) and frullati (shakes).
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