Ok, this is an absolute must when travelling to Rome. A friend who is a local told me that if I wanted a lunch I wouldn’t forget, I had to try a place called Er Burchetto, for the best pork in all of Rome.
It was a short walk from my apartment so quite convenient for me, not to mention appealing after spending two days on foot around Rome seeing sites – the temperature has been over 30 every day so I revelled in the opportunity to venture only a couple of blocks for a memorable lunch.
I had an early morning train ride to the region of Umbria on Saturday, so I had resolved to the fact that that I’d have to wait until I returned to Rome to experience this amazing pig. As fate would have it, I missed my train (well in truth, I got on the wrong train and released just before it was due to depart in the complete other direction to where I was headed!)
So with all my baggage in tow (which has grown decidedly since arriving in Italy, stuffed with Italian leather goods and other beautiful things) I set off to find this local landmark.
I arrived to find a tiny shop – barely 3m x 3m in size – and since it was still early, there were no customers. The owner looked at me strangely when I asked for a table for one (there are only three small tables inside) but politely pointed to where I could offload my gigantic suitcase and ushering me to a seat at a small table near the door.
The first thing I noticed was the pictured walls, covered with old photos, restaurant reviews and memorabilia from a time passed. I recognised the owner in a few of the photos and it was clear that the shop had been in the family for generations.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to ask for – it was the sort of place that didn’t provide a menu. Clearly the pork was the main event. A whole pig beautifully prepared with cracking and stuffing was presented at the door. So I simply asked for “una porchetta con no pane” which means pork with no bread. That seemed to satisfy the owner who promptly began slicing and I promptly began salivating!
The pork and crackling was served on a piece of grease-proof paper. As other patrons arrived, they were served the same thing only with a bread roll, and rather than eating as a pork roll with the pork inside, they would rip apart the roll and eat in between bites of pork.
Without delay I started to tuck into my serving of delicious pork. I was in pork heaven! It was the best pork I have ever tasted. A family recipe passed down through generations and feeding devoted Italians and visitors for more than a century (the shop was established in 1890). The decades upon decades has resulted in a delicacy that cannot be replicated.
Because it’s so small, it’s a very friendly place and easy to get to know the other diners. As more people came, I shared my table with a variety of people on their pork odyssey. I met a lovely Italian couple who had traveled all over Australia, and offered me a place to stay in their Roman home next time I’m in town. I met a German man who had been coming to Er Burchetto for years and told me a little about the history.
The owner was Alessandro, and he seemed keen to impress and offered me a plate of local cheese to finish off my meal. Although I don’t eat a lot of dairy, I enjoy trying local cuisine so I happily accepted. It was a blue cheese, and Alessandro prepared it with some sort of pickled vegetable and drizzled it with a sort of balsamic vinegar. It was very good but very rich and salty – particularly since I didn’t couple it with some bread as the other patrons did.
If you do go, I recommend ordering a slide of marinated artichokes, which were ordered by some patrons in the know, to share with their pork. I was also offered white wine (vino bianco) which seemed to be a slightly watered down wine. This is actually how the Romans used to drink wine at their banquets. I have been reading a book about traditional Roman recipes and cooking techniques, way back in the IX Century. As the book explains, the Romans drank small amounts of wine, often watered down, with their elaborate and intricate dishes, some taking days to prepare with multiple sauces and complex flavours. My interest in Italian food is growing, as is my waistline! I wonder if it’s possible to travel around Italy without gaining any weight!
Er Burchetto is situated at Via del Viminale 2/f, just near the Roma Termini (main train station in Rome).