Here’s Why Your Next Fine Dining Experience Will Probably Be At Home

From Hotel Chef To Home Cook, Alessandro Shares His Journey To Social Dining In Rome

It may come as no surprise that an Italian childhood is a childhood of memories strongly linked to food and cooking. Our self-styled “authentic Roman” host tells us that this was the most important gift that was passed down to him: “by my grandmother to my mother, and since the age of 4 years old, from my mother to me.”

From Hotel To Home Chef, Why Alessandro Embraced Social Dining

Alessandro, a trained chef and sommelier from Rome, still remembers the dishes of his traditional Italian childhood, which were classics like “homemade pasta, gnocchi, pizza, and Roman dishes.” From there, Alessandro became well-versed in the flavours of his country. The first dish he ever made? Classic homemade fettuccine in a tomato sauce.

Going pro

Rather than let his interest in cooking remain a mere hobby, Alessandro wanted to do something he loved for a living. He tells us how he first entered the food industry:

I worked and studied at the Marriott Hotel in Rome. There I underwent training to become the Chef of the Hotel. Once I had my chef’s diploma I looked into Sommelier qualifications and registered at the Worldwide Sommelier Association, becoming Rome Cavalieri Hotel’s official sommelier.

Being a hotel chef was a fantastic learning curve for Alessandro, but interaction with the people he was feeding was something he felt was missing. This skilful chef decided to take the plunge into social dining, and bring his professional cooking skills back to his own kitchen by opening a home restaurant with a stunning view of the Vatican.

From Hotel To Home Chef, Why Alessandro Embraced Social Dining

“I wanted to organise these social dining experiences where I could see my guests enjoying the fruits of my labour, and I could engage with them too,” he explains, which is something he did not get the opportunity to do as a chef in a hotel.

“I like the social aspect of these dining experiences, and I can get to know different people from all over the world.”

Alessandro now works full-time in his home restaurant. The success of his venture, he says, is owed in part to the fresh ingredients he uses in his dishes, allowing the flavors to speak for themselves. Because of this, he advises to-be hosts to “buy the best ingredients and the best wines; make sure your passion comes through your dishes.”

Putting people first

From Hotel Chef To Home Cook, Alessandro Shares His Journey To Social Dining

As any good host knows, the dishes are only the beginning. To make sure his guests feel at home (particularly important in a home restaurant), Alessandro emphasizes the use of people-skills, telling us to “take an interest in the lives and the experiences of the guests, as they have travelled from all over the world to taste the Italian dishes I grew up with.”

The best way to experience a new country is to taste the dishes borne of family tradition. Host Alessandro wants to help you experience the Rome with dishes handed down by his mother, and his grandmother, and for you to take a little taste of Italy back with you.

Alessandro’s favourite dish

My favourite dish is spaghetti with mussels. This is the recipe:

  • Clean the mussels, put them into a pan with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and chili pepper.
  • Cook covered until they are opened.
  • In another pan, put fresh tomatoes,  garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Cook covered for about 5 minutes, add the mussels and a part of their liquid, previously filtered.
  • Cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Cook the pasta in salted water, drain it al dente and toss in pan with the sauce, adding the remaining liquid from the mussels if necessary.

Over to you

Want to enjoy a truly Roman feast with a view of the Vatican City? You can book a seat at Alessandro’s home restaurant over here.

Why Travel Is About More Than Clichés And Selfies

Why Travel Is About More Than Clichés And Selfies

Exploration has driven humans to expand to new frontiers for millennia. The pull of the unseen and the unknown has been enough to convince intrepid travelers to give up the comforts of home and set out for the great beyond.

The problem is, the great beyond now seems to be filled with selfie sticks and tour buses.

travel tourists selfie sticks

I stood in line for my first passport at the not-so-tender age of 19 because I could feel the idea of travel weighing upon me. But never having left my home country, that same idea felt completely out of reach. The passport booklet, filled with its 40 pristine pages, was the essential first step to seeing the world that lay beyond the boundaries of my hometown.

To break in my new found freedom, I booked a trip to Italy. The 10-day tour took us from the canals of Venice, through the Renaissance streets of Florence, and straight into the picture-perfect ancient mishmash of modern Rome.

Everything was new, exciting, and borderline infuriating.

travel tourists tours crowd

Here’s why: around every corner was yet another line for yet another monument. The sites themselves were stunning, but being forced to wait behind throngs of tourists destroyed some of the grandeur.

Our attempts at dining sometimes fared no better. White-aproned hosts beckoned to us with tempting English language menus, but we left the red-checkered tables unconvinced we had really been served authentic home cooking.

We walked the cobblestones streets wondering if this was really what travel was all about – selfies and social media check-ins.

travel tourists food pasta

Following that fateful trip, I have since moved to Rome and stood in line at the embassy to add more pages to that same passport. On a plane or a train nearly every two weeks, I have realized that there will always be other tourists.

However, I prefer to leave them to the bucket list sites and chart my own path in every new city.

Dare to say yes

Travelling has taught me that a lot of the experience is about taking a risk and saying yes. Yes to the plane tickets, yes to the off-the-beaten track neighborhood, and yes to the invitations to see sites that are off the beaten path.

That was why I said yes to the lunch invitation from the front desk girl at my hostel in Marrakesh. One hour and one horse-and-cart ride later, we were watching her brother’s wedding video, sipping mint tea and eating couscous with her entire family in their 800-year-old Berber home.

Able to communicate mainly through pointing and smiles, it was one of the best meals of my life.

travel tourists morocco

Wandering through countries and continents, I have learned that I prefer to skip the typical guidebook must-sees and take a seat at the table. And food is undeniably the best gateway into a new city.

The dinner table is where you go to be nourished, but also where you can learn the norms of a new culture, including how to fare la scarpetta (sop up the sauce) at the end of your homemade pasta dinner.

travel tourists home cooked food pasta

The flavors on the plate in front of you represent the history and traditions of a given place. At the same time, each meal is a chance to simultaneously make very new and very modern real-world connections.

This simple travel tip holds true away from the table as well. I have found that the best place to feel the pulse of a city is at the market rather than at a museum. While you will find few Romans waiting in line at the Vatican, I guarantee you will find every local sitting down for a meal each day. The next step is to be invited to join them.

Social media (and selfies) keep us connected to home while traveling, but it is the unpretentious of act of eating that makes the experience of escape more unique.  That’s why my FOMO (fear of missing out) has more to do with tracking down a rare craft beer than it does with a major monument.

travel tourists tours colosseum

Plus, everyone knows that the best way to see the Colosseum is from a private dining room table.

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Tired of doing the typical touristy stuff? Go beyond clichés and selfies in your travels by dining in a home restaurant instead. 

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Here’s Why Your Next Fine Dining Experience Will Probably Be At Home

Here’s Why Your Next Fine Dining Experience Will Probably Be At Home

Eating out has become a spectator sport: the buttoned-up chef has become the star, with patrons lining the halls in hopes of a table at this year’s hottest restaurant. While farm-to-table-molecular-gastronomy trends are tempting, the truth is that the best food is still usually found at home.

In fact, your next best meal is likely hidden away behind a simple front door. Here are 6 reasons why your next fine dining experience will most probably be at home.

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1. Rise of the pop-up dinner

With a focus on speed and precision, professional kitchens can feel more like well-oiled machines rather than centers of artistic freedom. Now, chefs are moving out of the fast paced environment in order to focus on quality rather than the number of meals they have to deliver in a single evening.

Here’s Why Your Next Fine Dining Experience Will Probably Be At Home

Hence the rise of the pop-up dinner, which is usually hosted at home. The temporary nature of pop-ups gives chefs the creative space to constantly re-invent menus without having to worry about covering the rent on a brick-and-mortar restaurant space.

This way, you know for sure that the food in front of you was borne from passion, rather than a paycheck.

2. When in Rome, eat with the Romans

When visiting a major city, it can be easy to get a bad meal. Even TripAdvisor sometimes gets it wrong. High turnover from tourists who come and go frequently can lead to lackluster offerings at local restaurants.

Here’s Why Your Next Fine Dining Experience Will Probably Be At Home

For this reason, you’ll have a far better chance of trying the best local foods in Rome if you actually eat with the Romans. In a Roman kitchen, you’ll not only be able to help prepare the meal, you’ll also have the benefit of dining without a tourist menu (or a tourist) in sight.

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3. No hidden ingredients

Between food blogs, cookbooks, and online instructions, all the information you need to construct a gourmet meal at home is literally at your fingertips. With sous-vides for sale on Amazon, even the most high-tech kitchen tools are within reach. The space between the professional kitchen and your own dining room table has shortened, meaning you no longer have to rely on cooks hidden out of view.

Choosing a home restaurant means you know exactly how much of what goes into your dish. Plus, you can leave with the recipe to recreate the meal any time – no dress code required.

4. Demystifying the plate

Not very confident in the kitchen? You can now take a class with an experienced home cook to beef up on your culinary skills (and eat it, too). Once you have chopped, sautéed, and served, you will find that meals are about more than just throwing ingredients together.

Here’s Why Your Next Fine Dining Experience Will Probably Be At Home

Taking the time to learn from a home chef and sit down to dinner with a local family is the best way to understand a new food culture.

5. Dinner parties without the artifice

Passing on the restaurant reservation is also a practice in ditching the pretense. Without Michelin stars, crisp white linens, or bow-tied waiters in the way, dining at home places the spotlight on the experience without sacrificing the menu.

Home restaurants concentrate on what matters – the food, and the company.

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6. The most exclusive reservation in town

That new restaurant everyone is trying to get in to? Well, literally everyone is going to be there. Why wait months for a meal that has been served to a thousand other instagramming patrons?

Here’s Why Your Next Fine Dining Experience Will Probably Be At Home

Unique dining experiences don’t happen en masse, they happen one-on-one (and preferably on private terraces).

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Ready to try out your first fine dining experience at a home restaurant? Find your city here to get started right away.

7 Non-Touristy Things You Should Definitely Do In Rome

7 Non-Touristy Things You Should Definitely Do In Rome

As a newly minted college graduate, I headed to Italy with my Italian art studies class in the summer of 2001. Our group visited cities such as Pompeii, Rome, Florence, and Venice, and I also detoured to Munich, Germany from Venice on a free day.

While these three weeks were among the best of my life, I experienced massive art overload. On some days, it felt like every other building in Rome was a church, with gelato shops taking up the other half.

If I return (and I’m determined to), I plan to do a lot more non-touristy things such as eat like a local in Rome. Here’s my hit list below.

1. Head over to the Parco Degli Acquedotti

7 Non-Touristy Things You Should Definitely Do In Rome

The antique stone aqueducts – or waterways – found in this park make for one of the most tranquil spots in the Roman environs. It’s a spot frequented more by the locals as opposed to tourists.

If you want to practice your photography skills, you’ll get an excellent head start right here.

2. Dine with locals

The food in Rome is amazing, but my experience was limited to restaurants. How awesome would it be to dine with actual Roman families and to enjoy authentic, non-touristy food?

You can find unique home restaurants (such as a meal on a rooftop home) with BonAppetour, and then kick back and relax with host families for a truly Italian experience. Their Rome page includes many awesome food experiences happening in the Roman capital.

While most of the tourists are busy rushing to “top-rated restaurants” they’ve seen in their cliché tourist guides -so they can tick off one more item on their “must-do lists”- you can sit down with home-chef Alessandro and enjoy his truly Roman feast overlooking the Vatican City or join a 3 Course Pasta Making Cooking Class in Rome.

7 Non-Touristy Things You Should Definitely Do In Rome

Don’t worry about language barriers. Many of the hosts speak English – there is always at least one person present who speaks English. Besides, if you are looking to improve your Italian-speaking skills, this is a fantastic opportunity to grab.

3. Go to San Lorenzo

Local culture flourishes in the trendy San Lorenzo neighborhood. College students and alternative forms of art (think graffiti and street art) proliferate here.

4. Explore Rome’s gay culture

Rome has a fabulous gay culture that is fun for all types of people. Clubs such as Glamda will spice up your nightclub experience, and be sure to explore Gay Street, as the gay area of Rome is known. It’s near the Colosseum, and easy to get to.

5. Take in the Municipal Rose Garden of Rome

The Municipal Rose Garden of Rome (Roseto Comunale di Roma in Italian) is another spot that tourists tend to skip. Which is great for you, as it is one of the most enchanting spots in Rome, even if you are not a huge flower lover. But if you are, all the better!

7 Non-Touristy Things You Should Definitely Do In Rome

Living here are more than 1100 rose varieties donated by many different countries. This is an ideal spot to walk, relax, and catch your breath from the busyness that can be Rome.

6. Watch a film flick at Cinema Farnese

Cinema Farnese is a family-run theater with balcony seating. It’s popular with the locals, and you can choose from both artsy movies and commercial successes. If you want an authentic Italian experience, this is one that you shouldn’t miss.

Show up during a festival or premiere at the movie house, though, and you may also experience a bit of glamour (as well as films in languages other than Italian).

7. Simply wander

One thing I do whenever I am in a new city is to start from somewhere – anywhere – and just walk and wander. It’s one of the best ways to find spots off the beaten path, and to become familiar with a place. You never know what adventures await around the corner.

7 Non-Touristy Things You Should Definitely Do In Rome

If nothing else, walk or bike along Via Appia – and if walking is not your thing, you can still do a spot of wandering via the bus or subway.

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