The Williams-Sonoma culinary team traveled to Rome to find inspiration for our fall recipes. Our new catalog dishes were born from our experiences in this legendary city — from the local markets and the culinary classroom to, finally, the dining table.
The team’s first stop was the Campo dei Fiori Market, one of Rome’s oldest markets, rich with seafood, vegetables, fruit, spices, delicious pizza bianca and even kitchen utensils (a real treat!). We visited stores carrying specialty Roman products, pastries, coffee, candy and wine, taking in the city’s ancient sites and history along the way.
We stopped at the American Academy in Rome, where Chef Mona Tablott (a Chez Panisse alum) serves a daily, market fresh lunch to academic fellows. Talbott gave us an overview of pastas and classic Roman ingredients, helping us understand what is unique about Rome’s cuisine.
We tasted food as classically Roman as we could find. Menus at trattorias like Da Oio a Casa Mia, Armando al Pantheon and Sora Lella all featured the same items — Pasta alla Carbonara, Pasta all’Amatriciana, and other dishes including the three main ingredients in Roman cooking: beans, grains and greens.
In the end, the things we discovered on a whim, wandering through the city, were the most impactful — no reservations required. A hungry co-worker insisted on stopping for pizza at a sidewalk stand, making us believers in pillowy-soft potato pizza (for which the Williams-Sonoma test kitchen developed a recipe).
Here are impressions from some of our team members about their most memorable food experiences in Rome.
“It’s amazing how much flavor you can achieve with so few ingredients — and really taste each one. This is Roman comfort food — pure, simple, absolutely delicious.” — Travis Rea, Food Development
“A common thread of gathering and community wove each meal together. Around every corner was the whisper of history. Each ruin, each open market, each cobblestone had a story waiting to be told.” — Neil Lick, Merchandising
“Romans don’t advertise ‘local, organic or fresh’ because there’s no reason to. In Rome, these elements are as integral as TASTE is to the rest of the world.” — Jonathan Silverman, European Sourcing
“Simple cooking and fresh ingredients inspired me to really do as the Romans do: Don’t add, subtract or make a change. Enjoy food as it was intended.” — Jonathan Silverman, European Sourcing
“Our first stop: the Forno Campo de Fiori, where folks have been turning out pizza and focaccia for almost 200 years. We all looked at each other and said, ‘This IS Italy.'” — Jonathan Silverman, European Sourcing
“There is something special about food so good that you will wait in line to eat it on the sidewalk. It was just that good…” — Travis Rea, Food Development
“A simple bowl of pasta e ceci soup with a drizzle of olive oil. It made me realize what Roman cooking is really all about: celebrating good food in a less complicated form.” — Michelle Bowler, Merchandising
“The sense of community and family is evident at every meal in Rome. The food is amazing — but it’s the time shared at the table that makes the experience so memorable.” — Dawn Green, Food Development