Where to Eat on a Budget around Rome

As I have said before, although my blog is about my experience as an Italian husband of a Filipina, sometimes I like to deflect and talk about interesting places to visit and things to do, not only in the Philippines but even here in my country.

Italy is an amazing country but tourist spots can get rather crowded and, quite honestly, pretty expensive.

There are alternative ways to visit this country that are no less interesting than going where everyone else is going.

And, sure enough, there are alternative ways to taste real Italian food.

A rule of thumb to follow if you want to eat well and on a budget around Rome is the following: you rent a car, or take a bus or a train, and head inland (a great area to experience Italy very off-the-beaten-track is the region surrounding the town of Rieti).

Once you get to the first village that looks like a God-forgotten place, or, in other words, a village situated in the middle of nowhere, nowhen and nohow (and there are many in that region), you ask the first local you encounter the following question: “dove posso trovare un ristorantino molto ignorante?”, literally meaning “where can I find a very informal place to eat? (Romans sometimes use the word “ignorante” or “ignorant” not to mean “illiterate” but, rather, to mean something or someone very informal.

Chances are that you will find one of those typical super-rustic Italian trattoria where old and fat waitresses wearing an apron almost throw huge amounts of food at you, where belching in front of everyone is socially-acceptable and wine showers from the sky in very large amounts.

Yesterday we were at Lago del Turano, near Rieti. To say that that place is off-the-beaten-track is an understatement.

I actually decided to go there after reading a blog post by a British blogger based in Ireland who is married to an Italian.

She seems to know a lot of off-the-beaten-track spots in the Rome region and she has a post about this lake that I barely knew that it even existed. I had been there maybe 30 years ago or something but had forgotten all about it.

Anyway, we visited the lake, actually a dam, and the place is quite interesting because it is surrounded by mountains and there are a few villages perched on the surrounding hills that look over the dam.

Once there I started to vividly remember visiting this lake some 30 years ago and, after that, stumbling upon a fanta-super-mega-ignorant (in the Roman sense of the word) restaurant where, for something like 25 euros per person, they fed us the whole world.

I went back to that restaurant last year without first visiting the lake: we headed straight to the restaurant from Rome.

They started out with “some” (just “some”) antipasti or starters

This too was part of the “antipasti”

Then came the first dishes: the waitress asked whether we wanted one type of pasta or five assaggini (meaning little “samples” of different kinds of pasta).

We went for the assaggini and it turned out to be five dishes like this per person (just to “sample” different types of food):

“assaggino”

After that we tried to ask for the bill, but the waitress said: “we haven’t finished yet”, at which I got knocked down on my knees and begged her to stop bringing more food…but to no avail.

She kept bringing more and more assaggini of various second, third, fourth, fifth…100th dishes and then tiramisù, ice cream, grappa, limoncello…you name it, until we got to the point that we needed some drain cleaner, some sodium hydroxide, like the one plumbers use to free the drains from stuff that clogs them, to digest….

Yes, if you want to experience eating around Rome on a budget, rent a car and go get lost in some God-forgotten village in the inland areas of the Rome region.

You will eat with satisfaction and belch in dolby-surround stereo and the echo of your belch will fill the air in an area of 100 square miles…I promise you

Lago del Turano
The village of Paganico Sabino perched on a hill overlooking the lake