Italian hot chocolate: Why you NEED to try cioccolata calda

Italian hot chocolate: Why you NEED to try cioccolata calda


The Christmas season in Italy is absolutely gorgeous. In the northern cities, you have a similar atmosphere to Germany and Austria, with Christmas markets and traditional foods. Naples is well known for its presepe napoletano (nativity scenes), while Rome is decked out in lights with mercatini scattered all over the city. It’s worlds away from the crowded mess of July and August and a great time to visit. Italian cioccolata calda is the cherry on top of this perfect season in Rome.

Many people don’t even know this hidden treasure is the one thing they NEED to try while traveling to Italy, but Italian hot chocolate will change everything you’ve ever thought about this dessert. In my experience, American hot chocolate is made with lots of milk, powdered cocoa and plenty of sugar. The result is a delicious concoction, but very different from the liquid chocolateness that characterizes its Italian counterpart. I was shocked by how rich and dark this drink was when I first tried it. It’s not something that can be guzzled down in a minute, but must be savored slowly, with plenty of cookie-dipping in the meantime.

italian hot chocolate

italian hot chocolate

Cioccolata calda is made with the same ingredients as the American hot chocolate, with different proportions. There is less milk and sugar added, more chocolate or cocao. The result is similar in taste and consistency to a melted 80% dark chocolate bar.

The best part is that hot chocolate is widely available wherever you want it, at almost every bar in Rome. I recommend scouting out a glamorous (read: fancy-looking with lots of gold decor) pasticceria, picking out your side-bits (arguably the most important part) and sitting outside under some heaters to people watch on a busy afternoon. My favorites counterpoints to the star of the show include classic Italian iced cookies, creampuffs, or slices of homemade cake.

italian hot chocolate

italian hot chocolate

If you really want to experience Italian cioccolato caldo in its purest essence, you can go to cioccolaterias, where you can choose from different grades of chocolate and degrees of cocoa content. The darkest of them are reserved for only the most dedicated of dark chocolate consumers.

italian hot chocolate

italian hot chocolate

This weekend I found a great option in Pasticceria Antonini (near Piazza Mazzini), which fully encompasses everything that a high end Roman coffee bar should be. Lots of fantastic dessert options, aperitivo hour, and a sinful cup of hot chocolate to boot.

italian hot chocolate

italian hot chocolate

For a list of other tasty cafe options, you can check this list out.

Best Pastries in Rome: Pasticceria Regoli


best pastries rome After pizza, gelato, and pasta, "Where to find the best pastries in Rome," should be one of every traveller's most important questions. Italian pastries are some of the best in the world and when you find the perfect pasticceria (bakery) and spend every Saturday/Sunday morning in fluffy, creamy, chocolatey heaven, you'll know true contentment. Whether you prefer southern Italian pastries (cannoli, pasticcioti), northern (castagnole, strudel di male), or Roman (maritozzi, crostata di ricotta e viciole), you can find life changing dessert-for-breakfast at Pasticceria Regoli.

best pastries in rome

To truly experience this pasticceria, clear your weekend morning schedule, eat a light dinner the night before and go prepared to want every single thing in those beautiful glass cases. There are two separate parts to the Regoli, a pasticceria and a cafe right next door. The trick is to go first to the bakery, pick out all the treats you think you can handle and then head to the cafe. While you sip on your cappuccino or espresso, your pastries will magically arrive through a secret door and all of your Italian pastry dreams will come true.

best pastries in rome

I tried a tortina con fragole and a maritozzo, while Edoardo got millefoglie and a cannolo. After 5 minutes, we were in a sugar-induced heaven. The coffee was well-made and the staff was very friendly and informative. I'd call it an overall success.

best pastries in rome

best pastries in rome

best pastries in rome

We'll definitely be back soon and next time we might even get some pastries to go for a snack at home (yes, they do that too).

best pastries in rome

Pasticceria Regoli

Via dello Statuto, 60 (Piazza Vittorio)

Open Wednesday-Monday, 7 am - 8:30 pm

Termini Market: Termini’s New Mercato Centrale


termini market rome The area around Termini is notorious for being a bit sketchy. You shouldn't walk alone at night there and you have to watch out for pickpockets at all times near the busy station. In addition, I’ve yet to find a decent restaurant, or great bar nearby and I’ve tried my fair share after working in the area for over a year. Termini’s new “Mercato Centrale” is the answer to all my coffee, pizza, and pastry prayers.

termini market rome

Recently opened in October, the concept for this central market was borrowed from the highly successful Mercato Centrale in Florence. With so many people coming in and out of the station every day (it’s the main station for regional trains from all over Italy, as well as the connection between Rome’s A and B metro lines), Termini is a great location for a market-style food court.

termini market rome

Within the market are many different offerings for shopping, eating, and drinking, the goal being to provide a one-stop-shop for people looking for produce, meat products, or a bite to eat while waiting for a train or passing through the center of Rome. Many famous institutions in Rome are represented, including Pizzarium Bonci, Rome’s best take-away pizza by the slice location. You can also find Bottega Liberati, a famous meat and cheese shop, and Trapizzino, a shop that sells solely suppli (bae) and pizza-cones filled with Roman secondi dishes. For a sit-down experience, there’s also a restaurant operated by Michelin-ranked chef Oliver Glowing.

termini market rome

I can attest to the trendy, upbeat atmostphere of the market, which is helped by its separation from the main station. The entrance is from Via Giolitti and was designed to immediately showcase the 1930’s architecture. It feels worlds alway from the bustle and grime that characterize Termini, but you’re able to quickly grab some food and hop right on your train.

termini market rome

The employees are passionate about the slow food movement and will answer any questions you have about what something is or what to eat. For me, Termini Market is a great place to have lunch or a coffee while working on my laptop in between lessons. FINALLY.

Mercato Centrale Roma

Termini Station (Via Giolitti 36)

Open: every day 7am-12am

Best of Pizza in Rome: Emma Pizzeria


emma pizza Italian pizza is something I’m passionate about. A good pizza makes any bad day better, fits every I-don’t-wanna-cook night perfectly, and is the best way to celebrate any occasion. Emma’s pizza does all that and more.

Located in the historic center of Rome near Campo di Fiori, Emma Pizzeria is a great alternative to your run of the mill pizzeria in Rome. What makes this specific place shine is the quality of Emma’s ingredients and the attention to detail that goes into each pie.

emma pizza

They source every single ingredient that goes into their pizzas in the menu and on their website, citing organic flour, salt, and fresh yeast all from locations around Rome and giving special attention to Roman water as being a key ingredient.

emma pizza

Now the difference between American and Italian pizza has been hotly debated by myself and Italian friends since I’ve lived here. But the only real distinction we can make between genuine Italian pizza made in Italy and the pizza found in Italian American pizzerias is the ingredients. There’s just something about Italian flour, water, tomatoes, and mozzarella that creates perfection. 

Emma has about 30 suggested pizza options on their menu, not including calzones, bruschetta, suppli, and the full dinner menu with pasta and meat dishes. It's supreme.

emma pizza

They also boast extravagant wine and prosciutto lists. And by prosciutto list I mean a carefully curated selection of proscuitto and salame that put the grocery store version to shame. I’m talking €28 for 100g of Pata Negra, the most prestigious Spanish jamon out there.

emma pizza

Thankfully the pizza prices are more accessible, starting at €8 for a margherita and €10 for a margherita con bufala (mozzarella). These are comparable to other pizzerias in the area and you truly are getting the best of every single ingredient. And as a bonus, the pizza guys who make your pizza in front of you are always smiling and willing to have sneaky photos taken of them.

emma pizza

For when I’m feeling like its a treat yo’self night and need a fix of great Roman style pizza, Emma is my go to. I recommend going and trying for yourself because it is an experience for your tastebuds that you’ll never forget.

emma pizza

emma pizza

emma pizza

Emma – Pizzeria con cucina

Via Monte della Farina, 28/29 00186 ROMA

Tel 06 64760475 –

Open every day, 12:30-3 and 7-11:30

Reservations recommended because it fills up quickly in the evening and on weekends.

How to Make Gnocchi by Hand


italian gnocchi by hand Gnocchi is one of the most delicious and easiest pastas to make by hand. Due to its short ingredient list and round shape, anyone can make this northern Italian specialty. I like it best with a simple red sauce (maybe topped with fresh mozzarella), but gnocchi is also amazing in a topped with variety of other sauces like ragu and pesto.

I’ve made gnocchi by hand with Edoardo’s mom a couple of times and every time I'm surprised by how easy the method is (if time-consuming). The most important thing to keep in mind when making gnocchi is that because it has such few ingredients, the timing while boiling the potatoes, mashing, forming the dough and boiling the gnocchi is key. Everything has to be done straightaway, with no breaks in between.  Giving exact instructions for a pasta like gnocchi is difficult, because the most important component is the texture, which has to be assessed in the moment. Like any good Italian cook will tell you, it just has to "feel right". But if you do take the time to make your own gnocchi by hand, it could be the best pasta you've ever tasted.

Keep reading for an Italian mom’s recipe for gnocchi and red sauce.


One kilo of big, mature potatoes (about 8 medium sized potatoes)

2-3 etti all-purpose flour (about 2-3 cups)

1-2 eggs (if necessary)

3 tsp salt

Parmesan cheese (for topping)


  1. Set a large pot of water on to boil, with cold water and the potatoes already added. Cook until the potatoes become soft (test with fork).
  2. Let potatoes cool completely, peel and put through ricer so they are completely mashed
  3. Add salt and half of the flour and combine until the consistency is like a thick paste. If the dough is too soft, add the rest of the flour.
  4. Knead the dough with your hands until all the mixture is absorbed. If the dough is still too mushy, you can add an egg and a bit more flour to help it combine better. Do not over-knead the dough!
  5. Separate your dough into 6 parts, then roll the balls out into long, snake-like ropes.
  6. Cut each rope into one inch pieces and roll individually in the palms of your hands until you make a ball. Press each piece with your finger to give an indentation in the center.
  7. Boil a large pot of salted water and in shifts, add the gnocchi to the boiling water for 5 minutes, or until they rise to the surface.
  8. Skim off the cooked gnocchi and add to a large platter.
  9. Add tomato sauce (cooked in a pot with carrots, celery, and basil for flavor) or any other sauce you want.
  10. Top with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Giving exact instructions for a pasta like gnocchi is difficult, because the most important component is the texture, which has to be assessed in the moment. Like any good Italian cook will tell you, it just has to "feel right".

italian gnocchi by hand

italian gnocchi by hand

italian gnocchi by hand

Italian Food Rules: Ordering Food in Italy


Many times people travel to Italy without much preparation. With a language that distinguishes between 'penis' and 'pasta' with only one letter, it's extremely easy to make mistakes when ordering food.  If you want to get the best out of your Italian food experience, there are a few things to avoid when ordering and eating food in Italy. wine pantheon

  • No cappuccinos after 12 pm

Italians take digestion very seriously. Certain foods must be eaten at certain times, with a specific beverage to accompany each phase in the day. Cappuccinos are for the morning, as a part of a light breakfast with maybe a pastry or toast and marmalade on the side. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, with a pasta dish followed by a fish or meat dish and later an espresso to help digest the large meal. You have to relax after lunch, and during this period between lunch and dinner, multiple caffes (espressos) are highly encouraged. Dinner tends to be a light meal of vegetables, salad, meat or fish, unless you didn't have a large lunch. At no point after breakfast is milk ingested and if you order a cappuccino at a bar after 12, you will be looked at with concern because how will you digest milk after lunch?!?

italian lasagna

  • Eat outside of the tourist center

This is a pretty general tip that most people know, but eating outside of the tourist center is the best way to find great food in Rome. As with any tourist destination, Rome has its share of restaurants taking advantage of people who don't know any better. Food in the center tends to be of lower quality and double the price as food elsewhere. This also goes for coffee and gelato. Even better than heading outside of the city center is to exit the city entirely and find a small town outside of Rome. If you have the time and ability to rent a car or take a train outside of Rome, the restaurants and food in the small towns of Lazio are incredible.

italian town

  • You have to ask for the check

Many travelers come to Italy, enjoy a nice meal, and then sit around waiting for a check to be brought to their table. Unlike in the other countries, it's considered a sign of rudeness to rush people out of the restaurant and customers are allowed to relax after their meal with a post-dinner drink or coffee for as long as they like. If you want to leave, you have to ask your waiter for the check ("Posso avere il conto, per favore") or signal with your hands that you're ready to leave.

spritz rome

  • Tipping: welcome but not necessary

As in other European countries, tipping is not required in Italian restaurants. Waiters and waitresses are paid full salaries (though much lower than many people consider fair) and do not expect to be given a tip. However, it is common for Italians to leave their leftover change or a couple of euros on the table for the staff. Leaving up to 5 euros will make your waiter very happy and helps to supplement their small salary. Keep in mind that if a service charge of 5-10% is included, you should not leave any extra.

  • False friends in English and Italian

Certain words seem to be pretty simple to understand in Italian. If you want pizza, spaghetti, or pasta, you can easily make yourself understood. But there are a few words that are a mistake to use in Italy and you have to be careful of them.

If you order a pepperoni pizza, you will receive a pizza with bell peppers on top and some strange looks. If you want a pizza with American "pepperoni" you have to order a pizza margherita con salsiccia o salame (sausage or salami).

If you go to a bar and order a latte, you will receive a cup of milk, steamed if you're lucky. Latte literally means milk in Italian and to get an American latte you have to order a caffe latte or a cappuccino, both of which contain espresso and steamed milk.

Pecorino cheese is an Italian specialty and very delicious. If you mess up, however, and say that you would like some pecorina, you are asking for a specific sex position in Italian and would probably be laughed at by every Italian in the restaurant.

Finally, if you pronounce penne the wrong way, you could be asking for penis with sauce, rather than pasta with sauce. Penis is pene in Italian and to clarify that you do indeed want the pasta instead, you have to emphasis the "n" sound in the middle. Double letters in Italian are pronounced stronger than a single letter so penne sounds a bit like "pennnnay".

italian pasta shrimp

I've made many of these mistakes when ordering food in Italian and while it's definitely embarrassing, a little bit of practice beforehand can save you a lot of effort when you're trying to order dinner at a restaurant later. Has anyone else ever made a huge mistake when ordering food in Italian?


Best of Caffes: La Casetta


la casetta rome I remember the first time I saw La Casetta. I was on a walking tour of the Monti neighborhood with my school professor in 2013, walking down a road when we stopped to walk around the building that was inconveniently placed in the middle of the street. In a city where the buildings are uniform and audacious, La Cassette stands out. This tiny “little house” is covered in ivy and is one of the most picturesque spots in Rome, all the while serving up delicious coffee, food, and desserts.

la casetta rome

monti rome

Apart from a great location, delicious treats and infinite instagram abilities, the best part of this cafe is the owner, Domenico. A typical Southern Italian, Domenico makes every single person who enters his cafe feel welcome. He will speak in a multitude of languages to put tourists at ease and once you become a (somewhat) regular, he is always up for a lively conversation about life. He is a seriously charming Italian signor and it brightens my day when I stop in to chat with him while taking a walk through beautiful Monti. It’s a joy to feel immediately welcomed in a place as special as this.

la casetta rome

La Casetta offers a full bar experience with espresso, cappuccino's (regular, soy, and almond milk), a wide variety of tea, and fresh juices. For lunch and dinner, Domenico’s wife prepares homemade pasta and meat dishes to serve. In my opinion, the real standouts in terms of food are the fresh baked goods. His son-in-law (keeping it in the family) runs a bakery and sends over freshly baked cakes, pies, muffins, breads, strudel, quiche, and cookies every morning. Usually they are recipes found in the South of Italy, making this the perfect place to relive my love of Pugliese pastries.

la casetta rome

If you’re lucky, you might make it to one of the events in front of the cafe that Domenico painstakingly plans. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a special dinner out where we were waited on by young Italians studying hospitality and a cultural festival celebrating traditional Georgian dances. It’s always quite an eclectic mix with all of the “amici della Casetta” (friends of the Casetta) in attendance.

la casetta rome music

The location makes this spot perfect for a breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack while you meander along the small side streets in Rome, and is centrally located near the Colosseum, Forum, and Piazza Venezia. With a decent wifi connection, I also come by for a few hours to get some work done. If you really want to live it up, you can do a mini tasting in Monti (tried and recommended by me) and hit up one of the pizza by the slice joints for some white pizza and a suppli, grab a tea and slice of cake from La Casetta, and end with a cone from Fatamorgana.

la casetta rome

Next time you're in Rome and need a break after walking in the center, stop by La Casetta and meet the nicest Italian I've had the pleasure of knowing.

La Casetta is on Yelp, Instagram, and Facebook if you would like to check it out or connect.

Described it in 3 words: charming, warm, friendly

Prices: cappuccino €1.5, cup of tea €2.50, slices of cake/pie/quiche €5, pasta dishes €8-10.

Hours: W-M 9am-9pm, closed Tuesdays and for all of August

Italian Food Culture in Puglia


  italy meat prosciutto

Pugliese food can be described in one word: abondante. The food culture in the South of Italy is comprised of an abundance of flavors, ingredients, and cooking styles. Most "typical" Italian foods come from the North, while Southern cooking came as a bit of a surprise for someone who only knew Italian food as pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and fettuccine alfredo before traveling here. (Sidenote: despite the notoriety of this dish in the US, fettuccine alfredo does not exist in Italy; props to Alfredo and his great marketing tactics in America).

olive trees italy

Food from Puglia is typically rustic, with special attention paid to a few choice ingredients. While I spent a week exclaiming, "but how can everything be so good??" it's easy to understand when you take into account the acres of farmland all over the region that cultivate fruits, vegetables, and grains, and the surrounding coastline where fish and shellfish are harvested daily. Puglia produces about 40% of Italy's olive oil, a vast quantity of wine, and delicious regional smoked meats and fresh cheeses.

seafood pasta

August in Puglia is full of sagre, or food festivals, where small towns in the region celebrate their regional specialities in the town center. Attending a sagra is a fantastic way to eat some great, inexpensive food, and try new local dishes. I went to a salsiccia sagra, where they served sausages, fries, and what looked like a delicious ragu. I was a little surprised to find that instead of pork or beef, the meat in the red sauce was actually horse. Horse meat, along with its less exciting counterparts of lamb and pork, have historical importance in traditional Pugliese dishes.

On a less exotic note, the bread in Puglia is absolutely amazing. Every single day on vacation, we started our morning with a trip to the local Forno to pick up focaccia with mozzarella and prosciutto, pucce (small balls of tomato and olivey deliciousness), and bread. This bakery inevitably had a 10-15 minute line because hordes of Galatone locals would come by in the morning to pick up food for the day, calling out to the group of signore in the back who were constantly in the process of baking something.

italian food market

This is quite the contrast to the American style of grocery shopping that I was used to before moving to Italy, i.e., visiting a huge store once every week or two weeks, to pick up food that lasts at least a month. One thing I really appreciate about living here is how fresh and organic all of my produce is and the change of lifestyle that I've made by shopping more frequently. There really is nothing better than heading out in the morning, 3 times a week, to visit my favorite baker, butcher, fruit/vegetable stand, and finally a small market for non-perishables. While it takes me more time than it did in the US, I love chatting with the shop owners, practicing my Italian, and knowing that everything I'm buying is great quality.

italian panini

If you take a walk along the streets of a city in Puglia, you'll see women outside their homes making homemade orrechiette pasta. Fishermen are coming in with their catch of the day to sell to restaurants and restaurant owners are writing their daily specials on signs outside. You can stop by a bar to get the iced coffee that the baristas are so proud of, or pick up a panino with salame and cheese brought in from a farm 10 minutes outside of the city. It's a magical place.

italian wine bar

Southern Italian food epitomizes the cultural differences between Americans' and Italians' attitudes towards food. Food is made daily and with passion, and what isn't there to love about that?

gelato puglia


ostuni puglia

If you want to try to experience this lifestyle but can't find time to pop over to Puglia just yet, try visiting local markets and speciality stores in your town, or signing up for a CSA. If you're in Rome, Eataly's hosting an event celebrating Southern Italian food this weekend. The "Festa del Sud" will showcase different food vendors from Southern Italian regions.