Don’t get me wrong. I love pasta. A lot. And pizza. Don’t even get me started. And those are just the obvious ones. Risotto, fritti, coda alla vaccinara, osso buco, melanzane many ways, CARCIOFI, prosciutto prosciutto prosciutto!!!!, pollo alla diavolo, fiori di zucca how have you not make it to the States yet?, alici, sarde, offally good offal, pesto, friselle, POLPETTE, and since I haven’t even started on cheeses yet, or really even moved too far out of Roman cuisine, I’m fairly certain I could fill the character capacity of this blog post just listing the Italian foods I like. Nay, love. If I expanded to the ones I just like we’d be talking an Infinite Jest-sized tome. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to break outside of the parmesan-encrusted walls of my Italian comfort zone every once in awhile. And Rome, in all of its cosmopolitanism and embrace of foreign cuisines, just happens to have a few spots to deliver that respite from cucina romana. But despite what you might think or read on the advertisements on the video monitors on the Metro, it’s not all just kebaberias, mediocre Mexican and overpriced sushi.
With just a trip to Termini, or an additional tram ride down to Pigneto, all of Ethiopia is at your fingertips. Literally. Ethiopian food consists of stews and vegetables served atop injera, a traditional bread that is used to scoop and sop up the deliciousness on top – with your hands. Injera is best described as a large, sourdough pancake, and, incidentally, goes a long way toward satisfying my bred-in-San-Francisco-home-to-best-bread-ever sourdough cravings. Oh and those stews on top – lord, those stews. The consistency and preparation is probably most akin to the curries and masalas of Indian food, but with a whole new palate of spices. And while the slow, spicy simmered lamb and other carnivorous options are delicious, the lentils, chickpeas, root vegetables, and leafy greens hold up just as well and offer an equally hearty and flavorful vegetarian option.
Luckily, Rome is home to two great Ethiopian restaurants – Africa, near Termini, and Mesob, down in Pigneto. Both have a wide selection of spicy, saucy, meaty, beany, and just straight up veggie entrees to top your injera, each of which go a long way toward wakening up your tastebuds that have been lost in a pancetta and pecorino complacency. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
If you go…
Africa: Via Gaeta 26, five minute walk from Termini
Dinner for two, including samosa starters, one meat and one veggie entree (injera included), and a large beer each came to 34 EUR and two very full stomachs.
Mesob: Via Prenestina 118, Trams 5, 14 and 19 stop at Piazzale Prenestino
Prices run about the same, but benefits from the added bonus of being located far from the anxiety-inducing zone that is Termini. Pay careful attention to the street numbers if you go, as Mesob is tucked into what looks like someone’s garage off of Via Prenestina. If it’s nice enough to sit outside, the ambiance totally works.