Have you met Signore Roberto?
In Rome, locals have been going in and out of his little deli for over 100 years! His shop is delicious but Signore Roberto is the reason locals come here everyday. Just across the Tiber River, he sells some of the best Italian food staples in the city – cured meats and fresh cheeses made right in his region. He runs his family’s small alimentare, which his ancestors first opened up in 1900! On a typical day, locals drop in on their way home from work to pick up that favourite parmigiano they just ran out of, a bottle of vino for dinner, or some salami slices for a panino lunch the next day.
Roberto (locals respect him so much they’ve added Signore to his name) begins his day at 5:30am when his fresh pecorino cheeses are delivered and can be seen walking home at about 10pm. He does this routine six days a week but Signore Roberto doesn’t think it’s really “work”. He says, “when you do something you love you only work 50% of the time”. His pride and passion for what he does is written on the walls – literally. His walls are covered with old, personal photos taken over the years. On one side is Signore Roberto with his sheep. On the other is a double-page newspaper spread with Signore Roberto smack dab in the middle and two tiny, and less significant, pictures of Obama and Berlusconi on either side! “Some things are more important”, he jokes.
I got a sense he is so well-respected. He told us about a time his shop was broken into. Pointing toward the doorway, he says a thief once tried to steal the salami bunches he had hanging there – actually they’re called “palle di Nonno” (grandfather’s balls)! While most shopkeepers would intervene, he didn’t have to. A fellow thief came along and stopped him in his tracks telling him, “No, no. We don’t steal from Signore Roberto”. I wanted to stick around and spend more time with him. I felt like he had so many more stories to tell!
So what should you pick up when you come to Signore Roberto’s shop? Formaggio! Some of the best, locally produced pecorino-romano cheese lives here. That’s because all of Signore Roberto’s cheeses come from his uncle’s farm just a few kilometres away in the countryside of Rome. Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty cheese made of sheep’s milk and aged 2 to 4 years. Romans prefer this cheese (especially on creamy pasta dishes) over parmesan. Signore Roberto happens to sell the freshest rounds.
You might recognize Signore Roberto around Trastevere. He wears a white coat and will give you his signature “thumbs up”!
How to Get Here: via San Francesco a Ripa, 140. Open all year round, except in August when Signore Roberto closes up during le ferie summer holidays (but so does the rest of Italy).
Signore Roberto’s alimentare is one of the stops on the Eating Europe food tour in Rome. As always, all opinions are my own.