Today is the 80th anniversary of the roundup and deportation to Auschwitz of the Jews of Rome. That much I knew as I was planning this episode. More recent events took me and everyone else completely by surprise. I am sticking to my plan.
Rome’s former ghetto has become a tourist attraction, with an interesting museum under the Great Synagogue and plenty of other sites to see. And where there are tourists, there is food. The foodification of the ghetto, however, goes well beyond overpriced snacks. Both sides of the main street, the via del Portico Ottavia, are almost completely lined with restaurants. What I find most mysterious about this is that one of the most popular Roman foods, carciofi alla giudia, is freely available all over Rome and beyond. What makes this deep-fried delight Jewish? And how has food in the ghetto changed?
To help me understand the transformation of Rome’s Jewish foodscape I enlisted the help of Micaela Pavoncello, a member of the Jewish Community, and Sean Wyer, who has been studying the changes in the former ghetto.
- Micaela Pavoncello runs Jewish Roma Walking Tours and offers a wide range of tours and other activities.
- Sean Wyer’s paper Gourmet and the Ghetto: The “Foodification” of Rome’s Historic Jewish Quarter is available from his website.
- Finally, the transcript
- Cover photograph by seventyoneplace, used with permission. Other pictures by me.