The Centennial History of the Ghetto: Between Traditional Cuisine & Street Food

January 27th marks the date of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was established by a UN General Assembly resolution on November 1, 2005.  The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is grim reminder of the past atrocities of genocide and mass killings, but also serves as a warning for the present and the future.

In Rome, on October 16, 1943, 1259 people were deported to Auschwitz from the Jewish Ghetto…only 16 of them returned.

Nazi round of the Jewish Ghetto. Image from L’Italo-Americano. Click to visit their site.

Click per la versione italiana.

Rome, like other European capitals, holds public events and cultural initiatives on the Holocaust: sometimes in schools and sometimes in the Jewish Ghetto, as well as other areas.

A Lubavitch Yeshivah in the former Ghetto of Venice. Image from Wikipedia. “5486 – Venezia – Ghetto Nuuovo – Yeshivah Lubavitch – Foto Giovanni Dall’Orto, 1-Aug-2008” by Giovanni Dall’OrtoOwn work. Licensed under Attribution via Wikimedia Commons.

The Ghetto of Rome is one of the oldest in the world, having been built just 40 years after the Jewish ghetto in Venice, which was the first ever.  In fact, its name is derived from the one in Venice, where the Jewish community was forced by Pope Julius II, in 1516, to reside in a district that housed an enormous foundry called ghèto. 

Jewish Ghetto. Image from Trip Advisor.

Located in the heart of the historic center, the Ghetto remains a fascinating area for visitors and residents alike. Walking along its streets is a walk into its unforgettable past; narrower lanes, buildings still riddled with bullet holes, the aroma of traditional artichoke dishes, and the lines of people outside bakeries.

In Rome, the area that constitutes the Ghetto is enclosed within the streets Lungotevere de’ Cenci, Via Arenula, Via dei Falegnami, Via della Tribuna di Campitelli, Via de’ Funari and Via del Portico d’Ottavia.  This area is far larger than the original neighborhood that was enclosed within a narrow space of Portico d’Ottavia, Piazza delle Cinque Scole and the Tiber River.

Restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto. Image by Life in Italy. Click to read their article “Jewish Tours in Italy (Rome)”

Beyond its political and religious histories, the Ghetto has become notable for its evolving culinary legacy. Visitors to the neighborhood are presented with a wide range of gastronomic treats: from street food vendors to bakeries to small restaurants, all of which infuse the traditional Judeo-Roman cuisine with the flavors of Middle Eastern dishes.

Getting lost on its streets means combatting the irresistible temptation to taste some the many delicacies on offer–but we’re here to help you by telling you where you can savor the best bites of history!

Pizza. L’Antico Forno. Image by Swide: Click to read their article “10 Best Pizza by the Slice in Rome: Where to Find Them”

First, you cannot not try the treats of the bakery L’Antico Forno in Piazza Costaguti.  Established in 1927, it is a family business that has been handed down generation after generation by the Urbani family. The same can be said of the trattoria Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia and the pâtisserie Pasticceria Boccione, both of which are located on Via del Portico d’Ottavia.

Shawarma. Image from Yesh Sheni: Click to visit!

If you are longing to try the culinary melting pot of Middle Eastern flavors, visit Yesh Sheni, a kosher restaurant on Via Santa Maria del Pianto, Ba ‘Ghetto on Via del Portico d’Ottavia and Dispensa Cibo Urbano on Via Paganica.  In essence, wandering the streets of the Ghetto equals being satiated by its aesthetics, history and culinary charms.

Artichokes. Image from Giggetto: Click to visit.

A word of warning: be careful how you order artichokes! Roman style or Jewish style? Know the difference?  Fried or sautéed?  Still…we say, if you’re in doubt, try them all!


Original Article by Samir Hassan

(Translated & Edited by Diedré Blake)

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The MindtheGuideTeam 

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