Eating Like a Local – An Authentic Homemade Meal in Rome

There are few words that sound more lyrical in as they bounce around my little brain than:

“Senti, why don’t you come over for melanzane alla parmigiana?”

As much as I love to eat out and try the latest Rome restaurants, nothing compares to a home cooked meal.

When I travel, trying new foods and learning new customs is what excites me most.  In the past few weeks, I tried craft coffee in Ireland, then hit up a coffee farm in Kenya, before flying to New Hampshire for lobster rolls, down to Durham for chicken and waffles, then off again to Athens to meet my mother for cocktails by the Partheon.

I needed to reconnect with home. I needed some real Italian food.

Enter: Sandra.


Being invited into someone’s home and introduced into the secrets of their kitchen is one part exciting, one part touching, and like 300 parts delicious.

As soon as I walked up to Sandra’s flat in Garbatella, I knew I was in for a perfect Wednesday evening. Her motto, like Fellini, is “Life is a combination of pasta and magic.”

I had emailed back and forth with Sandra ahead of time and committed myself to fish. I wanted to learn how to prepare fresh fish so that I can stop by the fishmonger at Testaccio more often. I love seafood, but am not a confident cook when it comes to fish. Mine tends to end up overcooked and under seasoned.

While chatting about Rome, food, and passions, I was instructed to slice the fennel and chop the spring onions.

As Sandra worked the pans, I stood side-by-side in her kitchen, preparing the fresh alici according to her instructions.


The smells were starting to get ridiculously good.

I was straight up salivating when we made the sorbetto al limone to allow it time to set while we braised the fennel.

“That’s it??” I insisted.  “Making sorbetto is this simple?? Why have I missed out on so many years of homemade sorbetto?”

Sandra is one of those intuitive cooks that I have always envied. The kind that can look at your pesto and know how much of what needs to be added to make the final sauce delicious.


As we put the pasta on, she opened a bottle of wine and we plated the alici imbotitte on top of the slowly braised fennel.

We headed out to her sweet Roman balcony and sat down, and toasted to new friends and good meals.


I couldn’t believe the complexity of the flavors or the fact that I had had some hand in helping to make this.

By the time we got to dessert, I was getting sad to say goodbye.


To me, making someone a meal is the ultimate expression of kindness. It shows, plate by plate, that you want them to happy, warm and well.

Being welcomed into Sandra’s home for a three-course feast was such a treat. It was the perfect re-entry into Rome, and I left thrilled to have connected to a new Rome foodie friend.

In addition to cooking classes, BonAppetour has a range of Rome home dining experiences.  Join a market tour or have a private gourmet meal on a gorgeous terrace, all curated by locals without a tourist in sight.

Many thanks to BonAppetour for the invitation to try the home cooked meal! It was fantastic and I will be back again.

2 thoughts on “Eating Like a Local – An Authentic Homemade Meal in Rome

  1. Ken Nierenberg says:

    Thank you Natalie,
    I have hyperlinked over to BonAppetour and signed up after reading your brief description of your time with Sandra. I will also schedule a date with her for next year when we go to Italy.

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