When you get right down to it, Roman food is not the choicest.
If Italian food is peasant’s food, Roman cuisine is the food of poverty. But cash-strapped Romans have long known how to eat well, and typical cucina Romana transforms lesser cuts of meat into savory dishes.
If you are like me and not sure you can stomach a full serving of pajata*, Mordi e Vai offers a perfect and affordable sampling of some of the most traditional Roman dishes.
You can find Mordi e Vai in the Testaccio Market, stall number 15. Just look for the line.
The stall serves up portable versions of cucina Romanesca in panino form, making it incredibly popular with local workers and tourists alike.
Most times, you will have to take a number. Feel free to take a spin around the market if things are moving slowly.
When it is finally your turn, you can pick from specials like coratella e carciofi (heart, lungs and other chest organs with artichoke), or classics like tripe or panino con “l’allesso” (tender beef).
I am a panino con l’allesso and cicoria girl myself. Jimmy goes for the salsiccia (sausage) every time without fail.
The sandwiches are drenched in oily, meaty, sauce-juice, so they are best consumed immediately. There are a few benches to the side or you can try to snag a table in the communal space in the middle of the market.
I am spoiled in terms of location and sometimes take mine home, to be unwrapped and consumed while squirreling away my other market purchase to avoid the soggy sadness of a saved-for-later sandwich.
If you are looking for more resources on Testaccio and the history of Italian food, Rachel Roddy’s book Five Quarters: Recipes from a Roman Kitchen is lovely and Katie Parla and Kristina Gill have a forthcoming book on Tasting Rome.
Mordi e Vai
Box 15, Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio
Via Beniamino Franklin, 12/E
Open: Monday – Saturday, 8:00(ish)-14:30
*pajata = tied off intestines of milk-fed lambs simmered in tomato sauce. I have tried it. More than once. It is…. ok….