Ok, maybe it’s kind of embarrassing to host a taco night in Rome. We should be eating all Italian food, all the time while we’re here, right? Before I arrived, if you’d asked me that question, I would 100% answer yes. But the reality is that sometimes I’m hit by some serious cravings for other flavors.
As good as Italians are at making their own cuisine, ethnic food is not their strong suit. We’ve had good Asian food at a couple of places (namely, for sushi, Take on viale di Trastevere and SOMO on via Goffredo Mameli, and for Chinese food, a place I cannot figure out the name of or find online, labeled Ristorante Cinese on via Florida by Largo Argentina), but decent Mexican cuisine is seriously hard to come by.
When we hosted some friends at our Roman apartment last week, the number one request we got was for food other than Italian. No problem. I had brought some Old El Paso taco seasoning packets with me from the states, and I figured it would be relatively easy to find ground beef, tortillas, tortilla chips and the ingredients to make my own salsa and gaucimole. And with all the farmers’ markets nearby, I thought that all the fresh ingredients would go a long way towards boosting flavor.
4 supermarkets, 2 specialty shops, 2 farmers’ markets and approximately 7 miles covered on foot later, I’ll tell you: it was not that easy. I was able to find basics like hard shell tacos, soft shell tacos, salso con queso and tortilla chips, but they were not cheap. The soft tacos alone ran me 4 Euro per package! And cheddar cheese? Finding it in Rome is nearly impossible. Luckily, after googling several word combinations, I ended up at Franchi in Prati, near the Vatican, and bought the biggest chunk of cheddar cheese they had. For 19 Euros. There’s a reason why people eat local, my friends.
Man, I missed cheddar cheese. I had no idea how much until I snuck a bite while I was grating it. Anyway, a couple of big lessons learned from taco night abroad:
1 – Uncle Ben’s makes tortilla chips and salsa. They taste about how you’d expect. Passable, but I just wanted a Tostito.
2 – The imported Old El Paso goods found in specialty stores here is not imported from America. The salsa con queso was basically inedible!
3 – Avocados found in farmers’ markets in Italy are not as flavorful as those in the US (sounds obvious now, right?) I found this out the hard way when the fresh lemon juice called for in Ina Garten’s guacimole recipe completely overpowered the avocado taste, even when I used half the amount.
4 – Taco night abroad still gets weird. I may still be hungover. That is all.