Food Wine Rome in shop window at Volpetti

The highest honor bestowed by the Italian Republic may well be some kind of knighthood — Cavaliere del Lavoro is one — or an honorary degree. But for me, recognition from Rome’s Emperor of Prosciutto and Cheese, the celebrated Claudio Volpetti of E. Volpetti & C., is the real summit.

Claudio and his brother Emilio, and Emilio’s son Alessandro, own and operate what is unquestionably among Rome’s best-stocked, best-run, most-appealing and most-irresistible specialty food and wine shops. It is certainly my favorite of them all. My profound respect for the lifelong labors of the Volpettis has developed over a period of 15 years, and during this time our relationship has evolved from the merely professional, to the highly personal. I say this not to boast but as a matter of integrity.

The Volpetti emporium of excellence is filled with extraordinarily delicious things to eat and drink, and is animated by the charm of the family and their many employees: they are seriously over-staffed, in order to ensure perfect service. This comes at a price: Volpetti is the opposite of a hit-and-run supermarket.

The shop is on Via Marmorata, near the Pyramid of Cestius and the so-called Protestant Cemetery, in Testaccio. There are several picture windows on Via Marmorata, all of which beckon to passersby. And guess what Volpetti currently has in one of its prime windows? Can you see the copy of Food Wine Rome standing proudly between the cheeses? That’s Claudio himself, clutching multiple copies.

This is what Claudio has to say of the book (he’s having trouble putting this review on Amazon.com — the Internet is not a Volpetti forte):

“Whenever I want to discover something about food, wine or where to eat in Rome, I pick up this book, flip a page and head out into the city. David Downie’s Food Wine Rome has become my Bible.”

A free-thinking American mutt has written the food-lover’s bible to Rome? Truly, I am in some kind of pagan heaven, where the Emperor of Prosciutto and Cheese reigns in gastronomic splendor.

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