Rome’s old Jewish Quarter is where many of the city’s culinary traditions originated — most of them during the hundreds of years of oppression the local Jewish population experienced starting in the 1500s — before those dishes made it into the city’s mainstream eating culture.
Fried artichokes are the prime example, known locally and lovingly as carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish-style artichoke). It all started with frying simple ingredients like artichokes and zucchini to impart maximum flavor, as life in the ghetto did not afford luxuries like spices. I’m sampling the fried artichokes at Nonna Betta, a restaurant located in the old ghetto not far from the Tiber River. Nonna Betta specializes in Roman specialties made kosher, and is preparing artichokes that are golden brown and crispy on the outside, and moist and tender inside. They’re a perfect example of fresh, seasonal Roman eating.