Dear readers, hello there. Or, should I say, buongiorno / buon pomeriggio / buonasera, depending on when you find yourself reading this. I am delighted to cross paths with you here. My name is Christina (pardon the ‘h’: I’m Canadian) and I am pleased to meet you. Piacere di conoscerti (or conoscerLa, as the case may be). Since this is our first meeting, please allow me to tell you two important details about myself:
1. I have been vegan for 16 years;
2. I love cicoria and croissants—and I’ve even eaten them in the same meal.
Perhaps the latter appears to be a non-sequitur in relation to the former, but they are, in fact, very closely related. Do you have a minute or two? I’d love to tell you why. And then, when I’m done telling you why, I can get you some information on where to get yourself some cicoria, a solid and delicious vegan option, in Rome! I’ll save the story about croissants for later, though it’s no less important.
Aeons ago, in 2008, I, a young vegan of five years, embarked on a journey that took me and many other young adults of Laziale descent (that is, with descendants from the region of Lazio, where Rome is located) to Cassino, Italy, in the Ciociaria region. Every year, the Regione Lazio took a fortunate group of youth, selected from a pool of candidates from Canada, the United States, South Africa, and Australia, to a different city in the Region. When I found out I had been selected, I’d been to Europe just once prior, and on that trip, I’d had to make a number of sacrifices with regards to the vegan diet I followed—you know, in order to be able to eat. This time, however, I met cicoria.
It was love at first sight, though it was an accident and, admittedly, I didn’t know what I was eating at the time. You see, on this trip, meals were paid for and we ate at the same café/pizzeria/tavola calda every day: Pepper’s. We got to choose what we wanted from the display window at the counter and at night, we could have pizza, if we wanted. I waltzed in there proclaiming my being vegan—and not vegan in Rome, I might add: being vegan in a metropolitan city was pretty easy, even back then, but this was a small-ish town! Still, they accommodated me: I could have the bread and… these strange vegetables, since they were all sautéed in olive oil and that was it, and salt and peperoncino were the only condiments.
Now, I know that two of the vegetables that I ate on a daily basis were bietola and cicoria; then, it was delicious nourishment that I couldn’t believe I didn’t have to pay for. On subsequent trips to Italy in the years following that trip—and my trips always included a stop in Rome—I made sure to get cicoria ripassata (sautéed in a pan and slightly different from cicoria all’agro, which is made with lemon) on each trip, carefully scanning the menus of each restaurant for it before even going in. Cicoria will cost you only 4 or 5 Euros as an appetizer, and, if you’re like me, you might have it along with some bread as your entire meal.
The delightful part of this story is that you can easily find vegan food in small towns in Italy, and also in bigger ones, like Rome. A lot of Italian cooking is so delightfully and importantly simple in the ingredients it contains that vegans in Italy don’t have to work to hard, forsake taste—or feel like they’re imposing too much—to eat well. This time, cicoria proved that; next time, croissants will.
Until next time, buon appetito!
Un carissimo saluto,