Why not strawberries in late November ? So says the personable owner of Caramadre, one of our favorite Rome area organic farms, where we pick our own berries near the Roman coastline one sunny recent weekday afternoon. The berry is Camarosa, and to us this is the sweetest, most concentrated and interesting of the farm’s several seasonal varieties.
Strawberries in late November are a metaphor for all that is wonderful in our local autumn cuisine. Here in Rome we are now in that tantalizing phase between summer and winter : string beans, eggplants, tender leaf salads and zucchine still growing in the open fields, but a plethora of succulent winter greens also available. All of our Rome restaurant favorites showcase these in their help-yourself antipasto offerings, which, with some pizza bianca or a crisp Roman rosetta to mop up the oil, make for a most perfect autumn lunch.
Caramadre’s berries do not appear on Rome restaurant menus, alas, but you can certainly find them at Spazio Bio. While our family took Caramadre’s casual course in organic produce harvesting, thus allowing us to select and pick our own produce (Isabel picks berries in this picture), you can throughout this month enjoy your own Caramadre strawberries at Spazio Bio. Spazio Bio, an organic consortium, sources most of its products from Lazio and buys directly only from producers. They are keen on the concept of the filiera corta, meaning the closest possible relationship, and thus shortest distribution chain, between producer and consumer.
SpazioBio is in Testaccio, a must-visit gastronomic neighborhood of old Rome, where the traditional old produce market, one of Rome’s oldest and most interesting (mornings only Monday through Saturday, Piazza di Testaccio) is an intriguing counterpoint to this new organic source. The Testaccio market is covered, a square, with fishmongers on the far left, butchers at the back, cheesemongers at the front, and shoe and general goods merchants on the right. Spazio Bio is a ten-minute walk away and housed in one part of the the city’s historic slaughterhouse, though the clean lines of the store and the volcanic cobblestones underfoot whisper no tales of the Roman butchering industry. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 – 1 and 2:30 to 8, Sunday 10 – 1:30 and 2:30 – 7, at Largo Dino Frisullo.