Whole baked tomatoes stuffed with seasoned rice and served with potatoes are a staple of the Roman fast food scene.
The window display caught my eye as I passed by Franchi, an extremely popular deli in the Prati neighborhood. It was only 11am, but the place was already crammed with Romans waiting in line for an early lunch. I wasn’t hungry yet, but there was a woman in the window eating a stuffed pomodoro and it looked way too tasty to pass up. I decided I could justify it as a pre-lunch appetizer and went inside.
Inside were a series of display cases featuring all sorts of wonderful delicacies including fresh ricotta, mozzarella di bufala, burrata sent up from Puglia, and other quality cheeses from around Italy as well as smoked fish, olives, fresh pastas, caviar, and a superb collection of cured meats like salami, prosciutto, bologna, cooked ham and sausages. They also had a fantastic range of prepared dishes including fried rice, cheese balls, artichokes, baccala with zucchini flowers, potato croquettes, roast beef, prawns, homemade calzoni, and a wonderful-looking spit-roasted chicken. There were a few tall tables for standing eaters, but most of the patrons were taking their stuff to go.
Everything looked divine, but I wasn’t at all hungry so I just ordered the pomodoro and brought it to a nearby table. It was served warm and accompanied by some tasty little potatoes swimming in olive oil. The tomato was cooked to a superb texture – soft and flavourful while still somehow maintaining it’s structural integrity. The rice inside was flavored with herbs and plenty of garlic and was extremely oily–which might sound like a bad thing, but it is added bonus in Italy (where one could easily eat olive oil by the spoonful!).
Franchi is located on a corner at 200 Via Cola de Rienzo. It is one of the most popular delis in Rome, and gets very busy at lunchtime.