Looking for food near the Vatican… that’s quick, cheap, and delicious? Although eating in the Vatican food desert neighborhood can be tough, it just got a lot easier, thanks to Mangia!—a stylish new sandwich shop that uses organic and Slow Food ingredients.
Oh, and Bonci bread. More on that in a minute.
Mangia! opened three weeks ago. The owner, Simona Palmisano, is a friend of mine; she’s also a born-and-bred Roman with a discerning palate and a passion for supporting Slow Food and artisanal producers. (Not to mention an eye for detail. I love the way she wraps each panino, below!).
So it’s no surprise that, when it comes to sourcing the products in her store (which include not only the panini ingredients, but also individual jams, pastas, wine, and beer), Simona has been pretty choosy. “I hand-picked each of the producers, choosing them because they’ve won Slow Food awards, use only organic ingredients, or because they do things in the old, traditional style,” she told me.
The porchetta and prosciutto come from Marino Norcino Bernabei, where all the meats are organic, without any preservatives, and Slow Food. The mozzarella di bufala comes from Paestum’s Rivabianca, an award-winning small producer that food magazine Scatti di Gusto dubbed the best mozzarella-maker in the region.
The other cheeses come from Beppino Occelli, a Slow Food dairy in Piedmont. Like this Barolo cheese, below, which was named the best “drunk cheese” at the 1999 Slow Food Festival. And, yeah. It’s pretty damn delicious.
The produce, which Simona buys directly from the farmers at the market, is all fresh and in-season. And the combinations (like arugula, 2-year-aged parmigiano, bresaola, and thin-cut oranges, or spicy Calabrian soppressato salami, marinated eggplant, and cheese) are creative, but not too crazy. (And, of course, all customizable).
But the best part? The “Bonci bread.” And that’s not a phrase to be taken lightly.
Let me explain: Rome’s foodies are more than a little bit obsessed with Gabriele Bonci, who’s been called everything from a “dough magician” to the “Michelangelo of pizza.” (For what it’s worth, his admirers aren’t just confined to Italy’s capital; Anthony Bourdain paid his pizzeria, Pizzarium, a visit on the Rome episode of “The Layover” in 2011. And, of course, loved it).
And with reason. Bonci’s flour comes from Mulino Marino, a mill in Piedmont that grinds all-organic grains on (real) stone. He uses sourdough starters—including one so old, it dates back to World War I—and lets the dough rise for up to three days. Result: a bread that’s thick and chewy, but light and airy, too.
His bakery, Panificio Bonci, just opened last November, also near the Vatican. But other than Panificio Bonci and Pizzarium, there’s only one other place in the area where you can find Bonci bread. You got it: Mangia!.
Another Bonci-like aspect of Mangia!: You pay for panini by the weight. That means you can get the size you want and, yes, try a few different kinds, too. (It’s the same concept at Pizzarium, and at pizza al taglio places in general). Panini cost €1.90 per kg, which comes out to about €4.50 or €5 for a good-sized sandwich.
The only downside? There aren’t any seats or tables, so this is strictly a to-go place. (They also do office deliveries). But when you have to nosh on the run, this is one of the best places in Prati. So, you know. Mangia!
For other nearby options, don’t miss my blog post on five favorite places to eat near the Vatican.
Mangia! is located at Via Leone IV 45. Panificio Bonci (where you can follow up that panino with Bonci-made pastries) is at Via Trionfale 34/36.
If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.