Dine at homes around the world
The best vacations I’ve ever had usually involve great food, sunny skies, and the guidance of a friend who also happens to be a local. My pal Luke in Madrid helped me snake around the tourist traps to the city’s top tapas bars – Rachael from Glasgow brought me to a ceilidh where I learned traditional folk dancing – and my Dutch roommate Amelie introduced me to her hometown of the Hague by bike. But thanks to the magic of the internet, you don’t need to already know the locals to forgo being a tourist. Launched in 2014, company BonAppetour connects travelers with local home cooks for a superb, home-dining experience.
I should know – I was lucky enough to be invited along to a four-course Roman cena at BonAppe chef Alessandro Ricchi’s apartment. I was met by Alessandro – a professional caterer and personal chef – his partner Elena, an accomplished novelist – and the lovely Penelope, a sweet bichon frise who the couple was dogsitting. We were soon joined by a family of four from England, fellow foodies on the hunt for the best places to eat in Rome. Our meal kicked off with a classic Italian appetizer, melone e prosciutto, cantaloupe wrapped in a silky slice of the cured ham the country is famous for. While fruit and meat may strike some as an odd combination, Alessandro explained that the sweetness of the melon juxtaposes beautifully with the saltiness of the prosciutto. And on a muggy evening (Rome gets notoriously hot during the summer) this fresh, no-cook dish was exactly what we needed. For our primo, or carb dish, Elena served us mezze maniche all’amatriciana. This pasta shape is square and short, hence its name, which translates as “short sleeves,” and pairs well with amatriciana, a sauce of tomato and guanciale (cured pork cheek) topped with a generous dusting of pecorino romano cheese. Sometimes, a cube of the guanciale gets serendipitously caught in one of the noodles, making for the most perfect, dreamy bite. Alessandro brought out an impressive slab of guanciale, and told us he typically sources his ingredients from Sabaudia, a little town to the north of the city where he grew up. Next, we ventured on to our secondo dish, saltimbocca alla romana. While this recipe traditionally calls for veal, Alessandro used pork instead, which is less likely to be contaminated by antibiotics. I usually avoid veal on menus, so I was glad for the swap. Each cutlet was wrapped in prosciutto, garnished with sage, and cooked in white wine. At this point in our dinner, we were all getting along fabulously – and not only was I learning about Roman culture, but also loads about British culture, an unexpected bonus. The grand finale was Alessandro’s divine tiramisu’, Savoiardi biscuits dipped in espresso and cushioned between layers of sweetened mascarpone cream. It contained exactly zero of my daily recommended nutrients and vitamins. I savored every bite.
To find out more about hosts like Alessandro in Rome and in other major cities around the globe, check out the BonAppetour website. A quick browse through their page already has me daydreaming about making gyoza in Tokyo and indulging in a paella-making workshop in Barcelona…
Thanks to Alessandro and Elena for so graciously opening up their home to us and BonAppetour for providing the complimentary experience.