If staying in is the new going out, then going out to eat in might possibly just be ahead of the curve. Welcome to BonAppetour, the latest social eating experience which invites you to dine in the houses of chefs and top amateur foodies, for a chance to enjoy home-cooking at its best and get cosy with local traditions. While the start-up has now gone worldwide with 500 hosts in over 30 cities, foodie-paradise Italy is one of its key territories (one of the co-founders is Italian) and you can find home kitchens in Venice, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Palermo, Naples and Rome. I naturally tried out a dinner date in the capital.
For a reasonable price, similar to a good value restaurant bill, this is an opportunity to peek into an Italian kitchen and dig out a few secrets of the perfect pasta dish, whilst meeting new people (typically your hosts, unless you book a group event).
All managed via the BonAppetour website, where you can choose from fairly straightforward dining experiences to cooking classes or walking tours. And just because you’re in Rome, you don’t have to limit yourself to local cuisine: the host I tried included Calabrian specialities, another offers Sicilian delights whilst another chef will give you a sample of Alto Adige cuisine – not to mention a Mexican dining option which caught my eye.
My BonAppetour experience took place in trendy Monti, where young architects Veronica and Francesco set out to prove that avant-garde buildings aren’t the only inviting structures they know how to craft. Brimming with creativity, Veronica was wearing one of her own necklace designs and their apartment, part home, part studio was the right balance between industrial simplicity and welcoming warmth.
The food was straightforward and balanced, with a nod to their Calabrian heritage. After a starter of bresaola (air-dried, salted beef), pine-nuts, ricotta and honey, we moved on to a stunning first course of pasta made from the Italian heritage grain, farro, combined with asparagus and tomatoes and tossed with oregano, rosemary and mint.
The second course was a veal stew which owed a few secrets to Veronica’s grandmother. Finally, we were served strawberries and sweetened cream, all washed down with several bottles of white wine from Lazio’s very own Casale del Giglio vineyard.
As you might expect, the food wasn’t the only star of the evening as the experience of eating with locals and hearing their stories proved a big slice of the fun. Even if you don’t have an outgoing nature, there’s something about dining with strangers (and a few bottles of wine) to bring you all closer together. We left feeling like we had made new friends and inspired to try and recreate a new recipe or two.
Testaccina was a guest of BonAppetour in Rome