Quality of life in a piece of bread
Recently, Italian bakeries have been on a mission to improve bread quality. Superb raw materials mix with tradition and innovation, and new tasty products are born. Segmento took a mouthwatering tour to Rome’s best forni
In Italy, if someone tells you “sei buono come il pane” (you’re as good as bread), take it as a serious compliment because it means you’re a person with a heart of gold. This, along with around 15 other bread-related metaphors in the language, indicates the centrality of this most basic foodstuff in the Italian imagination. Until recently, the panifici or forni of Rome only sold fresh bread to be taken home. However, a revolution is afoot, with many bakeries moving into on-site gastronomy. Some bakeries now have an adjoining café where their freshly baked delights are served all day to carbohydrate-craving customers eager to satisfy their hunger with tramezzini, panini, or pizza al taglio. Some bakeries have even started catering to nocturnal yeast heads by offering aperitivi.
Segmento sampled four of Rome’s best bakeries.
Pane e Tempesta – a storm of passion
In Rome, the bakery Pane e Tempesta is one of the few places that has been given the top rating of “three bread rolls” by Gambero Rosso. Here I met Italian-Egyptian baker and owner Omar Abdel Fattah. He greets me with the awards and honorable mentions he has collected since the bakery opened in 2014 framed and displayed proudly on the wall behind him. “I’m constantly on the lookout for raw materials to improve my products. For example, I only use high-quality flour that I source from Sicily and le Marche. Besides, I’m quite lucky with this address, because you’ll find the neighborhood market with fresh vegetables on the other side of the street. Here I know which stands offer the best quality produce for my pizza toppings,” Omar explains. As we sit and talk, a flow of customers enters the bakery to buy slices of pizza for lunch. I get an exotic turmeric bread and a few slices of pizza myself. After my conversation with Omar, the passion and talent that goes into his baked goods are tangible to the tastebuds.
Pane e Tempesta
Via Giovanni de Calvi 23-25
Bonci – Rome’s bread guru
Many of Rome’s bread lovers consider Gabrielle Bonci – baker and head of the Bonci bakery – to be un genio due to the quality of his products. His bread business started back in 2003 in a tiny room. Innovation and research into the quality of raw materials have always been Bonci’s credo. Last year his takeaway pizza place, Pizzarium, was awarded “Italy’s best,” ahead of several Neapolitan pizza favorites. Today, his bakery in Via Trionfale is one of Rome’s most popular. People often queue up on the pavement outside the shop. In recent years, Bonci’s bread has had such success that on some restaurant menus in Rome, you can read “bread supplied by Bonci,” which speaks for quality. His success has recently led to bakeries opening in Chicago and Miami. The Gambero Rosso has recently given him top marks. This puts Bonci in the company of only four other bakeries in Rome. These are places that should be on every carb-friendly bucket list.
Via Trionfale 36
Via della Meloria 43
Panella – the pride of Esquilino
The Esquilino neighborhood’s most celebrated bakery is Panella, founded in 1929. “It was my grandfather Pasquale Panella who started the bakery. Then my father Augusto joined, and since 1970 the responsibility has been on my shoulders,” says Maria Grazie Panella, an elegant woman in her 70s. Panella’s traditionalism and elegance can also be seen in the staff’s black and white dress code. Maria Grazia Panella tells shows me a gigantic bread sculpture of the Colosseum. Talk about bread and circuses! Over the years, Panella has expanded its offering beyond a traditional bakery and has transformed into a café and a small bistro with settings outside where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, an aperitivo, and even a light evening meal.
Via Merulana 54
Forno Conti – I don’t really care about traditions!
Rome’s Esquilino district, especially around Piazza Vittorio, is buzzing with social and demographic change. Forno Conti is a modern bakery symbolic of this vibey and cosmopolitan neighborhood. The place opened in November 2021, and baker Sergio Conti is a good example of what you can achieve when talent meets courage. “I’m the fourth generation of a family that has always worked with bread. So, tradition has always been very present in our family. However, I wanted to try something new, break with traditions, and start from fresh in terms of interior style and types of bread,” he says. His wife, Germana De Donno, is an interior designer, and she is responsible for the distinctive minimalist style of this chic baker. In the corner of the bakery, a girl is working on her laptop. Outside, two staff members are preparing for the lunchtime rush as Sergio arranges slices of freshly-baked pizza, sandwiches, and crusty bread for display. He looks happy in his life as a contemporary Roman baker.
Via Giusti 18