Rome destroyed Italian food for me.
Never again will I be able to enjoy a "good" Italian meal, having had food that actually burst into flavours in my mouth. Never again will I be satisfied with some pitiful, anemic version of tomato sauce. Never again will ice cream make me happy, when Gelato from Italy has melted on my tongue.
The food, oh the glorious wonderous food that is Rome. Every day seemed to bring a new amazing food experience for me. From the first full day we were there and I found the Platonic Ideal of Latte (it was amazing! It only needed a bit of sugar because it was perfect. It... it... it made me want to sit in this little back-end restaurant down by the Trevi Fountain all night, discussing world-changing and whether Joss Whedon's comic book version of a Season 8 of Buffy would be considered canon and how to finance a month of living in Rome) to the last day where Pizza is sold by weight and tastes entirely different than the stuff I grew up with, the food was always the best part of everything. So flavourful, so good, so... inviting. Finding food every day was always an adventure, but never one to disappoint.
At one point I sat on a bench with Don, just up the street from the Vatican, both of us completely silent as we ate Gelato. Mine was banana and his was tiaramasu. Neither of us spoke, just enjoyed, as the scenes of Rome played out in front of us - beggars and people selling cheap trumperies and tour groups and large groups of nuns walking past. How do you speak, really, when you've just realised that you're going to never again taste such perfection?
Food in Rome seems to be something entirely different than what I've experienced elsewhere. In China, eating out is a huge social event, usually with lots of people, lots of dishes, way too much alcohol and laughter. In the UK, it's usually a much more somber occasion, and although it may be a comment on the type of places I go to, I rarely see families out eating, or groups of large than three. But in Rome, it just seems that eating, drinking, enjoying it all is practically a religion. Restaurants open for lunch, then close again till as late at 7 or 7:30 when they slowly start to fill up with people. Groups vary from couples who are being googly eyed and feed each other pasta slowly and lovingly to large parties that slam back lemonchelo at the end of the meal before going on someplace else. Plates after plates after plates of food are the norm here, and I wished we'd had more time (and money!) to spend an entire evening eating good food, drinking good wine, discussing the world and everything in it over good coffee.
But oh, lemonchelo. I first had it in this little place we found in the Jewish Ghetto. We had been given a *very* bad tip on a place just further up the streeet and had left in a hurry and just started wandering. The place we found eagerly escourted us to their "back room" - a little courtyard that would be open to the sky in summer but was closed over with a canopy because it was "cold". They had a little heater set up in the back, and the place was lit with candles. A mostly-gone statue of a warrior with his horse made up part of the back wall. We sat there for hours eating such good food (I had some sort of seafood pasta dish that just made my whole mouth happy), and in the end the waiter brought us two iced shot glasses of lemonchelo. I had no idea what it was, so I took a cautious sip.
Oh, my.... It's this amazing lemon liquer that just... rolls off your tongue and into your tummy, making the whole of you feel warm and good and happy. I recommend you serve it chilled in iced shot glasses, because it was so good that way. They gave it to us for free, and it was lovely....
I had it quite a few times after that, and even brought a bottle home.
Rome is... full of flavour and excitement. We walked back to the Met.Ro that night along the river, under the trees, past the Circus Maximus and talked about the distant past and how everything fades away.