While tourists tend to pick pasta dishes and pizza year-round in Rome, the best flavours can be found by pinpointing food traditions to match the month.
For spring, that means starting with vignarola, a Roman dish that combines peas, fava beans, lettuce and artichokes.
Artichokes alone should not be missed at mealtimes, often appearing on menus braised or fried. Parla advises ordering carciofi romanesco, artichokes cooked the Roman way and farmed locally in the Lazio region.
“There are a lot of other types or artichokes which come from Puglia, Sardinia and Sicily, which are sometimes passed off as Roman artichokes,” she says. Whichever region’s artichokes end up on your plate they’re in season until May, giving food lovers ample time to sample some of the countless thistle dishes.
Artichokes do, however, have a springtime rival. “We start to see wild asparagus surfacing by late March or early April. It’s very expensive because it’s hand foraged,” Parla says, recommending a serving with fresh pasta.
While vegetarians can delight in Roman cuisine, so too can carnivores. “The absolutely typical dish of Roman spring is abbacchio, suckling lamb. In Rome you can find this served a number of ways; lamb chops, grilled, roasted,” Parla says. Diners should look out for abbacchio from Agro Romano, an agricultural area just outside of Rome.
Those with a sweet tooth can also enjoy the taste of spring, starting with tiny strawberries which will soon begin appearing in Rome.
Enthusiasts should head to Nemi, a village south-east of the city, for the annual strawberry festival. For those left behind in Rome, Parla suggests sampling the “delicious and intense” strawberry gelato.
Around Easter chocolate eggs will be spotted around Rome, while foodies should also try colomba. The Easter cake is similar to the Italian Christmas offering, panettone, but is baked in the shape of a cross.
One unmissable spring treat remains, tucked away in Rome’s Jewish quarter.
“Something that’s only made in Rome for a very short time is pizzarelle, for Passover,” Parla says.
The soft combination of pine nuts, candied fruits, honey and other sweets ingredients is deep fried and served up at Boccione Il Forno, the Jewish bakery, for just a few days each year.