In the twenty-first century, Rome’s former Jewish Ghetto has experienced rapid “foodification,” in which food businesses come to dominate a previously residential or mixed-use neighborhood. Why and how has foodification taken place in Rome’s former Ghetto, and how unique is this case? What can this example teach us about foodification as a phenomenon? Foodification is influenced by broader forces, including gentrification, but is also affected by factors particular to this neighborhood. These include Jewish heritage tourism; religious dietary laws; and a growing curiosity about hyper-local food, such as cucina ebraico-romanesca (Jewish-Roman cuisine), and about dishes outside the Italian canon. Jewish-style and kosher restaurants have developed to stimulate and satisfy multiple demands, serving “traditional” Jewish-Roman dishes; Middle-Eastern and North African dishes; new interpretations of popular Italian dishes; and kosher versions of international foods popular in Italy, like hamburgers and sushi rolls. Contrary to the idea that this diversity threatens the Jewish-Roman tradition, I argue that the neighborhood’s foodscape reflects the variety of communities and tastes in contemporary Rome, where local specialties persist alongside a wide range of other options. This article argues that although foodification is often connected to gentrification and tourism, it should be distinguished from these phenomena. By asking how the former Ghetto’s new restaurants communicate heritage and identity, I demonstrate that foodification can take place in ways that are specific to a particular neighborhood, and that the food has become one of the major means by which the former Ghetto’s past and present character is articulated in Rome.
Gourmet and the Ghetto: The “Foodification” of Rome’s Historic Jewish Quarter
Sean Wyer is a PhD candidate in Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Charlotte Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow. He lives in the UK, and works as a lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford. His current research focuses on cosmopolitanism and food traditions, primarily in Sicily and Rome.
Sean Wyer; Gourmet and the Ghetto: The “Foodification” of Rome’s Historic Jewish Quarter. Gastronomica 1 August 2023; 23 (3): 29–45. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2023.23.3.29
Download citation file: