When in Rome

Chef relives his Roman Holiday—with food, of course


I’m still re-living my summer vacation trip to Italy, and if you think I’m having trouble moving on emotionally from it, you are correct. Today I’m reminiscing about some of my Cheffed-Up Roman adventures from several different stays in the eternal city.

Fun fact: Did you know the infamous expression “when in Rome” was coined by a saint? His name was Saint Ambrose; he first said it in Milan, of all places. The idea was, when you’re visiting a place, the best way to experience that place is to act as the locals act.

The easiest way to get into the vibe of Rome is to spend a little time driving around the city. But first, it’s important to fuel up on a couple of espressos. Lucky for us, there are bars every 15 feet. One of the joys of driving in Rome is attempting to read the street signs. No. 1: They’re usually on the sides of old buildings, making them extremely difficult to locate. No. 2: They’re written in a foreign language, sometimes Latin. Not only that, but Romans are not conservative drivers. Have I mentioned the motor scooters? They’re like swarms of mosquitos encircling your car at each intersection—you want to swat them away before they crash into you.

Another fun way to experience the city is to ignore the many tour busses and get out and walk. Yep, just join the locals along the ancient streets. That way, you can pick and choose the best places to visit, like, say, food markets. Believe it or not, I worked my way through quite a few, and they’re absolutely terrific. It’s where you’ll rub elbows with native Romans. But beware of the sweet grandmothers—the old biddies will plow you over without a second thought. I mean, how dare you get between them and that ball of buffalo mozzarella?! I could definitely spend my life shopping at these places. If you don’t have a kitchen, you still gotta eat. Fortunately, there are always great restaurants near the markets.

One o’clock is lunchtime in Rome, meaning all Romans eat lunch at one sharp—not at 11 a.m., not 12:30 p.m., but 1 p.m. on the dot. All the restaurants fill up, so if you want a true Roman lunch experience, eat at 1 p.m. And the food in Rome …. I’m tearing up again; boy, do I miss it! Here’s a recipe for fried zucchini. It’s not as good as dining in Rome, but
it’s close.

Chef Bill’s Parmesan-Battered Fried Zucchini


• 2 zucchini, seeded, in a batonnet cut
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
• 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
• 1/2 oz. white wine
• 1 oz. milk
• 1 tbsp. chopped herbs
• 3 tbsp. grated parmesan
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Seasoned all-purpose flour as needed for dredging
• Olive oil as needed for frying


1. Dredge the zucchini in the seasoned flour. Shake off the excess.
2. Dip in the batter, shake off excess and fry in 300°F olive oil.
3. Transfer to paper towels and keep warm.
4. Serve with a basil aioli, red pepper vinaigrette or whatever.


Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!

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