Cracked steps lead to a crumbling wall. Dull green
wood mixes with red brick in what is left of this Pompeii
restaurant, one of the main social gathering sites in
the ancient city. Of all the tourist
attractions in Italy, the ruins
of Pompeii consistently draw visitors to its grounds,
showing that although Roman ruins abound throughout the
Western European country sides, you won’t see anything
like you’ll find in Pompeii.
The town’s way of life has been referred to by historians as aimless, self-absorbed and vain. If there is any truth to this deconstruction of Pompeii history, we’ll likely never know, all we are left with is architectural remains devoid of context. Any tour of the ruins will lead you to this Pompeii restaurant, which is notable as a popular meeting place, the first century equivalent of Roman nightlife. Here patrons would relax, play games (often ones reliant on the toss of the dice) and do what Italians have done for hundreds of years – feast. Even in ancient times, much of Italian culture is based around mealtime, where who you eat with is often more important that the contents of your dish. Since few of the houses in Pompeii showed any signs of having a kitchen, it’s likely that most of the town would come out to the Pompeii restaurant on a fairly regular basis, mingling with travelers, merchants and whoever else happened to be in town. Before the eruption made the town into one of the most important tourist attractions in Italy, this restaurant was itself probably the town’s main draw.
One thing that researchers have done, however, is balance the mish-mash of surviving Pompeii artifacts with attempts to recreate the kinds of vegetables and fruits that were widespread throughout the city’s gardens before Vesuvius blanketed the town in ash. Hoping to add a little more realism into one of the most famous tourist attractions in Italy, visitors will now be able to amble through the ruins of the city surrounded by the staples of the ancient Roman diet: figs, olives and grapes will be found alongside the kind of vegetation that used to dominate the city – including exciting plants such as bramble, bloom and mallow.
Anyone who wants to dine on the same foods as found in Pompeii history can pick up packages full of these staple ingredients, along with recipes, hints and other related items. If you are lucky you may just be able to serve up some swallow’s tongue, a favorite dish of the upper class at Pompeii restaurants of the past. But most of the popular middle class dishes revolved around sharp vinegars, sweet fruits and cheeses and traditional recipes involving beans, fish and grains.
Though no actual cooking takes place in the ruins, there are a couple of restaurants nearby that specialize in the types of food that were once so prevalent in the ruined city. Ask your tour guide, or anyone working in the city and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.