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As you’re watching the reports on the worldwide Coronavirus…
Compared to other countries in the world, some visitors may be disappointed to find that no restaurants are open 24/7 in Italy.
What’s more, just a few instances exist of places serving food in Rome after 2AM or so. That doesn’t mean that night owls, and especially those with a sweet tooth, will be let down!
While the Eternal City cannot boast a tradition of diners and cafes similar to those seen in movies or TV shows, what it certainly has is a unique type of bakeries that are unlike regular ones.
While all of them work long into the night, just a handful of them have owners who are amenable to selling their pastries at a token price for insomniacs, those suffering from jet lag or even people getting off (or on) their graveyard shifts.
These places are called “cornettari” (literally “those who sell croissants” – although that’s not the only baked good they have available! But we’ll get to that in a minute), and are the current face of what ancient Roman bakers used to be like – bakeries under the empire were popular places, open all day, and polarizing too. People had strong opinions on who the best baker was and stuck with them, unless they felt like the quality had worsened beyond repair.
Even if it seems like we’re quickly going off topic, trust us: we’re not! Much of that same attitude has survived to this day, and modern Romans like to quarrel on who the best cornettaro is – as they do about their pizza, their trattoria or their cafe.
Speaking of cafes: a cornettaro is nothing more than an industrial bakery working for cafes opening the next morning. While they prepare trays of donuts or croissants for the city’s most crowded hangouts, they will sell extra pastries for those in the know – those who are aware of their location, that is.
Not that it’s that hard! When we were younger some addresses circulated through word of mouth alone. Nowadays the Internet has made the whole thing easier… although a little less poetic!
A cornettaro is a place you go to at the end of a long night out. It’s really late, you had your last drink for the night, but you feel like eating a little extra something. There is nothing like buying one or two croissants hot off the oven and tasting them right there, by the entrance! Some wiser types even buy a few more pastries at cornettari so as to have a nicer breakfast in the morning!
Croissants are not the only product you will find. Make sure to look around for donuts (probably much bigger than the ones you can find at home) or “bombe“, similar to Berliners, with Nutella or custard fillings. Maritozzi are also to be found.
Savoury baked goods could also be on display: small deep-fried pizzas with a simple topping of tomato sauce and mozzarella, typically, even though they won’t be for sale everywhere.
More generally speaking, cornettari only offer a few different types of pastries so they’re not recommended for… picky gluttons!
Just the one note before you head out for cornetti: be sure to learn a couple sentences in Italian if you end up at a cornettaro’s! We don’t know of that many bakers who are fluent in English (pointing at something and asking how much it is should be enough, really!). And don’t marvel at the lack of tables: cornetti or bombe are strictly eaten standing!
There are many “maritozzi-makers” in Rome, but here is an illustrious one, having first opened in 1960. A familiar sight for those visiting the flea market at Porta Portese, it’s in the same general area as several of our managed accommodations in Trastevere, including Natale del Grande and Casa di Fenizio. Look out for their tramezzini, Italy’s signature triangle-shape sandwiches.
If you’re in the area and can’t seem to find this cornettaro’s location, either look for queues or ask for directions to “Dolce Notte” – this is its former name!
This pastry shop, selling also pizza, is famous for their sweet rolls with chocolate drops (the “pangoccioli”, indeed) and can be reached in no time from Via Annia Faustina.
A staple for La Sapienza University students, in the gritty Roman district where most of them have their accommodation (and their classes). The San Lorenzo area can be reached in no time from the Termini area.
A legendary spot for late night cornetti, this baker is below street level in a busy road just minutes from the entrance of the Vatican Museums.
And another renowned cornettaro, this time in the area around the Porta Pia gate and the British Embassy – walking distance from the Termini hub and Piazza della Repubblica alike. Their specialty is a “sfogliatella-like” pastry called “Sorchetta doppio schizzo” (hence the name of the place), which name is untranslatable. Or better yet, it is – just not in polite company!