Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Food

Rome Jews Fight Hard For Their Legendary Artichoke

‘Carciofi alla guidia’ literally means Jewish-style artichokes. Originating in the Jewish Roman ghettos, carciofi alla guidia is a deep fried artichoke spread open like a sunflower, eaten hot from the fryer. Best made from the Romanesco variation of the artichoke, harvested between February and April, it is one of the Eternal City’s more famous dishes. And between the nutty folds of the artichoke leaves (traditionally a poor man’s food) lies the millennia-old heritage of Roman Jewry.

But not for long, if the Israeli Rabbinate has its way.

Haaretz reported that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has banned a ready-made version of the dish because insects and worms may reside in the leafy nooks and crannies of the artichoke. Considering this is a recipe that dates back to the 16th century, Israeli rabbis certainly are proving quick to toss it out the window. The Jewish community in Milan reportedly asked a kosher restaurant to alter the recipe or remove the dish from the menu.

“The heart of the artichoke is full of worms, there’s no way you can clean it,” said Yitzhak Arazi, the Rabbinate’s Import Division head, told Haaretz. “It can’t be kosher. It’s not our politics, this is Jewish religious law.”

Roman Jews countered by pointing out that Israeli artichokes were very different from their Italian cousins. “We’ve been eating this dish prepared this way for 600 years,” Umberto Pavoncello, the manager at kosher eatery Nonna Betta, told the Local. “I’m a little worried about the souls of all the people that have been eating them over the centuries, I hope nothing bad happens to them.”

The rebels among us might be wondering how to make this iconic dish:

Start by cleaning the artichokes with a sharp knife. All the hard leaves should be removed in quick circular movements. Beat them together to open them. Leave in lemon juice infused water. Season with salt and pepper. Deep fry in olive oil. Cold water should be sprinkled upon them to keep them crisp before serving.

Will this native dish of Roman Jewry be eclipsed by the desire to impose greater stringencies on the world of kosher food? Will Roman Jews prevail here, as they have for hundreds of years, creating culinary delights with what little materials they had? Has the Jewish fidelity to the deep fryer finally given out?

Wherefore will our Carciofi alla guidia be in a year’s time?

Shira Feder is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] She wants to hear your thoughts on Roman Jewish dishes.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.