The clock has just struck 12 on a beautiful late spring day. I am walking through the narrow cobbled streets of II Ghetto, the historic Hebrew neighbourhood in Rome. When I arrive at Piperno, one of the capital’s longest-running restaurants, the doors are still closed. A well-dressed gentleman is already waiting there. “It will open in a few minutes,” he tells me in a reassuring tone, smiling politely. “I’ve been a regular here for about four decades. There are not many places like this one – have you tried their artichokes?”
This is the reason for my visit here. Piperno is rightly considered the ‘grandfather’ of all artichoke restaurants in Rome. The owner, Pier Paolo Boni, has something truly delicious in store for me: a super-traditional menu starting with carciofi alla giudia (crisp and crunchy, deep-fried, Jewish-style artichokes), followed by carciofi alla romana – a lighter, Roman-style version slowly stewed with wild mint, parsley and garlic – and vignarola, a spring stew of artichokes, peas and broad beans.