Larger than the other varieties and with a colour that goes from green to purple, carciofo romanesco – aka mammola – comes mostly from the Roman coast, particularly from towns such as Fiumicino, Cerveteri and Ladispoli – the latter has hosted an artichoke fair in the spring for the past 50 years. It has Protected Geographical Indication status (or IGP), meaning that this particular variety is strictly tied to the area where historically it has been produced.
During peak artichoke season, Roman markets are a feast for the eyes: tidy piles of whole artichokes are usually given the best spot, right in front of the stalls, attracting customers and tourists. Campo dei Fiori is one of the easiest and most picturesque markets to visit, being in the centre of Rome, but it does attract a lot of tourists. If you don’t mind a bit of a walk you won’t be disappointed by the more authentic, covered market of Testaccio, or by the tiny market in Trastevere. Aside from the round romanesco, look out for the trimmed ones, which look like rosebuds.
And if you like the taste of what you had in restaurants, keep in mind that the traditional recipes are very easy to replicate. Just one little trick for your carciofy alla giudia: plunge them into bubbling hot olive oil until they look like sunburnt sunflowers, and keep in mind that the secret to getting the unique combination of crisp leaves and tender interiors comes from frying twice. Buon appetito!