Imagine walking the streets of Rome all morning pretending not to be a tourist and hoping to blend in while you look for that “not for tourists” spot to plunk yourself down and order another cappuccino while rubbing your feet. You know full well that ordering a cappuccino after breakfast will blow your cover with the locals, although it may just be the accent, but you have set yourself a goal of at least three a day before heading home so you need to stay on schedule.
Until now, you’ve stuck to the winding side streets with a great sense of pride in keeping off the beaten path and criss cross the main tourist routes only when absolutely necessary. You wave and blurt out a friendly “Ciao!” to the locals you meet and, thoroughly amused, they wave “Ciao!” back. You’re almost a native!
Then you turn the corner and find yourself in the midst of the tourist hoards: fanny pack zippers jingling, cackling while taking a selfie pointing at a naked statue and observing perplexed a guy dressed in orange sitting cross-legged pretending to balance a pedestal, with one hand, upon which his colleague, also dressed in orange, is seated (you can’t miss them in Rome).
You are in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina – smack dab in the middle of town. You are also in luck. Ciampini is right there in the middle of it all and it is full of tourists, but it is also full of Romans, because it does have great gelato, but even better “tramezzini”, if not the best in town.
It is said that the “tramezzino“, a triangular white bread sandwich without the crust, was invented in Turin as an alternative to English tea-time sandwiches and the word “tramezzino” (literally “in-between” with the use of the diminutive “-ino”[s] or “-ini”[pl.] suffix) was coined by the prominent Italian literary figure Gabriele D’Annunzio at the turn of the twentieth century since it was easier for Italians to pronounce.
You’ll have to summon what strength you have left to go in with your elbows wide and a determined look on your face, but it’s worth it. Think of it as a prize that you must win, as well as a fully immersive experience into what it is like for Italians to get through the day without ever forming a line. Glance at the selection of these delicious “tramezzini” sandwiches while you work your way to the register (you have to pay first, as in most places) and ask them to add a a typical Italian citrus soda called “chinotto” to your receipt to enjoy a truly authentic Italian standing lunch.
My favorite “tramezzini” at Ciampini are the “uova e asparagi” (eggs and asparagus) and the “tonno e carciofini” (tuna and baby artichoke).
Now pivot from the register and weave your way to the bar counter. Make eye contact with the guys behind the counter, they are much like children and dogs, so you must be firm and determined. Hand them your receipt and quickly list your order because they, unlike most of Italy, move very fast. You’ll probably need to point and gesticulate a bit to show them which “tramezzini” you want, but that will only make you look more Italian. Good luck and buon appetito!