No matter where you stop to eat in Rome, you will find wonderful food. And the small, often family-run trattoria may be serving dishes that are not all that different to what was in vogue 2,000 years ago. You can find hints about what was served then in Roman frescos or mosaics. Tables were laden with fresh fruit such as pears, apples, figs and grapes. Wine was served everywhere, and seafood and meats were also much appreciated.

The art of bread-making was introduced from Greece by slaves. The Romans improved the milling of grain and bread became an integral part of the diet. Public ovens were busy places for the bakers, or pistores. At the excavations at Ostia Antica south of Rome we can see large millstones that were turned by mules hitched to poles inserted in the stones. In about 23 BC Vitruvio in his De Architectura describes a water mill that also used the force of the wind to allow flour to be ground much more finely, improving the quality of the bread. Such mills were used until the Middle Ages.

The Romans, like the Greeks and the Etruscans, also made a sort of pasta. It had the form of a thin sheet (known as laganum in Latin and lagnon in Greek), similar to modern-day focaccia, which was baked or fried then cut into strips and added to legumes and vegetables as they finished cooking. It is thought that the laganum was also used to layer up a dish with vegetables, perhaps a forerunner of today