October 13, 2009
I just came back from a month in Italy, where, of course, more inspection of the chocolate scene was in order. A priority was the location of the best chocolate shop in Rome. Surprisingly, virtually all of the chocolatiers in the usual places (Centro Storico, Trastevere, etc) with any apparent ambition to quality still are far below the standards being set elsewhere, in London, Paris, etc.
But fortunately, there is another chocolate manufacturer - in an obscure location in a decidedly lower-end part of town that is fully up to the standards of the best: SAID. They've been in business since 1923, primarily as a chocolate factory (hence the location) but the shop, located in a small court off Via Tiburtina near the university, is both appealing and satisfying.
The aspect of most immediate interest is that they are producing their own chocolate bars in a variety of interesting origins: Arawak, Samana, one called "Latino", and many others. It seems likely that they're close to bean-to-bar, particularly with the factory right there, although how much processing is done there is unclear: a Web search turned up only one ambiguous statement.
Of the bars I've tried so far, none of them has been less than superb. They're all firmly in the upper bracket of fine chocolate. The Latino was particularly fine with an interesting play of fruit and nut flavours. I'll put up reviews in the upcoming months.
They also make classic chocolate confections. These are far and away the best in Rome. Again, firmly in the upper bracket of confectionery. The basic ganache chocolate (made with Arawak) was almost perfect, powerful, intense, and with an ideal texture. They have an awe-inspiring hazelnut as well.
If you're in Rome, this is clearly Destination Chocolate. They are making a determined effort to appeal to the genuine chocolate connoisseur with unusual varietal chocolates as well as chocolate confections: a serious shop for serious customers. Highly recommended.
Said is on Via Tiburtina, 135, Roma