Celebrating Jewish holidays as an American Jew in Rome—the Catholic caput mundi—can be tricky. Pasqua, originally the term for Passover (from the Hebrew Pesach), now means Easter in modern Italian, while Passover is called Pasqua Ebraica—literally “Jewish Easter.”
But in the historic center of Rome alongside the Tiber River, Rome’s quartiere ebraico, known as the Jewish ghetto, is alive and well, a bustling oasis of Jewish life. And it was here, in my 17th-century apartment on Largo Arenula, that I hosted the first of my annual Passover Seders beginning in 2002 while working as a restaurant chef and private caterer, and teaching cooking classes in Rome. Of all the dishes I prepared for these Roman Seders, perhaps the most representative of my experience is what I’ve dubbed baccalà al ghetto. It’s a marriage of local ingredients and tradition, of kosher-for-Passover pragmatism and creative expression. It also happens to be lick-your-plate delicious.