Stroll through Rome’s Testaccio Market and you’re bound to come across a long line in front of stall #15. Although it has been around for less than a decade, Mordi e Vai has quickly become the go-to joint for people in need of a quick panino fix. In fact, this humble lunch counter has attained cult-like status amongst foodies.
Local butcher Sergio Esposito and his wife opened this humble food stall in 2012. They felt Rome lacked a high-quality and affordable Roman-style panini customers could eat on-the-go. Hence the name Mordi e Vai, which means something like “Bite and Go”. And how can you argue with a deli that touts, “The super very best sandwich in Rome”?
Mordi e Vai: Panini Perfection at a Peasant’s Price Point
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a food stall more authentically Roman than Mordi e Vai. Indeed, the recipes here are so old that you won’t even find them at most sit-down restaurants.
If you’re unsure what to order, opt for the most popular panino: allesso di scottona con cicoria. “Scottana” refers to a very tender type of heifer (a young, childless female cow) meat often used in Roman cuisine. Esposito carefully places this slow-cooked beef on crispy ciabatta bread along with a chicory sprig for added flavor. Once you take a bite of this savory sandwich, you’ll know why the allesso di scottona is Mordi e Vai’s top seller.
Mordi e Vai also serve a wide variety of panini with tripe (stomach lining). The most traditional of these panini is the trippa alla Romana, which includes a hearty tomato sauce, pecorino cheese and sprigs of mint. If tripe isn’t your thing, then consider another Roman staple: the braised oxtail sandwich.
Not ready to give these traditional Roman delicacies a try? No worries! Mordi e Vai cooks up a mean meatball sandwich smothered in tomato sauce as well as juicy veal dipped in wine. For you vegetarians out there (bless you, child), Mordi e Vai also makes an awesome artichoke-and-cheese panino.
How to Find Mordi e Vai
Mordi e Vai’s official address is Nuovo Mercato Comunale di Testaccio, Via Beniamino Franklin, 12/E. But the better address is simply box #15 in the Testaccio Market. Look for a yellow sign in the market’s northwest corner.
A few major tourist attractions within a 15-minute walk of Mordi e Vai include the Mattatoio Modern Art Museum, the Rome War Cemetery and the Porta San Paolo. If traveling by metro, the Piramide station on line B is closest. Take bus line 75 or 83 directly to the market.