As a classical archaeologist whose research centers on food and food preparation in the Roman Mediterranean, I am overjoyed by finds like these, as the information obtained from them shines a bright light on the daily lives of classes of Roman society that are poorly represented in ancient literary sources: slaves and average, working Romans. Spaces like this thermopolium provide archaeologists like me with a realistic portrayal of what Roman food culture was like in comparison to sensational portrayals of Roman food culture, such as those found in satirical literary sources like Petronius’s “Trimalchio’s Banquet” or portrayed in opulent frescoes like those adorning the dining-room walls of the House of the Vettii, an exceptionally well-preserved luxury domus.
In contrast, this thermopolium invites us into an archaeological environment that gives an indication of where many everyday Pompeiians enjoyed cooked meals. According to Dr. Anna Maria Sodo, director and archaeology officer of the Antiquarium of Boscoreale, in the Vesuvian area alone, only 40 percent of the urban dwellings of the working poor and 66 percent of the middle-class homes had fixed hearths for cooking. To meet this high demand, there were at least 80 food and beverage outlets at Pompeii (the site has yet to be fully excavated). But what types of foods did these thermopolia serve to the everyday citizens?Reconstructing the Menu of a Pub in Ancient Pompeii – Gastro Obscura
Click through for a fascinating look at ancient Roman foodways, including two recipes!