Frescoed ancient fast food joint opens in Pompeii

The elaborately frescoed thermopolium discovered in Pompeii’s Regio V excavation in 2019 opens to the public for the first time on Thursday. The Regio V thermopolium was one of more than 80 small eateries in Pompeii which served beverages and hot food, albeit one with particularly rich decorations and the only one to be fully excavated by archaeologists.

The snack bars were mostly used by poorer residents of ancient Pompeii who rarely had a kitchen in their homes. Typical menus included coarse bread with salty fish, baked cheese, lentils and spicy wine.

Customers ordered prepared foods at an L-shaped counter painted with brightly colored frescoes of a nereid riding a sea horse, a food counter with amphorae leaning against it and pots on top of it (thermopolium inception), two ducks hanging upside down, a rooster and a snarling black dog on a leash. The vessels embedded in the countertop contained the remains of some of the dishes on offer at the shop, including duck and a paella-like combination of proteins (pork, goat, bird, fish and snail). Remains of wine and fava beans were found in one of the large storage amphorae.

After the initial investigation in 2019, archaeologists returned in 2020 to complete the excavation with the aim of restoring the room and decorative elements and protecting the frescoes from the elements by building a new wooden roof over the counter.

Visitors will be allowed access to the restaurant every day between noon and 7PM. Advance booking is not required to visit the thermopolium, but it is required for visits to its neighbors: the active archaeological excavations taking place at the House of Orion and the House with the Garden.