Apart from the broad range of cultural activities, Rome will never disappoint you when it comes to food. It is quite tough to narrow all my recommendations down to one post about dining in Rome. I thought about starting with the list below of my all time favourites. Probably I will need to keep writing new posts to share all my recommendations with you.
I have mentioned this place in my post about the best bars and clubs in Rome already, but it really deserves to be highlighted here for its food. Whatever you will choose from their menu, you will not be disappointed. The pasta (especially the simple pomodoro one) and the bistecca (steak) are my favourites. They used to have a delicious mozzarella appetizer. Unfortunately, it was taken off the menu. La.Vi, please put it back!! It was so good! Do not skip their desserts, they are to die for (the Tiramisu was our favourite). (Via Tomacelli, 23)
In the middle of the Jewish ghetto (which I highly recommend you to visit), there is the Kosher restaurant Nonna Betta. I went there when I travelled with my friend Olivia who is a vegetarian. The fresh pasta was among the best I ever had! (Via del Portico d’Ottavia, 16)
A visit to Trastevere is a must during your trip to Rome. And Sabatini is a classic Italian restaurant with a Roman flair. Even though there are many tourists, I really liked the flair at this restaurant. The food was delicious and we enjoyed it while we did some people watching at the square. (Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, 13)
It is on the pricier side, but the food and ambience of Nino should be part of your Rome experience. When you enter the restaurant, an old lady who seems to be the owner and the exemplification of the stereotype Italian nonna will show you to your table. Similar to Sabatini, it is a great place to try some of the Roman dishes. (Via Borgognona, 11)
The bar of the National Gallery of Modern Art (GNAM) is a nice place to start an evening with friends. (Via Antonio Gramsci, 73)
This restaurant is located in the Testaccio area, which is a bit outside of the typical tourist areas. The nice thing about this restaurant – apart from its delicious food – is that it is in the vicinity of an old meat market which has been turned into a modern art space. (Via di Monte Testaccio, 30)
Santa Maria della Pace
No, it did not make a mistake here and mistakenly mentioned a cultural site. The church Santa Maria della Pace near the Piazza Navona also hosts a really cute café in the gallery of the first floor of its courtyard. (Arco della Pace, 5)
From the outside, it looks like a normal corner caffè. In the mornings and at lunch time, it is crowded with Romans having a quick espresso at the bar. But if you move further inside and ask for the ice cream, you will be beamed to gelato paradise. Their ice cream is stored in big golden buckets and it is not displayed in the usual way. Furthermore, they only focus on a few types. However, it is among the best ice creams I ever had and has become a must-visit every time I am in Rome. You can also sit down at the Piazza di S. Lorenzo in Lucina and enjoy a “tartuffo” – a chocolate ice cream ball. (Piazza di S. Lorenzo in Lucina, 29)
This is a place that you have to know about, otherwise you would not find it. I was introduced to it by a Roman friend on a hot summer night a few years ago. And there is no doubt why locals eat their ice cream there. (Via della Panetteria, 42)
What to Eat
There are so many dishes you can try in Rome and it might be difficult not to be overwhelmed. My recommendations are the following:
Carciofi alla Romana
Grilled artichokes: it sounds very simple and they are. But I think they exemplify the beauty of Italian cuisine: the art of cooking simple things well.
Carbonara ala Romana
You have probably heard about this pasta dish.
Fried rice-balls mixed with ragù and mozzarella. You can find these at the small stands and corner shops all over the city.
Fiori di Zucca
Battered zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies. When my mum introduced me to eating flowers for the first time I was actually kind of surprised. But I am telling you, you will fall in love with those zucchini flowers!
Another snack you can grab virtually all over the city. It is basically slices of pizza, often put together as a sandwich.
Cacio e Pepe
Simple pasta with pecorino cheese, salt and pepper.
Saltimbocca alla Romana
A popular beef dish with prosciutto.
Cornetto e Café
The typical breakfast eaten at the coffee bars in the morning. Please note: there is NO “to-go” culture in Italy. You drink your coffee at the bar. And I totally agree with it: if we do not have 5 minutes of our time for a coffee, there is something wrong. The Italian cornetto is similar to the French croissant. But it is a bit sweeter and the texture is a bit thicker. I love the plain one but usually it also comes filled with jam or chocolate.
Special thanks to Christian Niedermueller and Olivia Lennox-King, who contributed some pictures for this article!