Rick Steves Rome 2016 - Rick Steves, Gene Openshaw (2015)
EATING IN ROME
Romans take great pleasure in dining well. Embrace this passion over a multicourse meal at an outdoor table, watching a parade of passersby while you sip wine with loved ones.
In ancient times, the dinner party was the center of Roman social life. It was a luxurious affair, set in the triclinium (formal dining room). Guest lists were small (3-9 people), and the select few reclined on couches during the exotic multicourse meal. Today the couches are gone, and the fare may not include jellyfish, boiled tree fungi, or flamingo, but the cucina Romana influence remains. It’s fair to say that while French cuisine makes an art of the preparation, Italian (and Roman) cuisine is simpler and all about the ingredients.
Roman meals are still lengthy social occasions. Simple, fresh, seasonal ingredients dominate the dishes. The cucina is robust, strongly flavored, and unpretentious—much like the people who’ve created it over the centuries. It is said that Roman cooking didn’t come out of emperors’ or popes’ kitchens, but from the cucina povera—the home cooking of the common people. This may explain the Romans’ fondness for meats known as the quinto quarto (“fifth quarter”), such as tripe, tail, brain, and pigs’ feet, as well as their interest in natural preservatives like chili peppers and garlic.
Rome belongs to the warm, southern region of Lazio, which produces a rich variety of flavorful vegetables and fruit that are the envy of American supermarkets. Rome’s proximity to the Mediterranean also allows for a great variety of seafood (especially on Fridays), which can be pricey if you’re dining out.
For general advice on eating in Italy, including details on ordering, dining, and tipping in restaurants, where to find budget meals, picnicking help, and Italian cuisine and beverages—including wine, see here.
Kitchens close at most restaurants between lunch and dinner; if it’s a quality restaurant, it won’t reopen before 19:00. If a smaller restaurant is booked up later in the evening (from 20:30 or so), they may accommodate walk-ins if you’re willing to eat quickly (no lingering).
Choosing Restaurants: I’ve listed a number of restaurants I enjoy. While many are in quaint and therefore pricey and touristy areas (Trastevere and the Pantheon neighborhood, including Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori), others are tucked away just off the tourist crush.
I’m impressed by how small the price difference can be between a mediocre Roman restaurant and a fine one. You can pay about 20 percent more for double the quality. If I had $100 for three meals in Rome, I’d spend $50 for one and $25 each for the other two, rather than $33 on all three. For splurge meals, I’d consider Gabriello, Fortunato, and Taverna Trilussa (in that order; details on all three are in this chapter).
Rome’s fabled nightspots (most notably Piazza Navona, near the Pantheon, and Campo de’ Fiori) are lined with the outdoor tables of touristy restaurants with enticing menus and formal-vested waiters. The atmosphere is superromantic: I, too, like the idea of dining under floodlit monuments, amid a constantly flowing parade of people. But you’ll likely be surrounded by tourists, and noisy English speakers can kill the ambience of the spot...leaving you with just a forgettable and overpriced meal. Restaurants in these areas are notorious for surprise charges, forgettable food, microwaved ravioli, and bad service.
I enjoy the view by savoring just a drink or dessert on a famous square, but I dine with locals on nearby low-rent streets, where the proprietor needs to serve a good-value meal and nurture a local following to stay in business. If you’re set on eating—or just drinking and snacking—on a famous piazza, you don’t need a guidebook listing to choose a spot; enjoy the ritual of slowly circling the square, observing both the food and the people eating it, and sit where the view and menu appeal to you. (And pizza is probably your best value and least risky bet.)
The Aperitivo Tradition: For a budget, light meal, consider partaking in an aperitivo buffet. Milan and northern Italian cities have long enjoyed this tradition, in which bars serve up an enticing buffet of small dishes, and anyone buying a drink (at an inflated price) gets to eat “for free.” Now, competition for customers in the early evening hours has driven bars in Rome to embrace the same practice. All over town, bars—from humble to chic and trendy—are offering a light meal with a cocktail during happy hour. Drinks generally cost around €8-12, and the food’s out anywhere from about 18:00 to 21:00. Some places limit you to one plate; others allow refills. Either way, if you want a quick, light dinner with a drink, it’s a great deal. You’ll notice happy crowds all over town.
Picnicking: Another cheap way to eat is to assemble a picnic and dine with Rome as your backdrop. Buy ingredients for your picnic at one of Rome’s open-air produce markets (mornings only; see here), an alimentari (corner grocery store), a rosticcerie (cheap food to go), or a supermercato, such as Conad, Despar, or Co-op. You’ll find handy late-night supermarkets near the Pantheon (Via Giustiniani), Spanish Steps (Via Vittoria), Trevi Fountain (Via del Bufalo), and Campo de’ Fiori (Via di Monte della Farina). Rome discourages people from picnicking or drinking at historic monuments (such as on the Spanish Steps) in the old center. Technically violators can be fined, though it rarely happens. You’ll be fine if you eat with a view rather than on the view.
Colorful Trastevere is now pretty touristy. Still, Romans join the tourists to eat on the rustic side of the Tiber River. Start at the central square, Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. This is where the tourists dine, while others wander the back streets in search of mom-and-pop places with barely a menu. My recommendations are within a few minutes’ walk of each other (see map on here).
Taverna Trilussa is your best bet for dining well in Trastevere. Brothers Massimo and Maurizio offer quality without pretense. With a proud 100-year-old tradition, this place has the right mix of style and informality. The service is fun-loving (they’re happy to let you split plates into smaller portions to enjoy a family-style meal), yet professional. The menu celebrates local classics and seasonal specials—as well as their award-winning pasta amatriciana—and comes with a big wine selection. The spacious dining hall is strewn with eclectic Roman souvenirs. For those who’d rather eat outdoors, Trilussa has an actual terrace rather than just tables jumbled together on the sidewalk (€15 pastas, €20-28 secondi, Mon-Sat from 19:30 for dinner, closed Sun, reservations smart, Via del Politeama 23, tel. 06-581-8918, www.tavernatrilussa.it).
Resources for Foodies
For those looking to take their Roman culinary endeavors seriously, there’s no shortage of in-depth advice. Books and blogs on Roman cuisine abound, and several local companies run food- and wine-themed tours. Here is a sampling:
✵ Parlafood.com, Katie Parla’s website, has all the latest on the Roman food scene. She also offers private food-oriented tours and tastings.
✵ Rome for Foodies, Parla’s app, transfers her highly selective, top-notch recommendations into an easy-to-use, searchable format (and once on your device, it doesn’t require an Internet connection).
✵ Eat Italy, an excellent app covering many cities—including Rome—by food writer Elizabeth Minchilli, takes a more all-encompassing approach, listing a wider range of good eateries and food-oriented shops (works without Internet connection). Her website also features recipes and private food tours (www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com).
✵ Eating Italy Food Tours leads fun and insightful walks almost daily through Rome’s colorful Testaccio and Trastevere neighborhoods, interspersing history, tradition, and local food culture while giving you a great glimpse into daily life in less-seen parts of the city. Each group of about a dozen people makes about eight stops. The Testaccio tour is better (€75-88, 4 hours, several morning and evening departures Mon-Sat, www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com). They also offer cooking classes. Rick Steves readers get a 10 percent discount (use promo code: ricksteves).
✵ Vino Roma is a small wine “school” run by several sommeliers who offer evening tasting classes designed to help you understand and enjoy Italian wine. They also offer several neighborhood walks (www.vinoroma.com). Buon appetito, e salute!
Osteria La Gensola is a good place to splurge on seafood (though they also have Roman classics on the menu). The interior (no outside seating), which feels like a rustic yet sophisticated living room, is pleasantly homey (€14-20 seafood pastas, €15-25 secondi, daily 13:00-15:00 & 19:30-23:00, Piazza della Gensola 17, tel. 06-581-6312, www.osterialagensola.it).
Trattoria da Lucia lets you enjoy simple, traditional food at a fair price. It’s your basic old-school, Trastevere dining experience, and has been family-run since World War II. The family specialty is spaghetti alla Gricia, with pancetta (€9-10 pastas, €11-14 secondi, Tue-Sun 12:30-15:00 & 19:30-23:00, closed Mon and much of Aug, cash only, evocative outdoor or comfy indoor seating—but avoid back room, just off Via del Mattonato at Vicolo del Mattonato 2, tel. 06-580-3601).
Trattoria da Olindo takes homey to extremes. You really feel like you dropped in on a family that cooks for the neighborhood to supplement their income (€8 pastas, €10 secondi, Mon-Sat 19:30-22:30, closed Sun, cash only, indoor and funky outdoor seating, on the corner of Vicolo della Scala and Via del Mattonato at #8, tel. 06-581-8835).
Osteria Ponte Sisto, small and Mediterranean, specializes in traditional Roman and Neapolitan cuisine (€8-12 pastas, €12-18 secondi, Thu-Tue 12:30-15:00 & 19:00-23:30, closed Wed, reservations smart, 100 yards in front of the bridge at Via Ponte Sisto 80, tel. 06-588-3411, www.osteriapontesisto.com, Oliviero).
Pizzeria “Ai Marmi” is a bright and noisy festival of pizza, where the oven and pizza-assembly line are surrounded by marble-slab tables (hence the nickname “the Morgue”). It’s a classic Roman scene, whether you enjoy the chaos inside or sit at a sidewalk table, with famously good €8 Roman-style pizza (thin and crispy) and very tight seating. Expect a long line between 20:00 and 22:00 (Thu-Tue 18:30-24:00, closed Wed, cash only, tram #8 from Piazza Venezia to first stop over bridge, just beyond Piazza Sonnino at Viale di Trastevere 53, tel. 06-580-0919).
Pizzeria Dar Poeta, tucked in a back alley and a hit with local students, cranks out less traditional, thick-crust, wood-fired pizza. These pizzas are easily splittable and, if you’re extra hungry, pay an extra euro for pizza alto (even thicker crust). Choose between their sloppy, cramped interior and lively tables outside on the cobblestones (€5-10 pizza and salads, daily 12:00-24:00, call to reserve or expect a wait, 50 yards directly in front of Santa Maria della Scala Church at Vicolo del Bologna 45, tel. 06-588-0516).
Cantina Ripagrande, a block over Viale di Trastevere from the touristy action, has a funky romantic charm and a small but creative menu for lunch (12:30-15:30) and dinner (19:30-22:30). Drinks are served the rest of the day and during happy hour from 18:00 to 20:30, when a €7 drink comes with a well-made little buffet that can turn into a cheap, light dinner (Mon-Sat 11:30-late, closed Sun, Via San Francesco a Ripa 73, tel. 06-4547-6237).
Here are some of the specialties you may find on the menu. For more on Italian food, including salumi, cheeses, pizza, and pasta, see here.
Antipasto misto: A plate of marinated or grilled vegetables (eggplant, artichokes, peppers, mushrooms), cured meats, cheeses, or seafood (anchovies, octopus).
Bruschetta: Toasted bread brushed with olive oil and garlic, topped with chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, or other tidbits.
Fritti: Fried snacks that have been either battered or breaded—often olives stuffed with meat, potato croquettes, and mozzarella cheese. Other classic fritti are supplí (rice balls with tomato sauce and mozzarella) and fiori di zucca (squash blossoms filled with mozzarella and anchovies).
Prosciutto e melone: Cantaloupe wrapped in thin-sliced ham.
Primo Piatto (First Course)
Bucatini all’amatriciana: Thin pasta tubes with a sauce of tomatoes, onion, pancetta, and pecorino cheese.
Gnocchi alla romana: Small, flattened dumplings made from semolina (not potatoes) and baked with butter and cheese.
Penne all’arrabbiata: Spicy tomato sauce with chili peppers (pepperoncini) and garlic over penne.
Rigatoni con la pajata: Pasta topped with a stew of calf intestines.
Spaghetti alla carbonara: Eggs, pancetta or guaniciale (cured pork cheek), cheese (pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano), and black pepper over pasta.
Spaghetti alle vongole veraci: Pasta served with small clams in the shell sautéed with white wine and herbs.
Stracciatella alla romana: Meat broth with whipped eggs, topped with parmesan.
Secondo Piatto (Second Course)
Abbacchio alla scottadito: Baby lamb chops grilled and eaten as finger food.
Anguillette in umido: Stewed baby eels from Lake Bracciano.
Coda alla vaccinara: Oxtail braised with garlic, wine, tomato, and celery.
Filetti di baccalà: Fried salt cod (like fish-and-chips minus the chips).
Involtini di vitello al sugo: Veal cutlets rolled with prosciutto, celery, and cheese in a tomato sauce.
Saltimbocca alla romana: “Jump-in-the-mouth”—thinly sliced veal layered with prosciutto and sage, then lightly fried.
Trippa alla romana: Tripe braised with onions, carrots, and mint.
Contorni (Side Dishes)
You may want to order a side dish if your second course is not served with a vegetable. Note that if you order a salad, olive oil and wine vinegar are the only dressings.
Carciofi: Artichokes served either alla romana (simmered with garlic and mint) or alla giudia (flattened and fried).
Fave al guanciale: Fava beans simmered with cured pork cheek and onion.
Misticanza: Mixed green salad of arugula (rucola) and curly endive (puntarelle) with anchovies.
Dessert can be a seasonal fruit, such as fragole (strawberries) or pesche (peaches), or even cheese, such as pecorino romano (made from ewe’s milk) or caciotta romana (combination of ewe’s and cow’s milk).
Bignè: Cream puff-like pastries filled with zabaione (egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine).
Crostata di ricotta: A cheesecake-like dessert with ricotta, sweet Marsala wine, cinnamon, and bits of chocolate.
Grattachecca: Sweetened shaved ice. Vendors at little booths scrape shavings off ice blocks, then flavor them with syrups, such as limoncocco (lemon and coconut with fresh chunks of coconut).
Tartufo: Rich dark-chocolate gelato ball with a cherry inside, sometimes served con panna (with whipped cream).
Roman-style pizza is made with a very thin and crispy dough called scrocchiarella (thinner and less chewy than Neapolitan-style pizza). In Rome, pizza bianco (white pizza) can mean a pizza made without tomato sauce, but can also simply mean a chunk of flat, crispy bread, or a sandwich made with that bread (similar to what’s called a panino in other parts of Italy).
Rome is located in the region of Lazio, which produces several pleasant white wines and a few reds. Frascati, probably the best-known wine of the region, is an inexpensive dry white made from trebbiano (from the hills just south of Rome) and malvasia grapes. Castelli Romani, light and fairly dry, is made from trebbiano grapes and is similar to Marino, Colli Albani, and Velletri wines. Torre Ercolana is a dense, balanced, medium-bodied red made from the regional cesanese grape, as well as cabernet and merlot (known as Lazio’s best-quality red, aged at least five years).
The Jewish Ghetto sits just across the river from Trastevere (see map on here). It’s tempting to just grab a table at one of the venerable restaurants on the main drag to watch the street action (Nonna Betta is most highly regarded). Or, try one of my listings: a characteristic hole-in-the-wall, a classy little wine-and-cheese bar specializing not in Jewish but Piedmontese specialties, and a kosher burger joint.
Sora Margherita, hiding on a cluttered square, has been a rustic neighborhood favorite since 1927. Amid a picturesque commotion, families chow down on basic old-time Roman and Jewish dishes. Eat here for the experience rather than fine food. The menu’s crude term for the fettuccini gives you some idea of the mood of this place: nazzica culo (“shaky ass”—what happens while it’s made). Reservations are almost always necessary. While lunch is wide open, for dinner there are two seatings: 20:00 and 21:30 (€11-12 pastas, €13-15 secondi; open Mon-Sat, closed Sun and second half of Aug; just south of Via del Portico d’Ottavia at Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30—look for the red curtain, tel. 06-687-4216).
Beppe e i Suoi Formaggi is entirely dedicated to the fine wines, cheese, cold cuts, and pastas of the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Its sleek, woody wine-crate ambiance is designed for foodies with money who are interested in the organic best of that region’s ingredient-driven cuisine (mixed plates of cheese or salumi, daily specials €15-20, wine by the glass, Mon-Sat 12:00-22:30, closed Sun, Santa Maria del Pianto 11, tel. 06-6819-2210).
Fonzie the Burger’s House, for something more down and dirty—but kosher, is next door (Santa Maria del Pianto 13, tel. 06-6889-2029).
A Fast Lunch in the Ghetto: The ghetto’s main drag, Via del Portico d’Ottavia, is an ideal place for a quick lunch. Several kosher delis and other food stands line the broad street—particularly at the far (west) end. Walk the full length of the street before choosing. In addition to kosher hot dogs, you’ll find falafel and carciofi alla giudia—“Jewish-style” artichokes that are deep-fried.
(See “Restaurants in the Pantheon Neighborhood” map, here.)
For the restaurants in this central area, I’ve listed them based on which landmark they’re closest to: Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, or the Pantheon itself.
On and near Campo de’ Fiori
(See “Restaurants in the Pantheon Neighborhood” map, here.)
By day, Campo de’ Fiori hosts a colorful fruit and veggies market (with an increasing number of tourist knickknacks; Mon-Sat closes around 13:30, closed Sun). Combined with a sandwich and a sweet from the Forno (bakery) in the west corner of the square (behind the fountain), you can assemble a nice picnic.
In the evening, Campo de’ Fiori offers a characteristic setting—until recently romantic, but now overrun with students and tourists out drinking. The square is lined with popular and interesting bars, pizzerias, and small restaurants—all great for people-watching over a glass of wine. Later at night any charm is smothered by a younger clubbing crowd. But nearby streets are still plenty romantic.
Ristorante ar Galletto is a block away, on the more elegant and peaceful Piazza Farnese. Angelo entertains the upscale Roman clientele enjoying the magical outdoor seating. While they have indoor seating, I’d eat here for the outdoor ambiance. While service can be brusque and you need to double-check the bill, this is hard to beat for al fresco dining in Rome (€10-13 pastas, €19-22 secondi, daily 12:30-15:00 & 19:30-23:00, reservations smart for outdoor seating, Piazza Farnese 104, tel. 06-686-1714, www.ristoranteargallettoroma.com).
Enoteca L’Angolo Divino is an inviting little wine bar run by Massimo Crippa, a sommelier who beautifully describes a fine array of wines along with the best accompanying meats, cheeses, and pastas. With tiny tables, a tiny menu, intriguing walls of wine bottles, smart advice, and more locals than tourists, this place can leave you with a lifelong memory (€8-18 plates, lots of wines by the glass, daily 11:00-15:00 & 17:00-24:00, a block off Campo de’ Fiori at Via dei Balestrari 12, tel. 06-686-4413).
Salumeria e Vineria Roscioli is an elegant enoteca that’s a hit with local foodies, so reservations are a must. While it’s just a salami toss away from touristy Campo de’ Fiori, you’ll dine with classy locals, and feel like you’re sitting in a romantic (and expensive) deli after hours. While a bit pretentious, they have a good selection of fine cheeses, meats, local dishes, and top-end wines by the glass (€12-16 pastas, €18-25 secondi, Mon-Sat 12:30-16:00 & 19:00-24:00, closed Sun, 3 blocks east of Campo de’ Fiori at Via dei Giubbonari 21, tel. 06-687-5287, www.salumeriaroscioli.com).
Forno Roscioli, their pizzeria just down the street, is a favorite for a quick slice of pizza or pastry to go (Mon-Sat 6:00-20:00, closed Sun, Via dei Chiavari 34).
Trattoria der Pallaro, an eccentric and well-worn eatery that has no menu, has a slogan: “Here, you’ll eat what we want to feed you.” Paola Fazi—with a towel wrapped around her head turban-style—and her gang dish up a five-course meal of homey Roman food. You have three menu choices: €25 for the works; €20 for appetizers, secondi, and dessert; or €16 for appetizers and pasta. Any option is filling and includes wine. While the service can be odd and the food is, let’s say... rustic, the experience is fun (daily 12:00-16:00 & 19:00-24:00, reserve if dining after 20:00, cash only, indoor/outdoor seating on quiet square, a block south of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, down Largo del Chiavari to Largo del Pallaro 15, tel. 06-6880-1488).
Filetti di Baccalà is a cheap and basic Roman classic, where nostalgic regulars cram in at wooden tables and savor their old-school favorites—fried cod finger-food fillets (€5 each) and raw, slightly bitter puntarelle greens (slathered with anchovy sauce, available in spring and winter). Study what others are eating, and order from your grease-stained server by pointing at what you want. Sit in the fluorescently lit interior or try to grab a seat out on the little square, a quiet haven a block east of Campo de’ Fiori (Mon-Sat 17:00-23:00, closed Sun, cash only, Largo dei Librari 88, tel. 06-686-4018). If you’re not into greasy spoons, avoid this place.
Open Baladin is a busy, modern brewpub featuring a few dozen Italian craft beers on tap and menu of burgers, salads, and freshly cooked potato chips. As burger bars are trendy in Italy, prices are somewhat high. It’s a nice break if you’re parched and ready for pub grub (€7-14 sandwiches and plates, daily 12:00-very late, Via degli Specchi 5, tel. 06-683-8989).
Near Piazza Navona
(See “Restaurants in the Pantheon Neighborhood” map, here.)
Piazza Navona and the streets just to the west are packed with people jamming an amazing array of restaurants. The joints lining the venerable Piazza Navona are your classic traditional Italian tourist eateries. From there, survey the scene on the two main streets heading west from the square. From Ristorante Tre Scalini (near the Four Rivers Fountain), head west down Via di Sant’Agnese/Via di Tor Millina. From the south end, head west down Via di Pasquino/Via del Governo Vecchio and eventually right on Via del Corallo. These streets are a thriving jungle of enticing eateries. Here are my favorites in that zone:
Vivi Bistrot, known as the Museum of Rome café, is a good value at the south end of Piazza Navona, with two delightful window tables overlooking the square. The smart little café/restaurant/bar serves light meals all day and a €10 drink and antipasto buffet deal nightly after 19:00 (closed Mon, Piazza Navona 2, tel. 06-683-3779).
Cul de Sac, a corridor-wide trattoria lined with wine bottles, is packed with an enthusiastic crowd enjoying a wide-ranging menu, from pasta to homemade pâté. They have fun tasting-plates of salumi and cheese, good wines by the glass, and fine outdoor seating. It’s small, and they don’t take reservations—come early to avoid a wait (€9-10 pastas, €8-11 secondi, daily 12:00-24:00, a block off Piazza Navona on Piazza Pasquino, tel. 06-6880-1094).
L’Insalata Ricca, a popular local chain that specializes in healthy, filling €6-9 salads and less-healthy pastas and main courses, is handy for lunch (daily 12:00-24:00). They have a branch on Piazza Pasquino (next to the recommended Cul de Sac, tel. 06-6830-7881) and a more spacious and enjoyable location a few blocks away, on a bigger square next to busy Corso Vittorio Emanuele (near Campo de’ Fiori at Largo dei Chiavari 85, tel. 06-6880-3656).
Ristorante del Fico is a sprawling, rustic-chic place that feels like a huge Italian saloon filled with young in-the-know locals. It has both a fun energy and an easy-to-enjoy, traditional Italian menu (nightly from 19:30, €7 pizzas, €13-15 secondi, 3 blocks west of Piazza Navona at Via della Pace 34, tel. 06-688-91373). Its Bar del Fico around the corner on Piazza del Fico has a similarly appealing vibe and a fascinating-to-melt-into local crowd—plus an antipasto buffet each evening (19:00-21:00, buffet free with any drink, www.bardelfico.com).
Ristorante Pizzeria “da Francesco,” bustling and authentic, has a 50-year-old tradition, a hardworking young waitstaff, great indoor seating, and a few tables on the quiet street. Their blackboard explains the daily specials (€9-11 pizzas and pastas, €13-20 secondi, daily 12:00-15:30 & 19:00-24:00, next to Bar del Fico at Piazza del Fico 29, tel. 06-686-4009).
Pizzeria da Baffetto is famous among visiting Italians and therefore generally comes with a ridiculous line—get there very early or late. The pizzas are great, the service is surly, and the tables are tightly arranged amid the mishmash of sketches littering the walls. The pizza-assembly kitchen keeps things energetic, and the pizza oven keeps the main room warm. Streetside tables are less congested and sweaty—but also less memorable (€6-12 pizzas, daily from 18:30, cash only; order “P,” “M,” or “D”—small, medium, or large; Via del Governo Vecchio 114, tel. 06-686-1617).
Chiostro del Bramante serves light lunches in a unique setting—overlooking the tranquil open-air chiostro (cloister) of the San Bramante church. Find the entrance just to the left of the church entrance, climb upstairs, order at the counter. Though food prices are high and portions small, the setting is memorable, peaceful, and relaxing (€8-12 plates, café open daily 10:00-20:00, meals served 12:00-15:00 only, Arco della Pace 5, tel. 06-6880-9035).
Near the Trevi Fountain
(See “Restaurants in the Pantheon Neighborhood” map, here.)
The streets surrounding the Trevi Fountain are littered with mediocre restaurants catering exclusively to tourists—try one of these instead.
Hostaria Romana is a busy bistro with a hustling and fun-loving gang of waiters. The upstairs is a tight, tidy, glassed-in terrace, while the cellar has noisy walls graffitied by happy eaters. As its menu specializes in traditional Roman dishes, it’s a good place to try saltimbocca alla romana or bucatini all’amatriciana. Their €12 antipasti della casa plate, with a variety of vegetables and cheeses, makes a hearty start to your meal (€11 pastas, €15 secondi, Mon-Sat 12:30-15:00 & 19:15-23:00, closed Sun and Aug, reservations smart, a block past the entrance to the big tunnel near the Trevi Fountain, corner of Via Rasella and Via del Boccaccio—see map on here, tel. 06-474-5284, www.hostariaromana.it).
L’Antica Birreria Peroni is Rome’s answer to a German beer hall. Serving hearty mugs of the local Peroni beer and lots of just plain fun beer-hall food and Italian classics, the place is a hit with Romans for a cheap night out (€7 pastas, €4-12 secondi, Mon-Sat 12:00-24:00, closed Sun, midway between Trevi Fountain and Capitoline Hill, a block off Via del Corso at Via di San Marcello 19, tel. 06-679-5310).
Ristorante Pizzeria Sacro e Profano fills an old church with spicy southern Italian (Calabrian) cuisine and satisfied tourists, just far enough away from the Trevi mobs. Their pizza oven is wood-fired, and their hearty €15 golosità calabresi appetizer plate is a filling montage of Calabrian taste treats (€7-9 pizzas, €10-12 pastas, €15-18 secondi, Tue-Sun 12:00-15:00 & 18:00-23:00, closed Mon, a block off Via del Tritone and Via della Panetteria at Via dei Maroniti 29, tel. 06-679-1836).
Close to the Pantheon
(See “Restaurants in the Pantheon Neighborhood” map, here.)
Eating on the square facing the Pantheon is a temptation, and I’d consider it just to relax and enjoy the Roman scene. But if you walk a block or two away, you’ll get less view and better value. Here are some suggestions.
Ristorante da Fortunato is an Italian classic, with fresh flowers on the tables and white-coated, black-tie career waiters politely serving good meat and fish to politicians, foreign dignitaries, and well-heeled tourists with good taste. Peruse the photos of their famous visitors—everyone from Muammar Gaddafi and Prince Charles to Bill Clinton are pictured with Signore Fortunato, who started this restaurant in 1975 and was a master of simple edible elegance. (His son Jason now runs the show.) The outdoor seating is fine for people-watching, but the elegance is inside. For a dressy night out, this is a reliable and surprisingly reasonable choice—reserve ahead (plan on €50 per person, daily 12:30-23:30, a block in front of the Pantheon at Via del Pantheon 55, tel. 06-679-2788, www.ristorantefortunato.it).
Enoteca Corsi, a wine shop that grew into a thriving lunch-only restaurant, is a charming local scene with the family table in back, where the kids do their homework. The Paiella family serves straightforward, traditional cuisine to an appreciative crowd of office workers. The board lists daily specials (gnocchi on Thursday, fish on Friday, and so on). Friendly Giuliana, Claudia, Sara, and Manuela, and Angelo welcome eaters with €9 pastas, €13 main dishes, and fine wine at a third of the price you’d pay in normal restaurants—buy from their shop and pay a corking fee; this can be a good value. Show this book for a free glass of homemade limoncello for dessert (Mon-Sat 12:00-15:30, closed Sun, no reservations, a block toward the Pantheon from the Gesù Church at Via del Gesù 87, tel. 06-679-0821).
Trattoria dal Cavalier Gino, tucked away on a tiny street behind the Parliament, has been a favorite since 1963. Photos on the wall recall the days when it was the haunt of big-time politicians. Grandpa Gino shuffles around grating the parmesan cheese while his English-speaking children Carla and Fabrizio serve up traditional Roman favorites. Reserve ahead, even for lunch, as you’ll be packed in with savvy locals (€8-12 pastas, €11-15 secondi, cash only, Mon-Sat 13:00-14:45 & 20:00-22:30, closed Sun, behind Piazza del Parlamento and just off Via di Campo Marzio at Vicolo Rosini 4, tel. 06-687-3434).
Ristorante la Campana is a classic—an authentic slice of old Rome appreciated by well-dressed locals. Claiming a history dating to 1518, this place feels unchanged over the years. It serves typical Roman dishes and daily specials, plus it has a good self-service antipasti buffet (€10-12 pastas, €11-18 secondi, Tue-Sun 12:30-15:00 & 19:30-23:00, closed Mon, inside seating only, reserve for dinner, just off Via della Scrofa and Piazza Nicosia at Vicolo della Campana 18, tel. 06-687-5273, www.ristorantelacampana.com).
Osteria delle Coppelle, a slapdash trendy place, serves traditional dishes to a local crowd. It has a rustic interior and jumbled exterior seating, and a fun selection of €3 cicchetti that lets you enjoy a variety of Roman dishes as tapas (€7 pizza, €9 pastas, €12 secondi, 12:30-16:00 & 19:00-late, Piazza delle Coppelle 54, tel. 06-4550-2826). On the same charming square, the more old-school Osteria da Mario is also worth considering.
Miscellanea is run by much-loved Mikki, who’s on a mission to keep foreign students well-fed. He offers hearty €4 sandwiches, pizza-like bruschetta, and a long list of €7 salads, along with pasta and other staples—it’s a good value for a cheap and hearty dinner in a convenient location. Mikki (and his son Romeo) often tosses in a fun little extra (like their “sexy wine”) if you have this book on the table (€7-8 pastas, €10-15 secondi, daily 11:00-24:00, indoor/outdoor seating, facing the rear of the Pantheon at Via della Palombella 34, tel. 06-6813-5318).
Picnicking Close to the Pantheon
It’s fun to munch a picnic with a view of the Pantheon. (Remember to be discreet.) Here are some options.
Antica Salumeria is an old-time alimentari (grocery store) on the Pantheon square. While they hustle most tourists into premade €5 sandwiches, you can make your own picnic with their selection of artichokes, mixed olives, bread, cheese, and cold cuts. For about €10 per person, they’ll assemble a plate (tagliere) for you to eat at one of their few tables in back (daily 8:00-21:00, mobile 334-340-9014).
Frullati Pascucci, a hole-in-the-wall convenient for takeaway, has been making refreshing fruit frullati and frappés (like smoothies and shakes) for more than 75 years. Add a sandwich or fruit salad to make a healthy light meal (Mon-Sat 6:00-23:00, closed Sun, north of Largo Argentina at Via di Torre Argentina 20, tel. 06-686-4816).
Supermarkets near the Pantheon: Food is cheap at Italian supermarkets. Super Market Carrefour Express is a block from the Gesù Church (Mon-Sat 8:00-20:30, Sun 9:00-14:00, 50 yards off Via del Plebiscito at Via del Gesù 59). Nearby, just across the busy road, is a Co-op (daily 8:00-21:00, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 42). Despar is half a block from the Pantheon toward Piazza Navona (daily 8:30-22:00, Via Giustiniani 18).
Gelato Close to the Pantheon
Several fine gelaterie are within a five-minute walk of the Pantheon.
Giolitti is Rome’s most famous and venerable ice-cream joint (although few would say it has the best gelato). Takeaway prices are reasonable, and it has elegant Old World seating (just off Piazza Colonna and Piazza Montecitorio at Via Uffici del Vicario 40).
Crèmeria Monteforte is known for its traditional gelato and super-creamy sorbets (cremolati). The fruit flavors are especially refreshing—think gourmet slushies (closed Mon, faces the west side of the Pantheon at Via della Rotonda 22).
San Crispino serves small portions of tasty gourmet gelato. Because of their commitment to natural ingredients, the colors are muted; gelato purists consider bright colors a sign of unnatural chemicals, used to attract children (a block in front of the Pantheon on Piazza della Maddalena).
Gelateria Vice might be the best of all. Using top-quality ingredients in innovative ways, the flavors change with the seasons (around the northwest corner of Largo Argentina at Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 96).
Gelateria Artigianale Corona feels like a time warp and is nothing fancy, but it’s got some of the finest homemade gelato in town, with an array of creative flavors (just south of Largo Argentina at Largo Arenula 27).
NORTH ROME: NEAR THE SPANISH STEPS AND ARA PACIS
To locate these restaurants, see the “Dolce Vita Stroll” map on here.
Ristorante il Gabriello is inviting and small—modern under medieval arches—and provides a peaceful and local-feeling respite from all the top-end fashion shops in the area. Claudio serves with charisma, while his brother Gabriello cooks creative Roman cuisine using fresh, organic products from his wife’s farm. Italians normally just trust their waiter and say, “Bring it on.” Tourists are understandably more cautious, but you can be trusting here. Invest €45 (not including wine) in “Claudio’s Extravaganza.” Specify whether you’d prefer fish, meat, or both. (Romans think raw shellfish is the ultimate in fine dining. If you differ, make that clear.) When finished, I stand up, hold my belly, and say, “Ahhh, la vita è bella.” While you’re likely to dine surrounded by my readers here (especially if eating before 21:00), the atmosphere is fun and convivial (€11-18 pastas, €14-20 secondi, dinner only, Mon-Sat 19:00-23:00, closed Sun, reservations smart, air-con, dress respectfully—no shorts, 3 blocks from Spanish Steps at Via Vittoria 51, tel. 06-6994-0810, www.ilgabriello.it).
La Buvette, a posh little teahouse/café with an elegant local following, is good for a light lunch or tea and cakes (daily 8:00-23:00, Via Vittoria 44 next to Il Gabriello, tel. 06-679-0383).
Antica Enoteca, an upbeat, atmospheric 200-plus-year-old enoteca, has around 60 Italian-only wines by the glass. For a light and memorable lunch, enjoy a glass of their best wine at the bar (€6-10, listed on a big blackboard) and split a €14 antipasti plate of veggies, salumi, and cheese. There’s a full menu of eating options, and the food comes with wonderful ambience both inside and out (€6-12 salads, €10-14 pastas, €12-18 secondi, daily 12:00-24:00, best to reserve for outdoor seating, Via della Croce 76, tel. 06-679-0896).
Palatium Enoteca Regionale is a crisp, modern restaurant funded by the region of Lazio (home to Rome) to show off its finest agricultural fare. Surrounded by locals, you’ll enjoy generous, shareable plates of cheeses and salumi (€12-15), a limited menu of pasta and meat (€11-13 pastas, €13-16 secondi), and a huge selection of local wine (Mon-Sat 12:30-15:30 & 19:30-22:30, closed Sun and three weeks in Aug, 5 blocks in front of the Spanish Steps at Via Frattina 94, tel. 06-6920-2132).
Gusto Wine Bar is a convenient choice for a glass of wine or a light meal. Popular with trendy locals, it gives a glimpse of today’s Roman scene, though some of the decor has a 1930s ambience. While much of the food at their other nearby venues is pricey (and mediocre), the weekday €11 lunch buffet (12:30-15:30) is a good value. During happy hour (18:00-21:00) you get a light, self-service meal with your drink for €10-12 (daily 11:00-very late; just behind the Ara Pacis at Via della Frezza 23, tel. 06-322-6273).
Caffè Ciampini is delightfully set on one of my favorite traffic-free squares in the center of town. The food is quite pricey and won’t win any awards—and you pay for the location—so I’d only stop here to sit outside and people-watch (or enjoy a tasty gelato). This is a good place to make the scene with trendy and professional Romans. The cocktails come with a little tray of finger sandwiches and nuts; for some it’s a light and inexpensive meal (€10-16 pizzas, salads, pastas, sandwiches; daily 7:30-20:30, Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina 29, tel. 06-687-6606).
Eating Light on the Via della Croce: Two blocks north of the Spanish Steps, the Via della Croce offers a few simple options for a light meal or snack. As you walk down this street from Via del Corso, you’ll reach the following places (listed in order). Several takeout shops for pizza and sandwiches cluster near the start of this street, including Grano, and Frutta e Farina (#49A). The Co-op mini-supermarket at #48 fits the bill for budget picnickers, or you can try a sandwich-on-request from the intriguing Foccaci shop (at #43) with a long, enticing counter of meats and cheeses. Farther down is the more formal, sit-down Antica Enoteca (#76b, described earlier). Then comes another classic alimentari (grocery), Salsamenteria F.lli Fabbi at #28. They’ll make a sandwich to your specs and sell it by the weight. Venchi (#25-26) has chocolate in every form. Tucked away in a quiet, vine-covered courtyard, Trattoria Otello alla Concordia (#81) is a peaceful time warp for traditional food served in a slightly faded old-time atmosphere (€11-13 pastas, €13-16 secondi, daily 12:30-15:00 & 19:30-23:00, tel. 06-679-1178). Pompi (#82), the self-proclaimed “kingdom of tiramisu,” features several flavors (classic, strawberry, pistachio) in €4 portions. And finally, Pastificio (#8) is a pasta shop that serves up two types of fresh pasta each day. There are only a few stools so you might be eating in the street (off a plastic plate), but for €4 you also get water and a “drop of wine for the most deserving”—be nice and say “per favore” (daily 13:00-16:00 & 18:00-22:00 or when the pasta is gone).
ANCIENT ROME: NEAR THE COLOSSEUM AND FORUM
Within a block of the Colosseum and Forum, you’ll find convenient eateries catering to weary sightseers, offering neither memorable food nor good value. To get your money’s worth, stick with one of my recommendations or head to the Monti neighborhood. Note that some of these are ideal for lunch, while others are dinner-only. For locations, see the map on here.
(See “Hotels & Restaurants near Ancient Rome” map, here.)
Tucked behind Trajan’s Forum, in the tight and cobbled lanes between Via Nazionale and Via Cavour, is the characteristic Monti neighborhood. It’s just a few steps farther from the ancient sites than the battery of forgettable touristy restaurants, but that extra effort opens up a world of inexpensive and characteristic dining experiences. From the Forum, head up Via Cavour and then left on Via dei Serpenti; the action centers on Piazza della Madonna dei Monti and nearby lanes. For more on this area, see here.
L’Asino d’Oro (“The Golden Donkey”) is a top choice for foodies in this neighborhood (so reserve ahead). Chef Lucio Sforza serves Umbrian cuisine with a creative twist—and mingles savory and sweet flavors to create a memorable meal. The service is crisp, the pasta is homemade, and the simple, modern space is filled with savvy diners (€11-13 pastas, €14-17 main dishes, Tue-Sat 19:30-23:00, closed Sun-Mon, Via del Boschetto 73, tel. 06-4891-3832).
Taverna Romana is small, simple, and a bit chaotic—with an open kitchen and hams and garlic hanging from the ceiling. This family-run eatery’s cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) is a favorite. Arrive early or call to reserve (€9-10 pastas, €9-14 secondi, Mon-Sat 12:30-14:45 & 19:00-23:00, closed Sun, Via Madonna dei Monti 79, tel. 06-474-5325).
La Cicala e La Formica has its own little nook on Via Leonina. The terrace dining is good for people-watching, while the homey interior is livelier. The cuisine is Mediterranean and Italian, and their weekday lunch specials are good values (€10 pastas, €10 secondi, daily 12:00-15:30 & 19:00-23:00, Via Leonina 17, tel. 06-481-7490).
Taverna dei Fori Imperiali is a favorite with Monti locals and understandably popular with tourists. You’ll enjoy typical Roman cuisine served in a snug interior that bustles with energy (€9 antipasti, €9-12 pastas, €12-16 secondi, Wed-Mon 12:30-15:00 & 19:30-23:00, closed Tue, Via della Madonna dei Monti 9, reserve for dinner, tel. 06-679-8643, www.latavernadeiforiimperiali.com).
Alle Carrette Pizzeria, simple and rustic, serves what’s considered the best pizza in Monti across from Taverna dei Fori Imperiali (€8 pizzas, daily 19:00-24:00, Vicolo delle Carrette 14, tel. 06-679-2770).
Pizzeria Chicco di Grano is a big, sloppy place with passable wood-fired pizzas. But it has plenty of tables, a large outdoor terrace, and is good for families (€2-4 bruschetta, €8-11 pizza and pasta, daily 12:00-24:00, Via degli Zingari 6 at the corner of Via del Boschetto, tel. 06-4782-5033).
Trattoria da Valentino is a classic time warp hiding behind its historic (and therefore protected) Birra Peroni signs. With good traditional pastas and salads to start, its secondi are a bit more unusual, with scamorza (grilled cheese with various toppings) and a variety of meat dishes (€6-10 pasta and salads, €7-13 secondi, Mon-Sat 13:00-15:00 & 19:00-23:00, closed Sun, Via del Boschetto 37, tel. 06-488-0643).
Antico Forno ai Serpenti (“Old Bakery on Serpenti Street”) feels anything but old. This hip bakery serves good bread, pastries, and other goodies to enjoy at one of their few tables, or to go. At noon they put out a small buffet of pastas and vegetables for €10, which includes a drink—a fine value (daily 8:00-20:00, Via dei Serpenti 122, tel. 06-4542-7920).
Enoteca Cavour 313, a wine bar with a slightly unconventional menu, ranging from couscous and salads to high-quality affettati (cold cuts) and cheese, makes a nice alternative to the usual pasta/pizza choices. You’ll be served with a mellow ambience under lofts of wine bottles (€9-14 plates, daily 12:30-14:45 & 18:30-23:30, 100 yards off Via dei Fori Imperiali at Via Cavour 313, tel. 06-678-5496).
At Trajan’s Column: Terre e Domus della Provincia di Roma is very handy to sightseers on the otherwise unwelcoming Piazza Venezia. Immediately below Trajan’s Column, it’s a modern little place with a cool, peaceful, and well-lit dining room whose mission is to show off the ingredients and cuisine of the province of Rome (€12 pastas, €12-15 secondi, daily 12:00-23:30, Foro Traiano 82, tel. 06-6994-0273).
The Monti Five-Course Food Crawl
The streets of Monti are crowded with fun and creative places offering inexpensive quality snacks and light meals to eat on tiny informal tables or to take away. For a fun, five-course movable feast essentially on one street cutting right through the heart of Monti, drop into each of these places for a little bite. Be open to whatever appeals along the way. Here’s your mobile menu:
Course 1, Chickpea Flatbread: Dall’Antò is all about traditional Italian bread served with a variety of toppings, hot out of the wood-fired oven. While you’ll find bruschetta and focaccia, the owners (Antonio and Antonio) encourage you to branch out with chickpea flatbread, chestnut crêpe, or crispy Sardinian flatbread. Grab a stool or take it to go (Tue-Sun 12:00-15:00 & 19:00-23:00, closed Mon, Via della Madonna dei Monti 16).
Course 2, Wine with Aperitivo (dinner only): Fafiuché is an intimate yet vibrant family-run wine bar with a fun-loving vibe and no pretense. They serve a broad selection of wines and beers inside or at tables on the cobblestones outside. Each evening from 18:30 to 21:00 Andrea and Maria offer a popular aperitivo special: €8 covers a glass of wine and one trip to the buffet—making it a cheap, light meal. Or, for more money, you can order serious regional specialties from Apulia and Piedmont (Mon-Sat 18:00 until late, closed Sun, Via della Madonna dei Monti 28).
Course 3, Pizza by the Slice on the Square: Pizzeria la Boccaccia, a hole-in-the-wall, is good for a takeaway pizza slice. Point at what you like and mime how big of a rectangle you want (daily 9:00-24:00, Via Leonina 73). Take it a block away to eat while making the scene at the neighborhood gathering point, Piazza Santa Maria del Monti, where you can buy a to-go bottle of beer at the top of the square.
Course 4, Gourmet Sandwich and Veggie Juice: Zia Rosetta specializes in gourmet rosette, sandwiches on rose-shaped buns. At €3 for the tiny ones or €6 for the standard size, they’re perfect for a light bite—either to take away or eat in. Their fun, healthy, and creative menu includes salads and fresh-squeezed, vitamin-bomb fruit and veggie juices (Tue-Sun 11:00-22:00, closed Mon, Via Urbana 54).
Course 5, Gelato: Fatamorgana, hiding on a welcoming little square just above Zia Rosetta, features some of the most creative gelato flavor combinations I’ve seen in Italy—along with more conventional ones. Portions are small but good quality—everything is organic and gluten-free (Piazza degli Zingari 5).
Behind the Colosseum
(See “Hotels & Restaurants near Ancient Rome” map, here.)
A pleasant little residential zone just up the street from the Colosseum (opposite direction from the Forum) features a real neighborhood feel and a variety of restaurants that capably serve tired and hungry sightseers.
Trattoria Luzzi is a well-worn, no-frills eatery serving simple food in a high-energy—sometimes chaotic—environment (as they’ve done since 1945). With good prices, big portions, and proximity to the Colosseum, it draws a crowd—reserve or expect a short wait at lunch and after 19:30 (€5-7 pizzas and pastas, €7-12 secondi, Thu-Tue 12:00-24:00, closed Wed, Via San Giovanni in Laterano 88, tel. 06-709-6332).
Ristorante Pizzeria Naumachia is a good second bet if Trattoria Luzzi next door is jammed up. It’s a bit more upscale and serves good-quality pizza and pastas at decent prices (€7-9 pizzas, €8-10 pastas, €14-24 secondi, Via Celimontana 7, tel. 06-700-2764).
Li Rioni is open only for dinner, when its over-the-rooftops interior and terrace out front are jammed with Romans watching the busy chef plunge dough into its wood-fired oven, then pull out crispy-crust Roman-style pizzas (€7-8 pizzas, Wed-Mon 19:30-24:00, closed Tue, Via S.S. Quattro 24, tel. 06-7045-0605).
La Taverna dei Quaranta, a casual neighborhood favorite, has a humble, red-checkered tablecloth ambience. They fire up the wood oven for pizza, to go along with a basic menu of Roman classics and seasonal specialties. As the place caters mostly to locals, service can be a bit slow and straightforward—but it’s a good bet in this touristy area (€9-10 pastas, €10-14 secondi, daily 12:00-23:30, Via Claudia 24, tel. 06-700-0550).
Between the Colosseum and St. Peter-in-Chains Church
(See “Hotels & Restaurants near Ancient Rome” map, here.)
You’ll find these places across the street and up the hill from the Colosseum. They’re more convenient than high cuisine, though they work fine in a pinch.
Hostaria da Nerone is a traditional place serving hearty classics, including tasty homemade pasta dishes. Their antipasti plate—with a variety of veggies, fish, and meat—is a good value for a quick lunch. While the antipasti menu indicates specifics, you can have a plate of whatever’s out—just direct the waiter to assemble the €10 antipasti plate of your lunchtime dreams (€11 pastas, €13-15 secondi, Mon-Sat 12:00-15:00 & 19:00-23:00, closed Sun, indoor/outdoor seating, Via delle Terme di Tito 96, tel. 06-481-7952).
Caffè dello Studente, a normal neighborhood bar popular with tourists and students attending the nearby University, is run by Pina, her perky daughter Simona, and son-in-law Emiliano. I’d skip the microwaved pasta and stick to toasted sandwiches and salad. If it’s not busy, show this book when you order at the bar and sit at a table without paying extra (daily 7:30-20:00 in April-Oct, closed Sun in Nov-March, Via delle Terme di Tito 95, mobile 320-854-0333).
NEAR TERMINI STATION
(See “Restaurants near Termini Station” map, here.)
These restaurants are near my recommended hotels on Via Firenze. Several are clustered on Via Flavia, others are nearby, and a few, such as Caffè Torino, are good options for quick meals.
On (or near) Via Flavia
(See “Restaurants near Termini Station” map, here.)
To easily check out a fun and varied selection of eateries within a block of each other, walk to Via Flavia (a block behind the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria of St. Teresa in Ecstasy fame) and survey these choices—an old-time restaurant, a good pizzeria, a small romantic place, and a friendly wine bar.
Ristorante da Giovanni, well-worn and old-fashioned, makes no concessions to tourism or the modern world—just hardworking cooks and waiters serving standard dishes at great prices to a committed clientele. It’s simply fun to eat in the middle of this high-energy, Roman time warp (€6-14 pastas and secondi, daily specials, Mon-Sat 12:00-15:00 & 19:00-22:00, closed Sun and Aug, corner of Via XX Settembre at Via Antonio Salandra 1, tel. 06-485-950).
Ristorante la Pentolaccia, pricier and more romantic than the nearby Da Giovanni, is a dressy, more upscale, but still tourist-friendly place with tight seating and traditional Roman cooking—consider their daily specials. This is a local hangout, and reservations are smart (€8-14 pastas, €10-18 secondi, daily 12:00-15:00 & 17:30-23:00, a block off Via XX Settembre at Via Flavia 38, tel. 06-483-477, www.lapentolaccia.eu). To start things off with a free bruschetta, leave this book on the table.
Pizzeria Annicinquanta, big and modern, serves the neighborhood’s favorite Neapolitan-style pizzas in a calm ambience with outdoor seating (€6-8 pizzas, €9-18 pastas and secondi, daily 12:30-15:30 & 19:30-24:00 except no lunch on Sat, Via Flavia 3, tel. 06-4201-0460).
I Colori del Vino Enoteca is a modern wine bar that feels like a laboratory of wine appreciation. It has woody walls of bottles, a creative menu of affettati (cold cuts) and cheeses with different regional themes, and a great list of fine wines by the glass. Helpful, English-speaking Marco carries on a long family tradition of celebrating the fundamentals of good nutrition: fine wine, cheese, meat, and bread (also €10-18 hot plates including pastas, Mon-Fri 12:00-15:00 & 19:00-23:00, closed Sat-Sun—except open Sat evenings in April-June and Sept-Nov, corner of Via Flavia and Via Aureliana, tel. 06-474-1745).
More Eateries near the Station
(See “Restaurants near Termini Station” map, here.)
Target Restaurant seems to be the favorite recommendation of every hotel receptionist and tour guide for this neighborhood. It has a sleek and dressy ambience, capable service, and food that’s reliably good, but pricey (€9-14 salads, pastas, and pizzas; €17-22 secondi, free aperitivo with this book, daily 12:00-15:30 & 19:00-24:00, reserve to specify seating outside or inside—avoid getting seated in basement, Via Torino 33, tel. 06-474-0066).
Fast, Simple Meals near the Station
(See “Restaurants near Termini Station” map, here.)
Caffè Torino is a workers’ favorite for a quick, cheap lunch. They have good, fresh, hot dishes ready to go for a fine price. Head back past the bar to peruse their enticing display, point at what you want, then grab a seat and the young waitstaff will serve you (Mon-Fri 6:00-17:00, closed Sat-Sun, Via Torino 40, tel. 06-474-2767).
Snack Bar puts out a lunchtime display of inexpensive pastas, colorful sandwiches, fresh fruit, and salad. Their loyal customers appreciate the fruit salad with yogurt (€3-5 sandwiches and pasta dishes, daily 6:30-24:00, Via Firenze 33, tel. 06-9784-3866, Enrica).
Forno Firenze makes simple sandwiches and mini pizzas, has a selection of well-priced wine, and stocks a few other basics for a picnic to go (€2-4 sandwiches priced by weight, Mon-Fri 7:00-19:00, Sat 8:00-14:00, closed Sun, Via Firenze 51, tel. 06-488-5035, Giovanni).
Bufala e Pachino Pizza is a convenient place for pizza by the slice and priced by weight—just point and tell them how much you’d like (daily 8:00-23:00, Via Firenze 54).
Flann O’Brien Irish Pub is an entertaining place for a light meal of pasta...or something other than pasta, such as grilled meats and giant salads, served early and late, when other places are closed. They have Irish beer, live sporting events on TV, and perhaps the most Italian crowd of all. Walk way back before choosing a table. Live bands play about once per week (€11-16 pub grub, daily 7:00-24:00, Via Nazionale 17, at intersection with Via Napoli, tel. 06-488-0418).
NEAR VATICAN CITY
As in the Colosseum area, eateries near the Vatican cater to exhausted tourists. Avoid the restaurant pushers handing out fliers: They’re usually hawking places with bad food and expensive menu tricks. Instead, tide yourself over with a slice of pizza or at any of these eateries (see map on here) and save your splurges for elsewhere.
Handy Lunch Places near Piazza Risorgimento
(See “Hotels & Restaurants near Vatican City” map, here.)
These listings are a stone’s throw from the Vatican wall. They’re all fast and cheap, with a good gelateria nearby.
Hostaria dei Bastioni, run by Antonio while Emilio cooks, has noisy streetside seating and a quiet interior (€8-10 pastas, €8-13 secondi, Mon-Sat 12:00-15:30 & 18:30-23:00, closed Sun, at corner of Vatican wall at Via Leone IV 29, tel. 06-3972-3034).
L’Insalata Ricca is another branch of the popular chain that serves hearty salads and pastas (€7-12 meals, daily 12:00-23:30, across from Vatican walls at Piazza Risorgimento 5, tel. 06-3973-0387).
Duecento Gradi is a good bet for fresh and creative €5-8 sandwiches. Munch your lunch on a stool or take it away (daily 11:00-24:00, Piazza Risorgimento 3, tel. 06-3975-4239).
Gelato: Gelateria Old Bridge scoops up hearty portions of fresh gelato for tourists and nuns alike—join the line (just off Piazza Risorgimento across from Vatican walls at Via Bastioni 3).
Other Options in the Vatican Area
(See “Hotels & Restaurants near Vatican City” map, here.)
Most of these listings are near the Vatican Museums and Cipro Metro stop. The Borgo Pio eateries are near St. Peter’s Basilica.
Ristorante La Rustichella serves tasty wood-fired pizzas (€6-9) and the usual pastas (€7-10) in addition to their antipasti buffet (€8 for a single plate) in a no-frills, neighborhood setting. Do like the Romans do—take a moderate amount of antipasti and make one trip only (daily 12:00-15:00 & 19:00-24:00, closed for lunch Mon, opposite church at end of Via Candia, Via Angelo Emo 1, tel. 06-3972-0649). Consider the fun and fruity Gelateria Millennium next door.
Pizzarium is the foodie’s choice for gourmet fritti (fried snacks) and creative pizza by the slice. It’s pricey (figure €10 per person) considering it’s standing-room only, but it’s regarded as some of the best in Rome (daily 11:00-22:00, Via della Meloria 43, tel. 06-3974-5416).
Viale Giulio Cesare and Via Candia: These streets are lined with cheap pizza rustica shops, self-serve places, and basic eateries. Forno Feliziani (closed Sun, Via Candia 61) is a good bet for pizza by the slice and simple cafeteria-style dishes.
Covered Market: As you collect picnic supplies, turn your nose loose in the wonderful Mercato Trionfale covered market. Almost completely untouristy (with lots of vendors, but no real prepared-food stands), it’s one of the best in the city, located three blocks north of the Vatican Museums (Mon-Sat roughly 7:00-14:00, Tue and Fri some stalls stay open until 19:00, closed Sun, corner of Via Tunisi and Via Andrea Doria). If the market is closed, try several nearby supermarkets; the most convenient is Carrefour Express (daily 8:00-20:30, Via Sebastiano Veniero 16).
Along Borgo Pio: The pedestrians-only Borgo Pio—a block from Piazza San Pietro—has restaurants worth a look, such as Tre Pupazzi (Mon-Sat 12:00-15:00 & 19:00-23:00, closed Sun, at corner of Via Tre Pupazzi and Borgo Pio). At Vecchio Borgo, across the street, you can get pasta, pizza slices, and veggies to go (Mon-Sat 9:00-21:00, closed Sun, Borgo Pio 27a).
Once a slaughterhouse district, working-class Testaccio is now going upscale. In recent years, particularly with the renovation of their bustling market hall, Testaccio has increasingly become a destination for local chefs and international foodies. While this zone is a bit more run-down, and feels slightly sketchy after dark, adventurous diners find it worth exploring.
Thanks to its history as the neighborhood of slaughterhouses, Testaccio (more so than elsewhere in Rome) is home to restaurants that are renowned for their ability to cook up the least palatable part of the animals...the quinto quarto (“fifth quarter”): tripe (stomach), lungs, brains, sweetbreads (organs), tail, and so on. While adventurous foodies (who call this “nose-to-tail” eating) seek out these dishes—and you’ll find them at most restaurants here—every place also has plenty of non-offal offerings. For a mobile meal here, consider the Eating Italy Food Tour (described on here).
For more information on this district—including a self-guided walk to the market and a map showing the locations of the restaurants listed here—see here.
Testaccio Market is the place to head at lunchtime (open Mon-Sat until 14:00—though some food stalls stay open a bit later, closed Sun). Head toward the left side of the market (closest to Via Beniamino Franklin) to search out a few favorites for a light lunch. At Mordi & Vai (stall 15), Sergio makes tasty €3-4 sandwiches; locals love the trippa (tripe), but I prefer the panino con allesso (boiled beef with the bread dipped in broth) and picchiapò (stewed beef in a mildly spicy tomato sauce). As this is a popular place, you’ll need to take a number. Nearby, Dess’art (stall 66) will satisfy your sweet tooth with their creative pastries. For olives, cheese, and cold cuts, try Ferraro’s (stall 2-3, around the corner from Mordi & Vai). They’re also a good bet for edible souvenirs—dried porcini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, as well as other specialties, many from Calabria (think spicy).
Agustarello has been serving Roman specialties since 1957, but their restaurant feels up-to-date and without pretense—the emphasis is on the food. As this family-run place is quite small and very lively, reservations are smart (€10 pastas, €12-18 secondi, Mon-Sat 12:30-15:00 & 19:30-24:00, closed Sun, Via Giovanni Branca 98, tel. 06-574-6585).
Flavio al Velavevodetto, partially set inside Monte Testaccio (windows reveal the ancient stacked pottery shards), is a good place to try traditional Roman classics like coda alla vaccinara (oxtail) or less adventurous options (€8-10 pastas, €12-18 secondi, daily 12:30-15:00 & 19:30-23:00, reservations smart for dinner, Via di Monte Testaccio 97, tel. 06-574-4194, www.ristorantevelavevodetto.it).
Pizzeria Remo—the humble pizza joint with the huge mob of locals out front late into the evening—is a favorite for Roman-style (thin, crispy-crust) pizza and deep-fried appetizers. If people are jamming the entrance, muscle your way inside and put your name on the list; there’s ample seating, and table turnover is brisk (€6-8 pizzas, Mon-Sat 19:00-24:00, closed Sun, Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice 44, tel. 06-574-6270).
Volpetti Più is a fixture in this neighborhood of foodies for its great pizza and tavola calda. If you need a cheap, quick, and tasty lunch or early dinner, drop by, pick up a tray, and point to what looks (and is) good (€5-8 meals, Mon-Sat 10:30-15:30 & 17:30-21:30, closed Sun, just off Via Marmorata at Via Alessandro Volta 8, tel. 06-574-2352). Their deli (similar hours) at Via Marmorata 47 is a sensory extravaganza for anyone enthusiastic about gourmet Italian cheeses, meats, and olive oils.
Perilli is the neighborhood’s classic, old-school eating house—rollicking with tight tables of local families since 1911 (€11-13 pastas, €11-14 daily specials, Thu-Tue 12:30-15:00 & 19:30-23:15, closed Wed, Via Marmorata 39, tel. 06-5710-2846).
L’Oasi della Birra (“Beer Oasis”) is well-known among Roman beer lovers, as it stocks more than 500 Italian and international brews. The main floor is a bottle shop and classy grocery, while the nondescript cellar and the terrace out front serve as a popular bar for locals to hang out and dine on pub grub. This is not a place for a fine meal or special ambience, but rather, to enjoy a beer and the lively local scene (€8 bruschetta and salads, €9-12 daily specials; during happy hour from 17:30 to 20:30—except on Sun—€10 buys you a beer and access to their light dinner spread; daily 8:00-13:30 & 16:00-24:00, Piazza Testaccio 38, tel. 06-574-6122).