With a city nicknamed Caput Mundi—Capital of the World—it’s only natural that Romans are accustomed to seeing their home as unrivaled in matters of history, culture, and food. And while it’s true that traditional local cuisine holds a sacred place at the table, the Rome is hardly impervious to change. The city’s classics, from carbonara to cacio e pepe, are still universally beloved, but Rome’s dining and drinking culture, like that of all cities, is in a constant state of evolution (albeit at a glacial pace compared to New York, Paris or London). Recently, tightening purse strings, transitioning food systems, and changing palates have conspired to create exciting new ways of dining, drinking, and shopping for food.
The innovative features of Rome’s flourishing food and drinks scene are at their best when they use tradition as a foundation: neo-trattorias like Cesare al Casaletto serve clever twists on the classics, while the nascent craft cocktail culture, embodied by The Jerry Thomas Project, embraces historic spirits and forgotten flavors. Wine bars and craft beer pubs run by enthusiastic experts promote small producers over conventional choices and a revived interest in food provenance has given rise to a growing number of farmers’ markets, which contrary to popular belief are relative newcomers to the city’s gastronomic landscape.
Visitors to the Italian capital will be endlessly satisfied, whether they are after traditional foods or fresh flavors–but only if they know exactly where to look! So, where to eat in Rome? That’s where this post comes in. I have so many resources dispersed over so many platforms, I can hardly keep track of it all. Here they are all in one place so you’ll have all my personally and independently* vetted recommendations for dining and drinking in Rome.
If you prefer traditional cucina romana at moderate prices, Armando al Pantheon and Cesare al Casaletto are your best bets. And for super honest, affordable, delicious Roman/Umbrian/Sardinian specialties, plus pizza, serve with a smile, Tavernaccia Da Bruno is it.
Roscioli and Mazzo may not serve explicitly traditional classics, instead blending modern techniques with local flavors, but both are excellent. I have a handy guide for getting the most out of your visit to Roscioli, a must-read before this must-visit.
For Neapolitan style pizza, check out Tonda, Sforno, Sbanco, and La Gatta Mangiona, while Da Remo and Pizzeria Ostiense serve excellent thin crust Roman pies. Pizzeria Emma does thing crust Roman style with a gourmet flare. Don’t miss pizza by the slice at Pizzarium and Panificio Bonci (or Bonci’s new spots in Mercato Centrale and the Flaminio district). I also like Prelibato for a slice. The pizza bianca at Antico Forno Roscioli and pizza rossa at Forno Campo de’ Fiori are delicious, as are the various flavored slices at the latter (Forno Roscioli’s pizzas are heavy IMO). For tasty little pizzette, visit Da Artenio in the Mercato di Testaccio.
You may wish to give fine dining a pass. So much of it is so disappointing, derivative, and precious. But if you must, I highly recommend Il Sanlorenzo. This upscale fish restaurant in central Rome may not have a Michelin star (sadly most of the starred restaurants in Rome are downright awful), but you’ll find formal service, an elegant atmosphere, and the finest fish dishes in town. (Not everyone reports the same service experince–see comments below). For more fresh fish at prices that reflect their high quality (fresh fish in Italy is very expensive) I love raw dishes, fried starters, and seafood pasta at Tempio di Iside.
For kosher meals, try C’e’ Pasta…e Pasta, which serves Roman Jewish classics cafeteria-style. In the Ghetto, Boccione Forno del Ghetto does amazing fruitcake called pizza ebraica, as well as spectacular almond paste and ricotta cakes. Nearby, Nonna Betta serves kosher-style food in a restaurant setting. Try the pezzetti fritti, carciofi alla giudia, and spaghetti con bottarga e cicoria.
Go to Testaccio or San Giovanni for brisket or artichoke or kidney sandwiches at Mordi e Vai. The trapizzini at the growing number of Trapizzino shops are a must (especially the chicken cacciatore)! The suppli’, potato croquettes, and fried pastry cream at Supplizio are super tasty.
Gelato & Pastries
There’s coffee everywhere, but some places truly are a cut above. My favorite historic shop is Sciascia, established in 1919. Two new-ish place celebrating Italian-style coffees with third wave techniques are Roscioli Caffè and Pergamino. For full-on third wave coffee, there’s Marjani Coffee in EUR.
Wine, Beer, & Cocktails
Thristy? My favorite wine bars are Litro, Bulzoni, Il Goccetto, Remigio, Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi, and La Barrique. For beer, I love Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà, Open Baladin, Birra +, Stavio, Brasserie 4:20, and Be.Re. The Jerry Thomas Project, Litro, La Punta, and Caffe Propaganda serve ace cocktails.
You can buy wine to take away at the wine bars listed above, as well as at Enoteca Trucchi, but for spirits, check out Costantini, Whisky & Co., and the year-old Jerry Thomas Emporium. Domus Birrae and Bir e Fud Beershop are the spots to buy bottles of craft beer, imported and domestic.
Salumi & Formaggi
If you love cheeses and cured meats, visit DOL, Secondo Tradizione, Roscioli, and Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi (skip the cured meats here and stick to the cheeses). All of those places also sell food to takeaway, except for Secondo Tradizione…but it’s cool because nearby their sister shop La Tradizione nearby has the most amazing products. The cheeses and cured meat plates at Taverna Volpetti are great (I reluctantly shop at their nearby store due to their hard sell tactics, preferring Roscioli and La Tradizione instead).
Need a break from Roman fare? Why not check out Mesob for Ethiopian, Doozo in Monti for seasonal Japanese dishes, Janta Fast Food for Indian, and Akira for ramen? In the regional Italian category, Trattoria Monti is wonderful for specialties from Le Marche. La Torricella in Testaccio does very simple fish dishes inspired by Italy’s Adriatic Coast and Tram Tram is great for fish and vegetable classics from Puglia.
Post by Katie Parla