Rome knows how to eat. But it also knows how to rip off a passing tourist with mediocre pizza and unexciting gelato.
Fear not, we’ve trawled the city for the very best trattoria, gelateria and pizzeria picks, so you don’t have to. Simply book that table and turn up hungry.
With 20 Michelin stars, Rome is no slouch when it comes to the gourmet. Our favourite though is All’Oro, where everything from the all-white furniture to Riccardo di Giacinto’s almost sculptural dishes (duck ragout ravioli, wild salmon, tiramisu) nod to modernism but the ingredients and skills behind them are all Roman tradition.
Simone Bonini’s Florence-based gelateria opened its doors in Rome in 2014 and was immediately heralded one of the city’s best. We think it’s simply the best, serving up unconventional flavours such as white raisin with wine and Pecorino Romano alongside favourites such as pistachio, strawberry and a very good dairy free chocolate.
This old stalwart may be over 100 years old now, but it still knows how to have a darn good time. Join the throng for draught Peroni (of course), or a Nastro Azzurro perhaps, and a stand-up meal of hearty pasta and meat dishes. It’s open all afternoon and never stops serving, helping you fill that awkward gap when many other Roman restaurant shut up shop.
4. Da Francesco
There will be a queue, but yes it is worth it. It’s always elbow to elbow in this traditional trattoria pizzeria, but that’s half the fun. Order a thin crust pizza or quality pasta dish and enjoy the non-stop movement of the place, from the turning of the tables to the (somehow elegant) spinning of the waiters.
5. Antico Arco
On a hill above Trastevere sits this warm and welcoming contemporary Italian restaurant where risotto with Castelmagno cheese in Nebbiolo wine sauce is the top choice and you simply must finish up with the molten chocolate soufflé cake. It’s a laidback place and there are more veggie dishes than the average Roman menu.
6. Del Frate
Want to eat in the shadow of St Peter’s basilica? Decent options are limited, so thank goodness for Del Frate. If you’ve had a hard day of museum-bashing at the Vatican you’ll particularly appreciate the excellent wine list, and there’s a light menu of high quality and ever-changing daily specials.
Proper Roman food is served up here, with checked tablecloths to match. Order the spaghetti all’amatriciana (one of the best we’ve had anywhere) for primi, choose the saltimbocca (veal rolled with prosciutto and sage) for secondi, and take your pick from more than 500 different wines to wash it down with.
This is a classic, pure and simple. You might be seated next to an Italian politician (though don’t let that put you off) as you tuck in to meatballs, spaghetti alle vongole (with clams) and fresh fish. In season this is one of the best places in the city to try white truffles, swirled into tagliolini and decadently moreish.
9. Tre Scalini
Smack bang on Piazza Navona, this café and gelateria is perpetually busy – but we’ve got a better idea. Order their speciality, an almost obscene ice-cream truffle made with a whopping 13 varieties of Swiss chocolate, but ask for it to go and eat it sitting in the square on Bernini’s fountain instead. You’ll save half the price (that’s a full €5) and get to soak up more atmosphere too.
Weather not fit for al fresco? Then tuck yourself in here, under wooden ceilings and wrapped in the warmth of a cacio e pepe (fresh tonnarelli pasta with pecorino romano cheese and black pepper) or braised beef cheek on a cream of pumpkin and licorice. There’s a cracking wine list to wash it down with, much of it by the half bottle.
This traditional Tuscan restaurant serves up some of the best meat in the city. You can pick your victim from the chiller cabinet, hung with large cuts of meat, as you enter, but we recommend the grilled beef. Start with a hearty soup in winter, ask for a table outside in summer.
12. Roma Sparita
The name means Rome disappeared, or perhaps undiscovered, as somehow this local’s favourite has remained. Tables fill a pretty courtyard in Trastevere and the thing to order (the only thing you should order) is the cacio e pepe, served with a flourish on a crisp shell of Parmesan. We reckon you’ll be raving about it long after you leave.
If you enjoyed reading this article, we think you’ll like these: