CITY GUIDE: THE BEST FOOD IN ROME
Rome is bursting at the seams with places to eat. It can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. Everyone wants to choose somewhere that feels ‘authentic’ but not contrived. Here are the two biggest problems we faced when seeking the best places to eat in Rome:
1. The rule of thumb ‘go where the locals go’ is not as easy as it sounds in Italy, especially Rome. First, there are SO many tourists that if you restricted yourself to places that only had locals, you’d probably only have about 3 options, and to be honest they’d all probably be the snack bar on the corner with dirty plastic chairs and a range of stale fried goods in a display cabinet (that being said, we’ve had some killer espressos at these places and met some great characters). Secondly, we speak English and a lot of tourists speak Italian or another European language, so it’s almost impossible to judge who are ‘locals’ and who are not unless a place has been personally recommended by someone living nearby.
2. Tripadvisor and other review sources are NOT reliable! Every time we’ve been to Italy we’ve had to pretty much ignore reviews and find other ways of judging a place. Why? Firstly, there are so many places to eat and so many tourists that fly in and out that each restaurant pretty much has a billion reviews by default and have to do something spectacularly bad to get a low rating. Secondly, everyone looks for something different, and we find most reviewers are looking for a ‘big hearty meal’ or ‘authentic’ cuisine. We’ve found this translates to ‘a massive serving of creamy carbonara or spag’ bol’’ or ‘pizza cooked in an oven or fresh pasta’. Nothing wrong with either of these, but we’re fussy with our Italian food and look for food that has an x-factor (and can we please emphasise that just because pasta is ‘fresh’ does not make it authentic or amazing or any better than dried pasta???! We have a bee in our bonnet about this which Noni will no doubt carry on about in another blog post…).
Okay, enough rambling, let's get to the good stuff. Here are the BEST places (we found) to eat in Rome.
Our criteria? It had to be made with fresh, high quality ingredients, come with good ambience, and be relatively cheap (we’re campervanning on a budget after all).
There are 3 of these places: Antico Forno Roscioli, Salumeria Roscioli Restaurant, and Rimessa Roscioli Restaurant - they’re all incredible. The first two are more casual/delicatessan style dining experiences while the last one is a more formal restaurant that specialises in wine pairing activities (they all have kick ass wines though, don’t worry). We did a degustation wine evening with one of their sommeliers at Rimessa and it was UNBELIEVABLE. At €60 a head it was a bit of a splurge for us, but worth every penny, and actually pretty inexpensive when you compare it to wine tasting experiences around Italy.
*Make sure you book ahead online, as this place is popular!
BEER & FOOD
Osteria di Birra del Borgo - Even if you’re not a beer drinker, come here for the food alone and it will blow your mind. It’s a simple menu with the best ingredients and amazing service. Seek out the small doorway and enter a beer and food-lover’s heaven - it’s the perfect place to recharge after a visit to the Vatican.
My-Ale - As above, this place is worth visiting for food alone, but they also have a good selection of beer. They have a unique menu whereby you trust in their chef to serve you up something exquisite based on a few ingredient parameters, or if you like your food to be more predictable, you can order off the menu.
Brewdog - A good bar to stop at before or after your colosseum visit. Come for the beer, stay for the burgers, return for the...beer.
Trattoria da Danilo - this is a top choice for the traditional Roman dish ‘cacio e pepe’. They do the whole ‘swirl the pasta in a huge wheel of cheese before your eyes’ thing and dust it with just the right amount of pepper. Da Danilo has mixed reviews because of the ‘brusque’ service but the food is amazing. Other recommendations for cacio e pepe (though we didn’t try them) are Flavio al Velavevodetto and Felipe Testaccio.
Trattoria Da Enzo al 29 (in Trastevere - don’t confuse it with Da Enzo behind Castel Saint Angelo) - This place is a traditional family run place. It’s super popular and you’ll see lines forming from 5-10mins before opening. They only take bookings for dinner at 7:30, not for lunch (12:30) but it’s worth the wait. We'd suggest going later, around 9 or 10pm if your tummy can wait.
Pizzeria Ivo a Trastevere - This noisy, busy place was recommended to us by a local for their pizza, but we didn’t get there this time around. Again, you may have to battle short queues and brusque wait staff due to it being busy, but it’s (apparently) worth it!
Pastificio Guerra - This fresh pasta place just near the spanish steps serves up 2 kinds of pasta and sauce each day for just €4! We thought it would be overrated but it was actually delicious. The only thing is they use plastic takeaway containers to save time, but they do have a recycling bin in the store to put them in when you’re done.
StarBaps Roma - Okay this is not at all Italian and probably will only appeal to you if, like us, you’ve been travelling Europe for a while and have a hankering for good asian food. StarBaps is a simple Korean hole in the wall with a limited menu which is cooked before your eyes - it’s fresh and delicious!
La Casa del Caffe Tazza d’Oro - It was wayyy too hot to explore coffee options this time around, but of course we grabbed an espresso at Tazza d’Oro which is promoted as having ‘the best coffee’ in Rome. It’s good coffee, but busloads of tourists are taken here, so choose your time wisely. They have a ‘famous’ granita al caffe which consists of a layer of sweet icy coffee between layers of cream. We tried it and were not fans - too sweet and creamy, but if that sounds like your thing, give it a go. You can also order is ‘senza panna’ (without cream) if you just prefer the sweet icy coffee.
Fatamorgana - This place has 3 outlets in the city and produces our absolute favourite flavours. You will need to go several times to try all the ones you want - trust us. We decided this was our absolute favourite gelato in Rome.
Gelateria del Teatro - An old favourite with 2 locations and a good mix of unusual and traditional flavours.
Otaleg! - Perfect place to grab a cone of heaven before wandering through Trastevere.
La Strega Nocciola - The shop is small and unassuming but the gelato speaks for itself.
Grom - We loved Grom when it was a small Italian-only place, before it began global domination. Since then, the quality isn’t quite what it used to be, but it’s still a reliable go-to if your only other options are those artificial fluffy mounds of neon colours.