The Best Pasta In RomeCaravaggios, the Colosseum, and Baroque fountains are great, but admit it, you’re in Rome for the pasta.
Roman pizza is great. So are supplì and trapizzino. But nothing compares to the pasta. Roman pasta is renowned, and there are four dishes that you need to have at least once when you’re there: amatriciana, carbonara, gricia, and cacio e pepe. Each is different, but there are a few common denominators: mainly, guanciale, which is cured pork jowl, and lots of cheese.
Amatriciana is a bold, tomato-based pasta with salty pecorino, chili peppers, and chunks of guanciale that’s traditionally made with bucatini, while carbonara is made with eggs, parmesan, and guanciale and typically served with spaghetti or rigatoni. Gricia is pecorino romano, black pepper, and guanciale with rigatoni, and cacio e pepe is a homey, cheesy mix of pecorino cheese and lots of spicy black pepper with spaghetti. Got all that? Just remember: sometimes pork, always cheese.
To say Rome is big on tradition is like saying the Medicis were rich. It’s a fact, and as such, you’ll see a lot of the same dishes on most menus. Start with the classics, but definitely don’t shy away from branching out—this guide breaks down the best places to try the staples, as well as the spots that are doing something a bit fun and different.
Looking for the best spots that serve more than pasta? Check out our full guide to the best restaurants in Rome.
Armando al Pantheon has been serving straightforward classics to loyal regulars and tourists throughout its five decades of family ownership. Come here for simple and excellent Roman food, including fantastic amatriciana made with rigatoni and a sublime spaghetti alla carbonara. You can get a half-portion of pasta if you want to save some room for a second course, like the saltimbocca alla romana or the tripe cooked in tomato with pecorino cheese. Just make sure to book your visit in advance—Armando al Pantheon is closed on Sundays and remains one of the toughest reservations to get last minute.
The Best Restaurants In Rome
Getting a table at Roscioli is about as difficult as remembering when Italians switch from saying “good morning” to “good evening” (it’s around noon, which yes, does feel early.). That’s because the famous dishes, like their amatriciana and carbonara, burrata with sundried tomatoes, and thinly-sliced mortadella and parmesan, live up to their hype. The wine list is superb, with thousands of bottles to choose from. Some, including the Catalanesca InSumma, are produced exclusively for the restaurant.
Roscioli’s family-run empire also includes a deli with cured meats, cheeses, and pasta kits, which you’ll find inside the main restaurant; an antico forno serving up bread, pastries, and pizza; a caffè e pasticceria; and Rimessa Roscioli, a full restaurant and wine bar that does great tastings (and is also easier to snag a reservation).
There are plenty of mediocre places to eat near the Colosseum and Roman Forum, but this family-run spot is the best option for a proper sit-down lunch after a morning of touring the ancient sites (or sleeping in while the rest of your family does all that). The menu is a hybrid of Roman, Umbrian, and southern Italian cuisine, and the pasta reflects this mix—the cacio e pepe comes dusted with truffle, the ravioli is stuffed with burrata, and there’s carbonara with fava beans, artichokes, and peas. Look for the seafood specials, as they get all their stuff from the nearby seaside fishing town of Anzio.
Everything in Rome comes with a history lesson, including a meal at Piatto Romano. It’s located in Testaccio, a neighborhood where cucina Romana was basically invented thanks in part to its history of housing what was once the largest slaughterhouse in all of Europe. Come here for a long, mid-week lunch of amatriciana or carbonara—both are made with rigatoni and perfectly crispy guanciale. Dessert is equally old-school: go with the tiramisu or the ricotta visciole and a bitter shot of genziana, a gentian root liqueur made in the mountains of Abruzzo.
Ignore the rows of checkered tablecloths that line the perimeter of the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps—these are tourist traps, and you can do better. Instead, head about 100 yards from the famous fountain to Baccano. This modern, bistro-style spot wouldn’t look out of place in Paris or New York, takes up half a city block, and makes some of the best carbonara in Rome—the chef, Nabil Hadj Hassen, cooked the famously delicious carbonara at Roscioli for nearly 18 years. In addition to pasta, the menu includes buffalo mozzarella from Paestum, excellent cocktails, and one of the city’s best hamburgers.
al42 Street Food Gourmet, colloquially known as Pasta Chef, is a rare concept for Rome: it’s a casual restaurant that also does takeout. It also makes some of the best amatriciana and carbonara in the city, with perfectly cooked al dente pasta and nice, silky sauce. It’s a great place for when you need an easy, low-stress lunch or quick dinner, and the location near the Colosseum and Roman Forum is especially convenient for a bite in-between tours. They also do a solid caesar salad and sell small bottles of wine that are perfect for solo diners.
Latteria Trastevere is a wine bar with great daily pasta specials. Come here when you’ve had your fill of carbonara and cacio e pepe—the menu skews more creative than traditional, with dishes like pistachio lasagna and gnocchi with white lamb ragu. All of their ingredients are thoughtfully sourced from small farms all over Italy, and sometimes, the chef shares his Sardinian roots by whipping up a dish of fregola and fresh seafood. The space used to sell milk, hence the name, and is on an endearing side street. There are twinkly lights strung among the wine bottles inside, and a leafy outside space with small tables in good weather.
This simple, family-run trattoria makes an excellent amatriciana and fettuccine al ragu. The chalkboard menu, which goes hard on seasonal vegetables like cicoria, puntarelle, and artichokes, changes depending on what’s available in the market that day. There’s usually a daily pasta special like rigatoni con la pajata and a varied and interesting selection of wines by the glass that covers straightforward whites from the nearby Castelli Hills to an elegant Barbera from the Piedmont region. If you’re lucky, a wiggly panna cotta topped with wild sour cherries will be on the dessert menu.
The move at Colline Emiliane is to order a bottle of lambrusco and start with the house antipasto, which comes with gnocco fritto, slices of prosciutto, and chunks of parmesan. From there, choose your pasta: the tagliatelle alla bolognese, lasagne verdi, tortelli di zucca, and the hearty tortellini in brodo are all exceptional. If you can, save room for the giambonetto, a veal slow cooked in milk and served with mashed potatoes.
This local spot in Pigneto, a trendy and residential neighborhood about 20 minutes outside of the historic center, has wonderful seasonal pastas (in the summer, look for the pici that’s served with figs and guanciale). They also do Roman classics with a twist—the gricia is made with lombrichelli, a long pasta from Viterbo, and the pajata might be made with pacheri from Naples. Before or after dinner, take a walk through L’Isola, a lively pedestrian island that’s a fun place to stop for a drink.