Rome’s appeal isn’t just in its museums and monuments. The prospect of eating in the Italian capital draws visitors from across the globe, many of whom are just as enthusiastic for carbonara as they are for the Colosseum. There are some excellent restaurants all over the city, but to get full panorama of what’s delicious in Rome, it’s also useful to leave the restaurant table to also explore cafes, takeaways, gelato shops, and markets. With that in mind, we’ve included all of it, so you can have your full day of eating planned.
More than a dozen varieties of pizza fill the counter at this small, famous takeaway. The pizzas are made from dough mixed from heirloom wheats and subjected to a long, cold fermentation, a process that creates a chewy, light, and flavorful base. Master baker Gabriele Bonci and his team top their pizzas with cheese, cured meats, and vegetables (and occasionally fruits) from nearby farms. “Flavors” change according to the season—persimmon, romanesco, pumpkin, and artichokes in cold weather and zucchini, peppers and eggplant when it warms up—but you’ll always find classics like tomato with oregano and potato with mozzarella. This is an essential lunch or snack stop when in Rome.
Cesare looks like your average neighborhood trattoria - family-run, unremarkable decor, popular with the kid-crowd - with food that’s way above average. Start with polpette di bollito (fried shredded beef), crochette di melanzane (fried eggplant croquettes) and gnocchi fritti (fried gnocchi with pecorino sauce) followed by gricia, carbonara, or rigatoni with oxtail sauce. Or focus on entrees like fried lamb chops or roasted pig’s liver. The excellent wine list highlights traditional and natural producers from Italy, France, and Slovenia and bottles are incredibly affordable. This restaurant is in a more residential neighborhood away from the center of things, and makes for a nice Sunday lunch spot.
Run by the city’s most famous baking family, Roscioli is a must visit. It’s a bit different from the typical trattoria - the front is a deli counter, and the restaurant in the back offers a huge selection of cheeses and cured meats, pastas, and mains. To start, go for the burrata, butter and anchovies on toast, mortadella, and buffalo ricotta, and follow them up with a simple pasta like cacio e pepe or gricia. Roscioli books up at least a few days in advance, but you can usually snag a seat or two at the bar in the late afternoon or late evening. Also visit the family bakery, Antico Forno Roscioli, and coffee shop, Roscioli Caffè, each very near the Salumeria.
Armando al Pantheon
During its five decades of family ownership, Armando al Pantheon has been dedicated to serving straightforward classics to both loyal regulars and visiting tourists. You come here for simple and excellent Roman food, like ajo, ojo, e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, oil, and chili), trippa alla romana (tripe simmered with tomato, mint, and pecorino), and coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew). In old-school fashion, Armando al Pantheon is closed Saturday nights and Sundays. It’s also one of the toughest reservations to get last minute, so be sure to book well in advance.
The exterior of the Mercato Trionfale looks more like an aesthetically challenged office building than the setting for Rome’s largest public market. What the facade lacks in character, the interior more than makes up for in quality and variety of its products. The south side of the market, just a few blocks from the busy Vatican Museums, houses fishmongers selling local and imported catch - look for anchovies, clams, and octopus caught in the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea - while the adjacent interior stalls are run by local farmers, a rarity in Rome, and sell produce grown just outside of the city. Take a spin to see what’s in season, then seek out the Biolà stall (Box 211) near the northwest corner of the market, which sells raw milk, cheeses, and gelato.
You come to Mordi & Vai for the sandwiches they’re filled with Roman classics like carciofi alla romana (artichokes simmered with herbs), picchiapò (shredded brisket in a tomato and onion sauce), and pajata (intestines of suckling veal cooked in tomato sauce). Be sure to take a number when the stall is crowded and after you get your order, grab a bench beside the stall.
Located near Cinecittà, Rome’s historic film and television studios, Sforno serves Naples-style pizzas on a residential block. The thick-rimmed pies are cooked in a wood-burning oven with options like margherita and cacio e pepe. Sforno is also known for its fritti (assorted fried starters such as stuffed squash blossoms and potato croquettes) and its extensive craft beer list. Don’t skip dessert - the panna cotta is delicious.
Part fresh pasta shop and part kosher takeaway, C’è Pasta...e Pasta is a great, very local place to try Roman Jewish cooking, a key part of the city’s food history. This spot serves dairy, fish, and vegetable dishes cafeteria-style at the edge of Trastevere, and is better than most of what you’ll find in the old Jewish quarter. Carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes) are served in season (winter and early spring) and while these are the most famous specialty of Roman Jews, C’è Pasta...e Pasta serves lesser-known classics, too, including aliciotti con indivia (anchovy and endive casserole) and concia (marinated fried zucchini). When the weather is nice, there’s outdoor seating.
Our current pick for gelato-inhaling in Rome, Otaleg (gelato spelled backwards) serves all natural scoops of gelato made in an aquarium-like laboratory that lets you watch the whole gelato-making process. Founded by a former employee of one of Rome’s most famous gelato spots, they love making boozy flavors here. You’ll find things like a Marsala-laced, egg-based gelato, which we recommend pairing with dark chocolate or pistachio.
Rome’s craft cocktail scene is in full swing, but the Jerry Thomas Project kicked it all off when the bar opened in the city’s historic center in 2009. The dimly-lit, speakeasy-inspired bar serves twists on classics featuring Italian liquors mixed with other booze made by small producers around the globe. Look for drinks made with their own vermouth brand, Vermouth del Professore.
Rome is certainly an espresso-driven city and quick shots of coffee consumed on the fly are the standard throughout town, but a number of serious modern coffee shops have popped up recently. Pergamino Caffè near the Vatican serves Aeropress, syphon, and nitro coffee brewed from a small roaster focused on mono origin beans. For traditional coffee drinkers, there’s espresso and its various milk-based incarnations, too, though the quality of the coffee used at Pergamino is a cut above the industrial brands that dominate the city’s cafes.
When it relocated from Tor Pignatara to Trastevere in early 2016, Les Vignerons instantly became the best-stocked natural wine shop in central Rome. The owners work directly with small producers to get bottles from Italy, France, and Slovenia, and they also have a great selection of craft beers, mainly from Italy and the UK. They don’t yet have a license to serve alcohol in the shop, but they can open bottles and provide cups for customers to take away. From 6pm, you can also purchase bottles at Les Vignerons and drink them at Bacocco up the block. There’s a small corkage fee and an expectation that you will order food, but it’s a small price to pay for access to such a tremendous wine catalog.
Rome has its share of Japanese restaurants, mainly serving run-of-the-mill sushi and a handful of hot dishes. Doozo, an art gallery and restaurant in Monti, diverges from the pack with its highly seasonal a la carte and tasting menus. At lunch, a limited selection of sushi, broths, and tempura are served to a professional crowd (it’s not far from Italy’s national bank headquarters) while in the evening, there’s a more extensive menu. When the weather is warm, Doozo also has a nice outdoor garden trimmed by an ancient Roman wall.