Where To Eat & Stay In Rome guide image

RMEGuide

Where To Eat & Stay In Rome

The best restaurants and hotels in Rome, according to us.

Rome is a lot. There are thousand-year-old monuments, baroque fountains, Byzantine mosaics, over 900 churches, Bird scooters on the sidewalk, and treacherous cobblestones. And the Roman food scene reflects this same tangle of ancient and modern. The city holds tight to its traditions, but is also so much more than checkered tablecloths, pizza, gelato, and no cappuccino after 11am. 

Having said that, you should know that Romans, and Italians more generally, are very particular about how they eat. Breakfast is fast and sweet and taken at the bar of a cafe. Lunch really can be the long, multi-course feast that you have seen in the movies, especially on weekends, and dinner is late by US standards, with many places not even opening until 8pm. But, there are still places for middle-of-the-day snacks or early dinners if you need them.

Use this guide to help you navigate it all, and to find dining options (and some hotels) for almost every situation. There are natural wine bars, piazza cocktails with a view, the best place for your jet-lagged appetite, and where to find a knock-out carbonara. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of pizza and gelato, too.

CLASSIC ROMAN SPOTS


photo credit: Mary Stuart

Da Cesare Al Casaletto review image

Da Cesare Al Casaletto

$$$$

Via del Casaletto, 45, Roma
Earn 3X Points

Cesare looks like your average family-run neighborhood trattoria with unremarkable decor, but this one has food that’s way above average. Start with the rich fried shredded beef called polpette di bollito, fried eggplant croquettes, and gnocchi fritti with pecorino sauce, followed by gricia, carbonara, or rigatoni with oxtail sauce. Or focus on entrees like fried lamb chops or roasted pig 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.


During its five decades of family ownership, Armando al Pantheon has been serving straightforward classics to both loyal regulars and visiting tourists. You come here for simple and excellent Roman food, like spaghetti with garlic, oil, and chili, tripe simmered with tomato, mint, and pecorino, and coda alla vaccinara, a rich 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.


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While this bar is not at all a secret, it has fiercely resisted change and feels like Rome personified. What makes it especially great is the fact that they’re open from very early in the morning until very late at night, and you can find just about anybody here—whether that’s eighth-generation Trastevere residents or study abroad students who just got to Rome. In the morning, you’ll probably see a table of men playing cards and on some nights there is live music. The coffee is great, the hot chocolate is even better, and you can get a spritz at 9am or midnight.


The line at the Sant' Eustachio Il Caffè is almost as long as the one at the nearby Pantheon, but it moves fast. Pay first at the register if you want a quick coffee standing at the bar, or sit down at a table outside and order a monachella, a fancy coffee drink that has layers of sweetened espresso, hot chocolate, and whipped cream. That seat is going to cost extra, but it comes with a view of a 16th-century fresco, a swirly Borromini spire, and politicians in expensive suits on a break from the nearby Senate. If you’re looking for wifi and a big salad for lunch, the same team has Emporio Sant’Eustachio, Rome’s more stylish answer to Starbucks, around the corner.

ALL THE PASTA

This family-run restaurant near the Colosseum and Roman Forum is perfect for lunch after a morning of touring the ancient sites, or for an early dinner before you head back to the hotel. The menu is a hybrid of Roman, Umbrian, and southern Italian cuisine, which means you can order Sicilian caponata, Roman-style braised artichokes, and truffle-dusted cacio e pepe. Make sure to ask about 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. The restaurant is located in Testaccio, a neighborhood where cucina Romana was basically invented, so when you’re looking for plenty of offal, some amatriciana and carbonara, or great daily specials like crispy artichokes, come to this trattoria for a long mid-week lunch. Dessert stays old school with things like tiramisu and ricotta visciole, a wild sour cherry tart, and you should finish up with a bitter shot of genziana, a gentian root liqueur made in the mountains of Abruzzo.


Rocco is a classic Roman trattoria with polished terrazzo and starched tablecloths, but it feels a bit more laid back than some other places in the city. Sure, you might see a former president of the Republic or an Oscar-winning director at the next table, but that’s because this is their neighborhood spot. They have a menu of delicious pastas, seafood fresh from Anzio, sides of local bitter greens, and breaded lamb chops, all written in swirly script on a gridded elementary school blackboard. While there’s only one dinner seating, this restaurant hits the sweet spot between a big night out and weeknight dinner where you can wear that special outfit you bought for the trip.


Trattoria Penestri is in Ostiense, a modern residential neighborhood outside of Rome’s historic center where you can find more street art and apartment blocks than fountains and cobblestones. Trattoria Pennestri mirrors this Roman mix of tradition and newness. The menu always has carbonara, amatriciana, and cacio e pepe, along with the decidedly un-Roman seared duck breast with different seasonal sauces. For dessert, try the chocolate mousse, another rare sight on a Roman menu, with the unexpected addition of Sardinian pane carasau, rosemary, and sea salt. Come here for lunch under the umbrellas on the patio or for a candlelight dinner in the cozy dining room.

Traveling is exhausting, and sometimes you have a cranky kid who can’t cope with a long meal in a restaurant. If you find yourself in this situation, stop by Pasta Chef. The food comes out fast, gets served on paper plates, and the amatriciana and carbonara are some of the best pasta you can find in Rome. They also have daily specials, like grilled asparagus topped with a fried egg and truffles, a good caesar salad if you need some greens, and small bottles of wine. You can eat at one of the high-top tables or take your meal to go back to wherever you’re staying.

DRINK SOME WINE

While the original Roscioli is one of the best places in Italy for pasta, you can get the same excellent cacio e pepe at Rimessa Roscioli without the cramped seating and long wait. While you can stop by any day for dinner, they have two nightly guided wine tastings at 5pm and 8:30pm that feel like a big dinner party where you’ll make friends with the people next to you (it’s ideal if you’re traveling solo). That third glass of catalanesca insumma might even make you believe that you are fluent in Italian. If you’d prefer to look at the tops of a bunch of old buildings while you sip your ribolla gialla, Rimessa also pours wine on the rooftop at the Palazzo Nainer hotel.


Apericena is the Italian word for that perfect in-between meal. And whether you’re looking to have a very late lunch or an early light dinner, Fafiuchè is the perfect place for apericena. This enoteca in the Monti neighborhood focuses on wines from Piedmont and Pugliese-inspired snacks featuring cheeses, cold meats, fresh bread, and a few hot dishes. Stay for dessert and order the Bruschetta Fafiuchè that takes a slice of toasted bread and tops it with thin shavings of cioccolato cremino, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt.


You’ll want to come to this natural wine bar located on a quiet street in Trastevere with a friend or two: they only sell by the bottle, hoping to encourage customers to spend time with both the primarily Italian wines and the people they’re with. There is a limited menu of small plates, with options like figs wrapped in transparent slices of lardo, a savory foie gras tart, and a deceptively simple brown paper bag of fresh bread and a dish of cultured salted butter.

WHERE TO EAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY

There are a lot of rules about eating in Italy. Meal times in Rome happen at specific times with very little wiggle room and, as a general rule, Italians do not snack in between meals or eat on the run. There are exceptions, and pizza al taglio is one of them—especially if it comes from this bakery behind the flower sellers in the Campo de' Fiori. Long strips of pizza bianca get topped with slicks of tomato sauce or thinly sliced potatoes, or get stuffed with mortadella or zucchini flowers. Take it all to go and eat it while leaning against a fountain in view of a palace that Michelangelo designed.

The train station probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you want a great meal. But if you walk to the farthest end of the Termini Station just past the rental car counters, you’ll find a vast marble-clad space with a ton of options that once served as the dining hall for railway workers. Grab a cappuccino and cornetto for breakfast before an early train, a Sicilian ricotta-stuffed savory pie, a slice of Bonci pizza, or even some rich ramen. Once you have your food, sit down and order with a server if you want some on-tap craft beer, wine, or a cocktail. They’re open from 7:30am to midnight, so it’s a nice flexible option if you can’t get a reservation elsewhere or are just looking for an off-hours snack.


A good general rule to live by in Rome is to avoid eating anywhere with a view of an important monument. But rules are also meant to be broken, so you should definitely still come to this spot in Piazza Navona. Before the pandemic, Camillo catered to groups and served frozen seafood and bland spaghetti. But they’ve since pivoted to serve a menu of Roman pasta, Japanese-style tempura, and an excellent hamburger. This is another place where you can have a great meal outside of traditional dinner hours, but you should also come for a morning cappuccino or late afternoon spritz to sit in front of Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and snack on some homemade potato chips.


There aren’t many places in Rome to find vegan pizza that’s actually good, but Casa Manco is the exception. Get a slice of vegan pizza rossa that’s spiked with chili and a scattering of parsley and mint or go for one with pumpkin, gorgonzola, and walnuts. While you can stand and eat inside or sit at one of the two tiny areas outside, we recommend taking your pizza over to the Piazza di San Cosimato where you can find plenty of stone benches. If you come on a summer night, you can even catch a movie at the open-air cinema they set up in the piazza.


Trapizzino started out in a cramped space in Testaccio, but now has five more locations in Rome, a few in Milan, and even one in New York City. This spot in Trastevere is the one you should visit though, as it has plenty of seating and an interesting Lazio-centric wine list. If you’re unfamiliar, a trapizzino is a play on a tramezzino sandwich that’s made up of a triangle of thick crunchy pizza dough stuffed with homestyle Roman stews. Try the vinegar-laced chicken cacciatore, slow-cooked beef with tomatoes and onions, or vegetarian options like creamy burrata topped with salty anchovies or braised wild greens with chili. One trappizzino makes a good snack, but order a few along with some suppli and a cold beer and you have a delicious casual lunch or dinner.

THE BEST GELATO

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.


Even if it’s your tenth time in Rome, you’ll probably still end up at the Trevi Fountain. After you stop by, weave past the people trying to lure you in for a mediocre meal and come to this family-run gelateria. They have a small gelato selection since flavors like pistachio and dark chocolate are made daily in the back kitchen. Don’t skip the house specialty caffe affogato con semifreddo allo zabaglione: a perfect combination of hot coffee and sweet cold eggy cream.

THE HOTELS

photo credit: Relais Rione Ponte

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Relais Rione Ponte

There are only nine rooms in the Relais Rione Ponte, all of them on the second floor of a 17th-century palazzo. The location is near Piazza Navona, so if you want to do some sightseeing, you’re pretty centrally located. They don’t have a restaurant, but a typical Italian sweet breakfast, with pastries, cakes, yogurt, and fruit is served daily.


photo credit: Hotel Mediterraneo

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Hotel Mediterraneo

This four-star, family-owned hotel near the Termini train station is an art deco jewel with 11 floors and 242 rooms. A recent restoration has made all the 100-year-old mosaics, wood inlays, and large parchment map of the Mediterranean Sea throughout the hotel feel new. There is a rooftop space with sweeping views of Rome, but we recommend a martini in the lobby cocktail bar.


This full-service, five-star hotel near the Piazza Barberini has a restaurant, cafe, cocktail bar, a small rooftop pool, and a hammam spa in the basement. The green stripes set into the floor and on the walls in the lobby are made from Cipollino marble, once prized by the emperors of ancient Rome, making this place stand out from the sea of bland corporate hotels. The most unusual amenity, though? The cigar bar, which is one of the rare indoor smoking rooms in Rome.

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