Rome remains a top destination for food lovers and today offers more dining diversity than ever. Though many of its trattorie haven’t changed their menus in a quarter of a century (for better or worse), the city has an increasing number of creative spots with chefs willing to revisit tradition.
Restaurants generally serve lunch between 12:30 and 2:30pm, and dinner between 7:30 and 10:30pm. At all other times, most restaurants are closed—though a new generation is moving toward all-day dining, with a limited service at the “in-between” time of mid-afternoon.
If you have your heart set on any of these places below, we seriously recommend reserving ahead of arrival. Hot tables go quickly, especially on high-season weekends—often twice: once for the early-dining tourists, and then again by locals, who dine later, typically around 9pm.
A servizio (tip or service charge) is almost always added to your bill or included in the price. Sometimes it is marked on the menu as coperto e servizio or pane e coperto (bread, cover charge, and service). You can leave extra if you wish—a couple of euros as a token—but in general, big tipping is not the norm here. If you have any questions about an item on your bill, don’t hesitate to ask for an explanation.
Roman Cuisine—Roman culinary specialties reflect the city’s ancient past, the Italian tradition of eating locally and seasonally, and the cucina povera—poor people’s food—legacy of making a lot from a little and wasting nothing. Must-try pasta dishes include delightfully simple cacio e pepe, made with pecorino cheese and black pepper, or hefty carbonara, composed of guanciale (pork cheek), eggs, and pecorino. Meat-lovers may be tempted to explore dishes made from the quinto quarto, which translates to the “fifth fourth” and means offal—the head, tails, and organ meats of cow, pork, and lamb. Braised oxtail (coda alla vaccinara) and trippa alla Romana (stewed tripe) are perennial favorites in Testaccio, the old slaughterhouse area that’s now foodie central. Biting into a thin, crisp-crusted Roman pizza is a joy you’ll savor long after your vacation, especially when said pizza comes from a wood-fired oven. Supplì, deep-fried rice balls stuffed with ragù and cheese, are a Roman specialty everywhere, and in the Jewish Ghetto you’ll find authentic carciofi alla guidia—deep-fried artichokes typically ordered as an appetizer. Wash all this down with Frascati wine, a highly drinkable white from the nearby Castelli Romani hills. For dessert, head to one of Rome’s many artisanal gelato-makers. With your morning espresso or cappuccino, be sure to try a maritozzo, a sweet, fried pasta overflowing with whipped cream.
Dine & Drink for a Good Cause
It’s always nice when you can combine travel, plus a great meal or night out with a dose of community support. At both Terre e Domus della Provincia Romana ★★ and Vale la Pena Pub & Shop ★, inmates from Rome’s Rebibbia prison engage in work release programs that combat recidivism and help them develop employable skills for after they complete their sentences. Set in the stunning Palazzo Valentini, just opposite Trajan’s Column, Terre e Domus offers a menu showcasing the best in local wines and foods, using produce grown at the prison. It’s at Foro di Traiano 82–84 (tel. 06-69940273); entrees are 10€–15€, and its open daily 7:30am–12:30am. Out in the working-class Tuscolano district, Vale la Pena (Via Eurialo 22; tel. 06-87606875) features pub fare and craft beers from its own microbrewery. Most items cost under 10€; hours are Tuesday through Sunday 6pm to late night. It’s a worthwhile stop after touring San Giovanni in Laterano, just a few Metro stops away.
Getting Your Fill of Gelato
Don’t leave town without trying one (or several) of Rome’s outstanding ice-cream parlors. However, choose your gelato carefully: Don’t buy close to the tourist-packed piazzas, and don’t be dazzled by vats of brightly (and artificially) colored, air-pumped gelato. The best gelato is made only from natural ingredients, which impart a natural color—if the pistachio gelato is bright green, move on. Take your cone (cono) or small cup (coppetta) and stroll as you eat—sitting down on the premises is usually more expensive. The recommended spots below are generally open mid-morning to late, sometimes after midnight on summer weekends. Cones and small cups cost between 2.50€ and 5€.
Near Campo de’ Fiori, one of Rome’s oldest artisan gelato makers, Gelateria Alberto Pica ★★★ (Via della Seggiola 12; tel. 06-6868405) produces top-quality gelato churned with local ingredients, including wild strawberries grown on the family’s country estate. In Monti, fabulous (and gluten-free) Fatamorgana ★★★ (Piazza degli Zingari 5; tel. 06-86391589; metro Cavour) is the place to try inventive flavors like delicate lavender and chamomile, or zingy avocado, lime, and white wine.
Two exceptions to the rule about avoiding gelato in touristy areas: venerable Old Bridge Gelateria ★ (Viale Bastioni di Michelangelo; tel. 328-411-9478), which delights customers lined up for the Vatican Museums; and, near Piazza Navona, Frigidarium ★★★ (Via del Governo Vecchio 112; tel. 334-995-1184), whose intense and creamy flavors will make you weep with joy. Have a copetta of mango and coconut for me.
In the Termini area, tiny but sleek Come il Latte ★★★ (Via Silvio Spaventa 24; tel. 06-42903882) turns out artisan gelatos in flavors ranging from salted caramel (yes please!), to mascarpone and crumbled cookies; fruit flavors change according to season.
Trastevere’s best artisan gelato, Fior di Luna ★★★ (Via della Lungaretta 96; tel. 06-64561314), is made with natural and Fair Trade produce. Star flavors are the incredibly rich chocolates, spiked with fig or orange, and an absolutely perfect pistachio.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.