Pizza and pasta galore – has to be foodie heaven, right? And while yes, Rome is indeed the place where food lovers from across the globe come to live out their Italian food fantasies, there’s so much more to the Roman food scene than just these two iconic dishes. Roman cuisine is known for its flavorful traditional dishes featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients from the Campagna Roman – that lush and fertile low-lying countryside that surrounds Rome. The dedication to fresh produce and no-frills, traditional food lends this cuisine its unbeatable charm.
If you enjoy the sort of food that generations of families have perfected in their kitchens, and dishes that have stood the test of time, then keep going because I’ve compiled a list of all the must-try Roman food you could ask for. And if you like to rub shoulders with the locals while you sample the regional cuisine, you’ll love this Rome food guide even more. I’m sharing all the Intel on what to eat in Rome, to help you discover the beauty of authentic Rome food and drink, as well as while pointing you in the direction to find the best versions of each.
Another common favorite among Rome street food, gelato dates all the way back to the 16th century. While the history of this sweet, creamy delight is widely debated, the story behind such a beloved dessert can only be a colorful one!
One of my personal favorites when it comes to the story of gelato’s creation include Bernardo Buontalenti, a native Florentine, who delighted a royal court with this truly revolutionary sugary invention.
As for where to eat in Rome for the best gelato; the city is home to thousands of gelaterias drawing locals and tourists in with aesthetically pleasing rows of colorful gelato and endless flavor combinations.
For a taste of Rome’s very best frozen treats be sure to visit a gelateria that uses all-natural ingredients like Fior di Luna (via della Lungaretta, 96) and don’t forget to take that iconic snap of your gelato with the antique alleys of Rome in the background.
Pizza Romana (Obviously)
While there are so many dimensions to Roman cuisine, nothing can take away the fact that pizza is probably the best thing to be cooked upon the earth in centuries, and no trip to the Italian capital is complete without it.
I’m sure we can all agree that it would be a serious crime to visit Rome and not stuff your face with multiple slices of this must-try Roman food; hot, crispy, pizza loaded with fresh toppings and melted cheese that stretches and snaps at just the right point.
But you might not even know that pizza Romana, which we also call scrocchiarella, is very different from Neapolitan-style pizza. It has a much crunchier crust, is cooked at a lower temperature for less time, and comes in two different forms: al taglio (by the slice) and tonda (round).
As for the question of where to eat in Rome to find the best versions of this ultimate comfort food, visit Pizzeria da Remo (Piazza Santa Maria della Liberatrice 44), a cozy family-run affair popular among locals for authentic Roman-style pizza and good value, regional wine. Arrive before 8pm to avoid long queues and get a good table.
This somewhat underappreciated (globally) cousin of pizza Romana is possibly even more delicious! What pizza bianca (white pizza) lacks in toppings it certainly makes up in flavor. This style of pizza omits the classic tomato sauce topping and is instead brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and finished with a generous scattering of fresh rosemary.
This dish represents the simplicity of Roman cuisine and makes for the perfect savory snack. Try yours at Antico Forno Roscioli (via dei Chiavari 21) where it is all about perfecting the flavor of the dough – whether for pizza, bread or sweet treats.
Another family venture, open since the 1970s, generations of Rosciolis, artisans in the dough department, have dedicated their days to keeping the art of the perfect dough alive at this little pizza place.
This intriguing and versatile vegetable has long been an ambassador for Roman food. These days you can find artichokes served in restaurants all year-round, but for a taste of the cherished local globe artichoke (carciofo romanesco) at its best, visit Rome during the cooler months while it’s in season.
This traditional Roman food ranks among the most antioxidant-rich of all vegetables. The most famous, and one of the most delicious dishes to come from the artichoke is carciofi alla giudia (Jewish style fried artichokes), which is a legacy of the Hebrew ghetto in the historic heart of Rome, and was originally a celebration food for the end of the Yom Kippur fast.
While the ghetto has long since been abolished, the Rome’s historic Jewish quarter remains, with this dish as a particular favorite. Head on over and try it for yourself at the picturesque Piperno (via Monte dè Cenci, 9) and stay a while to discover the magic of this historic part of the city with many delightful attractions of its own on offer.
It’s traditional in Rome to kick off your meal with an array of delicious antipasti, and none are better for this purpose than fritti - which is our way of taking an impressively wide array of ingredients and frying them. The best way to whet your appetite before your main course is with these deep-fried goodies that come in infinite variations, sweet and savory.
Whatever your choice of fritti, whether the contents include yummy seafood or healthy veg, they should be brought to your table straight from the fryer and accompanied (in my opinion) by an ice-cold beer. A classic choice is supplì, a fried rice ball with a tomato ragu and a heart of gooey melting mozzarella.
Over time this delicious starter has evolved with thousands of variations now available, some of the best of which can be found at I Supplì (via di San Francesco a Ripa 137), a takeaway joint in Trastevere perfect for grabbing this dish as a snack to go.
Just like pizza, pasta is worldwide favorite in the realm of comfort food. And when it comes to what to eat in Rome you can be sure pasta will make a prominent appearance on the list. Italians are extremely protective of their traditional pasta recipes and are not afraid to enter into a debate about whose way is the right way.
This is especially true when it comes to Carbonara. Whether you believe the dish should be made with spaghetti or rigatoni, a whole egg or just an egg yolk, guanciale or pancetta, one thing is for sure: this quintessential Roman classic must not be missed during your stay.
Sample a plateful at Trattoria da Danilo (via Petrarca, 13). Try your best to make a reservation to get a good spot, but be warned that all of the focus at this small, out-of-the-way trattoria is on the food so the phone is quite often left to ring.
Perseverance will be awarded a truly delicious carbonara! If you have time, try this dish in more than one restaurant to experience some of the best pasta in Rome and how it differs from place to place. All in the name of research, of course.
Cacio e Pepe
Another specialty of Trattoria da Danilo, cacio e pepe, literally translates to “cheese and pepper” and is another minimalist Roman pasta dish that puts everything into simple but powerful flavor and fresh produce, consisting of locally produced Pecorino Romano – a salty, aged and hard cheese – and of course a liberal sprinkling of black pepper.
The two ingredients are paired with cooked pasta (usually spaghetti), and a spoonful of its cooking water to create a smooth sauce. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Mastering a dish this simple, with so much riding on perfecting the balance of flavor and texture, is tricky and locals often debate over the proper method of cooking.
Try it at Salumeria Roscioli (via dei Giubbonari, 21/22), and at Cesare al Casaletto (via del Casaletto, 45) – known for a more liquid variation – so you can join the great debate, and decide which style you prefer.
Maritozzi are delightfully sticky sweet-dough buns, delicately flavored with orange and sliced in half before being stuffed with smooth, fresh whipped cream. Commonly eaten for breakfast, I can hardly imagine a better accompaniment to a smooth Italian espresso to start the day.
The closer you get these goodies to Easter, the more creative the fillings get, with sultanas soaked in port, candied peel and pine nuts making an appearance.
Try these creamy treats at Regoli (via Dello Statuto 60) an historic bakery famous for its outstanding maritozzi heaped with whipped cream and strategically displayed at the entrance making it impossible for you to just walk by without popping in.
Referred to as quinto quarto (the fifth quarter), offal has long been a staple of traditional Roman cuisine. Historically, meat was distributed according to class with the cheapest cuts being given to the fifth tier made up of workers, hence ‘quinto quarto’.
As with so many of the best dishes in Italy, the creativity used in cooking with these cuts once again demonstrates the great ingenuity of the less wealthy of the time. So successful were their culinary inventions that nowadays offal is actively sought out due to the intensity of flavor and heartiness it adds to any dish.
While this might come across as rather an adventurous delicacy, it is in fact quite widely eaten and you’ll find offal on most restaurant menus cooked in stews, pasta dishes, soups and more. For the brave ones out there, give it a try at Il Quinto Quarto (via Flaminia, 638).
There could be no better way to round off the list than with this celebratory dish. This savory dish does great justice to that favorite white meat – pork – serving up a moist and tasty roast that doesn’t let an ounce of juicy fat go to waste.
The carcass is deboned, arranged carefully, and stuffed with liver, and wild fennel, and leaving all the fat and skin still on it is turned on a spit or roasted, traditionally for over wood for over eight hours.
The perfectly cooked pork, with layers of oozy fat and crispy skin, stuffing leaking out, is carved up and served as a traditional feast. This local specialty can be found all over the city in many different forms, but I recommend you try it at Panificio Bonci (via Trionfale, 36) where it is served sandwiched between crisp pieces of pizza bianca.
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