My Favorite Restaurants While In Rome
|By Nell Jones - daughter, writer,
This year I was fortunate enough to spend a semester in Rome, Italy. I had studied some of the language and the culture but what I was most excited for was the Italian food.
It was almost as if this was a semester to test the hypothesis that it is impossible to get tired of eating Italian food. Other than the fact that I could feel myself gaining fifty pounds, I think I could have continued eating the pasta and pizza for eternity.
Some of the best food I have ever had in my life was in Rome. That being said, Rome is a city filled with tourists and with tourists come tourist traps.
There are a lot of restaurants that target tourists with their beautiful homemade pasta in the windows and Italian servers seducing you in, however don’t be fooled.
The meal may very well consist of sub-optimal food with steep prices. If I can think of one tip for choosing restaurants in Rome, avoid any restaurant where a waiter or host is begging you to eat there.
How to Find the Best Restaurants In Italy
One of the best sources for me to find restaurants was to talk to people who had already tried and tested all these ristoranti before me. Prior to going to Rome, I asked my friends and their friends for a list of suggestions of restaurants I needed to eat at.
Once in Rome, I continued to get recommendations from the best source available, the Romans. This was an easy list for me to collect since I knew a bunch of people who spent time in Rome just the year before and I was there for many months so I was able to meet a lot of people.
However, I realize that many people go for a short vacation, which does not allow for enough time for these native recommendations. Thus I have listed below my recommendations of my favorite eating spots in Rome, which I collected from past study abroad students and Romans themselves.
This has to be my favorite restaurant in Rome and one that I ate at often. It checks off all the boxes: atmosphere, staff, and FOOD.
Tucked away in Trastevere, this family-run trattoria serves exactly the food you came to Rome to eat. The appetizers are fresh, the pasta is homemade, and the house wine is crisp and inexpensive.
Depending on the time of year, there may or may not be a wait at lunch time, since there are no reservations for lunch.
However, if you are planning to go for dinner, make sure to make a reservation. By seven p.m., there are two lines out front of the restaurant - one for people who have reservations and one for people who don’t.
If you need more convincing than these snaking lines of people waiting to eat here, then let me tell you that at dinner time you can usually catch some live, fun guitar playing and Italian vocals.
- Amatriciana (classic Roman pasta)
- Burrata (it usually is a special)
Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina
There are a few Roscioli restaurants, all amazing but serving different dining experiences. Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina is in a Salumeria but offers a normal sit down meal.
You can also be seated downstairs in the wine room. There is a huge wine selection, with a book that is so heavy it is hard to pick up, as well as amazing appetizers, pastas, and different kinds of Roman entrees.
You could come back here a bunch of times and order different things every time. You definitely have to make a reservation and the few times I went for lunch and dinner, it was mostly filled with tourists. However, it books up fast so you know it is “well-worth it” dining.
- BURRO E PARMIGIANO “FRANCESCANA”
After having eaten at Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina a few times, a Roman suggested that I make a reservation at Rimessa Roliosci just down the street. This is an entire seventy euro experience with a sommelier pairing wine with the chef’s ten dishes.
I went with a friend and the two of us were seated with a German couple. We ended up spending five hours at that meal, sharing an extra bottle of wine with the couple and practically rolling ourselves out we were so full. I cannot recommend this experience enough when visiting Rome.
It is not possible to visit Rome without having Cacio e Pepe at least once (in my case probably at least fifty times). I asked around trying to find the best cacio e pepe, yes I wanted to know who could make the best cheese and pepper pasta, and I finally came to a conclusion: Roma Sparita.
I don’t know if it was the cream and pastel colored room or the cheese bowl that the pasta is served in that made the whole dining experience so unforgettable. I can’t say that I know what else is on the menu since everyone in the ten party group I went with got cacio e pepe, but I’m sure everything else is just as good.
A reservation is definitely needed for dinner.
- Cacio e pepe
Per Me Giulio Terrinoni
Perhaps you need a small break from pasta, are craving some seafood, and want to spend a lot of money. This Michelin star restaurant served “out-of-this-world” dishes with the perfect pairings of wine.
My mom and I went when she was visiting (I definitely could not have afforded it on my college budget). We sat at the chef’s table where the chef selected for us ten of his dishes, paired with five different wines.
This is all while watching the chefs in the kitchen creating these masterpieces through the glass. Prepare to leave with your stomachs full and your wallets empty.
- Whatever the chef serves you
Popi Popi Pizzaria
If you are traveling with a large group of people and want a fun group dinner, this is definitely the place to go. My friends and I went to this pizza restaurant every Tuesday night to “pregame” before hitting the bars in Trastevere.
If you are looking for a fun night, definitely order the house wine. We don’t know why or how, but it made all of us a little bit more fun.
The food is exactly what you need at exactly the right price point for when you are going out on the Roman town. The waiters are also a lot of fun and will help you practice your Italian if you are so willing to try.
- Patate Cacio e Pepe
- Burrina Pizza (I ordered it every single week - a must)
Perfect for the Roman dining experience and atmosphere. Located in a bustling part of town, there is seating outside under the vine pergola and dim lighting, or inside next to the salumeria slicers.
Incredible appetizers, prosciutto and cheeses, and like always, pastas. If you’re lucky, they might even bring your pasta out in the pan it cooked in, everyone else will be jealous.
A little more expensive than the previous restaurants but perfect for a family dinner or a date night. A reservation is definitely needed as they rarely have the space for walk-in’s at dinner time.
- Fiori di Zucca
- Truffle pasta special
- Fettuccini Burro e Parmigiano Reggiano 48 Mesi
After a few days in Rome, you might be ready for a break from pasta and pizza (even if it’s just for one meal). One of my favorite lunch-time restaurants in all of Rome is Nonna Betta, a kosher style restaurant, in the Jewish quarter.
I ordered something different every time and it always exceeded my expectations. When you are walking around the Jewish Quarter (which you definitely must since it is a huge part of Italy and Rome’s history) stop for a Mediterranean style meal at this family welcoming restaurant.
- Carciofi alla guida (jewish style artichoke)
This is a hole in the wall right off of Piazza Trilussa. If you peek in it looks like a cafe, but if you walk all the way back you will see the small service area for these “pizza pockets”.
I’m not too sure what they are called, and they are very particular about how they are made and eaten, but essentially it is a reconstructed pizza.
You pick from three to five different options (they are traditional so you really can’t make any changes but they are delicious) and they serve you three of these pizza pockets that have a pizza crust outside, open, with the selection you made inside.
They also serve some appetizer-like foods such as suppli, which is essentially rice fried in a ball (what’s not to like?). It’s probably the closest thing to “the fast food” of Rome. It also serves as late-night food for the night owls leaving the bars in Trastevere.
Cacio e pepe does not or should not have any cream. Only cheese and pasta water.