Jan 21

Top 10 Tips for Food and Drink in Rome

by in Blog trip, Europe, Food & Drink

La Renella Bakery in Trastevere Rome - photo zoe dawes

La Renella Bakery in Trastevere

Food and Italy; they go together like cheese and wine. With a culinary heritage going back centuries, Italians pride themselves on their knowledge and love of good food and drink. Rome’s historic sights attract visitors from around the world but the way to its heart is through its food and drink. Here are my top tips for making the most of Rome’s foodie scene.

Eating out in Rome

1.  Ask a Roman

Rome Restaurant L'Arcano

Ristorante L’Arcano

Rule Number One is always ‘Ask a Local’. Of course, you can use websites, blog posts, guide books and people who have visited but to discover the best places to eat and drink in Rome ask a Roman. It may be the hotel receptionist, someone you meet in a cafe or a friend of a friend. I got excellent tips from Citalia Rome Concierge Dany, who loves his city with a passion and was able to give me some very useful insider foodie tips. They included suggestions places for quick snacks, traditional meals, fine dining, good wines and local markets.

2. Try street food including ‘pizza al taglio’

Pizzarium Bonci Rome - photo Carlo Pesacane

Pizzarium Bonci – photo Carlo Pesacane

Pizza is Italy’s most famous export and Rome is renowned for the quality of its wood-fired pizzas. Search out the ‘hole in the wall’ pizzerias to try ‘pizza al taglio (a slice of pizza)  You can find these pizzerias all over the city. Da Remo (Piazza Santa Maria), Pizzarium Bonci (Via della Meloria) and La Boccacia in Trastevere come highly recommended. Eat on the hoof or sitting beside one of the historic sights.

Pepy's Bar Pizzeria Rome

Pepy’s Bar

I got a tasty artichoke and mushroom pizza to take-away from Pepy’s Bar on the Piazza Berberini. Their sandwiches are works of art. Other street food includes delicious pastries and pies; check out La Renella, one of Rome’s oldest bakeries, founded in 1848 (see photo above.)

3. Explore Trastevere by night

Papa Re Restaurant, Trastevere

Papa Re Restaurant

The narrow streets of Trastevere (across the Tiber) are crammed with excellent bars, cafes and restaurants. It’s difficult to get a bad meal here but rule of thumb says the more Italians there are and less tourists, the better the restaurant will be. Down a tiny lane away from the main area, I saw about 20 people (looking Italian) waiting patiently for a simple restaurant called da Enzo to open.. That’s a good sign. Wandering about in the early eve, I found a tiny bar buzzing with lively chat, serving a good selection of anti-pasti and simple main courses.

Aperol Spritz in Trastevere Bar, Rome

Aperol Spritz in Trastevere

I sat outside with an aperitif, Aperol Spritz (prosecco and Aperol), a dish a VERY fresh pistachios and watched the world go by. I can’t remember its name, but it was just round the corner from Le Mani in Pasta which is on Via dei Genovese (see Tip 4).

Rome at Night

4. Eat like a Roman

Artichokes in Trastevere Rome - photo zoe dawes

Artichokes

Seems obvious but so many people go abroad and then look for food they have back home. Search out Rome specialities like carciofi (artichokes) cooked in various ways, saltimbocca (veal escalope), gnocchi (potato dumplings), bucatini all’amatriciana (tomato-based sauce with pancetta, chilli and cheese) and suppli (fried rice balls coated in breadcrumbs with cheese or other filling) similar to arancini found in other parts of Italy. Freshly baked Italian bread such as focaccia with goat’s cheese is a simple treat.

Italian food in Rome - collage zoe dawes

Italian Food

5. Understand the Italian menu

Le Mani in Pasta menu Rome

Le Mani in Pasta menu (English translation)

The majority of restaurants in Rome will have menus in English but it is worth understanding the different courses. Antipasti (starter) may include cured meats, cheese, bruschetta (toasted bread with toppings), olives. Primi (first course) is usually a pasta dish or soup. Be warned, this may fill you up so much you won’t have space for Secondi (second course). This consists of either fish, meat, chicken and more commonly nowadays, a vegetarian option.

Fontana di Venere dinner Rome

Fontana di Venere dinner

Contorni are vegetable or salad dishes. Dolci is dessert, which could be tiramisu (coffee and cream), gelato or maybe panne cotta (cooked cream). Finally you may have a Caffè (coffee) or Digestivi (liquor such as grappa or limoncello) or both. Lunch is from around 12 noon – 2.30pm and dinner from 8pm – 11pm. (Adapted from Walks of Italy How to Read an Italian Menu.)

6. Eat well in in a Trattoria

Chef cooking spaghetti carbonara at 'Le Mani in Pasta' Trastevere Rome

Chef cooking spaghetti carbonara at ‘Le Mani in Pasta’

If you want simple food, served with (usually) friendly service, look for a trattoria, or osteria. These traditional restaurants, usually family-run, can be found all over Rome, but especially in Trastevere. They often have tables outside and offer a decent range of ‘home-made’ dishes and wines. The Menu de Dia, is good value, with a basic choice of starter, main and often dessert, plus a drink included in the price. One of the best meals I have ever eaten was at Le Mani in Pasta a stylish osteria in Trastevere. (See menu above.) The starter was sublime: bresaola (cured beef) with soft, creamy buffalo mozzarella and grapefruit slices. The sharpness of the fruit cut through the cheese and, despite it being such a large plate, I ate every divine mouthful.

Bresaola, mozarella and grapefruit - Le main in pasta restaurant, Rome - photo zoe dawes

Bresaola, mozarella and grapefruit

The waiter recommended house speciality spaghetti carbonara; I watched the chef cooking it through the kitchen window. It was glossily rich and went very well with Le Rubie, the house red from Lazio region. (See photo of spaghetti carbonara dish here) For dessert I had a refreshing lemon sorbet and finished off with an espresso.

7. Visit one of Rome’s markets

Cheese counter at Farmers Market Rome

Cheese counter at Farmers Market

One of the best ways to get a flavour of Rome is to wander round one if its markets. Here you will see the Romans doing one of their favourite things; debating which is the best meats, cheese, vegetables, fruit, flowers, wine, pasta, pulses, olive oil and flowers to take enjoy at home. Campo de’ Fiori is the best known, but for a quieter experience, try Circo Massimo Mercato di Campagna Amica (Circus Maximus Farmer’s Market.)

8. When in Rome – eat gelato

Pistachio Gelato in Rome Italy The Quirky Traveller

Enjoying my pistachio gelato in Rome

Italy has the best ice-cream in the world. Well, to be accurate, gelato is not ice-cream. It has a lower fat content but more sugar with fruit or nut flavourings . So when in Rome, eat gelato. Virtually every street in the main tourist areas of the city have a gelateria (ice-cream parlour) and it’s difficult to get a bad one. The best-known is Giolitti (Via degli Uffici del Vicario), a 19th c café near the Pantheon. One of my favourite flavours is pistachio; go for the sludgy green, not bright green, as it will be natural not artificially coloured.

9. Avoid the worst pizza in Rome

Rome's worst pizza at L'Ottagona

Rome’s worst pizza at L’Ottagona

A tip from Dany, the Citalia concierge; avoid cafes, bars, restaurants and shops right next to the famous sights like the Colosseum, the Parthenon and the Forum. Common sense, yes, but let this be a warning to you. I was joining a Grey Line tour of the Vatican City and we met beside cafe bar L’Ottagono, in Piazza del Risorgimento. I’d not eaten so for speed, even though Dany had told me to avoid it, I ordered a pizza. Don’t. It was as bad as it looks here; overcooked, flabby, salty ham and stringy cheese …

10. Shop for food and drink souvenirs

Panetteria Romana in Rome Italy

Panetteria Romana

Take home a flavour of Rome (import regulations permitting!) from one of the many foodie shops, delicatessens or wineries in Rome. Olive oil, fresh herbs, cheese, olives and pasta are all easy to pack and will remind you of Rome. Lazio region wines include some very good whites, including Orvieto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and reds from such as SangioveseMontepulciano and Merlot grapes. I brought back a rope of garlic bulbs and some fragrant rose-flavoured biscuits from the market and crunchy almond biscotti from Paneterria Romana in Trastevere. Delicious flavours from a tasty weekend in Rome …

Italian delicatessen Rome

Italian delicatessen Rome

Many thanks to Citalia, leading specialist in Italian holidays, who organised 48 hours in Rome weekend. They earned the title of ‘Best Tour Operator to the Italian Peninsula for six consecutive years. The Citalia team are friendly, expert and knowledgeable in all things Italian and have local concierges in each destination for personal recommendations, advice and help with day trips, car hire, or restaurant bookings. For more information visit the Citalia Rome page. This trip was a Travelator Media world-wide campaign. Find out more about Travelator Media here.

I do hope you have enjoyed this taste of Rome – leave a comment here and if you have any tips for where else to eat in Rome I’d love to know.

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13 Responses to “Top 10 Tips for Food and Drink in Rome”

  1. From Zoe Dawes:

    During a weekend in Rome I only got to try a few of the many places there are to eat and drink in this city, but hopefully this article gives a few handy hints. Hopefully I’ll return again soon to try some more. Do share your tips here 🙂

    Posted on January 23, 2017 at 12:15 pm #
  2. From Gary Bembridge:

    Always enjoy the food in Rome. Looks like you did too! The pizza always wins out for me….

    Posted on January 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm #
  3. From Zoe Dawes:

    Yes, the pizza is SO good isn’t it Gary! Apart from the horrid one of course 😉

    Posted on January 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm #
  4. From Kathryn Burrington:

    This brings back many happy memories from when I spent a wonderful weekend tracking down the best food and drink Rome has to offer. My favourite market was Campo di Fiori, but I’m sure any of the food markets are excellent for edible souvenirs to take home. Love all your tips here Zoë.

    Posted on January 23, 2017 at 12:27 pm #
  5. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks Kat – definitely going to Campo di Fiori next time 🙂 Just want to get back there asap!

    Posted on January 23, 2017 at 2:02 pm #
  6. From Mary Wood:

    Absolutely mouth-watering! Never been to Rome but it’s on my ‘bucket list’ and now want to go even more. Maybe this year …

    Posted on January 26, 2017 at 1:37 pm #
  7. From Zoe Dawes:

    Rome is just magical Mary. You must go! Everyone should see that city at least once – and yes, the food is as delicious as it looks 🙂

    Posted on January 26, 2017 at 1:46 pm #
  8. From Charlie Mason:

    We spent a few days in Rome in 2015 and didn’t have a bad meal the whole time. Agree with you about Trastevere. It’s got a really good selection of restaurants, cafes and bars and good to see the locals eating there too.

    Posted on January 28, 2017 at 12:28 pm #
  9. From Zoe Dawes:

    Nice to hear such good foodie experience in Rome, Charlie. Trastevere feels very ‘real’ unlike some cities which have popular restaurant areas that are rip-offs for tourists.

    Posted on January 28, 2017 at 12:33 pm #
  10. From Heather Cowper:

    I remember we ate in Trastavere when I was there a few years ago – lovely buzzy atmosphere

    Posted on January 29, 2017 at 1:51 pm #
  11. From Zoe Dawes:

    Trastevere is definitely ‘buzzy’ even on a winter’s eve. Suspect it’s heaving in the summer months!. One of the reasons I love visiting cities ‘off-season’ is because they have the buzz without the extreme crowds 🙂

    Posted on January 29, 2017 at 2:29 pm #
  12. From Angus Matheson:

    The restaurant we most liked in Rome is Armando al Pantheon, which seemed to be very popular with locals – usually a good sign!
    Nearby is the studio of jewellery designer and maker, Percossi Papi where I bought Liz some earrings for her birthday. We met the great man himself. He speaks very little English and I speak very little Italian, so we both spoke French and got a discount as a reward!

    Posted on July 14, 2017 at 10:59 am #
  13. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks so much for your tips Angus – always great to get good recommendations from people who have been to these places 🙂 Impressive linguistic haggling skills!

    Posted on July 14, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

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