When you think of Italy does your mouth start to water? Mine does! But truth be told, I didn’t have the best dining experiences the first time I was in Rome. I ate some rather cardboard-tasting pizza and bland pasta on too many occasions. I left the country a little puzzled about its reputation as a food wonderland. That first trip I counted only one really good meal. Where was the creamy gelato? The chewy yet airy pizza cooked near a wood fire? Al dente pasta made amatriciana-style with fatty, delicious guanciale? Balls of risotto stuffed with cheese and fried to golden perfection? Sadly, I left with those questions lingering.
Thankfully though, in the subsequent numerous times that I’ve visited Rome, I’ve tasted the delizioso food they’re known for. It’s been “buon appetito” ever since. That first visit may have been a miss, but through careful study of blogs, travel articles, and trip advising websites, I’ve found many wonderful Rome restaurants to share with you.
At first I thought the problem was that I was staying in the city center. You’re more likely to find restaurants catering to tourists in areas where tourists tend to congregate than you would if you visited restaurants in areas where locals live, but good culinary experiences can be had in the Centro Storico of Rome, too. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus on great places to eat in Rome that are within walking distance of the Pantheon.
Gelato: There are two gelaterias in Rome that compete for my top honor—Gelateria del Teatro takes top place, but Giolitti is a close second. Also, Giolitti has a great patisserie and coffee shop. Both places serve up creamy gelato that bursts with flavor. The dark chocolate at Gelateria del Teatro is the bee’s knees. I love a combo of fig and dark chocolate at Giolitti.
Pizza & baked goods: One way that Romans enjoy pizza is by the slice (al taglio). At some eateries, you will encounter huge rectangular pizzas where you order a segment by weight. You can order 100 grams (an etto) for a snack, or if you’re getting more than one kind have them whack off more for a meal-sized portion. And by whack off, I mean they take a big knife and…whack…slice off a hunk of pizza which is then folded in paper for you to take away and enjoy. Antico Forno Roscioli serves up some of the best in town. They also have delicious baked goods, since this is the oven (forno) branch of the many Roscioli eateries, which include a formal restaurant and a deli.
Pizza, pasta, & meat: Another way to order a pizza is by the pie. In Italy, the entire pie is one serving size. The most famous is the Margherita which is simply made with tomato sauce and mozzarella—sometimes there is a sprig of basil. There are plenty of other concoctions to try though. Remember that peperoni does not indicate meat, it means peppers. If you want a spicy meat on your pizza, then order one with salsiccia (sausage). A place that I really enjoy for its pizza, pasta, and meat dishes is Trattoria Pizzeria Luzzi near the Colosseum. They serve a great Amatriciana pasta (my favorite), succulent chicken, great vegetable dishes, hearty bread, and tasty pizza pies. The prices are fair, too.
Pasta: For fabulous home-made pasta, try Osteria da Fortunata where women stand in the front of the restaurant making fresh pasta while you eat. There are several different pasta types with varied choices of sauce. My favorite is the slow-roasted, rich, sugo di coda (oxtail sauce). I also adore the gnocchi with ragu. Make sure you go to the place on via del Pellegrino, not the one across the street with all the tables outside. We tried both and found the osteria of better quality and service.
Jewish-style artichokes: If you’re in Rome during spring, you have to try Jewish artichokes (carciofi alla giudia). These are fried artichokes so silky and delicate that they do not resemble the prickly kind served in the States. Nonna Betta in the Jewish Quarter serves up some of the best. I love their delicate, flaky fried fish, too. It is a little more expensive than some of the other eateries on this list, so you may just want to have antipasto there.
Sandwiches: Served on pizza bianca (a crispy on the outside, soft on the inside bread), the sandwiches at Forno Campo de Fiori are delectable. The meat to bread ratio is perfection. They use only top quality goods and the price is really reasonable. Grab some fruit from the market in the middle of Campo de’ Fiori and you have an amazing lunch.
Suppli: You won’t find a lot of actual street food in Rome (food being sold on the street), but that doesn’t mean they don’t have it. You just need to look inside a shop for it. One of my favorites is a fried ball of rice called suppli. Supplizio serves up the regular kind with mozzarella in the middle, as well as different versions like carbonara or cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper). One is a filling snack, while a couple could make a like meal, especially with some meatballs (polpette).
These are just a few of my favorite Rome restaurants, but I’m continuously uncovering more great places to eat in Rome. Have you had a great dining experience in the Eternal City? Please share your favorite Rome restaurant in the comment section.
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