If you find yourself visiting Rome for the first time and want to learn more about the local culture, you’ll want to know what are the typical foods from Rome to try.
Roman cuisine has contributed to enriching the diverse set of traditional Italian cuisine with dishes that have become famous throughout the world, such as spaghetti alla carbonara.
Many of the classic Roman dishes, however, are mostly unknown to travelers, like the maritozzo and puntarelle.
When faced with deciding what to eat in Rome, you’ll be spoiled for choice: in this great city, which is the cultural and administrative capital of Italy, it’s easy to find most of the traditional Italian dishes, many of which originate from other areas of the country.
In this article, I will discuss the most characteristic dishes from Rome, the city where I was born and raised, covering first and second courses, side dishes, street food, and dessert.
For inspiration, I thought of many of the succulent dishes my grandmother used to prepare for weekly family lunches. I’ll leave out the gelato, which you can find everywhere in Rome but which I don’t consider a symbolic food of the city, although there are many great gelato shops to discover in Rome.
For a detailed food guide to Rome instead, head to my article “Rome for Foodies“.
10 OF THE MOST CLASSIC FOODS FROM ROME
Saltimbocca alla Romana
Here is one of my absolute favorite meat dishes.
Thin slices of veal rolled with a slice of prosciutto and a leaf of sage, cooked in a pan with butter and oil and then served on a plate along with the cream that has formed during cooking. To understand the reason for the name of this typical Roman dish, which translated means “jump into the mouth”, you must try them.
They can be accompanied by seasonal vegetables sautéed in a pan and fresh bread.
Where to eat saltimbocca alla romana in Rome?
Tavolo 27 | Via Renzo da Ceri, 6
This side dish is enjoyed in spring when it is possible to harvest the sprouts of a quality of chicory called “catalogna“.
Puntarelle are sprouts that are cleaned, cut into thin strips, and left to soak in iced water in order to remove some of their bitter taste. The sprouts, which thanks to this process curl naturally, are then dressed in a salad with EVO oil, pieces of salted anchovies, and garlic. Here is a fresh and tasty side dish to complement second courses of meat and fish.
Although the favorite dessert of the Romans is certainly the tiramisu, the symbol of the city remains the maritozzo with cream.
The dessert originates from the peasant tradition, where the wives prepared snacks for their husbands to eat while working in the fields.
This dessert is also a perfect street food to be eaten while walking: a sweet and soft sandwich scented with honey and citrus fruits and filled with whipped cream…
You can find it in pastry shops and the best cafes, especially in the morning.
Where to eat it: Pasticceria Romoli, Viale Eritrea 142
Supplì, the number one of Rome’s street food
The “balls” of rice with tomato sauce and mozzarella (according to the original recipe, but many cooks add minced meat to the tomato sauce) are the protagonists of Rome’s street food.
The name of the original recipe is “telephone supplì” because when you take a big bite the mozzarella inside is stringy and reminds you of the “wire” of the telephones that were once used in the houses.
Locals love to eat this savory food from Rome next to pizza or other fried delicacies as a starter.
Where to eat supplì in Rome:
La Casa del Supplì | Piazza Re di Roma, 20.
Pizza al taglio – Pizza by the slice
This is how the Romans adapted the Neapolitan pizza recipe.
Roman pizza al taglio can be baked in either a wood-fired or electric oven, however, the result is a dough that is slightly lower and much crisper than that of Neapolitan pizza.
It is served as street food and sold by weight, folded up like a sandwich, and wrapped in paper towels so that you can eat it while walking.
The taste is so amazing that pizza al taglio has become one of the absolute favorite foods of the Romans, who choose it as a snack, lunch or even dinner.
Any occasion is good to eat pizza by the slice, which is prepared in all flavors, like the classic pizza and sold in special stores scattered in every corner of the city.
If you want to eat it the way I like it, get some “pizza bianca” (it looks like a flatbread) filled with “mortadella” deli meat.
Where to eat great Roman pizza al taglio:
Antico Forno Roscioli | Via dei Chiavari, 34
Filetti di baccalà fritto – fried cod fillets
Even if you’re not a very good observer, after spending a few days in Rome you’ll realize that fried delicacies are a fundamental part of Roman cuisine. There are just so many foods that Romans love to coat in batter and fry in hot oil.
Next to the supplì are zucchini flowers and cod fillets.
As an appetizer for the family lunch on Easter Sunday in Rome, it is a custom to fry slices of vegetables, ricotta cheese, pieces of apple, and codfish.
Where to eat fried cod fillets in Rome:
Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara | Via Del Teatro Pace, 37
Pomodori col riso – Baked tomatoes filled with rice
This is a summer first course to be eaten at room temperature or cold. It is an ideal dish to take for a picnic on one of the beautiful beaches near Rome.
Compared to other typical Roman dishes, the flavor of this one is more delicate, perhaps one of the reasons why young people do not like it so much.
The dish consists of two large tomatoes stuffed with plain rice and baked in the oven with sliced potatoes.
You can try tomatoes with rice in restaurants during the summer months, but they are not easy to find. Maybe try making them at home with this recipe.
Minestra di broccoli e arzilla – Roman broccoli and thornback ray soup
I’m particularly fond of this Roman dish because my grandmother often prepared it during the winter months, when ” Roman broccoli” is in season. This type of broccoli, famous all over the world for the psychedelic shape of its tops, is one of the symbolic foods of the city of Rome.
The soup is prepared by making a base of broth with “thornback ray” fish, which is then incorporated into a stir-fry of broccoli tops, garlic, oil, tomato paste, and anchovy paste.
Where to eat it (in winter):
Osteria del Velodromo Vecchio | Via Genzano 139
Carciofo alla romana – Roman-style artichoke
The best-known typical Roman artichoke dish is the fried artichoke or “carciofo alla giudia“, which originated in the Jewish culinary tradition of Rome. The one most commonly cooked in Roman homes, however, is the Roman-style artichoke, which you can easily find in restaurants during the harvest season of this precious vegetable.
The variety of artichokes used for the traditional recipe, which are rounder and called “carciofo mammola“, can cost as much as €1.20 per single artichoke.
The artichokes are cleaned by removing the hard leaves, so most of the leaves, until only the “heart of the artichoke” remains. At this point, the artichoke heads and the chopped stems are cooked in a pan with oil, garlic and squaw mint leaves. The result is unforgettable, an explosion of scents and flavors simple but strong that will move you!
The most typical pasta dish of Rome and one of the most famous Italian dishes in the world, pasta alla carbonara is seasoned with slices of jowl bacon, eggs, pecorino cheese, and plenty of ground pepper.
If you want it to taste even better, eat it in a restaurant that cooks homemade pasta fresca like “tonnarelli”, similar to spaghetti but a bit thicker and squarer.
Where to eat it:
Flavio al Velavevodetto | Via di Monte Testaccio 97
Let me know what your favorite food from Rome is or if you have any suggestions on what to eat in Rome!
when you’re full, keep exploring this city packed with history, art, and sights with my local guides to Rome:
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