Rome for foodies: 20+ tips for eating like a local in Rome
I bet one of the best experiences you’re anticipating to have during your trip to Rome is to taste the superb and genuine Italian food. This guide to Rome for foodies contains the most accurate and updated information about eating in Rome, and both foreign and locals travelers will find a good use for it. This is a complete food guide to Rome that will facilitate your tasting journey through the most famous Roman dishes, and the ones you’re yet to discover. These are the foods the locals love to eat. I will tell you what the best treats in Rome are and where to find them, which restaurants that offer you the opportunity to feast, how to eat traditionally, or following contemporary trends. Among these tips for visiting Rome for foodies, you’ll also find useful things to know if you’re vegetarian and vegan.
1 Start your quest for the most authentic food in Rome from the scratch
If this is your first time in Rome and Italy, the number of restaurants and coffee shops around you might be baffling. A part of you will want to jump in and try any trattoria available, while another part of you will hold back, certain that not all of those places would be equally good, or even worse, to run into a scam. I need to share here, that Rome is the Italian city where I always double-check the reviews of a place before stepping in. This might be very time consuming, and that’s why I will suggest a few places I was satisfied with and that you will like too. However, while you’re mulling over where to start your foodie exploration, if you’ve already reached the most beautiful city in the world, do as a Roman would do. One of those contemporary Roman foodies that love to save money and eat well. Find a supermarket nearby and go grocery shopping with the locals. I’ve got a plan, of course… For instance, you could visit one of these shops or similar near you.
Conad City: Piazza dell’ Indipendenza 28
Coop: Via XX Settembre, 55
Todis: Via Michele Carcani
Here is where you can find all the authentic Italian products at the most affordable prices possible. Get some salad and cherry tomatoes. Go to the cheese counter and grab a few pieces, there are so many varieties for all the palates: pecorino, caciotta, robiola, stracchino, caprino, and fresh mozzarella of course. Get also a loaf of fresh bread, and let the clerk cut for you some slices of Prosciutto di Parma (or other varieties) to take away. They won’t speak perfect English, but your smile will help them understand.
At last, choose a bottle of red or white wine and go to the cashier. Head back with your booty of Italian grocery to your Airbnb or one of the stunning Rome parks, and have your most authentic Italian luncheon.
2 Heads up all the foodies in Rome
Culturally, shop customers in Rome and Italy are expected to be as kind and comprehensive as the shop assistants… if not more. This might be shocking, I know, but don’t say I didn’t tell you. Use a lot of gestures to go with the few Italian words you know, and they will do their best to make you happy.
3 Local food markets in Rome: for foodies who love to cook their own meals
A more picturesque alternative to shopping in the supermarkets in Rome is to visit neighborhoods’ food markets. For instance, the Mercato Trionfale near the Vatican, in the Prati district, one of the best areas to stay in Rome. Besides strolling around the stands, you can have fun admiring the portraits on the Roman actress Anna Magnani on the long marble stairs of the market, one of the most exquisite pieces of street art in Rome.
4 Campagna Amica Market – Circo Massimo
Every weekend, small local farmers from every corner of the countryside around Rome will bring their products in the heart of Rome’s historical center: veggies, wines, bakeries, meats, honey, legumes, flowers, plants, and of course lots of different cheese. Don’t miss the superb ricotta cheese from the sheep of the Gentili Bros from Lake Bracciano! The market is on Sat. and Sun. 8 AM – 3 PM
5 Street food in Rome: the biggest sin of contemporary Roman foodies
Street food is the biggest food temptation in Rome. The locals, which are always in a hurry and short of money, choose street food over sitting at a restaurant. Moreover, Rome’s street food is delicious. Here are the street foods you must absolutely try in Rome. You will be able to eat under €5!
This is my favorite street food in the world. I can’t think of anything as delicious as a Roman supplì. The locals usually pair it with a portion of sliced pizza, and it’s in the pizzeria shops that you’ll find it. Supplì is a sort of ball of boiled rice mixed with tomato ragu sauce and mozzarella, covered in bread crumbs and fried in vegetable oil. You can eat it all around the city, or you can go to:
Supplì Roma: via di San Francesco a Ripa, 137.
La casa del Supplì: Piazza dei Re di Roma, 20
Pizza al taglio
Pizza al taglio is the reason as why so many of us locals have a difficult time not eating pizza every day! Shops offering the “pizza alla pala” (not a rounded pizza that would be cut in slices), but long strips of pizza with many different toppings, that you can buy by weight. Choose your kind of pizza, let the owner cut for you as much as you want (there should be not preferred amount unless it’s sold by piece), weight it, fold it as a sandwich so you can eat it as you go.
The Vegan options are: pizza rossa (with tomato sauce) or pizza bianca (simple, delicious focaccia bread)
You can find the pizza al taglio everywhere in Rome, even in supermarkets, or you can check out the bakery Forno Monteforte in Via del Pellegrino, 129.
Pizza bianca ripiena
This flatbread, or focaccia bread, is the simplest type of pizza you can have, and it’s only seasoned with some olive oil and salt. Parents get it for children, but it can be transformed into the yummiest snack if you fill it with cuts and/or cheese. The locals like it particularly with mortadella (like the one you can have in the Antico Forno del Ghetto in Piazza Costaguti 30) or prosciutto. There’s one place in Rome where you can have the pizza bianca stuffed with all the ingredients you want: Lo Zozzone in Via del Teatro Pace, 32.
Gelato found its way all over the world. In Rome, the classic flavors like strawberry, lemon, hazelnuts, chocolate, pistachio, coffee, and custards are now competing with a more differentiated offer that will have you stand in front of the gelato counter not knowing what to choose. First of all, be sure to have some quality gelato in one of the best gelato shops in Rome, like Neve di Latte in Via Federico Cesi, 1 or Fatamorgana in Piazza degli Zingari, 5. If you don’t eat dairy and eggs, try the vegan gelato.
The “trapizzino” is probably the latest entry of Rome’s street food scene. Make this stop if you’re a foodie that’s not afraid of sinking your mouth into a bag of crunchy focaccia bread filled with a portion of some of the traditional Roman or Italian dishes, like the parmigiana or the pollo alla cacciatora (chicken browned off in a pan with herbs and tomato sauce). You can find the Trapizzino at Be.Re. in Via Vespasiano 2, or at Trapizzino in Piazza Trilussa 46.
Even if the street food “piadina” is originally from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, the diffusion in recent years of the chain “La Piadineria” has added one more choice to the horizon of street food lovers in Rome. Choose your favorite piadina receipt from the menu (there are quite a few options among cheese, vegetables, and cuts, but not for vegans), wait for a few minutes, and it’ll be hot and ready for you. There are many shops from La Piadineria, and one is in Via del Boschetto, 98.
6 Mercato di Testaccio – street food market
Rome is quite a big metropolis, and each of its neighborhoods has a food market, along with countless small and less small supermarkets. But there’s only one place where you can walk around in a curated and appealing contemporary space with lots of gastronomical stands as well as tiny grocery shops selling local products and delicacies: the Mercato di Testaccio. Since the renovation of the market structure to a contemporary design, it has become a social hub and enjoyable, especially at lunchtime. Here, you will find all the street food you need to try in Rome, but also books and clothes stalls. This is a true heaven for all the foodies in Rome.
7 The great scam of the Roman “Bar” – coffee shops
Foodwise, the biggest delusion you can have in Rome is breakfast. Maybe you’re okay leaving behind your habit of having an abundant, mainly savory breakfast sitting around some quiet cafe for the Italian standing caffè and cappuccino culture, but there’s more to it. The Italian coffee shop which is called “bar”, is traditionally a place where people go for a few minutes before heading somewhere else, to have an espresso, to buy cigarettes or pay a bill, or to try their luck at the instant betting… so many coffee shops even have a couple of slot machines inside, for sad individuals that can’t help wasting their time and money. The food you can get in those places is the lowest quality, especially the cornetto. The problem with the cornetto is that 80% of the coffee shops do not make cornetto in the house, but buy it from other sources which use the cheapest ingredients around. You won’t find the French-style croissant in most places.
If you want to have a healthier breakfast experience in Rome, try Compagnia del Pane in Via Fabio Massimo 89. For a longer stay in a friendly environment, visit one of the best cafes in Rome.
8 Cultural note – Rome’s Trattoria
The peculiar Roman eatery known as trattoria, osteria, or hostaria, was initially very different from a restaurant. In there, you could only find the recipes from the Roman culinary tradition, and there would be a “meal of the day” made with ingredients fresh from the market. The offer of the traditional trattoria is limited, and the prices are very affordable. It is usually a family business in a small environment decorated modestly, very much like the Trattoria Da Regina near the Bracciano Castle. Also, the manners of the staff would result in quite unrefined but authentic. If you’re looking for this kind of place in contemporary Rome, and especially near the historical center, I’m afraid you won’t find it. Time has gone by, society has changed, and the trattorias have adapted to become more like the typical restaurant. However, there is a trattoria in Trastevere that still holds a bit of the rustic charm (but not the affordable prices): Cencio la Parolaccia in Vicolo dei Cinque, 3. In here, you can live a parody of the Roman folklore, with the staff singing vulgar jokes and addressing the customers directly while they eat. Well, it’s not for everyone, but you wouldn’t understand much of their Roman-Italian anyway!
Your hunt for the more authentic trattorias would be luckier if you took a day trip from Rome to one of the off-grid villages of the Roman countryside, like Frascati.
9 The best pasta in Rome
In our Italian culture, eating a pasta course is a more fundamental meal than bread. Pasta is what makes us feel really full, and like we’ve eaten enough. Every restaurant in Rome offers pasta in different shapes and varieties. Some pasta styles from the Roman and central Italian tradition have become very popular all over Italy:
Served with jowl bacon browned in olive oil and a sauce, egg cream, grated parmesan and pecorino cheese, pepper.
Same as carbonara, but without eggs
Pasta with cream of jowl bacon, tomato sauce, pecorino, and parmesan cheese
Cacio e Pepe – the pasta for vegetarians with strong tastes
Pasta served in a soft cream of pecorino cheese and pepper
10 Vegan and vegetarian pasta in Rome
The number of Italians who choose to leave animal derivatives out of their diets is increasing every day. If you are vegetarian, you won’t have issues finding the right pasta for you, with all the cheese and vegetable options around. State up-front the ingredients you don’t eat, and the waiter will help you find a compromise. If you are vegan, you can ask for one of these two Roman dishes that are basic and easy to prepare:
Spaghetti aglio, oio e peperoncino, which is a pasta cooked in oil, garlic, and chili pepper, never too spicy.
Arrabbiata is a pasta with a simple tomato sauce, but don’t forget to say “no parmesan!”. We like to put it everywhere…
11 Where to find the best pasta in Rome
Do like the locals! We love home-made style pasta, like the ones our grannies used to make for the family Sunday lunch gathering. Since we can get the packed pasta at the supermarket, we prefer the home-made one when we get dinner outside. There’s a huge tradition for home-made pasta in Rome and Italy. Probably, you’ve heard of fettuccine and tonnarelli… these are all names given to a pasta shaped in a particular way. Here are a few places in Rome where you can find them:
Da Felice a Testaccio (highly recommended to reserve a table)
Altro – Pasta all’uovo in the Mercato di Testaccio
12 Thursday’s Gnocchi
You can never be tired of eating gnocchi. Consider this dish a first course, an alternative to pasta like the risotto or the lasagna that aren’t proper Roman recipes. But gnocchi is, and it is now popular all over the world! Tiny little balls of potatoes and flour, boiled in water, and topped with the traditional Roman and Italian sauces. Try it at the Osteria dei Cappellari in Via Dei Cappellari, 66 or at Pastificio Guerra in Via della Croce, 8 every Thursday, as per tradition!
13 The Bruschetta
The extremely simple and famous bruschetta made its way from the family spring BBQs to the restaurant table, and the locals love it. A thick slice of homemade bread grilled and seasoned with garlic and olive oil, and dressed with a cherry tomato salad upon serving. You can also have bruschetta with ham, mushroom, artichoke or olive sauce. Each restaurant makes its bruschetta recipe. If you want to try a few of them, you can order a dish called bruschette miste. My favorite bruschetta in Rome is at Da Mario in the Pigneto neighborhood (Via del Pigneto, 53), and Insalata Ricca in Piazza del Risorgimento, 5.
14 Rome’s Pizzeria – Pizza in Rome
In Italy, we all agree that the top-notch pizza you’ll find it only in Naples. Some say it’s the water; some say it’s the quality of the mozzarella. I guess that the amazing pizza artisans have been able to keep their art secret… The pizza in Rome is thinner than the one in Naples, and with a smaller edge, and it can be delicious too if you find the right place. My recommendation for pizza in Rome:
Pizzeria da Remo at Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice, 44,
Pizzeria Ristorante Nuovomondo at Via Amerigo Vespucci, 9/12/15
15 The Fritti – Rome’s fried delicacies
Fried food is a cornerstone of Roman cuisine. We cook for the Christmas Eve dinner and for the Easter lunch, and some of the foods I’m about to describe are at the top of our cravings’ list.
Fritti at the pizzeria
You can consider them as street foods because you can eat them in a few bites together with your sliced pizza on the go; however, they are also the ideal appetizer to eat before a rounded pizza at the pizzeria restaurant.
You’ve already heard of the supplì, the fried ball of rice, tomato sauce and mozzarella, that might resemble the Sicilian arancini. The next one in order of importance is the fried courgette flower fiore di zucca fritto, fried with a piece of mozzarella and an anchovy inside the flower’s corolla. And:
A portion of big green olives filled with minced meat, coated in batter, and fried.
Crocchetta di patate
A ball of mashed potatoes with a piece of mozzarella and sometimes of prosciutto cotto (better to enquire if you’re vegetarian) coated in batter and fried.
Baccalà fritto – fried codfish
Italian fritti are delightful, and you can’t miss them if you’re a foodie in Rome!
16 For meat-eaters
It happened that the person writing this article about Rome for foodies grew up around one of the most amazing Roman cuisine chef for grandma! My grandma used to work in a factory and loved to cook natural food for the family on Sundays. I’ve always been super picky about eating meat courses outside, as the level was already set quite high. You’ll be able to find a lot of meat varieties in Rome. The most traditional roman dishes are:
Saltimbocca alla romana
The literal translation says that… this meat dish is so delicious that it jumps directly in your mouth! Slivers of calf meat tied together with a prosciutto ham slice and a sage leaf and slowly cooked in a sauce of olive oil, butter, and flour.
Bollito alla Picchiapò
Beef stew cooked in tomato sauce with onion and a few spoons of milk
Abbacchio alla scottadito
Lamb chops slowly cooked in a pan with olive oil, butter, and rosemary
Recommended: try the meat course of the day at the Trattoria Dino Express in Via Tacito, 80 or Flavio al Velavevodetto in Via di Monte Testaccio, 97.
17 The Trastevere neighborhood and its restaurants
Trastevere is one of Rome’s neighborhoods with a deep sense of identity. Incredibly popular among travelers for eats and drinks, it can reveal just a too much touristy area if you go there looking for something authentic. Of course, you would meet a lot of new people there, it’s a night-life hub, but the locals have already put other areas, like the Testaccio or the Monti neighborhood at the top of the list of places where to spend a night in Rome. There are, of course, quite a few good restaurants in Trastevere, but sincerely, most of them are tourist traps, and a local would go somewhere else, where you would pay almost half the price for a pasta. I would visit Trastevere for a beer or an afternoon stroll along with the shops. A better area in Rome for foodies would be Testaccio, instead.
18 The buffet aperitivo in Rome
Rome locals yearn for the all-included buffet where you can re-fill your plate as many times as you want for a fixed price. This formula is especially desirable at the aperitivo hour (6:30 PM to 8:30 PM), when the hungry Romans leave their workplace in search of a fulfilling fix of delicious food, preferably paired with a glass of wine, but also at lunchtime. There are a few places offering buffet lunch and aperitivo dinners in the city, but it’s also easy to stumble upon stable food that you wouldn’t even eat for free. The perfect places are the ones that offer a wide range of options of local and fresh specialties. In this way, you’ll be able to try different kinds of pasta, meat, fish, veggies, and so on to the dessert. Make sure to visit one of these places to have the perfect buffet experience for as less as €10-11:
Kilo Restaurant at lunchtime: Via Della Lega Lombarda, 28-30 (Monday thru Friday)
Momart Restaurant Cafè for the aperitivo: Viale XXI Aprile, 19
19 Eating fish in Rome
Fish and seafood recipes in the Italian cuisine couldn’t be more under the radar of the foreign traveler! Eating seafood in Rome is as popular as eating meat. To make it a perfect experience, you should visit Ostia, Fiumicino, or some other beach town near Rome. However, you can have awesome seafood eat inside proper Rome too. Do you want to do like the locals? We go out for seafood, or dishes with meat or pizza. We usually don’t mix those. That’s why there’s a saying that goes “nè carne nè pesce…” (nor meat now fish), meaning that something or someone hasn’t got a distinctive character or quality. Having a seafood dinner in Rome is more expensive than a meat or pizza dinner. A typical fish-based meal in Rome would start with an appetizer like:
Insalata di mare
A salad with octopus, squid, clams, mussels, and shrimps boiled in water and seasoned with olive oil, parsley, lemon, salt, and garlic
Polpo con patate
A salad of octopus and boiled potatoes, seasoned as before
Sauté di cozze – sautéed mussels
Then would follow the first course of pasta or gnocchi with seafood, that could easily sound like:
Spaghetti alle vongole – spaghetti with clams
Spaghetti allo scoglio
Spaghetti dressed with clams, prawns, calamari, and mussels sautéd with fresh cherry tomatoes and parsley
Flat spaghetti with lobsters and cherry tomatoes
Gnocchi cozze e pecorino – gnocchi with mussels and pecorino cheese
And, the long-awaited second course,
Frittura di mare
A mix of little shrimps, red mullets, anchovies, cods, and calamari coated in Bram and fried in vegetable oil.
Orata or spigola al forno con patate – orata or sea bass baked together with potatoes
Polpo alla piastra – grilled octopus
Just to name a few options! Italian chefs love to experiment and to delight the locals’ palates ingeniously combining ingredients but always looking for a delicate and harmonious result.
20 Where can you find a good seafood restaurant in Rome?
Le Mani in Pasta in Via dei Genovesi 37 for a pasta with seafood experience
La Fraschetta del Pesce in Via Silicella 14
21 Rome’s veggies and fruits
Rome is probably the wealthiest city in the world in relation to agricultural products. Located at the center of Italy, here you can find all of the Italian regional varieties of vegetables and fruits. Every season has an abundant harvest. Some of the veggies found in Rome and its countryside, I haven’t seen abroad. Heard of the chicory, or the puntarelle, broccolini, Roman broccoli, artichokes, rockets?… The hilly and mountainous areas around Rome grow mushrooms, truffles, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. And let’s not forget all the juicy citrus fruits that you’ll be able to eat here at any month of the year.
Veggies are a fundamental part of any lunch and dinner in the local style.
A mixed salad (insalata mista) with lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and radicchio leaves can be a side course to accompany a meat dish or to end a meal based on pasta. Sometimes, we add cheese or other ingredients to the salad to make it more consistent and transform it into a full meal, eaten together with bread or toasts… We don’t usually aim for a tasty and savory dressing like in other parts of the world; instead, we focus on the freshness of the ingredients. If you love salads, visit one of the Insalata Ricca restaurants, like the one in Piazza Risorgimento 5.
Other veggies of the Roman Italian tradition you must try once are:
Lightly boiled chicory sautéed in olive oil and garlic.
Carciofo alla romana: this is my all-time favorite! This dish is in itself enough reason to make Italian cuisine the most delicious in the world… and it’s a dish that originated in Rome. To prepare this dish, the carciofo romanesco is used, which is more rounded than the common artichoke. The carciofo is then deprived of the hardest leaves and slowly cooked with olive oil, garlic, and ground ivy. The effect of this soft, yummy veggie dish in your mouth is simply too intense an experience to describe.
Carciofo alla giudia
Artichoke fried in boiling oil, with a softly crunchy texture.
I’ve given you enough inspiration to kickstart your tasting journey in Rome! Let me know in the comments which of the tips for visiting Rome for foodies was the most helpful…