Rome Food Guide: What to Eat in Rome & Where
One of the first things you will think about when planning a trip to Rome, Italy’s capital, will be the food.
The locals are passionate about their meals, opinionated about how their dishes are made, and the restaurants around this ancient city have perfected the art of traditional Roman food.
We’ll take you through some of Rome’s most famous dishes, both savory and sweet. Rome is famous for countless dishes and ingredients, and we will take you through the most iconic meals.
Savory Dishes to Try in Rome
1. Pasta Caciopepe
The first of Rome’s famous pasta trio, Pasta Caciopepe, is a creamy, cheesy, peppery joy. The literal translation is simply “cheese and pepper”, which make up the majority of this amazing dish.
Essentially, this dish is prepared by cooking the spaghetti al dente and taking some of the starchy, salty, hot pasta water and mixing it with pecorino and parmesan cheese.
Of course, chefs can make subtle flavor alterations, but Romans like to do things the traditional way. You may get toasted black pepper, additional cheeses, or slightly different pasta variations, but if you order Pasta Caciopepe from a restaurant in Rome, it will likely come out looking similar to other kitchens’ versions.
Best places to find Pasta Caciopepe in Rome:
Felice a Testaccio – Felice is the place to get Pasta Caciopepe, and you’ll enjoy some of the best food with Italian locals. When the Caciopepe is served, your waiter grates fresh parmesan over the dish, stirring the cheese until it forms a creamy texture. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss.
Angelina’s – Another in the Testaccio neighborhood, Angelina’s mixes amazing food with great vibes. On a nice evening, you can sit on their rooftop garden and enjoy the beauty of Roman weather, or have aperitivo (cocktails and Italian snacks) on their porch.
2. Pasta Carbonara
Some argue the name comes from Carbonari, coal workers, who would prepare this over a wood fire. They needed ingredients that would be easily found and preserved.
Romans like to keep pasta dishes simple. There are usually four ingredients besides the pasta itself in Pasta Carbonara: guanciale (a bacon-like Italian cured meat), or cured pork jowl, fresh eggs, black pepper, and pecorino romano cheese.
The crunchiness of the pork, along with the fresh mix of egg and cheese make this perfectly balanced on your palate.
Best places to find Pasta Carbonara in Rome:
Luciano Cucina Italiana – Located just a few blocks away from Piazza Navona, Luciano Cucina Italiana offers a seasonally rotating menu along with the staple dishes. The chef, Luciano Monosilio, is the self-proclaimed “King of the Carbonara,” and his restaurant offers the famous roman pasta dishes cooked the traditional way, along with modern twists on other Roman food.
Roscioli Salumeria Con Cucina – The Roscioli family has been in the hospitality industry for four generations, starting with a bakery and grocery store until they transformed the space into the restaurant it is today.
Their pasta carbonara is one of the best in the city, and with it, you can get amazing food from the regions of Italy. They have 350 different kinds of cheese, 150 types of dried meat, with preserves, sausages, oils, and all kinds of vinegar to add to your amazing meal.
3. Pasta Amatriciana
The final pasta we’re covering here is Pasta Amatriciana. Some may think that Italy and tomatoes go hand in hand, but actually, tomatoes didn’t arrive in the country until the 17th century. Despite that, they’ve made pasta sauce a staple Italian food across the world.
Pasta Amatriciana was said to be born out of gricia sauce, which is made with just olive oil, guanciale, black pepper, and pecorino cheese. Legend has it that people in Amatrice added tomatoes to their gricia sauce, creating this deliciously rich dish. Eventually, the people of Amatrice made their way back and forth to Rome where they would travel to sell their produce, cheeses, and cured meat.
The ingredients today remain the same for a classic Amatriciana: tomato sauce, guanciale, and pecorino cheese. Chefs can add whatever flavor they like to the tomato sauce, giving their own unique spin to the dish. Though people in Amatrice only make this dish with spaghetti, you’ll find it with bucatini noodles in Rome.
Best places to find Pasta Amatriciana in Rome:
Armando al Pantheon – Just a few blocks away from the Pantheon, Chef Armando Gargioli opened this restaurant in 1961 with his children and a vague idea of what he wanted to do with it.
Now, three generations of Gargiolis work in the kitchen of this traditional restaurant, where they produce perfectly al dente pasta, creamy tomato sauce with generous crunchy chunks of guanciale, and a heavy dusting of pecorino romano.
The fluffy potato-based pasta melts in your mouth, while the savoriness of the sauce compliments it perfectly. The kitchen offers a tasting menu, as well as a la carte.
Translated literally as “jump in the mouth,” saltimbocca is a dish that is deeply rooted in the region’s cuisine. Saltimbocca is a “secondi” dish, or a main/meat dish, and usually one of the more expensive parts of the menu.
The dish is a protein-packed masterpiece, with prosciutto-wrapped veal cutlets lightly fried until tender. The meat is flavored with sage and sautéed in white wine.
Best places to get Saltimbocca in Rome:
Trattoria Vecchia – On an ivy-covered side street in Trastevere, one of the most famous food neighborhoods in Italy, Trattoria Da Teo is a great restaurant for locals and travelers alike. Their Saltimbocca is simple and succulent, and one of the many amazing dishes this restaurant has to offer.
Tratorria Zi Umberto – Though this restaurant may seem like a typical “trattoria” in Trastevere, the Saltimbocca is one of the best in the city, with a crispy outside, moist inside, with a delicious white wine sauce.
The best part about this restaurant is you can order so much food that you may not be able to walk out the door, but the bill looks as if you’ve hardly eaten at all, the value is that good.
Considered a street food, you can find suppli everywhere: at pizza shops, restaurants, and even the supermarket.
These are breaded and deep-fried rice croquettes that come in all kinds of flavors from classics like Cacciopepe and Amatriciana and cheese to unique local flavor mixtures created from seasonal spices.
Best places to get suppli:
La Gatta Mangiona – A bit outside the center of Rome, La Gatta Mangiona is in the quiet neighborhood of Monteverde, but it is worth the trip.
Outside of their amazing pizza, which mixes the puffy crisp Neapolitan crust with Crisp Roman edges, they’re also known for their unique daily takes on suppli. Their suppli recipe changes seasonally, but you can enjoy things like saffron and asparagus or mint and garlic oil.
Supplizio – From the mind of Chef Arcangelo Dandini, Supplizio is designed to look like a living room, with leather couches and coffee for your utmost comfort. The menu consists only of street food, with a rotating menu. You’ll be able to sample all of the classic suppli flavors at reasonable prices.
While Naples is the birthplace of pizza and credited with some of the best pizza in the world, Rome is not very far behind. Actually, Rome is home to three of the best 50 pizza restaurants in the world.
There’s an international award given out to the best establishments selling pizza worldwide and Rome always makes the list. Therefore you simply can’t visit Rome without sampling at least a couple of local pizzas. Here is the list of the best pizzerias in Rome.
Best places to get pizza in Rome:
Seu Pizza Illuminati – Credited with the best pizza in town, Seu Pizza Illuminati is a must-stop for pizza lovers in Rome. It consistently ranks among the best 10 pizza restaurants in the world and it offers some exceptional quality food with creative pizza toppings at quite affordable prices.
180g Pizzeria Romana – A cult pizza place in Rome, this pizzeria is often on the bucket list for pizza lovers worldwide. The base of the pizza is crunchy and its dough is based on a long fermentation process, while the tomato sauce is simply amazing.
7. Carciofi alla Giudia (Roman Jewish artichokes)
These lightly fried lemon-drenched artichokes are a traditional recipe from Rome’s Jewish quarter and are a favorite Italian Easter dish.
Their name “alla giudea” or “alla giudia” refers to their ancient preparation by the Jews both on Kippur, the Holy day for Judaism, and for the springtime feast of Pesach, the Jewish Passover, which roughly coincides with Christian Easter.
It’s a must-try dish when visiting Rome. The best Roman artichokes can be sampled in the local Jewish restaurants of course. Try Nonna Bette, a fantastic Kosher restaurant decorated with with wall frescoes of 19th-century ghetto scenes.
Sweets & Desserts to Try in Rome
Though it’s perhaps a cliche, Italian people live “la dolce vita”, or the sweet life. Their morning starts with espresso and cornetti (croissants) topped with powdered sugar or stuffed with cream and pistachio, white chocolate, or jam.
They snack on gelato throughout the day and end their meals with amazing desserts that are somehow rich and light at the same time.
While gelato was invented in Sicily, you can’t go to Rome without trying their gelato!
Often referred to as “Italian ice cream,” there are distinct differences between ice cream and gelato. Though they both have similar ingredients, milk, cream, sugar, and eggs (plus whatever flavors they want to add), gelato doesn’t have as high a fat content and the mixing process is much slower.
With these two factors, there is less air added to gelato, making a denser texture and a more concentrated flavor profile in gelato.
When you’re looking for a decent gelateria for a snack or dessert, look for gelato in metal trays, flattened at the top. If the gelato is stacked and not melting, this means it is full of preservatives and not freshly made.
Best places to get gelato in Rome:
Gelateria dei Gracchi – Known for visits from famous chefs and food show hosts like Anthony Bourdain, Gelateria dei Gracchi is perhaps the best in Rome. You have to try their “gelato al pistacchio”, one of Italy’s famous gelato flavors. This gelato is a perfect mixture of velvety cream, lightly sweet, and nutty pistachio flavors.
Come il Latte – Just outside of Villa Borghese, Come il Latte boasts fresh quality ingredients and produce sourced locally. They make their gelato daily, in-house, and only make enough for the day. They offer amazing traditional and rotating flavors, too.
Besides gelato, tiramisu has to be one of the first things that come into your mind when you think of Italian desserts. Strips of coffee-soaked ladyfingers are covered in layers of sweet and creamy mascarpone, and the dessert is finally topped with cocoa.
Tiramisu is one of the best ways to end a meal, and the name itself suggests why. The phrase comes from “tirami su”, which means “a pick me up”. This dessert is light enough to eat no matter how full you are, with an added caffeine boost for a bit of extra energy and help with digestion.
Best places to get Tiramisu in Rome:
Bar Pompi – Another self-proclaimed “King” (this time of tiramisu), Bar Pompi is one of local Romans’ go-to pasticceria for this dessert. They have a celebrated classic tiramisu, and also offer different flavor combinations including pistachio, banana, strawberry, and more. There are six locations across Rome, so you’ll easily find one no matter what neighborhood you find yourself in.
Caffetteria Barberini – If you’re looking for a smaller portion of this iconic dessert, then look no further than Caffetteria Barberini. This sweet shop offers espresso-sized cups made of chocolate, filled with tiramisu ingredients, along with coffee and other delicious Italian pastries.
Maritozzi’s roots have been tracked all the way back to ancient Rome, when they were made for men who spent their entire day laboring in the fields. The original loaf was packed full of dried fruits, honey, and raisins, giving these workers a calorie-packed and filling meal to get them through the day.
Now, this sweet loaf is cut in half and stuffed with whipped cream, and this pastry has become a staple breakfast food, eaten with a side of espresso or cappuccino before work. The ingredients today consist of yeast, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and fresh cream. You can also find additional toppings such as pine nuts, raisins, candied orange zest, and even savory stuffing too!
Best places to get Maritozzi:
Regoli – A traditional Roman pasticceria over 100 years old, Regoli is wildly thought of as the best place for Maritozzi in the city by locals. Their pastries are done in a strictly traditional style, with classic Regoli with cream or the Lenten version with raisins.
Il Maritozzo Rosso – In the heart of Trestever, Il Maritozzo Rosso offers only Maritozzi. Though this may sound like a bad strategy for a restaurant, they offer a wide variety of gourmet sweet and savory stuffed maritozzo, interpreting maritozzo as a sandwich instead of a pastry. You’ll find stuffings such as stracciatella, stewed oxtail, anchovies and pine nuts, and so much more.
We have covered several foods famous in Rome, but we have barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. When you’re visiting this historic city, be on the lookout for festivals. Many of the seasonal events in Rome itself and in the surrounding areas provide amazing local dishes that come around once a year.
Related: 20 Most Popular Italian Desserts
Related: Florence Food Guide