The Best Places to Eat in Rome – First time in Rome and not sure where to eat? Navigating the hundreds of eating spots and spruikers on the streets of Rome can be a daunting task, especially if you are sufferring from jetlag or are wiery after exploring the cobbletsone streets of the Eternal City. Author and Rome travel blogger Bronte Jackson has put together a nice introductory eating guide for travellers who are looking for a place to eat in and around Campo de Fiori and Trastevere in Rome’s historical centre. Enjoy;
Although there are many great restaurants in the suburbs of Rome, these are not them. These top spots are all in the “centro historico”, the city centre of Rome. Handy if you are visiting Rome as generally this is where you will be staying. My definition of a top Roman restaurant is one that:
- Has been in operation for at least one hundred years
- Is family run (usually by the second or third generation by now)
- Specialises in traditional Roman cuisine (simple, fresh and offal based)
- Has a menu that depends on what is available at the market that day
- Does not depend on decor as a selling point. (Not for me the modern, sleek, sharply fitted out interiors with modern twists or re-inventions on traditional dishes. If I wanted those kind of restaurants I would go to Milan or Melbourne.)
So here goes, the top five are not in any particular order:
1. L’Hostaria Romanesca – Piazza Campo dei Fiori, 40 – Tel. 06 686 4024 Don’t bother calling as you can’t book and if you are lucky enough to get a seat you will have to wait a long time often for your meals. It consists of one small room inside plus a square of the piazza. There is a sign on the wall written in local dialect warning about the wait and not to bother the chef with complaints. But it is worth it. Dishes are individually and lovingly prepared, and spilling over with food of the highest and freshest quality. The Spaghetti Carbonara, Pollo con Pepperoni (only found in Rome)/chicken with capsicum, and Fegato alla griglia/grilled liver are the best I have ever tasted. But everything on the menu is good, cheap, and cooked with care and attention to detail. Try any of the specials as they will be seasonal and based on the chefs traditional knowledge. And while you are waiting you will have the spectacular Campo dei Fiori to watch – full of people, no cars, magnificent medieval buildings, and a statue of Giordano Bruno, the last person burnt to death there in 1600 for heresy. Reflect on how, if waiting for some spectacular Roman food while sipping wine and eating bread is the main problem you have at the moment, then life is much improved since 1600.
2. La Carbonara – Piazza Campo dei Fiori, 23 – Tel. 06 686 4783 You will be lining up often with international movie stars and politicians to get a seat but it is not a pretentious or expensive place, just a Roman institution. At the other end of the piazza from L’Hostaria, it is thankfully much larger so your chances of eating there are greatly increased, and they take bookings. Again it produces very traditional, high quality Roman dishes with just a bit more flair (and prices) than the down market L’Hostaria. The Fiori di Zucca/fried zucchini flowers, Saltimbocca alla Romana (veal with proscuitto and sage) are the best I have ever tasted and the Carbonara is on a par with L’Hostaria. Again you will have the Campo dei Fiori piazza to look out upon and will be entertained by a parade of non-stop travelling musicians.
3. Ai Spaghettari – Piazza di San Cosimato, 57-60, Trastevere – Tel. 06 580 0450 A beautiful, succulent and rich experience of a typical, contemporary restaurant, that has nevertheless been around for half a century or more. It is based in the most traditional part of Rome, Trastevere, a mostly pedestrian only precinct, which is now packed with restaurants and is an enchanting neighborhood to eat in. Ai Spaghettari is always noisy, has the television blaring, and is always full. A pizza oven greets you at the door and you can watch while your pizza is made, being flung up in the air and all. There are vast amounts of seating outside and in, and service and menu are both good, featuring lots of traditional Roman specials. If you don’t book you may be waiting a while but you will get a seat eventually.
4. Pizzeria Popi Popi – Via delle Fratte di Trastevere 45, 06 589 5167 I avoided going to this restaurant for years as it looks like the typical tourist trap often found in Trastevere. Red checkered table cloths, tables set outside in front of a beautiful, white marble church, and filled with tourists. Then my Italian husband and his mates took me there. Now we know the waiters by name. Frequented by both Italians and tourists alike, its cheap and cheerful outdoor atmosphere make it a superb summer Roman dining experience (and indoors for Winter). They have a large and traditional menu (including pizza) and the food always tastes surprisingly good for its quick production, volumes turned-over, and large variety. Their Tiramisu is one of the main reasons we keep going back. By the way, once I asked the waiter what the significance of the name was. He told me it’s the sound that Italian men make when they squeeze the breast of a woman “popi, popi”. Booking is optional, just turn up and the waiters will look after you.
5. Da Luigi – Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 23 – 06 6865 946 I stumbled on this place when I used to live around the corner from it and noticed it was always full with lines of people waiting. Hence I usually had to eat dinner next door in a grossly inferior establishment. Da Luigi is packed full with Roman families who like to keep this place a secret. It is squashed along the side of a tiny piazza across the road from Piazza Navona. Here you will find reasonably priced, down-to-earth Roman dishes specialising in sea food. It is noisy and always crowded and there is nothing to look at, but the variety and good reliable quality of the food makes up for it. The booking system doesn’t seem to work so be prepared to wait for a table which is never very long.
For more on Rome from Bronte Jackson check out her Rome Travel Blog: https://brontejackson.com/
You can also purchase Bronte’s book Roman Daze recounting her time living in the Eternal City Rome in the Vita Italian Tours/Pronto Travel office in Melbourne; 1/25 Little Oxford Street Collingwood, VIC 3066. Call us to reserve your copy today +61 3 9080 3440.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author Bronte Jackson and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or position of Vita Italian Tour