Writing about food is a lofty task. Trying to help folks decide where to eat in cities that tend to be overwhelmed with options is daunting in and of itself, but, to be honest, my biggest fear when it comes making food suggestions is risking that your suggestion might be known as a tourist trap to the locals, and that you, someone who prides themselves on eating like a local, is *shudders* basic. Run-on sentence aside, suggesting a restaurant is hard.
I did a lot of research before I left for Rome. I started stalking food writers, I screenshotted multiple Instragram posts, and read every Rome article on the Internet. (Thanks, Conde Nast Traveler!) What follows is a food guide that, I have to admit, is pretty decent. None of these restaurants are super fancy. They all fall into the category of Roman trattoria, which in my opinion, is the only type of restaurant you want to eat in while in Italy.
Pro tip: For an authentic Roman dining experience, avoid all restaurants that have menus with pictures, or that have English translations.
Armando al Pantheon
Armando al Pantheon is right off of the Piazza della Rotunda, where the Pantheon is located. It’s a fantastic trattoria with fresh, local ingredients. This was our first meal in Rome, and I wish we went back before we left. They served us bruscetta with arugula and tomatoes, porchetta with rosemary, sauteed artichokes, steamed calamari, and cacio e pepe. The wine is delicious and inexpensive.
Shit, I’m already drooling and I just started this post.
Also, known as Ristorante Trattoria Antonio al Pantheon. Located on the other side of the Pantheon from Armando, on via dei Pastini, is this classic Roman trattoria. A friend of my father’s suggested Antonio’s as he used to frequent it when stationed in Rome during the 60’s. When a family owned restaurant makes it this long, you have to try it. And oh boy, it didn’t disappoint. One of my favorite meals, Antonio and his staff prepared an incredible menu that I’m pretty sure wasn’t on the menu. They made us a fresh Dorado with rosemary, potatoes, tomatoes and squash, pasta with black AND white truffle, as well as homemade tiramisu. You could taste the passion that went into this meal. We also drank all of the wine.
Emma is an outstanding pizzeria close to the Forum and Colosseum. They get their pizza dough from the Roscioli bakery around the corner, and it’s phenomenal. (I recommend adding Roscioli to your list as well. They are known for their breads and pizza crusts.) Emma is some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. I suggest splitting a few different kinds. We shared mushroom, prosciutto and margarita.
Bonci chef, Gabriele Bonci, has claimed to have created thousands of different types of pizzas. Well, if that’s true, I have a lot of work cut out for me because I want to try them all. He pairs unique ingredients and ancient dough starter to create an incredible culinary experience… on a pizza. Both Bonci locations are near the Vatican, so it’s perfect to grab a slice after you three hour tour of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. We decided to try zucchini flower with anchovy and the margarita. No words. Just make the trek.
Cacio e Pepe
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of this lunch because I was too busy inhaling it. Located across the Tiber from the Piazza del Popolo, this local favorite is worth the trip if you’re looking for a no-frills experience. The staff barely speaks English, but are accommodating and happy to help if you’re not sure what is listed on the chalk board menu. All of the pasta is homemade and the classic sauces (Amentricia, Bolognese and Cacio e Pepe) are delicious. You can’t go wrong with anything.
Every time a local offered up a restaurant recommendation, they said to go to Monti. Monti is a neighborhood between the Colosseum and Termini Station with a lot of amazing food options. On one of our last nights in Rome, we walked a few blocks from our hotel and landed at Il Tettarello. It’s a pizzeria with easy food and great wine. We shared the bruscetta plate, salad and a few pizzas. On the pizza front, we ordered squash blossoms with anchovy, prosciutto, and an eggplant. The crust was thins, crispy and flavorful. It was all so so delicious and worthy of one of our last meals.
If you have any room left after a meal – or if it’s just too hot to eat real food – I highly recommend GROM. It’s a gelateria that sources only the best ingredients, mostly from their own farm. My go-to flavor is pistachio, but really, it’s gelato, so try all of it!
To sum this all up for you – eat all the pizza, eat all the pasta and drink all the wine. And if there’s room, and I say make the room, eat all the gelato.