UPDATED FOR 2016: Every Sunday I run into the same predicament. I want to eat a really good meal out, but somehow during the week I’ve forgotten how tough it is to get a last minute table. Inevitably I scramble for reservations and try to accommodate my increasingly picky palate. Don’t make my habitual error; remember that tables at great dining venues are scarce on Sundays, so be sure to book ahead where possible (no bookings taken at Trapizzino and Pizzarium). And of course start the day with a coffee and a pastry at Roscioli Caffe or Pasticceria Regoli.
Open for Lunch & Dinner
Cesare al Casaletto
Via del Casaletto 45 (Portuense)
Unbelievable fritti, solid Roman fare, and an excellent wine list make Cesare al Casaletto a favorite Sunday dining destination.
Tavernaccia da Bruno
Via Giovanni da Castel Bolognese 63 (Trastevere)
Opened in southern Trastevere in 1968 by Bruno Persiani, an Umbrian transplant to the Italian capital, this homey trattoria serves a mix of dishes from Umbria and Rome. Tavernaccia is now run by Persiani’s daughters and a Sardinian son-in-law who throws in a few of his own regional specialties like suckling pig cooked in the wood-burning oven. The fresh pastas are excellent (especially Sunday’s lasagna, which sells out quickly) and the wood oven-roasted brisket is otherworldly. Organic and natural wines from Italy and Slovenia round out the wine list.
Via dei Reti 44 (San Lorenzo)
In San Lorenzo, a district near La Sapienza University, this family-run trattoria serves carnivorous Roman fare and seafood dishes influenced by Puglia’s coastal cuisine. The sparsely decorated dining rooms welcome workers and families hungry for seafood pasta, pureed fava beans paired with simmered dandelion greens, and a respectable wine list.
Emma Pizzeria con Cucina
Via Monte Della Farina 29 (Centro Storico)
Emma’s fried starters like supplì (rice croquettes), fiori di zucca (fried squash blossoms filled with ricotta and anchovy), and mixed fried vegetables are consistently good and should be followed up with thin-crusted, Roman-style personal pizzas. Many of the pizza toppings are sourced from nearby Salumeria Roscioli, as are the cheese and cured meat plates. Pies range from the basic margherita to the luxurious jamón ibérico.
Via Evangelista Torricelli 2/12 (Testaccio)
In Testaccio’s sea of mediocre restaurants, La Torricella stands out for its fresh fish and tasty primi.
Via del Portico d’Ottavia 16 (Ghetto)
This “Kosher style” restaurant in the Ghetto serves some of the best Jewish Roman cuisine in town (though, to be frank, the competition isn’t that fierce). In addition to the traditional local dishes (fried artichokes, fried vegetables, fried cod filets, fried zucchini flowers, anchovies with endive, and tagliolini with chicory and bottarga), there is also a selection of Middle Eastern specialities such as falafel, couscous and tuna with tahini.
Food & Beverages (aka F&B and Hong Kong Food & Beverages)
Via Giolitti 105/113 (Termini)
Here, as in the other Chinese restaurants in Rome, the menu items which have been translated into Italian are bound to disappoint and indeed are not the ones you see Chinese families enjoying at the adjacent table. At F&B, ask to see the dishes displayed in the case at the back, things lik duck tongues, pork/chicken/prawn sticks deep fried to order, fried crab, and chicken feet. If you call ahead, they will prepare Peking duck.
Piazzale Aurelio 7 (Gianicolo)
Situated on the Janiculum Hill near Porta San Pancrazio, Antico Arco serves carefully prepared dishes that blend creativity with southern Italian ingredients.
Settimio al Pellegrino
Via del Pellegrino 117 (Centro Storico)
It helps to be a regular here, or prepared to be ignored in favor of those who are. The service can be slow and the food is simple, with a limited selection of first and second courses and contorni (vegetable side dishes). Somehow the montblanc makes up for the place’s shortcomings.
Via Giovanni Battista Bodoni, 62 (Testaccio)
Located in Testaccio, Rome’s undisputed offal capital, Piatto Romano focuses on classics like rigatoni con la pajata (pasta with veal or lamb intestines cooked in tomato sauce) and fettuccine con le rigaglie di pollo (with chicken innards) but there are plenty of pescatarian options, as well, like the outstanding cod baked with onions, pine nuts, and prunes.
C’è pasta e pasta
Via Ettore Rolli 29 (Trastevere)
Located a short distance from Stazione Trastevere, C’è Pasta…e Pasta (translation: “there’s pasta…and pasta”) serves delicious kosher meals to eat in or take away. Order at the counter and don’t miss Roman Jewish classics like filetti di baccalà (battered fried cod), aliciotti con l’indivia, and concia (marinated zucchini).
Via degli Specchi 6 (Centro Storico)
Open all day and late into the evening, this pub is perfect for a quick plate of potato croquettes and a craft beer flight.
Janta Fast Food
Via Mamiani 11 (Esquilino)
This Indian cafeteria and takeaway spot (formerly Kabir Fast Food) has been serving tasty curries, stews, and many vegetarian/vegan/gluten free dishes in a spartan dining room just off Piazza Vittorio since 1996. Start with fried vegetable samosas or pakoras and finish with one of the tooth-achingly sweet desserts, such as ras gulla or gulab jamun
Viale dell’Acquedotto Alessandrino 172 (Torpignattara)
The menu, which is written on folding chalkboards, circulates through the osteria’s dining room listing dishes rooted in Roman peasant cooking like horse skirt steak and stewed tripe. Osteria Bonelli is located in eastern Rome and well beyond the third century Aurelian walls. To get there, hop on the Giardinetti-bound commuter train from Termini or Porta Maggiore and get off at the Berardi stop.
Via dell’Arco di Travertino 27 (Tuscolano)
This kebab shop and takeaway joint is worth a trip on the Metro A (get off at Arco di Travertino) for quick and delicious Syrian food. Order assorted kibbeh (bulgur and spiced meat croquettes) and brik (savory phyllo pastry) to start, followed by lamb or chicken kebabs sliced from vertical spits and wrapped in house-made lavash flatbread.
Via Giovanni Branca 88 (Testaccio)
Excellent suppli’ and trapizzini (triangles of fluffy pizza bianca filled with sauces that recall the cucina romana–tripe, tongue, oxtail, meatballs, or salt cod) make Trapizzino a great spot for a no-frills snack or meal. No reservations or table service. There are other locations in Ponte Milvio and Mercato Centrale.
Via Meloria 43 (Cipro)
Gabriele Bonci’s famed pizza by the slice joint serves some of the best pizza in town. Toppings change throughout the day and are made from top-notch products. Pizzarium also sells excellent bread and suppli’ (fried rice balls with various fillings). It is a mistake not to start with one. No reservations and no table service. Closes at 10:00pm but last pies come out of the oven around 8:00pm.
Open at Lunch Only
Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi
Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9a/11 (Ghetto)
This wine bar and gourmet food shop serves a lite far menu through late afternoon.
Via degli Avignonesi 22 (Barberini)
This rather small family run restaurant serves some of the best fresh pasta in Rome. Bolognese specialties such tagliatelle alla bolognese tortelli di zucca, and lasagna al forno.
Via Monte de’ Cenci 9 (Ghetto)
This institution serves Roman Jewish cuisine and lots of offal, as well as land and sea inspired pasta dishes. Piperno is unfortunately past its prime and a bit overpriced, but it’s hard to beat the fritti (fried starters) and the outdoor seating in the summer is lovely.
Via San Vito 13 (Esquilino)
The Camerucci family, originally from Le Marche, serves food from their native region in this long established trattoria. Their starters (especially the sformatini) and pasta courses are their strong suits. Book well in advance.
Open at Dinner Only
Via Ostiense 56 (Ostiense)
Pizzeria Ostiense is the quintessential Roman pizzeria: bright lights, jocular service, and super thin pizzas with a slightly chewy, barely raised rim. It’s a neighborhood joint and most clients eat here for the convenience, atmosphere, and value, while I cross the river regularly to visit Pizzeria Ostiense, which I think is one of the best spots in town for thin-crusted Roman-style pies. Two of its owners previously worked at Da Remo in Testaccio, a beloved venue serving the classic local pizza style, so in spite of only being two years old, Ostiense has the street cred of a Roman institution.
La Gatta Mangiona
Via F. Ozanam 30/32 (Monteverde)
This pizzeria and trattoria in Monteverde serves excellent fried starters and pizzas. The beer list is extensive and there is an impressive selection of wine, whiskey and grappa. NB: It’s packed on Sundays and the pizza isn’t at its best.
Via Valle Corteno 31 (Nomentano)
Amazing fried starters, a great beer and wine list, and outstanding pizza. The definitive carb-driven Sunday dinner.
Via Siria 1 (Appio-Latino)
This pizzeria-ristorante near San Giovanni is the newest venue from Stefano Callegari, Rome’s foremost pizza entrepreneur (See Sforno, below). Here he teams up with Italian craft brewery Birrificio del Ducato to serve thick-rimmed pizzas baked in a domed, wood-burning Valoriani oven alongside 15 draft beers. In addition to pizza and beer, Sbanco also serves meat dishes and creatively flavored supplì.
Via Prenestina 118 (Pigneto)
Rome’s best Ethiopian restaurant (indeed one of the best in any genre) lies on the Via Prenestina, not far from the heart of Pigneto. The vegetarian dishes and doro wot are exceptional and the injera is perfect.
As always, here are a few places I dislike intensely, find overrated, and would discourage visiting for Sunday lunch, or any other meal for that matter: Pierluigi, Gusto, and Da Giggetto.