Updated June 1, 2021, the day some places in Rome are opening for the first time in 9 months and others are welcoming indoor dining once again, increasing their capacities and therefore potential revenues. If you are planning a visit to Rome, please keep in mind how fragile the restaurant business is right now. It’s both great and scary that all of a sudden Rome is back to business as usual for the most part. I have feelings about this and before you hop on a plane, I suggest reading this post. There is still a curfew in place, table size and restaurant capacity is limited, and as of today 20% of Italians have been fully vaccinated. Whether you plan your trip next week or next year, if you make a booking, don’t show up late or no-show. Cancel well in advance if you know you can’t make it. Order multiple dishes to make your taking up a place in a time of limited capacity worthwhile to the establishment (you don’t have to do the whole 5-course feast but ordering just a pasta isn’t really the move right now). Although I am generally an advocate of tipping like a local (a few symbolic euros on a trattoria check used to do it), consider leaving a bit more if you can.
With a city nicknamed Caput Mundi—Capital of the World—it’s only natural that Romans are accustomed to seeing their home as unrivaled in matters of history, culture, and food. And while it’s true that traditional local cuisine holds a sacred place at the table, the Rome is hardly impervious to change. The city’s classics, from carbonara to cacio e pepe, are still universally beloved, but Rome’s dining and drinking culture, like that of all cities, is in a constant state of evolution (albeit at a glacial pace compared to New York, Paris or London). Recently, tightening purse strings, transitioning food systems, covid restrictions, and changing palates have conspired to create exciting new ways of dining, drinking, and shopping for food. There have also been a shocking number of new openings in the past year, especially bars and bistrots that don’t quite hit the mark. But this is no time to single out the many disappointing places I have tried recently. Let’s focus on what’s great about eating and drinking in Rome right now!
The innovative features of Rome’s flourishing food and drinks scene are at their best when they use tradition as a foundation: neo-trattorias like Santo Palato serve honest classics with a few clever twists, while the booming independent enoteca scene, embodied by wine bars like La Mescita, Litro, L’Antidoto, and Mostò embrace natural and traditional wines. Craft beer pubs like Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa’ and Artisan, run by enthusiastic experts, promote small producers over conventional choices. Meanwhile, a revived interest in food provenance has given rise to a growing number of farmers’ markets, which contrary to popular belief are relative newcomers to the city’s gastronomic landscape (hire me for a tour and we can talk all about it). If you’re looking for fresh, seasonal produce directly from farms, visit the stalls in the south side of the Mercato Trionfale near the fish mongers. There, and elsewhere in town, the light and dark green banners hanging in stalls announcing “ALBO PRODUTTORI AGRICOLI IN VENDITA DIRETTA” signal that you’re at a stall run by a farm (the others sell produce sourced from a wholesale market).
Visitors to the Italian capital will be endlessly satisfied, whether they are after traditional foods or fresh flavors–but only if they know exactly where to look! So, where should you eat, drink, and shop for food in Rome? SO MANY AWESOME PLACES. I have so many resources dispersed over so many platforms (take a spin on my clips page to find guides and articles for NYT, Bon App, Eater, Punch, and more), but here’s a more succinct guide to my personally and independently* vetted recommendations for dining, drinking, and shopping for food and booze in Rome.
If you are after traditional cucina romana at moderate prices, Armando al Pantheon and Cesare al Casaletto are your best bets. I also love Tram Tram in San Lorenzo (they also serve dishes from Puglia) and for cheap, abundant comfort food, I visit Osteria Bonelli in Torpignattara. And for super honest, affordable, delicious Roman/Umbrian/Sardinian specialties, plus pizza, served with a smile, Tavernaccia Da Bruno is it. I also love Al Moro near the Trevi Fountain but if you’re not a regular they can be kinda not the nicest. In Testaccio, I’m a big fan of the service and food of Piatto Romano.
Roscioli and Santo Palato may not serve explicitly traditional classics, instead blending modern techniques with local flavors, but both are excellent and you’d be hard-pressed to find better pasta classics than those Chef Nabil Hadj Hassenwhips up at Roscioli or more exciting twists on offal than chef Sarah Ciccolini serves at Santo Palato. I have a handy guide for getting the most out of your visit to Roscioli, a must-read before this must-visit.
For thick-rimmed pizza, check out Tonda, Sforno, Sbanco, and La Gatta Mangiona, while Da Remo and Pizzeria Ostiense serve excellent thin crust Roman pies. 180g Pizzeria Romana does thin-crust Roman style with a gourmet flare. Don’t miss pizza by the slice at Pizzarium and Panificio Bonci (or Bonci’s bakery in the Mercato Centrale in the train station). I also like Prelibato in Monteverde for a slice. The pizza bianca at Antico Forno Roscioli and pizza rossa at Forno Campo de’ Fiori are delicious, as are the various flavored slices at the latter (Forno Roscioli’s pizzas are heavy IMO). For tasty little pizzette, visit Da Artenio in the Mercato di Testaccio. While you’re at the market, pop over to Casa Manco for slices (they have a location in Trastevere now, too). Neapolitan imports I Quintili in Furio Camillo is fun and does delicious fritti. Visit the OG pinseria La Pratolina for pinsa romana (or bake your own)! For a round-up of these and other favorite places for pizza in Rome, take a peek at this article I wrote for the sadly defunct Lucky Peach Magazine.
You may wish to give fine dining a pass. So much of it is so disappointing, derivative, and precious. Sadly, Metamorfosi in Parioli has closed. Zia in Trastevere, which has 1 Michelin star, will scratch the formal service itch if that’s what you need and the kitchen does nice modern fare. Across town near Piazza del Popolo, Marzapane has a new location and new chefs. It isn’t super formal but the dishes are polished and feature a fun mix of Italian ingredients infused with international techniques. Il Sanlorenzo, an upscale fish restaurant in central Rome, may not have a star, but you’ll find formal (if occasionally aloof) service, an elegant atmosphere, and the finest fish dishes in town. (Not everyone reports the same service experience–see comments below). For more fresh fish at prices that reflect their high quality (fresh fish in Italy is very expensive), I love raw dishes, fried starters, and seafood pasta at Tempio di Iside.
For kosher meals, try C’e’ Pasta…e Pasta, which serves Roman Jewish classics cafeteria-style. In the Ghetto, Boccione Il Forno del Ghetto does amazing fruitcake called pizza ebraica, as well as spectacular almond paste and ricotta cakes. Nearby, Nonna Betta serves kosher-style food in a restaurant setting. Stick to the the pezzetti fritti, concia (fried and marinated zucchini) carciofi alla giudia (in season in the winter), and spaghetti con bottarga e cicoria.
Go to Testaccio or San Giovanni for brisket or artichoke or kidney sandwiches at Mordi e Vai. The trapizzini at the growing number of Trapizzino shops are a must (especially the chicken cacciatore)! I’m a fan of the Trastevere location in Piazza Trilussa, which is currently the only branch with table service and a full-on wine list. The suppli’, potato croquettes, and fried pastry cream at Supplizio are super tasty. Hole-in-the-wall Er Buchetto near Stazione Termini is a classic for a quick porchetta sandwich (but for Rome’s best, hit up Panificio Bonci). Legs in Centocelle, brought to you by the guys behind Artisan and the duo behind Mazzo (currently on hiatus), serves burgers, fried chicken, and wings in the old Mazzo space.
Gelato & Pastries
Century-old Regoli and newer Roscioli Caffè and Panificio Bonci offer excellent traditional Roman pastries, while Andrea De Bellis (new location from June 2021) serves delicious contemporary sweets. Casa Manfredi near the Circus Maximus is a great spot for cornetti. Zia Pasticceria Door to Door sells pastries from a red door in the basement of 1 Michelin star restaurant Zia.
During holiday season, don’t miss the chance to fill your luggage with panettoni from Panificio Bonci and Santi Sebastiano e Valentino.
There’s coffee everywhere, but some places truly are a cut above. My favorite historic shop is Sciascia, established in 1919. Four new-ish place celebrating Italian-style coffees with third wave techniques are Roscioli Caffè and Pergamino, and Faro (I buy their beans for my Chemex).
Wine & Beer
Thristy? My favorite wine bars are the aforementioned Il Sorì, La Mescita, and Mostò, as well as Sorso near San Paolo and my local Litro. If I lived closer to Bulzoni in Parioli I would be there everyday. The long-established Il Goccetto and L’Angolo Divino, both in centro, now have tables outside. I also really love Vigneto, La Barrique, Remigio, Enoteca Il Piccolo, Barnaba, and newcomer L’Antidoto.
For beer, I love Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà, Open Baladin, Birra +, Brasserie 4:20, and Be.Re., Artisan, and Luppolo Station. I also drop in at the Jungle Juice Brewing in Mandrione whenever I can; their bar is open evenings from Tuesday to Sunday.
Salumi & Formaggi & Product
If you love cheeses and cured meats, visit Formaggeria in the Piazza Epiro Market, DOL, Roscioli, Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi (skip the cured meats there and stick to the cheeses). I buy cheeses and cured meats to take home from La Tradizione and Roscioli (both vacuum seal things for air travel, too).
There are well over 100 municipal markets in Rome, so no matter where you’re staying, you’re likely within walking distance of one. My favorites are Mercato Trionfale just north of the Vatican Museums’ main entrance. It is perfect and, although I live between two markets in Monteverde, I regularly make the downhill trip to Trionfale because it has plenty of famers’ stalls, great butchers, wonderful fishmongers, and some ace alimentari selling cheeses and cured meats. The Mercato Trionfale is always my first stop on my favorite food tour. The Testaccio Market is great, as well, and offers plenty of in-market dining. My faves are Mordi e Vai for sandwiches, Da Artenio for pizzette and baked goods, Casa Manco for pizza by the slice, Sartor for meat, and Da Corrado for wine and cheese. From an architectural standpoint, the markets in Piazza dell’Unità and Piazza Alessandria are stunning. For international produce, halal meat, and a wonderful array of ingredients from South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe, visit the Mercato Esquilinio near Stazione Termini.
International Cuisine & Regional Italian
It’s impossible to get a full understanding of Rome if you stick just to carbonara and cacio e pepe. The city vibrant immigrant communities and their cuisines are more than worth a detour from the Roman canon and it is not an exaggeration to say that the soulful dishes of Himalaya Palace near Villa Pamphilj got me through lockdown. There is incredible Ethiopian and Eritrean food at Enqutatash on the Via Prenestina. Sinosteria in Viale Marconi does ace Chinese regional cuisine and has a very good wine list. CE Bistrot serves excellent Sichuan cuisine. Visit Doozo in Monti for seasonal Japanese dishes, Janta Fast Food for cafeteria-style northern Indian dishes, and Kiko for sushi. Dumpling Bar serves…dumplings! Neighborhood Restaurant serves excellent Filipino & Kapampangan cuisines. Korean restaurant Igio in Trastevere is delightful and opens at 6PM for early dining.
In the regional Italian category, Trattoria Monti is wonderful for specialties from Le Marche. Tram Tram is great for fish and vegetable classics from Puglia. Colline Emiliane does amazing food from around Bologna like tortellini in brodo and tagliatelle al ragù and Tavernaccia da Bruno always features Umbrian dishes from the owners’ father’s homeland.
Guides for Various Publications
Where to Eat and Drink in San Lorenzo (Bon Appetit)
The New Wave of Roman Pizza (Eater)
Best Pizza in Rome (Condé Nast Traveler)
Rome’s Disappearing Dishes (Saveur)
Rome Restaurants: New Takes on the Classics (Food & Wine)
Rome City Guide (The Infatuation)
Friday Fives: Katie Parla’s Guide To Rome (The Infatuation)
5 Under the Radar Spots (Vogue)
Travel Guide: Rome (Saveur)
The Pinnacle of Pasta: The Top 9 Plates of Pasta in Rome (Bon Appetit)
Katie Parla’s Guide to Rome (Imbibe)
City Guide: Rome (PUNCH)
Where to Eat in Rome (Serious Eats)
Where to Eat, Drink, and Sleep in Rome (Bon Appetit)
Roman Holiday (Imbibe)
Ask an Expert: Katie Parla (AFAR)
“Saturday Night in Rome” (PUNCH)
A Boozy Tour of Rome (Fathom)
10 Ways to Enjoy Rome on a Budget (The Guardian)
Unmissable Spring Foods in Rome (The Local)
Rome’s New Take on Pizza (The Guardian)
Rome Street Food (Food & Wine)
You Tube Series
Ebooks and Guide Books
In addition to all those free resources on where to eat in Rome, I also have a few guides on various paid platforms. For portable versions of my top picks for dining, drinking and shopping for food, check out my ebook “Eating & Drinking in Rome” (available in Kindle and PDF format).
And finally for Rome’s top cultural attractions, check out my guidebook National Geographic’s Walking Rome.
Ebooks and Guide Books
As mentioned above, I offer tours of Rome, with a focus on food culture, history, and archeology. Contact me for deets!
*I do not accept comps, freebies, press invites or any other such form of exchange. I cannot stress enough how rare this is in this town.