It’s no wonder Italian food is the most loved and most eaten food in the world, according to countless studies. Who doesn’t love pasta and pizza? Add in the real love Italians take their time to show, prepare and eat their food, use fresh seasonal ingredients, often family recipes passed down from someone’s favorite nonna, and you’re on to a winner.
But like most decent-sized countries, Italian cuisine varies from north to south, and most major cities have their own specialties to be proud of. Rome is no different.
On a recent visit, I tried a few new Roman-style dishes like cacio e pepe, as well as a few tried-and-tested favorites that I just can’t eat when it comes to Italian food. (Hello, Insalata Caprese!)
But one thing to keep in mind is to choose restaurants frequented by locals rather than tourist attractions. The dining experience in Rome can vary depending on whether the chef is catering for return business, or whether he’s happy to feed a crowd that’s about to go home in the morning and never set foot in a restaurant again. Not all Italian food is good, but when it’s good, it’s delicious.
Here, I’ve listed some of the great foods I loved in Rome, along with a little information on what, how, and where to go and try each one.
Any Italian meal begins without antipasti, which is served on a plate, eaten by itself, or shared with others. These can be hot slices or cold cuts, such as Parma ham slices served with figs. Each restaurant provides its own antipasti dish, and I have yet to see a plate that doesn’t have something delicious on it.
Maybe because I lived in France for a few years, I usually set out to make the Italian version of a charcuterie plate called antipasti, which includes a variety of hams and sometimes a cheese or two, something sweet like figs and honey. , but sometimes little arancini and tartlets can be nice too. With a selection of local meats and olives, you can’t go wrong at any restaurant.
2. Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe
Lumen Bar, St. Regis Rome
It is probably the most famous Roman dish, a very simple yet incredibly tasty and delicious pasta dish. The al dente tonnrelli, a slightly thicker pasta similar to spaghetti, prepared with cheese and pepper, or cacio e pepe, which gives the dish its name. The cheese is local Pecorino cheese, a hard, slightly salty cheese made from sheep’s milk, which is rubbed into the pasta and melted into a creamy sauce, then balanced with ground black pepper.
Very simple, very good, but also very complicated. On paper, it’s an easy dish to take home, but getting the balance right and creamy is an art form that Roman chefs have been perfecting for centuries. Check it out at the beautiful Lumen Bar at the glitzy St. Regis Rome.
3. Tartufo pasta
I am attracted to all foods that contain it Tartufo, or truffles. Admittedly a love it or hate it flavor, I fell in love with these earth scraped mushrooms and couldn’t resist. There’s nothing better than being in Italy, especially during tartufo season. Despite the prices these little gems are often sold for, dishes in Rome are incredibly affordable, whether it’s pasta or pizza with truffle shavings.
I’ve lost count of how many plates of pasta tartufo I’ve eaten, but one of them really stood out, not only because of the incredibly generous helpings of truffles, but also because of the service and overall atmosphere. Head to what I’ve come to call Il Fico, a small local restaurant right across the street from HiSuite Rome, the beautiful boutique where I stayed. I usually end my day at Il Fico with their excellent, very affordable house red.
4. Fiori Di Zucca Fritti
Hassler Roma Bistro Palm Court
It must have been zucchini season when I visited Rome in October, because a few were off the menu Fiori Di Zucca Fritti, fried zucchini flowers. Pairing the delicate yellow flowers of zucchini with a light, cheesy filling, the dish was originally thought of as a throwaway dish for the poor working classes, but has since grown into a spectacular, gourmet dish. Unfortunately, the first thing I tried at a tourist place was, frankly, terrible. The batter was too heavy, too oily and not as light as it should have been.
But then I tried again, this time at the historic Hassler Roma Hotel, and I was blown away. There was no fat in sight, almost no dough, and the filling of mozzarella, parmesan, herbs and anchovies was simple and wonderful. Add in Palm Court Bistro’s shady patio setting and it’s a can’t-miss food and location.
Castel Sant’Angelo, Trastevere
Modest supplies It’s a typical Roman snack that usually just consists of crumbly, fried rice topped with mozzarella, tomato sauce, or small pieces of chicken. You can see this perfect street food in bars around Trastevere, little brown egg-shaped snacks in paper bags. Fresh and hot, the melted mozzarella creates strings with every bite, and you usually find them served in a restaurant or, as I discovered it – in a cafe on the terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo, with a washed-down breakfast. drink coffee.
Remember when tourist spots kept telling you not to eat? This is one of the recommended snacks to go with an aperitif right in Piazza Navona. I don’t recommend eating your entire dinner here, but the tomato bruschetta (pronounced broos-skeh-tuh, broosh-et-ta) is a great way to start the evening.
This fresh, typical Roman snack usually consists of a slice of bread made from stale bread, then rubbed with raw garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and topped with fresh tomatoes. It’s simple, delicious, and a great antipasto, especially at Il Grifone, overlooking the beautiful Piazza Navona, Aperol Spritz in hand.
7. Caprese salad
Like truffles, I rarely read a Caprese salad on a menu without ordering it. When the sun is shining in Italy, a refreshing and light dish like mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil is perfect. But not all Caprese salads are good. For example, I find that many people don’t offer you enough basil, or the balance between mozzarella and tomato isn’t perfect, it’s a matter of personal taste. But one restaurant that offered a perfect little bowl of fresh tomatoes with juicy mozzarella and crisp green basil leaves was hidden away in a small alley off Osteria Da Francesco near Piazza Navona.
8. Roman pizza
When in Rome, your pizza will not be Neapolitan, but mostly Roman pizza, which is the pizza most associated with Italy. The difference lies in making the dough, both Neapolitan and Roman chefs use flour, yeast, water and salt, while the Romans use olive oil, which allows for a thinner and crispier pizza.
Again, how you like your pizza is a personal preference, many people prefer the softer, milder Neapolitan version, but I absolutely love Roman pizza. Add ham, truffles and cheese, but don’t even think about asking for pineapple; you’ll make the chef cry. Head to Il Corallo for some great options.
Finally, something sweet. and there are many sweets Maritozzo con la Panna, butter-filled soft breakfast bread you’ll find in almost every breakfast joint in town, and even the famous Tiramisu, which is eaten all over the world. So instead of adding a typical Roman dessert, I’ll mention the Sicilian staple of cannoli.
I’m including it here because I tried it at Villa Borghese Cafe, Casina del Lago and loved it even though I’m not a cream lover. But these little fried dough tubes filled with a sweet ricotta mixture are not only pretty, they’re also delicious. They are perfect for a sweet treat to accompany your coffee after a stroll through the beautiful gardens of Villa Borghese.
Professional advice: There is so much food to eat in Rome that you may feel the time constraints equal to the strain on your belt. So, why not book a food tour where you can sample popular dishes without having to wait for another mealtime?