I am starting a new series called “Rome tips” and it will be Rome travel tips for those visiting Rome. I hope to help anyone visiting and optimize their time there! Our first post in this series is going to be on food! When and where to eat in Rome.
Eating in Rome is one of our favorite things. We all love food and love to cook. Rome offers a variety of food options. And while Rome does provide many handmade fresh things, at some of the big tourist traps the food is less than ordinary, let alone extraordinary. They can be overpriced freezer options that don’t accurately represent Italy’s incredible cooking heritage. Because we love Rome’s cooking culture and all it has to offer, we have compiled a list of some of our favorites below.
Click on the links to be given directions. Also, gelato is one of the main food groups in our family, so of course, it is included.
One last thing. Dining in Italy is not like in the USA in many ways. But I’d like to point out a few of the main differences. Drinks are not refillable cups. You buy water (bottled–natural or sparkling) or wine or soft drinks for the table. Liter size bottles are the norm. Milk is not drunk at meals. Furthermore, in the US, it is typical to have a waiter/waitress buzzing around ones table constantly. In Italy, they don’t. So don’t feel like you’re being “ignored” by the staff. They’re letting you control the tempo of the meal. Lastly, meal times are completely different. Lunch is usually at 1 or 2 pm, and dinner doesn’t start (most restaurants do not even open) until 7:30. In general, dinner is eaten at 8 or 9 pm.
Yes, it has an English name. But this place has incredible Roman style pizzas, their salads are delicious (especially the “insalata mista”) and they have a pasta dish made with pears, Gorgonzola cheese, and walnuts that you have to try. Wanted also has A/C which in the summer can be a real bonus.
If you have one meal in Rome, this is the restaurant to go to. Don’t get me wrong, all the other restaurants mentioned are tasty. But Vecchia Roma has something that we haven’t found elsewhere. All of the food is tasty, but their specialty is the “Bucatini all’Amatriciana flambè.” Bucatini all’Amatriciana is a classic Roman pasta dish made with a tomato sauce with pecorino cheese and smoked pork jowl. At Vecchia Roma they don’t just grate the cheese in your pasta. Instead they wheel out the rind of a round of pecorino. They light the interior of the rind on fire and throw in your pasta and the sauce. The cheese melts onto the pasta as it is on fire and mixes the sauce in. At the end you have the best Amatriciana in Rome, along with an incredible show at your table.
If you go at around 7 pm you can get in without a reservation. Otherwise, there is a line out the door and down the street to get in. They are open for lunch from 12-3 pm. They are closed Sunday.
Velavevodetto €€€€-€€€€ Velavevodetto is a rather out of the way restaurant, not especially near tourist traps. As a result it is frequented mainly by locals. They have awesome fried artichokes “Carciofi Fritti” or the zucchini blossoms for appetizers. Some notable pasta dishes are their “Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe,” a pasta with cacio (a cheese) and pepper, and their “Carbonara” is delicious. Also, don’t miss their Saltimbocca.
Trattoria Cadorna €€€€-€€€€
Cadorna is a little family run place, also not very tourist-y. A few generations of the family work there, including an extremely old grandpa. I warn you, he loves being friendly and taking orders and talking to you, but he will most likely get your order wrong. However, no matter what you’re served, it’s sure to be flavorful and well cooked. Some that you may want to look into are their “Spagetti alle vongole” the “Osso Bucco” (veal shank) and their “Coda alla Vaccinara”(oxtail). Their appetizers are a smorgasboard of tasty bites. A note, the Antipasto for 2 feeds many more than 2, especially if you would like to eat a pasta and a meat, so order accordingly.
If we’re honest, this place looks sketchy. And DO NOT use their bathroom if possible. It’s scary. However, they have kebabs (Middle Eastern sandwich/pita/deliciousness.) that are like no where else. They have huge spits of roasting, crisp meats that they shave off for each pita. They shave your meat and then go through a line of various toppings, stuffing as much in as possible. They pile on tart, crunchy, marinated cabbage, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and random french fries. The options are really endless. Those are what we usually got, plus their spicy pickled peppers, their hot sauce, and make sure you ask for extra white sauce. The best part, these are extremely portable and VERY inexpensive. (As in €3.50) One kebab feeds 2-3 children or 1 really hungry adult. Skip the pizza here, just go for the kebab. There is also a little bakery a few doors down that has nice bread and little sweets to complete a lunch on the go.
Pizzeria Amalfi €€€€
Pizzeria Amalfi has great pizzas around the Vatican. They are relatively reasonable for being in such a high tourist area. Their Margherita pizzas are quite tasty, and they have a nice range of appetizers.
Cave Canem €€€€-€€€€
Cave Canem is a lovely little restaurant in Trastevere. Trastevere is a highly underrated nightlife area (more on that in a later post) and whenever we would go, we always ate at Cave Canem. They have wonderful pizzas, great beer and Dad always got the carbonara here. The waiters and waitresses are very friendly and their prices are definitely reasonable. Also, they have a great patio that is fun to sit out on and watch folks go by. Cave Canem was one of our favorite restaurants to go to when we lived in Italy, and we still love it.
Old Bridge €€€€
Old Bridge is the best gelateria in Rome. Period. They have gelato that is authentic, tastes incredible, is constantly being made fresh and they are very reasonably priced. Their mango tastes like you are biting into the best fresh mango ever. When you combine their mango, coconut, and pineapple? It’s incredible. We are so enthusiastic about Old Bridge it has merited its own tag. And Alex and Andrew are friends on Facebook with the dude we always ordered from.
It is a bit of an unspoken rule in Italy that one does not combine “cream” based flavors with “fruit” flavors. For example don’t combine nutella, espresso and coconut. Some combinations we’d like to suggest; Coconut, Mango, Pineapple; Dark Chocolate, Espresso, Pistachio; Lemon, Strawberry, Banana; Bacio, Nutella, Nociola (Hazelnut); the list goes on and on. Finally, at Old Bridge get a cone, and get the €1.50 cone. Because to be honest, anything more is just absurd. They load the cones up. And besides in the Roman heat you’re going to be dripping in gelato before you are halfway done with your 3 euro cone. And no one wants to walk around with gelato stained clothing.
Della Palma €€€€
Della Palma is famous for its selection of over 150 flavors of gelato. They are definitely an interesting experience. While Old Bridge is the place to go on a daily basis, it would be unfortunate to miss out on Della Palma. It is truly a gastronomical experience. All of their flavors taste astoundingly fresh. One of our all time favorites was the grapefruit. It had everything good about a fresh grapefruit and it was gelato.
NOT San Crispino
If you have ever read a guidebook on Rome, San Crispino was almost certainly mentioned as the place to go to for gelato. We have to say, it is good, but has become mostly a tourist trap and isn’t anything extraordinary. Della Palma has the range of flavors if that is what you’d like, and both Old Bridge and Della Palma have the quality and taste to rival, if not beat it.
Finally, it isn’t necessary to only eat at restaurants while in Rome. Many small bakeries have pizza by weight (you tell them how much you want cut off and then they weigh it and charge you accordingly). And the grocery stores always have yummy meats and cheeses. Grab a loaf of fresh bread from a bakery, some cured meats and cheeses from a grocer and a bottle of wine or some beer for a tasty authentic meal. There are always small fruit shops around to get seasonal produce that is hard to beat.
Thanks for reading, I hope this may help those planning a trip to Rome. I am going to continue updating, and will have another post including some general tips and maybe one for lodging. Any suggestions are welcomed in the comments! And we are always happy to help, if you’d like to get in touch, there is a “Contact Us” page or you can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org . We’d be happy to help in any way possible.