Roman dishes, to discover! Here are all the secrets of traditional Roman food, from starters to dessert, and the addresses to taste Roman cuisine.
“Roma nun fa’ la stupida stasera damme ‘na mano a faje di’ de si” so did the song, and it’s easy to say yes to Roman cuisine.
Rich in flavour, the traditional cuisine of Rome is a historic cuisine that mixes ancient Roman traditions and Roman Jewish recipes.
Walking through the alleys in Trastevere, attending the Campo dei Fiori market or immersing yourself in the historic Jewish ghetto, where the neon signs of traditional restaurants are on display, you will understand that Rome’s food is everywhere.
Thanks to the agro-pastoral heritage of the area, Roman dishes are often made with meats and offal which are also used as a sauce for pasta such as carbonara, gricia or pajata. Strong and savoury flavours thanks also to the presence of an abundant sprinkling of Pecorino cheese that cannot be missing in traditional Rome’s food.
The most popular flower in this city, as we will see, is the artichoke and Roman dishes include excellent street food.
There are many traditional foods in Rome: we will discover the most important traditional dishes of the Roman cuisine in the next paragraphs.
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Roman dishes, from appetisers to desserts
The three consistencies in the suppli are among the most fervent dreams of the Romans: the crunchiness of the external breading, the texture of the rice with its grains mixed with the tasty meat sauce that binds everything together and finally the softness of the mozzarella make it one of the most beloved foods of Roman cuisine.
It is precisely the mozzarella that gives its name to the famous “suppli al telefono” because, when opened, it recalls the wire of old telephones.
The name of this traditional Rome’s food derives from the French word “surprise” and you too will be amazed at how good a suppli, eaten in the right place, can be.
Two chefs compete for the supremacy of the best recipe for suppli in Rome:
Arcangelo Dandini with:
_ Supplizio in Via dei Banchi Vecchi 143
_ Supplizio ai Coronari in Via dei Coronari 25
_ L’Arcangelo restaurant in Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli
Gabriele Bonci with:
_ Pizzarium in Via della Meloria 43
_ Bonci Bakery in Via Trionfale, 36
Gnocchi alla Romana
Not to be confused with the classic small and round gnocchi, this Roman pasta is made up of golden discs covered with a crispy crust.
Roman-style gnocchi are semolina gnocchi coated with Parmigiano Reggiano, sprinkled with melted butter and baked au gratin. In Rome cuisine can be really nutritious!
The origin of this traditional Roman pasta is doubtful as it uses butter and Parmigiano Reggiano, typical ingredients from Northern Italy, but great food and wine Eeperts have formalised their belonging to the Roman cuisine.
Typical Roman Pasta
The three Roman dishes par excellence are pasta cacio e pepe, carbonara and gricia, to which the amatriciana is added.
In fact, Gricia is the true ancestor of Amatriciana, originally from Abruzzo, arriving to the houses of Romans, it lost the initial letter, transforming itself into “matriciana” in the Roman dialect.
No bacon or Parmigiano Reggiano. For the Romans, it is an obligation to fight for the exclusive use of Pecorino and bacon, preferably from the area around Rome, in these traditional Roman dishes!
Rigatoni con la Pagliata, or “pajata” in Roman dialect, are another typical Roman pasta seasoned with a tomato sauce and part of the intestine of the calf or adult bovine, containing the chyme (milk) that gives an unmistakable flavour to this symbolic dish of Roman cuisine.
In every area of the city there are dozens of restaurants where to eat traditional Roman dishes.
Here is my suggestion:
Flavio al Velavevodetto – Via di Monte Testaccio 97
Felice in Testaccio – Via Mastro Giorgio 29
On the Tiber Island:
La Sora Lella – Via Ponte four chapters 16
Osteria da Fortunata – Via del Pellegrino, 11/12
Trattoria da Teo – Piazza dei Ponziani, 7A
Trattoria da Enzo at 29 – Via dei Vascellari 29
And for those who want to try their hand at the preparation of traditional Roman dishes, Italia Delight offers you a Roman Pasta cooking class with final tasting included!
In addition to request a personalised experience on traditional Roman dishes, you can add a city market tour to your Roman pasta cooking class to discover seasonal ingredients, with a return taxi service.
An excellent opportunity to enjoy a truly local experience!
Among Roman second courses, we cannot fail to mention cod fillets. We are talking about salted cod, which must be soaked for several hours (sometimes entire days) to be used in Roman dishes and Jewish recipes.
This fish was used above all at Christmas because, in the period of the Counter-Reformation, the Church forbade the consumption of meat during religious holidays and thus the imports of this salted or dried fish (stockfish) began.
There are 2 types of traditional Roman dishes made with cod fillets: the Roman fried cod fillet or the Roman-style cod.
The first of these Roman dishes is strictly made by immersing the cod fillets in the batter and frying them: it is part of the typical Roman appetiser with courgette flowers and suppli.
The second one is a stewed cod fillet with tomato, garlic, onion, raisins and pine nuts. The sauce thickens while cooking and it becomes perfect for the final “scarpetta” (that is, the gesture of cleaning your plate with a piece of bread) that can never be missing while enjoying one of the most famous Roman dishes!
I recommend that you try this Rome’s food at:
- Giggetto – Via del Portico d’Ottavia, 21/a
The quinto quarto
The Quinto Quarto (literally the “fifth quarter”) is the offal of butchered animals. The term indicates the least valuable part of the animal which excludes the 4 main parts (the anterior and posterior ones).
It was therefore destined for the poorest population and for this reason Roman dishes based on this ingredient are many and tasty: from trippa alla romana to coda alla vaccinara (it should be noted that the original recipe for the coda alla vaccinara includes vegetables, pine nuts, raisins and even the addition of cocoa!).
In the quinto quarto, we also include the pajata we talked about before and the Roman-style coratella (usually lamb entrails, heart and lungs).
Nothing is thrown away from the slaughter of an animal in the Roman cuisine!
The abbacchio scottadito
The name itself means that it should be served hot, to burn your fingers when eating with your hands the abbacchio thanks to the bone left deliberately.
“Abbacchio” is a young suckling lamb that, since ancient times, was served with traditional Roman dishes on Easter celebrations. In ancient Rome, in the period between Easter and June, the abbacchiatura market was held right at the Roman Forum.
Cooked on the grill, the hot ribs are served with potatoes or a slice of lemon.
Saltimbocca alla Romana
Also this time the Romans have included in the name the indication to make and eat the dish: to “jump in the mouth” this traditional Rome’s food is made of veal on which are placed raw ham and a bay leaf or sage. All stopped by a toothpick.
In the past, the bay leaf or sage was placed under the ham! This makes us understand that it should not be removed by removing the toothpick because, as well as giving a very good scent, it adds flavour to one of the tastiest traditional Roman dishes.
The Carciofi alla Giudia (Artichokes alla Giudia)
We are in the Jewish Ghetto where one of the finest products from Lazio has been enhanced, thanks to the particular processing and cooking, making it one of the most popular Roman dishes.
The housewives of the ghetto used a specific artichoke of the area, the “cimarolo” (also called “mammola”). Characterised by the absence of thorns and the round shape, it allowed the artichoke to be fried and eaten whole.
Thanks to the double frying and the trick of sprinkling the artichokes with water during the second cooking, this traditional Rome’s food looks like an open flower in the middle of spring.
As beautiful to the eye as they are good, I recommend that you try these Roman dishes in one of the many historic restaurants in the Roman Jewish Ghetto.
Beans With Cotics
As we have seen, in traditional Roman dishes, the ingredients are poor and beans with pork rinds are an example.
Beans, onion, pork rind, tomato puree and a bay leaf that completes the whole. The simplicity of traditional Roman cuisine is all here.
The Puntarelle Salad
Fresh and pleasantly bitter, the puntarelle salad is an excellent side dish from the traditional Roman cuisine.
Puntarelle are sprouts of Catalonian chicory, patiently cut by hand. You can often find them at the local market ready to be seasoned.
The traditional recipe includes anchovy fillets and an emulsion of olive oil and vinegar.
And to round off a meal based on traditional Roman dishes or to start your day right, there is nothing more Roman than a MARITOZZO WITH WHIPPED CREAM.
Ancient Roman cuisine involved the use of honey, raisins and pine nuts in the dough and it was a gift that the fiancé gave to his betrothed: from this gesture the name “Maritozzo” (in English, husband) comes from.
Today the Maritozzo is a soft leavened dough stuffed with whipped cream and made shiny by a brushstroke of sugar syrup.
I recommend that you go to Regoli pastry shop (via dello Statuto 60) or to the “Maritozzaro” shop in Trastevere to try this sweet delicacy of traditional Roman cuisine!
Did you like the article on traditional Roman dishes by Nur Migahed, a graduate student in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures at the Roma Tre University, for Italia Delight? Now that you know the best of Rome’s food, you just have to book your next trip to Rome and Lazio!