I’ve put together this guide for you on what to eat in Rome, to discover the best Rome food specialties to try!
Rome is world famous for being a city rich in art, history and architecture. A wonderful and lively destination that holds within it, in addition to its many monuments, elegant squares, stately palaces, museums, parks and wonderful scenic spots, an incredible food and wine composed of simple and genuine ingredients. Reason why Roman cuisine is particularly appreciated by travelers from all over the world who often, when they are in the city, bring home some typical products as souvenirs to best remember the area.
During your trip to the fascinating capital of Italy, you will have the opportunity to combine evocative visits to the city’s most iconic monuments with real food and wine tours with stops at stores and osterias where you can sample a tasty maritozzo with cream, an ice cream, a slice of Roman pizza, a supplì. Or sit down in one of the many typical trattorias in and around Rome to enjoy one of the typical Roman dishes, paired with an excellent glass of wine. In addition, there is no shortage of colorful city markets either! The most famous ones are the Trionfale market, the Testaccio market and the Central market where you can browse and taste different typical Rome food specialties.
Traditional Roman cuisine owes most of its typical dishes to influences with Jewish cuisine due to the Jewish community of the same name that settled in the capital starting in the second century B.C. and Spanish cuisine due to the presence of many Spanish Jewish immigrants who arrived in the ghetto in the Renaissance era; some examples due to the Jewish-Spanish influence in Roman cuisine are artichokes alla giudia, the use of offal and codfish. The combination of the most typical ingredients of Roman tradition, together with typically Jewish and Spanish culinary methods (frying for example) gave birth to genuine Roman cuisine.
A cuisine so famous that it has been extolled in numerous movie films. Aldo Fabrizi, Monica Vitti and Alberto Sordi are just great examples of actors who have dedicated themselves to this cinematic tradition. In Aldo Fabrizi’s films Roman cuisine is almost always present; the most famous are “Guardie e Ladri “and “C’eravamo Tanto Amati.” In contrast, in films such as “I Soliti Ignoti” or “Una giornata particolare” a more popular and humble cuisine such as pasta and chickpeas and egg frittata is represented.
Have I intrigued you? Then follow me, because in this article I will take you through typical trattorias, farms and street food to discover what to eat in Rome, so you can catch the best food to eat in Rome. 👇
The best things to eat in Rome
This guide is perfect for all those travelers who, as soon as they arrive in a place, want to savor it before even visiting. And I’ll tell you everything there is to know about the best typical foods to eat in Rome, from their origins, to their preparation, to lesser-known curiosities. Let’s get started!
1. Roman fried foods
During your Roman vacation, you can’t fail to taste the famous supplì, one of the most beloved fried foods because of its crispiness and tasty filling. This dish has an elongated shape and is filled with rice with meat sauce, pecorino cheese and the ever-present mozzarella cheese, breaded and then fried in hot olive oil. The original supplì has a fine, crispy breading and should be eaten immediately, while the mozzarella is still stringy. Another typical fried dish of Roman cuisine to try are cod fillets, an easy and very tasty dish prepared with morsels of cod fillet breaded and then fried.
2. Beans with pork rinds
A very easy recipe to make and, like all traditional Roman dishes, beans and pork rinds originated as a peasant dish: in fact, poor ingredients such as pork rinds and beans are used, simple to cook but very nutritious. This dish is ideal in the winter months for its caloric and nutritional intake and can become an excellent main course if accompanied by some tasty toasted bread.
3. Squash blossoms
A great classic of Roman cuisine, served in pizzerias among appetizers, or in rotisseries as street food. Stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies and strictly fried in a simple yeast-free batter. Great to eat freshly made, hot, soft and at the same time crispy!
4. Quinto quarto
This term refers to the innards, offal, and less valuable parts. However, this should not suggest that a poor cut of meat is synonymous with a bad cut of meat. The flavor of the “quinto quarto” is very distinctive, which is why more and more important chefs are using it in their recipes. Roman dishes that fall under this definition are: coda alla vaccinara, trippa alla romana, coratella di abbacchio, veal sweetbreads, and fried brains.
5. Tonnarelli cacio e pepe
A traditional first course made with simple and genuine ingredients. The name is linked to its origin, which dates back to the times of transhumance of shepherds in the Roman countryside: in the past, “cacio” was a type of cheese in daily use, which was combined with pepper and pasta to create a poor but tasty recipe.
With time, the recipe has been improved: to prepare the perfect tonnarelli cacio e pepe today, only medium-aged Pecorino Romano PDO cheese, plenty of freshly ground peppercorns and high-quality pasta (preferably bronze-drawn) are used. Below I want to suggest two places that well interpret the tradition of Roman cuisine and the cult of cacio e pepe pasta.
– Hostaria al Boschetto, at Via del Boschetto 30
– Tonnarello, on Via della Paglia
6. Spaghetti carbonara
A first course loved all over the world made with Spaghetti or Rigatoni, high-quality seasoned guanciale, eggs and the ever-present Pecorino Romano PDO cheese! A poor dish, but with unique goodness, which according to a reliable hypothesis was born in 1944 during the days of liberation, thanks to a Roman cook who put together the ingredients made available to the American soldiers.
Gradually the recipe evolved to the one we know today and which we can enjoy in trattorias and starred restaurants in the Capital, throughout Italy or abroad in different versions: with or without pepper, with one yolk per person or the addition of at least one whole egg. Below I thought to suggest you 2 historic restaurants that offer this icon of Roman cuisine at its best.
– Luciano Cucina Italiana, in Campo de’ Fiori
– Armando al Pantheon, at the Pantheon
7. Bucatini alla amatriciana
A famous first course based on long pasta such as bucatini or spaghetti dressed with tomato sauce, guanciale (Italian lard) and Roman pecorino cheese. Amatriciana originated in the small town of Amatrice of the same name; it is a very simple dish that originated in the tradition of shepherds, only to become famous all over the world.
The original recipe originated from Gricia: only later, when tomatoes were imported from America, was this important ingredient added to the dish, thus giving rise to the recipe known today as Amatriciana. This is the reason why it is said that anyone approaching this tasty dish for the first time should previously taste the famous Gricia. The traditional recipe is cooked in many restaurants, but only a few are really reliable. Among them I recommend you try:
– L’impecetta, in Via dei Fienaroli
– Sora Lella, at Via Ponte Quattro capi 16
8. Rigatoni with pajata
A lesser-known traditional dish than some of the great classics such as trippa alla romana and coda alla vaccinara. Also in this case it is a well-defined preparation, where a tomato sauce is used for seasoning, enriched by the presence of an ingredient no longer common in everyday cooking, precisely the pagliata, which belongs to the cut of cattle not of prime quality.
Thanks to slow cooking, the meat will be very soft, thus creating a delicious sauce. I suggest you to try this first course to taste the real authentic Lazio tradition, just like Alberto Sordi in the movie “The Marquis of Grillo” and you will see how a simple dish with humble origins manages to enchant just about everyone.
9. Fettuccine Alfredo
A characteristic meal that is very simple and so popular abroad that it has become a symbol of Italian cuisine in America! It is the classic butter and Parmesan pasta made with egg fettuccine topped with a creamy emulsion of cheese and butter. There are several variations of this recipe spread all over the world. For example, vegetables, such as broccoli, spices and herbs, turkey or chicken meat are added, and some even use cream instead of butter.
The name of this tasty dish comes from its inventor, Alfredo Di Lelio, who created his fettuccine to give a natural restorative, made with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to his wife Ines, who was exhausted following the delivery of her first child. Fettuccine Alfredo was a true family success even before it became the dish that popularized Alfredo Di Lelio, a character with an “Umberto mustache” and calluses on his hands, by dint of stirring his fettuccine in front of his ever-increasing number of customers.
10. Roman-style gnocchi
A semolina-based first course, generally prepared on Thursdays. The famous saying “Thursday gnocchi,” in fact, comes from an old popular belief, which claimed that throughout Italy on Thursdays people ate gnocchi, on Fridays fish and on Saturdays tripe. This is a very simple recipe to make; the original version calls for a sauce made with butter, Parmigiano cheese, salt and pepper, and then the gnocchi are gratinated in the oven and enjoyed strictly hot. There is also a variation, with sauce, meatballs and grated cheese.
11. Saltimbocca alla romana
A must eat in Rome, made with slices of veal, prosciutto and sage, to be cooked in butter and wine; a kind of escalope with a strong flavor to be enjoyed hot as soon as it is made. Usually the recipe is modified to suit one’s taste. For example, you happen to see speck instead of ham, or slices of beef and chicken instead of veal. What’s more, there are even those who add artichokes. 2 places in Rome where to enjoy real saltimbocca alla romana are without a doubt:
– Rione XIV Bistrot, in Borgo Pio 21
– Osteria Barberini, a few steps from Piazza Barberini
12. Puntarelle and anchovies
A very tasty side dish typical of Roman cuisine, but also liked in many other parts of Italy, seasoned as tradition dictates with salted anchovy pesto, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar. This variety of chicory is popular because of its white interior, composed of several tender yet crunchy shoots, which are eaten raw in salads. They are usually found from February to May.
It is a typical delicacy that is the protagonist of local festivals. It has become legendary. It consists of a whole boneless pig seasoned with pepper, rosemary and sage, then baked in the oven from 5 to 8 hours to give crispness to the rind that surrounds it.
The famous porchetta from Ariccia, one of the best known places in the Castelli Romani area, is the real queen of osterie and traditional “fraschette”. In addition to its unique goodness, it is the only type of porchetta that can boast the PGI mark obtained in 2011. This tasty dish can be enjoyed in a fragrant sandwich, alternatively served at the table on a cutting board or accompanied with baked potatoes, a slice of homemade bread and a good glass of red wine.
14. Abbacchio a scottadito
This is a second course that is quick to prepare and succulent to eat. Lamb chops are marinated, in a tureen with oil, garlic and rosemary, then quickly cooked on a hot griddle and served immediately at the table together with a portion of baked potatoes or with a side dish typical of the area, such as chicory “repassed” in a pan to savor them in all their goodness “searing your fingers”.
15. Roman-style codfish
A main course generally eaten at Christmas time, but can be eaten all year round. Its preparation is very simple and consists of flouring and frying the cod with the addition of chopped tomatoes, already cooked onions, desalted capers, olives and oregano. This recipe also has variations; for example, garlic is used instead of onions and passata is used instead of chopped pulp. The best restaurants to eat cod in Rome are definitely:
– Dar Filettaro, in Campo de’ Fiori
– Chinappi, in Piazza Fiume
16. Chicken with peppers
One of the most rustic and mouth-watering dishes of the Lazio tradition, now eaten a bit all over Italy. If you happen to take a walk in the Castelli Romani areas, you should definitely sit down at the table of a trattoria and order this tasty specialty. Chicken meat is one of the most widely consumed in Italy, but in order to prepare a mouth-watering chicken with peppers, you need to choose one that comes from free-range chickens. Each family has its own secrets: some people deglaze with a dash of vinegar, some remove the skin from the peppers to make a lighter dish, some add cherry tomatoes, some tomato puree or a few basil leaves instead of oregano.
17. Artichokes a la giudia
A delicious dish for the regulars at the most renowned osterias and restaurants in the center and ghetto area of Rome. A tasty recipe for enjoying excellent fried artichoke, often confused with another equally famous preparation: carciofi alla romana cooked in the pan. The leaves of artichokes alla giudia are pulled off by hand one by one and are crispy just like chips. A real treat for the palate!
18. Fava beans and pecorino cheese
For Romans this is an unmissable May Day event, more than a recipe, in fact, this is a real tradition. Very famous is the “maggetto romano,” an out-of-town May 1 outing where fava beans and Pecorino Romano, have become an unmissable custom. The additional combination of sweet pancetta gives an extra touch to this tasty typical food, which should certainly be accompanied with some excellent homemade bread and good red wine from the Castelli! Three completely opposite flavors that go perfectly together!
This is a traditional spring side dish named after the term “Vignaroli”: farmers who sold fruits and vegetables. Only during the spring months can you find all the ingredients you need to make this recipe… broad beans, peas, artichokes and lettuce. This specialty is perfect to enjoy as a side dish or on its own with a slice of toast, but if you fall in love with it you can also dress pasta with it! You will not regret it!
20. Roman pizza and pinsa
There are dishes that are born out of imagination, as in the case of pinsa, a highly hydrated, oval-shaped, long-leavened dough made with a special flour mix to be seasoned as one prefers, and other dishes that instead came about by chance, such as Roman pizza! The story goes that this dough of water, flour, yeast and salt originated because of the bakers’ need to check the oven temperature.
This type of pizza is usually rectangular in shape, has no edges, is flattened slightly and is able to encapsulate all the authentic flavors of tradition and is great to enjoy white, red or stuffed with mortadella. You will be won over by its crispness and honeycombed interior!
21. Maritozzo with cream
They are fluffy sweet rolls filled with whipped cream typical of Roman cuisine, ideal for breakfast and snack. These popular foods in Rome are served in almost every self-respecting bar and pastry shop in the capital! It is a leavened product originating in ancient Rome that was kneaded by hand with flour, eggs, honey, citrus peels, raisins and pine nuts. It was given as a gift to future brides by their fiancé, whom they used to call “maritozzo” (Romanesque vezzeggiative of “husband”) from which the name of these delicious little loaves would derive! Here’s where to find it in Rome:
– Maritozzo Rosso, at Vicolo del Cedro, 26
– Roscioli Caffè, at Piazza Benedetto Cairoli, 16
A cool drink to sip around the Capital during hot summer days, prepared from ice flakes, enriched with various syrups and seasonal fruits. Tradition, respected by the many Roman kiosks and various street carts located along the coast, dictates that the flakes are obtained on the spot by scratching a large block of ice with a specific tool.
23. Tart with ricotta and sour cherries
A tasty dessert, typical of Roman pastries and originating in Jewish tradition. A soft covering of short pastry contains inside a double filling: a layer of sheep’s milk ricotta cream and one of sour cherries; a type of small cherries very similar to sour cherries, with a slightly sour taste, from which to obtain a truly delicious jam!
Top Wines to pair with food in Rome Italy
As we have seen in this guide, Rome’s culinary tradition is rich in many delicacies that derive from peasant recipes that have now become famous throughout the world. Once we arrive in Rome, blinded by so much majesty, we tend to forget that this fascinating city, in addition to its many beauties, offers as many and numerous surprises, one of them being precisely its traditional wines. The most common ones from the area of Rome and its surroundings, to be tasted during a typical Roman lunch or dinner, are surely Colli della Sabina DOC: a type of wine both white and red characterized by a normal acidity and a good structure.
Speaking of wines, it is impossible not to mention also the red wines that go very well with lamb and roasted red meats. Among these the most renowned are: the Cesanese del Piglio DOCG, Aleatico di Gradoli DOC and Colli Etruschi Viterbesi DOC.
Finally, for lovers of white wine, Lazio is certainly not unprepared. Two examples are the white wine Est! Est!!! Est!!! of Montefiascone DOC and the famous appellations of origin Cannellino di Frascati DOCG, Frascati DOC and Frascati superiore DOCG, wines characterized by a straw-yellow color, a delicate bouquet, and a smooth and velvety taste, obtained from grapes grown in the areas surrounding the town of the same name (in the province of Rome), perfect to pair with a dish of excellent carbonara or a nice portion of abbacchio chops.
And now that you know what to eat in Rome, what are you waiting for? Book your next vacation now and add some special tasting experiences or a fun cooking class to your stay!
Remember that with Italia Delight, you have the opportunity to create the right food and wine trip for your every need! 😉
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