Four million incredibly vocal people mixed with three millennia of history make Rome a melting pot of natural beauty, diverse culture, and expected chaos, especially when it comes to food.
For tourists, the Eternal City has a reputation for being unfriendly, or worse, ill-prepared and insulting. I am here to tell you that is patently unfair … just ask the Romans. They know where to eat, far away from all the visitors to their grand city.
From cheap and cheerful to wallet-trimming, these are the tables I visit time and time again for a true Roman dining experience.
We love a good open kitchen – Trapizzino. (Photo: Trapizzino)
Snacks at Trapizzino. (Photo: Trapizzino/Facebook)
00100: Testaccio’s hole in the wall and my secret weapon for irrational hunger, 00100 is the home of the Trapizzino, crispy pizza pockets filled with uniquely Roman flavors like pollo alla cacciatura (spicy chicken), picchiapò (stewed beef), and trippa alla romana (tripe). A few years back, 00100 was a standing-room-only street food spot, but thanks to its popularity, the space was enlarged to include more bar-side seating and an exposed kitchen so you can watch the magic happen. Via Giovanni Branca, 88
The deep-fried supplì at Supplizio (Photo: Supplizio/Facebook)
Supplizio: You won’t want to miss this dine-and-dash shop near Campo de’ Fiori that focuses on the supplì, which are small, deep-fried rice balls filled with soft, warm cheese. In an incredibly unique dining experience, chef Arcangelo Dandini invites you into a tiny living room (leather couches, coffee tables) to taste supplì, crochette (potato mash), crema fritta (sweet pecorino and cinnamon), and polpetta di alici e mio garum (anchovy). Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 143
The pizza at Pizzarium (Photo: BGBlogging/Flickr)
Pizzarium: Helmed by famed pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci, Pizzarium should win the Palla d’Oro for pizza by the slice for its delicious pizza dough, innovative, seasonal combinations (beef carpaccio and balsamic vinegar, fig and pecorino), and quality products. Do not expect to use pocket change; prices are higher than regular slices but completely worth it. Via della Meloria, 43
Cesare al Casaletto’s fritto misto (Photo: Vinoroma.com)
Cesare al Casaletto: All my friends swear by the fritti (fried antipasti) at Cesare, an outerlimits trattoria in Monteverde. Though it’s a bit of a haul to get here, Cesare is worth the taxi fare just to eat the pasta al cacio pepe (pecorino and black pepper) and coda alla vaccinara (braised oxtail). Via del Casaletto, 45
La trippa at Matricianella (Photo: Tripadvisor)
Matricianella: An often unnoticed trattoria in Rome’s historic center, Matricianella is my favorite restaurant, traditional for dishes like amatriciana, cacio pepe, abbacchio al forno (oven-baked lamb), and trippa alla romana (tripe in a red sauce). What makes it stand it out is the filetto al pepe verde, a thick steak in a green pepper served on crispy bread — eggs Benedict for carnivores. Via del Leone, 4
L’Arcangelo’s gnocchi (Photo: Prickly Poppy/Tripadvisor)
L’Arcangelo: When not conjuring up the perfect supplì, Arcangelo is making gnocchi at his Prati restaurant, the eponymous L’Arcangelo. Rome’s traditional served-Thursday-only dish, Arcangelo adds flair to potato gnocchi by serving it with a piquant amatriciana sauce usually reserved for bucatini pasta. Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, 59
The small Roscioli, on Campo de’ Fiori (Photo: Roscioli)
Roscioli: A tiny delicatessen/dining oasis just down the street from the chaos of Campo de’ Fiori, Roscioli always ranks among the top restaurants of any Roman for the triumvirate of perfect local dishes — carbonara, amatriciana, and cacio pepe. Via dei Giubbonari, 21
Pasta carbonara at Al Moro (Photo: LMVoyager/Tripadvisor)
Al Moro: Al Moro is an old boys’ trattoria of decades past. Over the years, Al Moro has perfected and personalized three epic dishes: insalata di ovoli, a seasonal mushroom salad garnished with Groviera cheese; spaghetti al moro, a twist on traditional carbonara; and zabaglione al cioccolato, a whipped egg yolk dessert with warm chocolate. Vicolo delle Bollette, 13
The fish at PierLuigi (Photo: Massimo T./Tripadvisor)
PierLuigi: One word: Fish. PierLuigi has the most gorgeous fish counter in Rome. I’ve had a long-standing affair with the amatriciana di mare, paccheri pasta in a crustacean-and-fish accented amatriciana sauce, but I’ve thrown it over for the homemade taglioni pasta with cicala del mediterraneo, a prehistoric-looking rock lobster. Piazza dei Ricci, 144
Pipero’s artful creations (Photo: MarieDerin/Tripadvisor)
Pipero al Rex: For months after I ate Pipero’s mind-blowing carbonara, I found myself reminiscing on the artistry behind Luciano Monosilio’s guanciale preparation. The Michelin-star restaurant is tops for carbonara and unforgettable for its creepy David Lynch-inspired dining room. Via Torino, 149
Erica Firpo likes to cross lines between art and culture, writing about art, lifestyle, fashion, and food for a variety of magazines, books and online publications. She is a contributing editor to Fathom and is a regular contributor to Forbes Travel, Travel + Leisure, BBC Travel, Discovery Magazine, and ANSA. She incorporates photography in her writing, and her photos been featured in Mashable, Instagram blog, CNN, New York Times, Fathom, and SF Gate.