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When I booked my trip to Rome my friends and family kept asking, “What are you going to do for four days, alone, in a city where you used to live?” To that I responded: eat. And eat I did. Now I just had to decide where to eat in Rome.
Eating in Rome can be tricky. It’s not one of those cities where you can turn up to any restaurant, especially in the center, and find a good meal. To really get the most out of your dining experiences in the Italian capital, it pays do some research. I obsessively stalked Katie Parla‘s fabulous blog for weeks before departure, carefully crafting the perfect four day food tour around some of her recommendations and my old favorites. Glorious research finished, I now have some favorites to help you craft a foodie itinerary of Rome.
Where to Eat in Rome
If I had to choose a last meal, it would be a plate of freshly fried suppli from the aptly named I Suppli in Trastevere. I Suppli is always number one on my list of where to eat in Rome. For you poor souls who have never tried or heard of these magical treats, suppli are, traditionally, balls of rice, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese that are deep fried. It’s a Roman dish that is commonly found at pizza places in the region. And it’s basically the best thing you could ever put into your mouth. Trust me.
I Suppli is a tiny, hole in the wall place just off Viale di Trastevere and they serve the best suppli in Rome. Again, trust me. This takeaway pizza joint was on my way home from school during my study abroad days and it soon became an almost daily lunch stop. Around this time each day the place gets filled to the brim with pushy Romans trying to get their fill of pizza al taglio, suppli, roasted chicken, and the daily pasta selection. The last time I was there I elbowed a couple of nuns out of the way to get my suppli fix. Anything for suppli. The people who work there, in typical Roman fashion, aren’t overly friendly, but they aren’t rude. I’m not sure anyone speaks English (or they aren’t willing to), but don’t be intimidated. They’ll be accommodating to pointing and hand gestures should it resort to that.
The pizza here isn’t bad, either. I always go for a piece of the potato, but the mushroom (funghi) and margherita are also good choices. Just tell them how much you want and they’ll cut the piece off for you, reheat it, fold it in half, and stick it between some paper. The price is by kilo and differs depending on toppings. If you want to eat your pizza while you walk tell them “mangio subito” and if you’d like it in a bag to take to your favorite piazza just say “portare via”. My huge piece of potato pizza and one suppli cost me €4. If you’re just in the mood for a suppli, it will set you back €1.10. I know this from the two other times I went there for an afternoon snack…
Via San Francisco a Ripa 137, Trastevere. Open Monday-Saturday 10:30-21:30.
Da Enzo al 29
After having woken up at 3 o’clock that morning for my flight, I was exhausted by dinner time on my first night in Rome. I wanted to go somewhere for dinner that was nearby so I googled “best trattoria in Trastevere” and “where to eat in Rome”. Da Enzo al 29 popped up with good reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and several blogs. I was sold. Because I was alone, something that is fairly uncommon in Italy, and didn’t have a reservation, I showed up shortly after the restaurant opened with hopes that it would help me score a table quickly and without constant dismay of my being alone. The tiny, simple dining room was almost full, but without batting an eye at my da sola status, I was immediately seated in the back. Within 10 minutes they were turning people away.
I decided to go big for my first proper meal back in Italy and ordered a primo and secondo. For the first pasta course I went with a Roman class, carbonara. Made from eggs, cheese, and black pepper and topped with thick cut pieces of guanciale, a type of cured pork cheek, the dish was perfectly creamy, but not too heavy. It seems weird to even comment on how well pasta is cooked at a restaurant in Italy, but the rigatoni here had just the amount of bite.
Next up was trippa alla romana, or Roman style tripe. I’ve been a fan of tripe since I first tried it in a stew that my grandfather cooked for me when I was a child, and as my love for offal has grown stronger over the past couple of years, I was eagerly anticipating trying this classic dish. In Rome, the tripe is slowly boiled until tender and then simmered with a simple tomato sauce and topped with grated cheese. Tripe is one of those ingredients that, if cooked poorly, can have a less than pleasant flavor or texture. But the trip at Da Enzo was nearly perfect- cleaned nicely and not chewy in the slightest.
This dinner at Da Enzo ended up being my favorite meal of my 11 days in Italy. The trattoria was simple and unpretentious. The food was the same- simple, flavorful, and traditional. The waiters were friendly and humored everyone’s attempts at Italian while maintaing a good level of service. Lastly, Da Enzo is fairly inexpensive. I had two courses, a rather large glass of the house red, and an after dinner espresso for only €24.
Via dei Vascellari 29, Trastevere. Open Monday-Saturday 12:30-15:00 and 19:30-23:00. Reservations recommended. For more information visit their website.
A Katie Parla recommendation, this small trattoria in the working class neighborhood of Testaccio is well known for its selection of quinto quarto, or offal. Testaccio was once home to a large slaughterhouse and offal became an important part of the cuisine of this “outer”, less affluent district of Rome. Agustarello is one of the many places in the area that keeps this tradition alive.
I came here fairly early for lunch on a grey Friday afternoon and the dining room was nearly empty. I was still fairly full from a large breakfast (and a mid-morning cornetto snack) so I opted to skip the pasta course and head straight for the good stuff- coratella. Coratella is the heart, lungs, and liver of a lamb. In this dish the organs are cut up and pan fried with artichokes and white wine. I was scooping this up by the spoonful and spent quite a while clearing the plate with bread, making sure I get every last drop.
Not as inexpensive as some of the other places featured here, my dish cost €14, but the portion was huge. As a warning, there is no English menu here so make sure you brush up on your intestine related Italian before arriving.
Via Giovanni Branca 98-100, Testaccio. Open Monday-Saturday 12:30-15:30 and 19:30-24:00. Reservations recommended for dinner.
In my 11 days in Italy I somehow managed to only eat gelato once (in my defense, I tried another time in Bologna but they were taking a winter break…). Luckily, the one time I did manage to gobble down this frozen treat, it was at one of the best gelaterie around. Maria Agnese Spagnuolo opened the first Fatamorgana shop in 2003 and since then her all natural, chemical free, and dye free gelato has taken off.
Fatamorgana offers all the traditional flavors of gelato, but in my idea what sets them apart even further is their creative flavor combinations like goats cheese and honey, wasabi and chocolate, and the dark chocolate and tobacco mix called ‘Kentucky’.
I decided to venture away from my old standby of straciatella and go for something completely unique to Fatamorgana. I chose a scoop of Thumbelina (nuts, rose petals, and violet flowers) and a scoop of the basil, walnut, and honey flavor. They were both fantastic, but my favorite was the basil, walnut, and honey. It was sweet in the way you’d expect from a gelato, but it had these savory notes from the basil that made me want to keep eating.
How much is this fancy, artisanal gelato? €2 for both scoops! A lot cheaper than the mass produced stuff they are shilling around the Trevi Fountain, that’s for sure.
Various locations. For more information visit their website.
Ah, Pizzarium. This pizza al taglio place owned by renowned pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci has a lot of hype. Recommended highly by not only Katie Parla, but also featured on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, I knew this was one place I had to try. Located in a residential neighborhood kind of near the Vatican, Pizzarium is a small shop exploding with creativity and fresh, high quality ingredients.
Even though the shop was crowded, I was immediately greeted when I walked in by a man behind the counter who was probably the friendliest Roman I’ve ever encountered. He also spoke perfect English and helped guide me through the day’s choices. I’d read good things about the potato pizza, and being a favorite of mine, I immediately knew I had to try a piece of that. As per the recommendation of the friendly Roman pizza guy, I also ordered some of the cod and pine nut pizza. Oh, and of course, I got a suppli. Though, I decided to veer away from the classic and went with chicken and artichoke.
My thoughts on Pizzarium are a little complicated. I really admire Bonci’s creativity and innovation when it comes to flavor combinations and his indifference to the traditional pizza al taglio toppings. The cod and pine nut piece that I had was phenomenal. But the potato pizza was a little dry. I thought the crust, Bonci’s famous homemade pizza bianca, was dry and overpowering. And my suppli was actually almost inedible due to dryness. Normally at a pizza al taglio place I wouldn’t be so critical, but the prices at Pizzarium aren’t normal pizza al taglio prices. My lunch ran me €13.
In spite of this, I would still urge others to try this place out. In fact, I’m itching to go back, if only to see what kind of crazy combinations are thought of next. In addition to pizza, there’s a good selection of beer and other local drinks, as well as pay by the glass boxed wine. But not, like, Franzia boxed wine. Because this is Italy.
Via della Meloria 43, Prati. Open Monday-Saturday 12:00-22:00.
Necci dal 1924
On a Sunday I ventured out to Rome’s Pigneto neighborhood. This area, a tram ride away from the center, has become quite trendy over the past few years. Rome’s artists and hipsters live side by side with Bangladeshi and African immigrants in this diverse neighborhood named for the pine forests that once stood there. I came to Pigneto mainly to go street art hunting, but was happy to find that Necci dal 1924 would be serving lunch on a Sunday afternoon, something that is still somewhat uncommon in Rome.
Dating back to 1924, Necci was made famous by Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1961 when he filmed Accattone in the neighborhood, using the bar as his headquarters. Today, Bar Necci is owned by an Englishman and serves homemade, organic cuisine seven days a week. Because it was a nice day, I sat outside on the large patio and lingered for a while over coffee, a meal, and a dessert. This is a place you could stay for a while.
For my main I chose ribollita, a Tuscan soup. Meaning “reboiled”, the soup has many variations but always includes cannellini beans and a variety of other cheap vegetables that are lying around. A kind of “throw everything that’s left in the refrigerator” type of dish. The ribollita at Necci included carrots, celery, potatoes, and cavolo nero, a type of kale that is grown in Tuscany. The soup was hearty and flavorful, a perfect December meal.
I was so content sitting on the patio reading that I decided to order a tiramisu after I finished my lunch. The waitress said it was the best dessert on the menu and it came in a cute little jar. I can’t say that it was supremely better than any other tiramisu I’ve had, but it was definitely enjoyable.
It might not be worth it to venture out to Pigneto just for a meal at Necci dal 1924, but the neighborhood is worth a glance if you’ve had your fill of historial Rome. Or you’re wondering where to eat in Rome on a Sunday.
Via Fanfulla di Lodi 68, Pigneto. Open everyday 8:00-2:00. For more information visit their website.
Rosocioli came highly recommended and I decided to make dinner here an early Christmas present to myself. This is far from your neighborhood trattoria. Located in a salumeria, Roscioli is a higher end restaurant. A higher end restaurant where you can dine next to hanging, cured meat. If there’s one restaurant on this list of where to eat in Rome that you must try, it’s this one.
After I placed my order, the waiter brought out an arancini as a complimentary amouse bouce. Arancini are closely related to my beloved suppli (closely related as in, basically the same with thing with a different name depending on where they are from) so I was more than pleased with this little treat.
Then came my starter, a plate of burrata surrounded by sun dried tomatoes. But not the overly sweet, overly dried (and in my opinion, gross) sun dried tomatoes that you find in the United States. These tomatoes were both sweet and acidic, and retained some of their tomatoey moisture. When eaten with the burrata, it was pure pleasure. This was a life changing culinary experience. I slowly ate through a dish that could easily satisfy three people with a smile on my face.
For my main I went with cacio e pepe, a Roman dish made with black pepper and pecorino cheese. This is where I made a mistake. Roscioli is known for their amazing carbonara, but I’d already had carbonara at Da Enzo and wanted to eat cacio e pepe while in Rome. This was going to be my last chance. Halfway through the dish I realized that I don’t really like cacio e pepe. Roscioli does a fine version of it, but it’s just too heavy for me. I had serious food envy as the girl next me happily ate her delicious looking carbonara.
I skipped a seconodo, which ended up being a good decision as by this point I was full to the point of pain, but went with a contorno of artichokes to take advantage one last time of the fact that I was traveling to Rome during my favorite season- artichoke season. When I was finished, I was brought a plate of cookies with a chocolate dipping sauce. A nice touch to the end of a memorable meal.
Roscioli will be a place I return to next time I’m in Rome. Though the service was horrendous (even by Italian standards), the food is phenomenal and it is nice to find such a a high quality place right in the historical center.
Via dei Giubbonari 21/22, Centro Storico. Open Monday-Saturday 12:30-16:00 and 19:00-24:00. Reservations recommended. For more information visit their website.
PIN IT FOR LATER