Most tourists believe that the minute they arrive in Rome, they don't have to look very hard for the best restaurants in the city. But who can blame us? As tourists, totally new to authentic Roman cuisine, it's difficult to tell whether you're getting good food or not. I would refer to TripAdvisor and head to the most popular, 5-star reviewed restaurant, only to be disappointed. Unfortunately, that doesn't work either, and you can't really trust another tourist's rating. Luckily, my Roman friends showed me the best places to eat, and that's when I realised that Roman cuisine is actually delicious! If you want a real foodie experience, read this and avoid all the terrible tourist traps.
First things first, there are rules when going out for food:
- If you see a massive queue outside a restaurant, don't bother. Just because people are queuing doesn't mean it's spectacular. Don't follow the crowd!
- If there are only tourists inside, then it's a no go
- The best restaurants are the ones that are harder to find. The best ones aren't always the busiest restaurants in the city centre!
Best traditional restaurants in Trastevere
Osteria da Zi'Umberto: Trastevere is a beautiful neighbourhood but pretty busy, particularly during the summer. It can be pretty overwhelming searching for decent, affordable restaurants- especially amongst crowds of people and feeling a bit hangry. This one restaurant, however, is not only super central but serves high-quality and authentic Italian food. Since you only live once, I'd go all out. Enjoy all three courses, drink a load of wine and have a bit of dessert. Once you're finished, walk off the food-baby and stop by some famous landmarks on the way like Janículo, Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, or local's popular hang-out spot, Basilica of our Lady in Trastevere. While you're here, head to Bar San Calisto nearby for a true Roman nightlife experience (psst: drinks are 1 euro).
Dar Poeta in Trastevere: One of the best pizzerias in Rome. This restaurant is a true hidden gem tucked away in a narrow street in famous Trastevere. Dar Poeta serves only pizza (hence why they're so good). The prices are cheap, and it's a local's favourite. One thing I've learnt while living in Italy is to keep it simple when it comes to food. I went for the Margherita (classic).
Ivo in Trastevere: I bet you're thinking, "not another pizzeria." Yes, Rome is full of them, but it's hard to pick out the quality ones. Ivo, however, has got your back. Visit this restaurant for delicious Roman pizza and a warm and vibrant ambience! It's always busy in Trastevere, and there are endless options, so it's always nice to know a good place to go to while having a day trip!
Cheapest (but still amazing) restaurants in Rome
Dar Bottarolo in Tor Marancia: This one is my favourite. It's a bit further away from the city centre, but worth the trek. I'm about to digress... Watch out for the taxi drivers in Italy. Journeys are not just overpriced, but you also end up in weird situations. On our way to Dar Bottarolo, I felt like I was in Fear and Loathing. As friendly as he was, the driver was speeding and dancing with no hands on the wheel. At first, it was funny until he started crossing red lights and getting his phone out to show us his holiday pictures, fully turned, with no eyes on the road. We arrived safely (and quickly), but I was badly car sick! I couldn't bear the thought of eating and was ready to head back home.
However, I saw the food and was totally in the mood! Dar Bottarolo is another local's favourite, serving homemade pasta. It's pretty old school, but that's the way to go. With locally sourced ingredients, generous portions, and cheap prices, what more can you ask for? We had three massive plates to share, one Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe, and Carbonara. It's a great place to sample a variety of dishes with a group of friends. And don't fool yourself into thinking you're too full for dessert. Once I saw my friend's Tiramisu, I got food envy and ended up eating half of theirs and ordering more.
Ristorante de Pecorino in Testaccio: This restaurant serves traditional Roman pastas and meat dishes. I came here because I was tired of pasta and pizza and craved some vegetables. The Saltimbocca (veal) was one of the tastiest Roman dishes I've had, with a side of fresh vegetables covered in olive oil, salt and herbs (just how I like it). Testaccio is another neighbourhood worth visiting! It's the path-less-travelled, away from the chaos of the city centre. While you're here, why not marvel at the Pyramid of Cestius, visit the Jewish neighbourhood, tour Testaccio's street art, or shop at Testaccio's food markets? Monte Testaccio is another place to check out, and it's been transformed by trendy nightclubs, bars and restaurants. Foodies particularly like this neighbourhood as it's the it-location for tasty Roman food. So while you're here, have lunch or dinner at Ristorante de Pecorino.
Da Bucatino in Testaccio: Another charming restaurant in Testaccio, known for its tasty ox, cod, rigatoni, and delicious desserts. This restaurant is local's favourite family-owned trattoria. Try its trademark bucatini all'amatriciana, house wine, and grappa! Although I enjoyed my meal, I got food envy again. My friends went for Octopus Spiedino, grilled baccalá, and Truffle Fettucine, all of which looked enticing and made it hard to choose from! The portions are generous, and not many tourists come here- it doesn't get more traditional than this.
BTW, if you're in the neighbourhood, check out Pasticceria Barberini- a popular bar and cake shop serving cornetti and tiramisu chocolate cups!
Formula 1 in San Lorenzo: This restaurant is excellent for the atmosphere. The waiters are super friendly (one of them was making dad jokes and teaching us some Italian words). It's also right in the middle of all the action: San Lorenzo is a young, trendy neighbourhood where you'll find loads of students walking about. The pizzas here are, therefore, super cheap and delicious. Here you get thin pizzas at an affordable price. Alcohol? Very strong and generous portions! This was the perfect start to our night out in San Lorenzo!
Best bar and cafe in Rome
Bar San Calisto in Trastevere: This bar is family-owned and has been around for over 50 years! Tourists and locals alike love this place, and it definitely has a place in my heart! A cafe by day, selling espresso for 1 euro, and a bar by night (offering cheap wine and beer). At night, people crowd the streets drinking and chatting. It's Rome's best traditional bar, with a real, local ambience and warm atmosphere.
Best Gelaterias in Rome
Gelateria La Romana on Via Ostiense: There are so many Gelaterias in Rome that it is hard to distinguish and find the best. Born in the historic Rimini in 1974, this gelateria has been serving its famous ancient ice creams for over 60 years. This gelateria combines tradition and innovation with a wide selection of flavours made exclusively with quality, organic products, following the ancient recipes of the past.
Giolitti on Via del Vicario: A variety of flavours and creamy! This was my favourite and is popular amongst locals! Make sure to try their famous Pistacchio ice cream! The best part? Giolitti is just a stone's throw away from the Pantheon- Rome's most beautiful ancient landmark. What better way to enjoy an ice cream beside the spectacular ancient Roman temple?
And finally, the best Supplí in Rome
Casa del Supplí in Piazza Die Re Di Roma: This place opened in 1986 and has been serving the best since! What's changed? Nothing! The recipe stays true to tradition and is based on simplicity and quality. Made from scratch and with fresh ingredients! If you haven't tried supplí, did you even go to Rome?
So there you have it, the best local food in Rome!