Eating in Rome.
The image you are conjuring probably involves two mouth watering savory plates of pasta by candlelight on a quiet side street with just bottled chianti from the restaurant owner’s personal vineyard.
Ugh, if only it were this easy.
Truth be told, it is next to impossible to ‘stumble’ upon a great restaurant in Rome, especially in any of the major tourist areas. You know it’s a bad sign (literally and figuratively) when you see ‘no frozen food’ signage displayed at restaurants spilling onto Piazza Navona. I mean, the food at these restaurants just plain sucks. Over priced garbage that is the opposite of authentic. So bad that I rather eat at Olive Garden in the strip mall back home… and Olive Garden is undoubtedly the bane of my existence. I rather eat tar.
Oh Rome, why couldn’t you just have remained untainted by hoards of gelato-gobbling tourists?
I digress. Finding a great meal in Rome has its challenges, but it’s not impossible with a bit of research. And if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a delightful little blog called Traveling Fig….. then on your trip to Rome you might just have the best meals of your entire life.
Before I even delve into the absolute perfection of the ambiance at Roscioli, I have to give a moment of silence for the burrata appetizer. It changed my life. Creamy, buttery, heaven.. I rarely find fault with the cheese of Italian Gods, but whatever magic they infused into their burrata, I’m not asking any questions. You have to order it. And you have to get a plate of cured meats to accompany it. So now let me take a step back. Located on a quaint cobblestone corner of Rome, you’ll find an unassuming door to what appears to be simply a meat & cheese store with a few tables. Once inside, you’ll notice the tables stretch far into the back and seem to be nestled into a cave lined with bookshelves. You will also notice that every single table has a heaping portion of carbonara pasta on it. This is their signature dish and is quite definitely the best carbonara I have ever tasted. But for me, the Cacio e Pepe was the real winner. I just want to pinch my fingers, kiss them, and throw them in the air over and over again. This meal is everything you could ever want in Rome and more.
2018 update: we just returned to Rosciolis and had another earth shattering meal. The burrata and cacio e pepe still reign as my favorites, but now I can also add la grecia pasta to the list – a slightly less creamy, but more savory twist on the classic carbonara. Unfortunately, the secrets out on Rosciolis and you’ll need to make a reservation far in advance.
I’m going to also go out of my way and suggest you visit Rosciolis bakery as well for a slice of pesto pizza.
Bucatini Amatriciana, the only reason anyone travels to Rome, am I right? What I love about Italy is that each region differs drastically in their specialties. What I love about La Cabana is that everything from the ‘pick your own caught this day fish’ to the steak is going to be delicious. But the buccatini matriciana? Outrageously delicious. Unfortunately, we inhaled it before I could snap a photo… but here’s a picture of the cacio e pepe!
Dar Poeta is the pizza place you’ve been longing for on your trip to Italy. Located in my favorite area of town, Trastevere, this little hole in the wall pizza joint is always crowded with locals and tourists alike. It doesn’t matter which pizza you ultimately order from their list of dozens, you’re going to be singing ‘it’s amore’ after one bite. And while you are most definitely going to eat every last morsel of your enormous pizza, you HAVE TO order the nutella calzone dessert… it’s basically a right of passage. Make sure you get it stuffed with ricotta as well. Oh my heaven.
2018 Update: still delicious!
If you’re more of an extra crispy crust pizza lover, I suggest you check out Emmas.
We did our homework for you and ate at every single gelateria worthy of a yelp review on our trip to Rome. For some reason Don Nino Gelato topped none of the ‘best gelato’ lists I found from fellow bloggers, but something about their adorable storefront and that they keep their gelato hidden in the metal pots (something that signifies artificial flavor & dye free) made me curious to take a peek inside. Then I saw them stuffing fresh baked canolis, and well… I couldn’t leave after that could I? I don’t want to say I’m a gelato connoisseur, but I am. And Don Nino is exceptionally delightful.
Now this is really far off the beaten tourist path. So far that you’re not going to have much luck here if you don’t speak Italian. But it’s worth the frustration of trying to decipher the menu to eat where the aristocratic locals dine. Get any and all of the pastas and you’ll be in jubilee. As this is far from a tourist hangout (and we were brought by a Rome native), I decided it was best to leave my camera at home. So, no photo evidence for this one!
If you’re stuck near the Pantheon and your stomach is growling, Armando al Pantheon will be your best bet for an authentic meal. Was I necessarily blown away? No, not even close. But the food is much fresher and creative than the majority of restaurants in the area. And bonus points: instead of being harassed by a waiter with a menu to sit down at their restaurant… Armando al Pantheon has the luxury of regularly turning people away. Reservations are a must.