The most difficult thing about eating in Rome and Italy in general is that you are constantly spoiled for choice and it would take a lifetime for you to try all the best Italian food that Rome has to offer. Are you heading to the eternal city for a holiday or for work reasons? Are you already there and making your dinner plans this very moment?
We have put together a bucket list which contains the most traditional Roman delicacies for you to taste and become a part of Italian culture.
When in Rome, eat like the Romans!
Fiori di Zucca – Courgette flowers
Fiori di Zucca is typically a squash blossom or edible courgette flowers. These tastes amazing when stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies and then deep fried in a club soda or seltzer water batter.
When you travel to Rome, make sure to try these snacks in market stalls or as a side dish. Da Enzo is just a block walk away from the Frutta gallery in west Rome. It’s a higgledy-piggledy independent restaurant popular among both locals and tourists. The restaurant serves hundreds of stuffed fiori di zucca and mushrooms on a daily basis and you can be sure that each one is made to true perfection.
Watch my live and learn Italian video below to learn about my stepmom’s secrets when making fiori di zucca and learn Italian at the same time! Then, take the test to see how much you have learned.
1- Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Carbonara is one of the most famous Italian delicacies. Although it’s made from simple ingredients (spaghetti, eggs, cheese, guanciale and black pepper), the technique for making the actual dish requires years of mastering so it would only be right if you ate directly from the chefs of Rome.
The dish itself traces back to the Lazio region where it was developed to have Parmigiano-Reggiano and cured pork – also known as the modern dish we know and love. La Taverna dei Monti in the centre of the city has been classed by TripAdvisor as ‘the best spaghetti Carbonara in Roma’.
This restaurant serves delicious food, with generous portions, exquisite service and all for a reasonable price.
2- Pizza alla Romana
Italy is known for its two-type crust style. The Neapolitan pizza has a thick crust whilst the Roman style pizza has a thin crunchy crust instead. When in Rome, eat a Roman style pizza as that’s how you’ll get it best. Opt for as few toppings as possible so you can taste each ingredient as it is, and appreciate the effort made to create that masterpiece.
Rome has hundreds of pizzerias, but our favourite is Piccolo Buco. Translated as ‘little hole’, this pizzeria is based adjacent to the Fontana di Trevi. They have 16 varieties of picturesque and tasty pizzas to choose from, boasting their slowly made 48-hour dough in order to get the perfect rise.
3- Spaghetti alla Gricia
Spaghetti alla Gricia is served in typically rustic and traditional Roman restaurants. With the main ingredients of pasta, guanciale, pecorino, salt and black pepper, the dish is fairly easy to make. However, once you’ve tasted it in a Roman restaurant, there is no going back. Flavio al Velavevodetto is renowned for its spaghetti alla Gricia.
The restaurant itself has a buzzing atmosphere, a range of pasta dishes and a wine list which is extremely well priced. The restaurant itself is a combination of traditional and rustic; round tables to create a sense of family dining and large arches which complement the destination. There is also an option for outdoor seating.
4- Coda alla Vaccinara
A hearty Roman meal consisting of an oxtail stew with a variety of vegetables including carrots and celery. The dish was originally a speciality of the Vaccinari butchers of Rome, who made the dish so popular that they were nicknames ‘tail-eaters’. Coda is a sweet and sour dish, made with raisins or bittersweet chocolate to contrast with the taste of cloves, onions and prosciutto and pancetta.
The best place to try this dish in Rome would be Checchino Dal 1887 who serves only warm and hearty Roman dishes. The Coda alla Vaccinara will sure fill you up. All the dishes come with an excellent wine pairing and the staff are accommodating to your needs.
This will undoubtedly be one of the best fine dining experiences you will ever have.
5- Trippa alla Romana
Trippa alla Romana was once popular among the poorest of inhabitants in Rome, however this dish is now popular among everyone, especially tourists. This dish uses tripe, white onions, a lot of tomatoes with Pecorino cheese and vegetables. This dish is incredibly sauce heavy which complements the tender meat in the stew.
If you love the sweet taste of tomatoes with meat and vegetables, this dish is for you. Zampagna is situated on the east of the River Tiber. This local friendly diner has one of the best Trippa alla Romana dishes in the city so this is a must on your list.
Lunch and dinner is provided here as well as an array of drinks such as wines and cocktails.
6- Carciofo alla Giudia
A Roman-Jewish cuisine consisting of deep-fried artichoke. This dish was originated by the Jewish community in Rome and was usually served in restaurants during the spring season, although nowadays you can find them at any time of the year.
The Romanesco variety of artichokes which are used for this recipe are harvested any time between late winter and early spring in the northern regions of the country. The Piperno Restaurant is mostly used by locals so this would be a fantastic place to practice your Italian.
It’s hidden away in the backstreets of the old Jewish quarter and can be described as very much stuck in time so you can enjoy this timely recipe made to exactly how it would have one hundred years ago.
7- Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
Literally translating as ‘cheese and pepper’, this dish is simple, traditional and delicious. It was cast as the perfect meal for Roman shepherds due to its warmth and fat content which allowed workers to be filled for hours.
Much like a carbonara, the starch and the cheese are combined in such a precise way in order to create the sauce like texture. Osteria Cacio e Pepe is just a short walk away from Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. This restaurant specialises in cacio e Pepe. If you’re looking for the famous cacio e pepe in a cheese wheel, this is the place to go. With friendly staff, excellent service and a wine list, this place is a must when visiting central Rome.
You may have unknowingly had Suppli before, or even versions of Suppli. These are what’s known as Italian snacks containing balls of rice and tomato sauce and mozzarella. Traditionally, it is a finger-food and it is commonly served in pizzerias as a side dish. This dish is now famously known as the king of street food, and you can find them pretty much in any marketplace or street corner.
Our favourite is Foodbox, a market in the Testaccio which has a wide range of Italian snacks you can try including Suppli which are freshly made to order.
9- Saltimbocca alla Romana
This Italian dish is made of veal, wrapped with prosciutto cotto and sage and marinated in a substance specific to that region. In Rome, the dish is marinated in wine but in other regions this can be saltwater or olive oil.
The term ‘saltimbocca’ actually comes from ‘saltare in bocca’ meaning to jump in your mouth or have an appetising taste. This dish is perfect for get togethers among friends and family, but you can try it in Rome’s Armando al Pantheon.
For a traditional dining experience, and a paired wine list, this restaurant is perfect for you to try Saltimbocca alla Romana for the first time or the tenth.
10- Bucatini alla Amatriciana
A traditional Italian pasta sauce harmonising with cured guanciale, pecorino, rich tomato sauce and onion. This dish is a variation of the pasta alla Gricia, and it is simultaneously hearty and picture perfect. Furthermore, it originates from the town of Amatrice, which is in the Lazio region.
The sauce itself is known as one of the best pasta sauces in present day Rome. The L’arcangelo in the Prati neighbourhood is home to Chef Arcangelo Dandini. This place is known for its Gnocchi spin on the dish.
They are described to be light, airy and a delight to eat. The original dish of bucatini is also available here.