Most people know how much Italians love their food and most people know if they visit Italy they’ll be in for a gastronomic treat. There are many excellent restaurants as well as plenty of cool hotels in Rome too, but like any big city, it’s all too easy to find a bad one. Having spent two years in the Italian capital, hopefully my experience will help you avoid the worst of Rome restaurants. Some places will require a booking, but for others you might have to wait in line. Don’t be put off by a restaurant that has a queue – it’s actually a very good sign and means you have stumbled across a particularly great one. At the weekends Romans can’t get enough of the restaurants in and around Trastevere, this is a great area with lots of traditional trattorias. You’ll find loads of cheap eats around Termini (the area surrounding the main station) although I would recommend avoiding this area. The quality of food in this area is generally very poor. Here are ten of my favourite best restaurants in Rome…
1. Ai Fienaroli – best for excellent value
This is an excellent restaurant located in Via Sardegna, and one that comes highly recommended by many in-the-know travellers. The staff are very friendly and happy to converse in English and the place offers a real taste of Rome for great prices. There is a wide range of choice; you can have pizza, pasta, meat of fish but Ai Fienaroli really excels itself when its comes to their antipasto misto (mixed starter). After this make sure you follow with either a pasta or meat dish.
Via Sardegna, 137
2. Popi Popi – best for atmosphere
Popi Popi is a lovely restaurant which tends to fill up quickly. Their pasta and meat is very good but they’re best known for their amazing pizzas and fun atmosphere. This eatery which can be found in the back streets of Trastevere is family-friendly and has outside seating available. It has a tardis feel to it, from the outside it looks small but you will be surprised how big it is once you are inside.
Via delle Fratte di Trastevere, 45, 00153 Rome
Tel. 06 5895167
3. IVO A Trastevere – best for pizzas
The pizzas at Popi Popi are great but this restaurant serves the best pizza I have ever tasted. IVO A Trastevere is recommended in many guide books and doesn’t tend to disappoint. There is lots of seats outside which is lovely during the summer and there is a pizza to suit everyone’s tastes. You’ll find lots of interesting combinations here which is a great excuse to go back time and time again.
Via di San Francesco a Ripa, 158, 00153 Rome
Tel. 06 5817082
4. Trattoria Da Lucia – best for traditional pasta dishes
If you are in Trastevere then you will have to try Da Lucia, it’s easily one of the Top 10 restaurants in Rome. This is a very authentic Italian restaurant where you can choose to eat inside or out. They are best known for two of their pasta dishes – “Cacio e Pepe and Alla Gricia” which is basically pasta with oil, pepper and parmigiano, then for the latter you add bacon. The owner’s dad is an ex-boxer and there are many pictures of him on the wall capturing him in his heyday. If you visit you can often see him walking around chatting to customers during the evening.
Vicolo del Mattonato, 2b, 00153 Rome
Tel. 06 5803601
5. Da Giovanni – best for dining with the locals
This is a homely trattoria which is in walking distance of Trastevere and St Peters. It makes a great stop for lunch or an early dinner (it opens at 7pm). I would recommend getting there early as it fills up very quickly and during the evening – when the food starts running out – dishes get taken off the menu. It’s a simple no frills place that is always filled with locals. Despite rarely getting tourists the waiter here can speak perfect English.
Via Della Lungara, 41a, Rome
6. Isole di Sicilia – best for fish
This place is a little different from your average restaurant in Rome, as you may have guessed from the title this is a Sicilian restaurant. Fish is their speciality and the main difference from Roman food is that they tend to use more spices in their dishes. Also if you’re a red wine fan then be sure to try some Nero D’avola.
Via Garibaldi 68/68
Isole di Sicilia
7. Antica Pesa – best for fine dining
This is a more upmarket option and here you will need to book in advance and wear suitably smart clothes. The food is of a high standard with a very varied menu. Choose this restaurant for a romantic evening or if you want to impress someone. Who knows you might even meet the odd celebrity or two.
Via Garbaldi, 18
8. Perdincibacco – best for meat lovers
After you have visited St Peters and the Vatican head to Perdincibacco for either lunch or dinner. This restaurant is just a two minute walk across the square and even though it’s next to St Peters the prices are reasonable and the food is very good. Their pizzas are good but their meat dishes are excellent – much better than their pasta.
Via delle fornaci, 5
9. Babette – best for buffet options
I love this restaurant which is located near Piazza del Popolo and nicely hidden away on the beautiful Via Margutta. There is a popular buffet option available at lunchtime, which works out a very reasonable €15.50. While it may not seem the cheapest it will allow you to try as many great options as possible. When evening falls the buffet disappears the restaurant serves dinner a la carte.
Via Margutta 1 – 00187 Roma
Tel. 06 3211559
10. Piccolo Arancio – best all rounder
This centrally located restaurant is just round the corner from the Trevi di Fontana (Trevi Fountain). It’s a perfect stop after spending the day sightseeing in Piazza Navona and Spagna (the Spanish Steps). They have a varied and impressive menu on offer with very good meat dishes and specialities that should not be missed. This is a very popular eatery and definitely a good all-rounder. Queues are likely but are worth the wait.
Vicolo Scanderberg, 112, Rome