In December 2016 I went on a pretty special trip to Rome for 5 days. Special because I was introduced to some of the city’s most unbeknownst hidden gems, as well as a few more renowned eateries.
As the saying goes, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’, so what better way to follow suit by drinking copious amounts of coffee, Limoncello, and Prosecco, and eating pizza, gelato and pasta every single day?
Here are my top foodie recommendations to visit ‘when in Rome’…
I don’t know the ins and outs of the history of coffee, but if we take the assumption that Italy is the coffee epicentre of the world, then visiting Rome made me realise just how wrong us Brits get it when it comes to drinking the stuff.
In Rome, coffee is by no means a ‘long’ drink. Walk into any café during morning rush hour and you’ll see a line of commuters standing at the bar, ordering an espresso, downing it like a shot of vodka, and heading straight for the door. I suppose it’s like a drug – you get your caffeine hit, have a pastry on the side, and that’s you set up for the day.
Sant’Eustachio Il Café on Piazza di S. Eustachio is deemed one of the best cafes in the world for coffee. The list of different types of coffee on the menu can be a bit daunting, but if a short, coffee with milk is what you’re after then a cappuccino is a safe bet. Its signature yellow merchandise is also worth paying a visit for, including it’s own branded Moka pots and coffee hampers. Sant’Eustachio coffee beans are also available to take home by the kilo. The pastries are a must try too – the Nutella Sfoglliatella (lobster tail) is the café’s most popular treat.
If visiting the Spanish Steps, it’s worth stopping by at Caffé Greco on the Via dei Condotti for a more upmarket and civilized experience.
This landmark café boasts elaborate marble décor and an attentive table service, offering an extensive menu of sweet and savoury patisserie, including incredibly posh sandwiches, with the crusts cut off…
It’s pretty tricky to find bad gelato in Rome, so you can afford to be picky in what criteria the place you get it from must meet. If it’s a traditional, established café style place, then Giolliti on the Via degli Uffici del Vicario is the ideal place. There must be nothing short of 50 flavours to choose from including sorbets. Its Stracietalla (chocolate chip) is my favourite.
If you’re looking for something more low-key, San Crispino on the Via della Panetteria offers flavours with a slightly more modernised culinary twist, such as cocoa with rum, walnut and dried fig, and liquorice.
Appropriately named Pizza Time on the Via Arenula doesn’t look anything more than a tiny takeaway pizza place in the student district. It isn’t anything more than that, but that’s why it’s so great. Big batches of each pizza are cooked all day in the back – your slice is cut with a pair of scissors, and weighed to establish the price.
Sit in on the high stools with a large Peroni red and for a moment you’ll forget you aren’t one of the locals.
Tip: if you’re a cat lover, visit the Largo Di Torre Argentina down the road – a strange but fascinating congregation of stray cats in a Roman ruin, and play spot the cat.
Of course ‘restaurants’ is quite a vague category, but I’ve whittled down two of my favourites, that are polar opposites.
Da Enzo Al 29 on the Via dei Vascellari is a tiny, absolutely no frills, cheap and authentic restaurant. You MUST pre-book, even on a Monday evening there was a queue of eager Americans at the door, with only about 10 tables to fill.
Specialities are any pasta dish, Roman artichoke, oxtail, and the tiramisu for dessert.
You’ll be sat very cosily next to another table – this is gingham table-cloth and carafe of wine territory. The food is absolutely nothing fancy, just simple heart-warming authentic dishes.
A three course meal including wine won’t set you back more than €30 for two.
Grano on the Piazza Rondanini has a brilliant array of seafood and again pasta dishes. It’s minimalistic and refined, but not pretentious in any way.
Desserts are must in this place. An experience I won’t forget is breaking open my ‘tiramisu bomb’ after it being described to me as a ‘tiramisu INSIDE a tiramisu’.
Volpetti deli on the Via Marmorata is in the Testaccio district of the city, a cosmopolitan and residential area about a 15-minute taxi ride away from the touristy city centre. It’s a trip that is not to be missed even if it’s just to awe at the variety of cheeses, nougats, fresh pastas and meats available.
Visit the Pasticerria Barberini next door for incredible cakes and coffee.
Very new to the Rome food scene is Mercato Centrale – an ‘artisan’ food market inside Termini station. Its concept is to capitalise on the classical traits of Italian food that everyone loves; stone baked pizza, fresh pasta and grilled meats, in an affluent and high-end setting.
This is a very condensed version of an extensive list of places I visited in Rome. I cannot recommend the city enough if you have the slightest interest in food!