Rome is the capital of Italy and one of the country’s most famous destinations. The Italian capital is known for a lot of things, but none more than its simple but rustic culinary scene. In Rome, most of the traditional dishes originate from cucina povera, also known as “poor man’s cuisine”, which utilizes leftover ingredients to produce some of the best food you’ll ever try – from the cacio e pepe (pecorino cheese and pepper) to the amatriciana (cheese and tomato sauce).
Millions of people come to Rome every year to sample some of the best and most authentic Italian food on the planet. From the city’s trattorias and pizzerias to fine-dining establishments, you’ll understand why Rome has become one of the world’s most popular European foodie destinations. The following are the top Italian restaurants in Rome that you shouldn’t miss (don’t forget to leave your shopping parcels and bags at a Rome luggage storage facility before you dine out for a carefree meal).
Even though it’s fairly new, Pianostrada has already made a name for itself in the highly-competitive dining scene in Rome with its creative gourmet Italian dishes. Established in 2017, Pianostrada started as a tiny space with a focus on street food. However, their reputation quickly outgrew their location and soon, they moved to a bigger and better space that is frequented by both locals and tourists. From their focaccia and fritti to their pasta dishes, you can’t go wrong with anything on Pianostrada’s menu.
One of Rome’s longstanding culinary institutions, Roscioli’s is a must-try when in the Italian capital. The spot opened in 1872 as a bakery before converting into a full-fledged deli-restaurant in 2002. The breads here always freshly-made and the dishes are made from the finest ingredients. Roscioli’s signature pizza rossa is considered one of the best pizzas in all of Italy, and that’s saying a lot! Other bestsellers include the king prawns with burrata and mullet eggs, smoked swordfish carpaccio, and the classic carbonara. The restaurant also has an impressive wine selection of over 3,000 choices.
Seu Pizza Illuminati
This minimalist and contemporary-style pizzeria opened in 2017 and has quickly become one of Rome’s top pizza joints. Pier Daniele Seu is the brains behind the restaurant, which serves both classics and non-traditional pizzas using unique ingredients like smoked salmon and purple cauliflower. Some of the favourite pizza varieties at Seu Pizza Illuminati are marinara, Margherita, and Neapolitan as well as their “dessert pizzas”. Other noteworthy items on the menu include the antipasti, deep-fried tramezzino sandwich, and fritti.
Situated in the Rome Cavalieri hotel rooftop, La Pergola is a fine-dining establishment under the direction of German-born chef Heinz Beck that was once referred to as “worthy of a pilgrimage”. There’s a reason why it is the sole restaurant in the city to hold three Michelin stars - La Pergola boasts one of the most elaborate tasting menus in the region. Equally impressive is the restaurant’s wine selection, which features over 50,000 individual bottles.
Da Enzo al 29
Tucked away within the quiet street of Trastevere, Da Enzo al 29 is a simple and no-frills restaurant with a cult following. Loved by locals, the restaurant offers generous portions of expertly-prepared Italian favorites – from the polpette (meatballs) and carbonara to the garlicky eggplant to braised artichokes. Don’t forget to try their desserts as well; the tiramisu and pistachio gelato are some of the best in the city.
Testaccio (Trastevere) is hailed as the home of authentic Roman cuisine and its star is Da Felice. The restaurant was founded in 1936 by the late Felice Trivelloni, who was known to put “reserved” signs on tables to turn away potential customers. Back in her day, the only way to eat at Da Felice was to get an introduction from a street sweeper or market trader. At present, Felice’s son Franco runs the old-school dining spot, which boasts a mouthwatering menu consisting of Italian cuisine favourites. But Da Felice’s most popular dish is no other than the cacio e pepe – a pasta made of black pepper and melted cheese that is tossed right at the table upon serving.
This restaurant is named after the Mori family, composed of Giuliana and her sons Alessandro and Francesco, who oversee the day-to-day operations. The spot is every bit as rustic and simple as a traditional osteria, with its family-sized tables and open kitchen, and the menu is composed of no-fuss Roman fare that is executed to perfection. Some of the dishes at Fratelli Mori not to miss are the Neapolitan-style woodfire pizza, Gricia with artichokes, and the classic meatballs. The best part about eating here is that the prices are affordable!
This tiny, unassuming pizzeria attracts an influx of customers on a daily basis but the wait is more than worth it – Bonci is one of Rome’s most celebrated pizza spots located near the touristic Vatican area. Gabriele Bonci has made a name for himself with his revolutionary square-cut pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) creations with a focus on freshly-made dough, use of seasonal ingredients, and creative combinations of pizza toppings. Also worth a try at Bonci are the fried suppli (risotto balls) and paninis.
Spazio Niko Romito
Upon entry to the old-school coffee bar, you’ll end up in this fine-dining restaurant that offers some of the best and most authentic Italian fare in the city. Conceived by Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito, this Italian café-restaurant has a straightforward menu consisting of light and fresh meals made from unique ingredients. Some of the restaurant’s most beloved dishes include the pollo frito (fried chicken) and the bollito meatballs. You can browse through Spazio Niko Romito’s full menu here.
Situated in Rome’s Parioli neighbourhood, Metamorfosi provides one of the best and most unique dining experiences in the city with its selection of traditional Roman dishes with a playful twist. Don’t let its minimalistic appearance fool you; Metamorfosi is a Michelin-starred restaurant with an innovative menu put together by chef-owner Roy Caceres. Some of his signature dishes are the Uovo 65° carbonara antipasto, which is a deconstructed version of the classic pasta and the “encased risotto”, a brown oval meant to be broken to reveal a tasty meal made of rice, mushroom and hazelnut.