Despite Italy having a reputation for the most widely loved cuisine, possibly in the world, we’ve heard several different people say that they haven’t had a good meal in Italy’s capitol, Rome. This, to us, is madness. Rome has such a beautiful history of unique Italian cooking, dating back hundreds of years. From deep-fried artichoke in the Jewish Quarter, to tripe and other offal from Testaccio, to delicious pasta dishes such as carbonara and cacio e pepe. Stray just a little way off of the beaten tourist path and you can find some of the best tasting food in Italy.
For some seriously impressive pizza, head to the San Lorenzo district and eat at Fariné. Their menu is simple, and fits on one side of an A4 paper, but the pizza is fantastic. They serve traditional Roman pizza, mostly without tomato, as the tomato was only introduced to Italy in the mid-sixteenth century. This being said, their simple margherita pizza is gorgeous. We recommend buying several small pizzas, so you can try as many as possible, four small pizzas and a carafe of wine will only set you back €20 or less.
A couple of streets down from Fariné, you’ll find Taverna de Pasquino, a picturesque taverna serving modern takes on traditional Italian cuisine. The deep-fried stuffed courgette flower is to die for and their rich tomato pasta sauce, served with sultanas in a hollowed out aubergine, hits all the right spots. They’ve even taken the classic Roman pasta dish, cacio e pepe, homemade pasta with cheese and black pepper, and enhanced it with a new twist of mint and courgette flowers. They offer traditional Roman food and something new and refreshing all at once.
What Roman cuisine is really famous for, however, is offal. The Testaccio district in the South of the city was the main hub for slaughterhouses through the last few hundred years, and workers were often given the offal, also known as the fifth quarter, as part of their pay. This resulted in some delicious recipes, using what some consider the less desirable parts of the animal. At sister restaurants Velavevodetto Ai Quiriti and Flavio al Velavevodetto, they specialize in these classic recipes utilizing the fifth quarter. Their rigatoni carbonara cooked in cheek fat is deliciously rich, and their trippa ala Romana brings a whole new dimension to Tripe, with its rich tomato sauce. They also keep tradition alive with their ox tail, cooked the ‘way of the butchers’. This was definitely the best meal we had in Rome.
Whilst there are not as many slaugherhouses still open in the Testaccio, there is still a large food market open there Monday through Saturday. Filled with butchers, fish-mongers and fresh pasta stalls, the Testaccio market is a lively hub for food and fresh ingredients. There are often events such as live music in the market, and if you’re nice to the sellers, you can get a whole array of tasters. As well as fruit, veg, meat, fish and cheese, there are also stalls selling cooked food, such as Suppli, Roman corquettes similar to aranchini, but with a cheese filling, at the Food Box stall, or Roman tripe sandwiches, sold at Mardi and Vai’s stall.
No meal is complete in Italy without a gelato to finish. Gelato is very similar to ice cream, but made with more milk and less egg, and has a denser texture. Gelateria del Teatro has a fantastic selection of flavors, from classics, like strawberry and chocolate, to more interesting flavors, such as prickly pear or rosemary, honey, and lemon. Their pistachio cannoli is also amazing and well worth treating yourself to. It’s just a short walk from Piazza Navona and Castel Sant’Angelo, so make sure you swing by on your journey through Rome.
Every region of Italy has its own unique cuisine, and Rome is no exception. No visit to Rome to see the colloseum, the Vatican, and the forum is complete without also experiencing all of the culinary wonders this incredible city has to offer. To make the most out of your visit, avoid the tourist traps and truly eat like a local to get the most authentic Roman experience possible.