Some people don’t like to make plans before a holiday. They prefer to decide on the day, letting their moods influence their actions, being open to going, eating, drinking wherever catches their eye. Some refuse to open guide books or research the place beforehand. They want the trip to be entirely spontaneous.
I am not one of those people. Of course if I walk past an inviting bar, I’m likely to stop off for a cheeky glass of wine. If I see a long queue snaking out of a gelateria, you know I’ll join it. However, I am an organiser and for me, holiday time is precious. I don’t want to waste it. I don’t walk around with my head in a guidebook (I’ve actually never bought one or brought one on holiday) but I devotedly star places on Googlemaps to navigate me towards all the good places I’ve read/heard about. Nowadays, we have a wealth of information available – reviews, forums, blogs, articles, word-of-mouth recommendations, Instagram hashtags – and for me, the planning is part of the fun. Wherever I am, I try to see the city from a local’s perspective. I’m like Indiana Jones, I want to discover all the hidden gems!
I neither want to waste time nor money, getting sucked into an easily-avoided tourist trap. I am obsessed with food; trying local cuisine and eating well are the most important aspects of a holiday for me. As a rule – I never eat in a deserted restaurant (follow the rowdy locals!) or within eye line of a main tourist attraction. Yes the view is amazing but 9/10, what you’re eating won’t be. It won’t be made with love, by authentic chefs cooking for their countrymen (and women). It will be made for tourists…often overpriced and uninspired. I remember cringing at tourist menus in Rome offering utterly unimaginative set menus…..or worse, English breakfasts! When in Rome….foodie heaven….why, oh why, would you order a full English?
I compiled my Rome recommendations list over time to share with friends, family and internet strangers. I’ve provided addresses, neighbourhoods/districts and when possible, links to websites. I have personally been to all of these places and haven’t received any perks or free meals for these endorsements (ha, I wish!). I know navigating a busy, bustling city can be overwhelming and many people will only visit a new city once so I want to help make your Rome trip incredible!
Roscioli, Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22 (Campo di Fiori) – really good coffee and delicate, little cakes & pastries!
Pasticceria Barberini, via Marmorata 43 (Testaccio) – We lived closeby and visited often. Always very popular with locals. A lovely range of pastries and cakes, along with some savoury snacks. They do great panettone at Christmastime.
Pasticceria Andreotti, via Ostiense 54 (Ostiense) – Along with the usual cakes, pastries, hot and cold drinks, they also offer aperitivo – for the price of a glass of wine/cocktail/beer, you can have a plate of food from their buffet.
Pompi (Chain – many branches across the city). Consistently good cafe with very popular tiramisu. Try the classic one, pistachio and banana & nutella. No shame in ordering three!
Cappuccino Doc, Via Ostiense, 71F (Ostiense) – We used to live right by this small cafe. They have the usual coffee selection along with flavoured and iced coffees, frappacino-style.
Antico Forno, Via dei Serpenti 123. (Monti) – Nice pastries, cakes and biscuits. They don’t offer tea or coffee after lunch – visit in the morning. They do a nice-looking evening aperitivo buffet.
Ciuri Ciuri, Via Leonina 18 (Monti – part of a chain) – Lots of different Italian cakes and biscuits, along with gelato.
La Bottega del Caffe, Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. (Monti) – A little overpriced but in a lovely location for people-watching. They serve hot & cold drinks and food throughout the day.
Er Caffettiere, Via Urbana, 72/73 (Monti) – a popular morning coffee spot, which also does aperitivo in the evenings.
Grezzo, Via Urbana 130 (Monti). Raw, vegan, dairy free. I went there with my vegan friend Karla and we tried some different vegan cakes and chocolates. They’re pricier than what you’d find in a ‘regular’ cafe but taste good!
Come il Latte, Via Silvio Spaventa, 24/26, (Near Repubblica/Barberini). Their salted caramel is insanely good! They do different flavoured whipped cream on top – chocolate, vanilla, coffee, zabaglione etc.
Gelateria La Romana, Via Ostiense, 48 (There are three branches, the others are on Via Venti Settembre, 60 and Via Cola di Rienzo, 2). One of the very best! They have many classic flavours and some more unusual ones. It is a popular place – you may need to queue. Ask for (free) white or milk chocolate to be poured into the base of your cone!
Panna & Co, Via Marmorata, 115 (Testaccio). Quieter than nearby La Romana but very high quality. They have some great flavours – including several types of chocolate of varying richness and cocoa content. Their coconut is divine and I like their seasonal plum flavour, adorably translated as ‘Plums from my grandma’s garden’.
CamBio Vita, Via del Governo Vecchio 54/55 (Just south of Piazza Navona). I went here with my vegan friend and was really impressed. They have many latte-free flavours. The chocolate truffle was especially good.
Gelateria dell’Angeletto, Via dell’angeletto (Monti). It looks a bit clinical from the outside, but the flavours are interesting and the gelato well-made.
Fatamorgana – (Multiple branches). I love this gelateria! The flavour options are incredible – dozens of chocolatey flavours, fruity ones, all the classics and some strange ones!They introduce new flavours quite often. I tried dozens of them, including white wine and strawberry, matcha tea, baklava, banana and toasted sesame seeds and chocolate & tobacco. My all-time favourite flavour is pecorino cheese & orange peel. Just sublime! It’s seasonal, so catch it when you can. Check out lists of their delicious flavour combinations here.
Gelateria del Teatro (2 branches – Via dei Coronari, 65/66 and Lungotevere dei Vallati 25). They offer some really unique flavour combinations like pumpkin with dark chocolate (so good), white chocolate & basil, raspberry & sage, and red wine & dark chocolate. Their regular flavours are delicious as well and all the gelato is freshly made on-site.
Frigidarium, Via del Governo Vecchio (Just south of Piazza Navona). A very popular gelateria with tourists – so expect a queue!
Restaurants (Some are open for both lunch and dinner)
La Tavernaccia Da Bruno, Via Giovanni da Castel Bolognese, 63 (Trastevere). It’s probably my favourite restaurant in the city. All the dishes I’ve tried there have been excellent, the suckling pig is exceptional. Great wine, service, prices and ambience…it’s the full package.
Sto Bene, Piazza della Trinità dei Pellegrini, 88. (Near Campo de Fiori). Good sandwiches with a mix of fillings.
Freni e Frizioni, Via del Politeama, 4/6. (Trastevere) Very popular aperitivo spot.
Pasta Imperiale, Via dei Coronari 160 or Via del Boschetto, 112. You choose which pasta you want (all freshly made) and which sauce (e.g pesto, beef ragu, carbonara). I’ve tried pretty much every combination! They also have delicious piadinas (a type of sandwich) with different fillings. The parma ham and stracchino cheese is my favourite.
Mordi e Vai (Two locations, Via Beniamino Franklin 12E BOX 15 & Via Appia Nuova 221) (Testaccio market / Re di Roma). Cheap sandwiches stuffed with delicious fillings!
Novecento, Via dei Conciatori, 10 (Ostiense). When I went, I couldn’t resist the baked ricotta with pear, honey and nuts followed by ravioli con baccalà, asparagus and lemon followed by tiramisu! Very nice ambience and decor.
Mani in Pasta – Via Ostiense, 62 (Ostiense) – Very well-made pizza, with interesting toppings, such as pear and guanciale.
Pizzarium, Via della Meloria, 43 (Near Cipro metro station). An institution in Rome! Incredibly popular pizza place with a wide variety of interesting toppings. A must-visit.
La Valle del Sacco, Via Bartolomeo Bossi, 4 (By Piramide metro station). Really big portions of excellent pasta dishes. The carbonara and seafood pasta were my favourites. They also do pizza and meat/fish dishes. Full of locals every evening.
Insalata Ricca (Chain, multiple branches). For when you need a break from carbs! You can customise the salads how you like them.
Cul de Sac, Piazza di Pasquino, 73 (Just south of Piazza Navona).
Trapizzino, Via Giovanni Branca, 88 (Testaccio/Mercato Centrale). Freshly baked pizza ‘pockets’ with delicious fillings. Their chicken cacciatore is just the best! I also love the meatball filling, the aubergine & parmesan, the burrata cheese & anchovy and the beef ragu. They have tongue in salsa verde for you adventurous types!
Osteria Pizzeria Pasquino, Piazza Pasquino 1, (Just south of Piazza Navona)
Ai tre scalini, Via Panisperna 251 (Monti) – Very popular for dinner and drinks, with locals staying well into the early hours.
Da Simo Pane e Vino, Via di Parione, 34 (Near Piazza Navona). Good sandwiches with a mix of tasty fillings.
La Carbonara, Via Panisperna 214 (Monti). Very popular. Reservations required. Order the carbonara, of course! They also do other pasta dishes, meat dishes etc.
La Gatta Mangiona, Via Federico Ozanam, 30-32 (Monte verde) – My second favourite pizzeria in Rome. Neopolitan style with fluffy, doughy bases. Interesting toppings and delicious suppli (fried rice balls) for starters. Very popular with locals.
Pizzeria Da Remo, Piazza Santa Maria Liberatice 44 (Testaccio). The ‘sister’ restaurant of Pizzeria Ostiense.
Etabli, Vicolo delle Vacche 9. (Centre, west of Piazza Navona) – a little pricier than other places in Rome, but also has a great cocktail menu and often has live music in the evenings.
Hostaria da Enzo, via Ostiense 36 (Ostiense) – rustic and family-run, with classic Roman dishes.
Piatto Romano, via Giovanni Battista Bodoni 62. (Testaccio) – A total hidden gem! Friendly waiters, popular with locals but not crowded with tourists (yet). My favourite thing on the menu is Rigatoni con la pajata. Pajata is the term for the intestines of a calf, only fed on its mother’s milk. The intestines are cleaned & tied, with the milk left inside. Cooking them turns the milk into a thick, creamy sauce. Served in a tomato-based sauce with rigatoni pasta, it sounds gross but is really, really delicious!
Doppiozero, Via Ostiense, 68 (Ostiense) – a very cool wine bar, popular with locals, that offers a really good aperitivo in the evenings.
Pizzeria Ostiense, Via Ostiense, 56 (Ostiense) – My favourite pizzeria in Rome! Roman style with thin, crispy bases. A range of tomato-based pizzas and ‘white’ ones (without tomato sauce). Traditional Roman starters like suppli and Jewish-style artichokes (when in season).
Ditirambo, Piazza della Cancelleria, 74-75 (Campo di Fiori). We had one of our most luxurious meals here with my boyfriend’s parents. Everything was excellent – the food, the wine, the service, the ambience. If you’re in Rome for a special occasion, celebrate with dinner here.
Emma, Via Monte della Farina, 28/29 (Campo di Fiori) – excellent pizzas with high-quality ingredients. Pricier than your average Roman pizza.
Hopside, via Francesco Negri 39 (Testaccio) – consistently great burgers, that you can customise. Their cacio pepe dipping sauce is really more-ish. Also offers aperitivo.
Oishi Restaurant, Via del Gazometro, 40 (Ostiense) – An all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant, with sushi, meat, fish, noodle and rice dishes. The buffet deal is cheaper at lunchtime than in the evenings. Drinks and desserts not included.
Open Baladin,Via degli Specchi, 6 (Campo di Fiori) – a beer lover’s Heaven! Unfortunately I don’t drink beer but my boyfriend and our friends love it there.
Byron, via Ostiense 73 (Ostiense) – Lots of seating, a decent range of beer and wine, and a very chilled atmosphere.
Brasserie 4:20, via Portuense 82 (Trastevere). Wide range of beers available. They don’t serve wine but you can go to the venue next door (they’re owned by the same people) and bring wine into 4:20. Serves food too – good burgers!
Jerry Thomas Speakeasy, Vicolo Cellini, 30. Very cool, 1920’s style Speakeasy bar. Really imaginative cocktail menu with some surprising ingredients!
Stavio, Via Antonio Pacinotti, 83 (Ostiense). Good variety of beer and wine, with outdoor seating and a cool atmosphere.
Tram Depot, Via Marmorata, 13 (Testaccio) – One of our favourites. A converted tram which now serves hot and cold drinks, and nibbles. Not open all year round. Good for drinks during the day or night. A decent amount of outdoor seating.
Masto, Via Galvani, 41 (Testaccio). Well-sourced meats and cheese, and an impressive wine list. Aperitivo available.
L’Oasi della Birra – Piazza Testaccio, 41 (Ostiense). Another one of our favourites – lots of seating (including a large basement) and lots of wine & beer options.
Birra +, Via del Pigneto, 105 (Pigneto) – Lots of beers, some spirits, no wine (boo)
Necci dal 1924, Via Fanfulla da Lodi, 68 (Pigneto) – Cool atmosphere, lots of outdoor seating, a long cocktail list along with wine & beer available.
Spirito, Via Fanfulla da Lodi, 53 (Pigneto) – nice cocktails!
Bar del Fico – Piazza del Fico, 26 (Centre, west of Piazza Navona). One of my favourites. There is some seating inside….grab it if you can! Great for people-watching. During the day, people of all ages gather outside to challenge each other at chess. At night, locals gather outside until the early hours, catching up with friends.
Rec23, Piazza dell’emporio (Testaccio) – Large venue which offers food throughout the day, along with aperitivo. Weekly expat events are held there every Tuesday by Expats Living In Rome.