There aren’t too many places in the world like Rome. Sure, Italy is littered with dozens of charming, unique, and even mind-blowing cities, yet nothing can quite stack up to the Eternal City.
With almost 15,000 restaurants in Rome (yes you read that correctly), you’d have to desperately try to find something that isn’t tasty and delicious. Of course, Rome restaurants are not made equally. You’re likely to find bland, tourist-filled places just as often as you’ll find one-of-a-kind gourmet places.
But after spending several months living in the city, I’ve tried and tested cafes, bars, and restaurants to find the best Roman dishes out there.
1. Cacio e Pepe
Cacio e pepe speaks directly to my heart. First, take my absolute favorite thing in the world (pasta) and combine it with my second my favorite thing in the world (cheese). And we aren’t just talking any ole cheese. The cheese used in cacio e pepe is buttery, sharp, and yes – hot and melted.
Top it off with a hardy grind of black, coarse pepper and you have one of the best dishes in Rome.
Although there are only three main ingredients, you’d have to be a fool to think that the restaurants in Rome serve them in the same way. After visiting Rome half a dozen times and even living there for two months, I’ve eaten my way through some of the best (and worst) cacio e pepe dishes in the city.
Roma Sparita – It’s easy to see why Anthony Bourdain wanted to keep this place a secret. The cacio e pepe in this cozy Trastevere joint is nothing short of spectacular. And if you can’t get enough cheese, you’ll be happy to know that the pasta is served inside it’s very own baked parmesaen cheese bowl.
Ombre Rosse – I’ll admit, the cacio e pepe here can be a hit and miss. However, if they happen to get it right, well boy, do they get it really right. The thick, chewy pasta swims in just the right amount of hot, gooey cheese sauce, which is just as delicious as it sounds. And the cozy, lush interior decor gives this place an extra star in my book.
Osteria del Sostegno – Visited by tourists and locals alike (but thankfully more locals), Osteria del Sostegno is a hidden gem tucked away down a small alley near the Pantheon. The cacio e pepe is more refined than most other restaurants, but that doesn’t make it any less filling. And a secret tip – if you order the dish, they’ll bring out a tiny sample plate for your dining partner.
What’s not to love about crispy, crunchy balls of rice (and meat and cheese)? Roman suppli are risotto balls mixed with the ingredients of your choice before being breaded and fried. They’re the ultimate snack food or the ultimate accompaniment to your main dish.
In my opinion, the best suppli flavor is, surprise, cacio e pepe. Yes, even risotto can be mixed with cheese and pepper! But the tomatoey, meaty goodness of suppli bolognese comes in close second.
Trappizzino – Although you might be tempted to try Tappizzino’s famous pizza cone sandwiches, their suppli balls also deserve some love and attention. They serve the crispiest suppli in all of Rome, perfect for satisfying your deep-fried fix.
Suppli Roma – This no-frills take-out shop is simply a culinary landmark in Rome. They offer two different types of suppli each day, with a rotating menu with flavors that keep the Roman suppli tradition alive. You best go as soon as they open because when they sell out, that’s it.
Besides cheese, carbs, and wine, Rome is known for melt in your mouth, salty pig parts. And fight me if I’m wrong, but Porchetta is the king everything that is porky and holy.
You might be asking yourself, what is so gosh darn special about Porchetta? You see, porchetta is pork that has been deboned, stuffed with fennel, salt, white wine, and herbs, then roasted with it’s skin until the entire thing becomes a crispy, drippy (and somewhat fatty) dish. Eat it alone or inside a toasted bun for one unforgettable sandwich.
Bonci Pizza – Bonci Pizza serves the best Porchetta sandwich, hands down, in all of Rome. Inconspicuously hidden inside the Roma Termini market hall, the porchetta roll is often overlooked for slices to take-away pizza. While the pizza is indeed out of this world, the porchetta sandwich is generously sized, extremely tender, and of course, juicy.
I Pizzicaroli Piazzo Navona – If you prefer your porchetta served in an trendy setting with a glass of red wine, then I Pizzicaroli. Thick slices of porchetta are layered on top of herb bruschetta before being lightly toasted in the oven and served at your table. Pricer than your average take-out joint, but the atmosphere and people watching is worth it.
Rome is one of the only places where people eat gelato in the blistering cold winter as much as they eat it during the summer. And how can you not? The gelato here is one of a kind and unlike anywhere else in the world.
Made with butterfat, fresh fruits, and chocolates, gelato contains less than 70% air than normal ice creams, leaving it ultra-rich and ultra-creamy. Best of all, there are more flavors than you could ever imagine, from blueberry cheesecake and pistachio to nutella and matcha green tea.
Frigidarium – The long lines should be the first sign that Frigidarium takes it’s gelato very seriously. Everything is made daily, and the flavors rotate frequently depending on what’s currently fresh and in season. As an added bonus, you can get your gelato dipped in milk or white chocolate at no extra charge.
Fatamorgana Chiavari – With more flavors than I’ve ever seen in Roma, Fatamorgana Chiavari is likely to have something that sparks your interest. And if you still manage to taste everything they have, then feel free to also try their signature gelato sushi rolls!