Where to find a cult-favorite trattoria serving famed meatballs, an artisanal cheese shop offering perfect snacks with natural wine, summertime pastries stuffed with gelato, and all the pasta and pizza you can eat in Rome
Roman cuisine is defined by a unique set of ingredients, techniques, and dishes that set it apart from the food of all other Italian cities. Generational trattorias serve a delicious (if predictable) litany of specialties such as cacao e pepe, carbonara, roasted lamb, and assorted offal. Their ranks are bolstered by several neo-trattorias that take a fresh approach to the classics — just one way young chefs are nudging tradition forward in the Italian capital. Plenty of international flavors offer a break from the pecorino Romano- and guanciale-laden Roman classics.
Travelers tend to plan their dining itineraries far in advance, meaning last-minute reservations are difficult. Consider booking a month ahead for sought-after spots. While restaurants are increasingly adopting online booking systems, you’ll have to try your luck by phone elsewhere, including at places so understaffed they can’t even answer the phone some days; calling at the very beginning or end of service is your best bet.
The city is poised to top 2019’s record-breaking tourism numbers, and the streets of Centro are packed with summer travelers. They’re revisiting old-school trattoria Settimio al Pellegrino, which closed last year and has been reincarnated by the team at Cesare al Casaletto (also on this list) as Cesare al Pellegrino, serving a tight menu of comforting classics for lunch and some famous pan-fried meatballs. They’re also exploring the dynamic bar scene, including the impressive lineup of mezcal labels and cocktails at La Punta Expendio de Agave. And they’re browsing botteghe (specialty shops) for artisanal gems, like small-producer Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella di bufala at Forme Dispensa a Ripa or spongy focaccia and cinnamon rolls at Triticum Micropanificio Agricola. When they need something sweet or caffeinated to end a meal, they’re heading for acclaimed gelato shop Otaleg, now serving specialty coffee at its Monteverde location alongside scoops crafted with fresh pistachios and chocolate.
Eater updates this list quarterly to ensure it reflects the ever-changing dining scene in Rome.
Katie Parla is a Rome-based food and beverage journalist, culinary guide, and New York Times best-selling cookbook author. Her latest cookbook, Food of the Italian Islands, is available now.
Chef Davide Puleio began his career in fine dining in Rome before racking up an impressive pedigree abroad at Noma in Copenhagen and L’Alchimia in Milan. At his namesake restaurant near the Vatican (which swaps the “i” in Puleio’s surname for a “j,” a nod to the Roman dialect), which opened in 2022 and quickly earned a Michelin star, the chef puts his training and technique to work with Italian flavors. Take the Mi-Ro (Milano-Roma, a play on the Milano-Torino cocktail), for example. The dish merges the signature saffron-tinted risotto of Milan with Rome’s beloved cocoa powder-seasoned braised oxtail. Sea buckthorn, a defining ingredient at Noma, accents hearty Italian flavors in a roasted duck dish with mushrooms, chestnuts, and sea urchins. In addition to the a la carte menu, there are five- and seven-course tasting menus (obligatory for parties of more than four guests).
Gabriele Bonci’s landmark pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) shop near the Vatican Museums has become a globally acclaimed landmark where cold-fermented, heirloom wheat-based dough is topped with exquisite produce from biodynamic farms and artisanal cured meats and cheeses. Most toppings change from day to day or even hour to hour, but Pizzarium’s signatures (tomato-oregano and potato-mozzarella) are always available. There are only a few high-top tables outside and no seating, so don’t wear yourself out too much wandering the museums before stopping by.
In early 2022, acclaimed Sicilian chef Ciccio Sultano opened Giano in the W Hotel, where the warm spaces are replete with plush velvet couches and wood-clad walls. Lunch is geared towards elevated, earthy island classics like Insalata finocchi e arancia, which features flavorful fennel and seasonal citrus, and patcher fuori Norma, tubular house-extruded pasta heaped with fried eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and grated ricotta salata. Meanwhile, the dinner menu is a celebration of the Sicilian sea and mountains, with dishes like tagliolini with artichokes and sweet red shrimp from Mazara del Vallo, as well as suckling pig from the Nebrodi Mountains. Fulfilling its role as a hotel restaurant, Giano also serves breakfast and aperitivo daily, as well as a Sunday “Bella Brunch.”
Rome’s premier pizza innovator and Trapizzino inventor Stefano Callegari opened his first trattoria in late 2021 just north of the Vatican Museums. The menu is a blend of decadent Roman classics like polpette di bollito (fried meatballs made from pulled braised beef) and fun twists on tradition– the fettuccine al tortellini features handmade pasta strands drenched in a creamy sauce enriched with prosciutto, mortadella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, evoking the rich filling of tortellini. Romane is part of the Piatto del Buon Ricordo Association, which has recognized traditional Italian regional cuisine since 1964. If you opt for the trattoria’s specialties as indicated on the menu, you’ll get a hand-painted plate as a souvenir.
A short walk from the Trevi Fountain, this friendly trattoria has been serving satisfying dishes from Emilia-Romagna, a region in northeastern Italy, since 1931; the current owners took the helm in 1967. The menu is rich in egg-based house-made pasta like Tortelli di zucca (pumpkin pasta with butter and sage) and tagliatelle alla bolognese (long strands of fresh, egg-based pasta dressed with a rich meat sauce). Save room for meaty mains, including bollito misto (assorted simmered meats) and fried liver.
Armando al Pantheon
Just 100 feet from Rome’s most intact ancient monument, Armando al Pantheon champions local food traditions. For more than five decades, the Gargioli family has been dutifully producing Roman classics like fettuccine con le regalia di pollo (fettuccine with chicken innards) and coda alla vaccinara (oxtail braised in tomato and celery). Among the seasonal side dishes, look for puntarelle (Catalonian chicory) with anchovy sauce and carciofi alla Romana (simmered artichokes) in the cooler months. Save room for the torta antica Roma, a ricotta, and strawberry jam pie. The lovingly curated wine list gets better every year. Online booking is essential and opens (and books up) one month ahead.