Rome is such an enormous city: it's enormous in population, it's enormous in personality, and it's enormous in scale — but, then enormous is how the Romans thought. That's why visiting Rome can be overwhelming.
The reality is Rome is like my hometown of Los Angeles -- if you plan your trip wrong you risk having a crappy time -- say with a less-than-ideal hotel or even an outright bad meal in Italy -- in a city that's anything but. We could devote this whole site to food in Rome (in fact, my friends Katie and Natalie have done just that) because there's so much to talk about. But seeing as most visitors stay close to the major landmarks (ie Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain) in the centro storico (historic city center), let's start there!
It's commonly believed that, when it comes to Italy, you are either a Florence lover or Rome lover but not both. Yes, I lived in Florence so that'll always have a special place in my heart, but the bold grandeur of Rome attracts me just as much. Since we've launched our group trips to Italy, I've spent a few months in Rome and have gotten to know the centro storico rather well (for a non-resident, of course).
Here is my list of where to eat in the city center of Rome right now (a mix of new and old, just like Rome):
WHERE TO EAT IN OLD ROME
Eat legit pasta at Roscioli
I gotta say: this place is by no means unknown (Anthony Bourdain gave it thumbs up on No Reservations), but it has always met expectations.There are two locations—this restaurant and the the other part a bakery (see below) where locals grab a quick lunch. We got the full experience at the restaurant and went all in with salumi, carbonara pasta (with crispy fried guanciale), and a local white wine. The wine selection is extensive and the breads (made in house) are totally worth it—but save room for a trip to their bakery.
Via dei Giubbonari, 21
Some restaurants live up to the hype and Armando al Pantheon is one of them. It's been around almost as long as Fellini's La Dolce Vita and is just as much of a classic. This family-run place has a reputation for great traditional pastas (like carbonara and the lesser-known pajata) and classic sides like chicory or baby artichokes, but, honestly, it's really hard to go wrong. Oh and make sure to order wine because they have a list with all sorts of interesting bottles from across Italy with a nice selection from the Lazio region (where Rome is situated) as well as natural and organic wines.
Salita dei Crescenzi 31
Eat healthy food fast at Ciao Checca
I'm the first to admit that I can't make every meal be a carb loading fest when I travel. Sometimes I just want clean, healthy, simple food, which is exactly what Ciao Checca serves. From salads to soups and sandwiches, they have really quick, affordable food that won't weigh you down.
Piazza di Firenze 25/26
I'm cheating here because this place isn't really in the centro storico. However, it's just a few minutes past the Coliseum and, well, a lot of people end up there when they're visiting Rome. I found Caffe Propaganda thanks to Elizabeth Minchilli's very helpful Eat Rome app it's a great refuge from the crowds. The staff was exceedingly kind and the food was straightforward yet interesting with dishes like an octopus salad and a tomato tarte tatin.
Via Claudia, 15
Snack on classic street food at Supplizio
Roman food expert, Katie Parla, showed me Supplizio when we were filmed our Off Menu: Rome episode and I've been dreaming about it ever since. The owner and chef Arcangelo takes great care in prepareing the classic Roman street snack of suppli (like the most delicious rice croquettes you ever did have) and my favorite was his classic tomato mozzarella version.
Via dei Banchi Vecchi 143
Snack on awesome pizza bianca at Salumeria Roscioli
Yes, this is the sister deli to the restaurant Roscioli down the block. You can get pizza by the slice here as well as a bunch of baked breads (try gems like their apple and chocolate chip cake) and sandwiches. Their pizza bianca is considered some of the best in town so it's a great place to stop if you just want a snack or quick bite. Just know that it's hectic at lunch so you may want to go off hours if you aren't up for the craziness.
Via dei Giubbonari, 21
Snack on great granite at Gelateria Artiginale Corona
I know, you wanted gelato but these guys make granite so good you'll forget about that gelato. Know that they aren't known for their hospitality so try to not be put off by their gruffness.
Largo Arenula 27
DRINKS AND APERITIVO
Do an ultra chic aperitivo at Hotel De Russie
When I travel, I don't always stay in the fanciest places but I do enjoy stopping by for a drink; such was the case with Hotel de Russie. After a few meals that were misses, I wanted to spoil myself with some chichi scenery and cocktails and Hotel De Russie delivered sans pretension. Their cocktails were excellent if pricey but they more than made up for that by showering us with interesting antipasti (the mascarpone and walnut crostini were my favorite) and very memorable people watching.
Via del Babuino, 9
Sip on local wine and cheese at L'Angolo Divino
Tucked just a few feet away from all the craziness of Campo de' Fiori square, this little wine bar is a locals-only place. So local that, while they have wines, cheeses, and charcuterie from all over, they really specialize in wines from the local region of Lazio.
Via dei Balestrari, 12-14
Try amaro cocktails at Il Marchese
A bit out of main part of city center, the location of Il Marchese is in a section of town with lots of worth-visiting art galleries. But the reason it's on this list is that it's the first amaro bar in Europe so they focus on cocktails made with all sorts of amari from the classics like Campari-based cocktails to the more creative drinks that you must taste IRL. When I headed there for a drink, there were some of the chicest dressers I'd seen my whole trip.
Via di Ripetta, 162
Sip local craft beer at Open Baladin
If you're into beer, then you've probably heard that Italy's craft beer scene is young(ish) but legit. If you're looking to get an intro into the scene then head to Open Baladin where there are over 100 Italian craft beers on the menu.
Via degli Specchi, 6
Drink espresso at Tazzo D'Oro
A classic option for espresso is at Tazzo D'Oro. Though some locals feel it's overrated, I think it's a reliable coffee in the center of town. They roast their own beans (not quite as dark as Sant'Eustachio—another nearby iconic cafe but I don't like their coffee as much) and their counter is lined with coffee drinkers from the early hours. I haven't had it but my fellow food friend, Elizabeth Minchilli says their granita di cafe is a godsent in the summer months.
Via del Pastini 11
Drink in the moment at Ciampini BIstrot
The espresso here is good, but really the reason I like this place is that it's a good place in the city center to take a break. It's smackdab in the centro storico but far enough from the crowds that you're more likely to be among locals than tourists.
Via della Fontanella di Borghese, 59
Drink in some history at Antico Caffe Greco
This place is known for being one of the oldest cafes in Europe but it also has great coffee. If you find yourself near the Spanish steps and need a pick me up, this is a great option.
Via dei Condotti, 86
Buy the city's best chocolate at Moriondo e Gariglio
You guys know that I don't joke around when it comes to cocktails, coffee, and chocolate so, when I say this is the best chocolate I've had in Rome, I mean it. Granted I don't live there and I will continue to "research" on my next trip, but everything from the chocolates to the hot chocolate here get my stamp of approval.
Via del Pie' di Marmo, 21/22
Buy fresh produce at Campo de' Fiori Market
This is a kind of controversial place to list. Some locals snub Campo di' Fiori for being too touristy (there are Skittles-colored pastas and pre-packaged food gifts for sale, after all). However, each time I've rented an apartment in the area and needed seasonal produce, this market has done right by me (just watch out as it can get pricey) with picture perfect ingredients like grape tomatoes, red torpedo onions, baby artichokes, and zucchini flowers.
Piazza Campo de' Fiori
Buy central Italian salumi at Antico Norcineria Viola
This salumeria is a bit of an anomaly—it's tucked away in one corner of the Campo de' Fiori square and specializes in salumi from Umbria. I wanted to check it out because my grandparents are from the area and I had heard many a story of my great grandfather's home made salumi and prosciutto made in the Norcia style. The shopkeeper was beyond helpful and showered us with free samples of everything from their prosciutto and capocollo to their more adventurous charcuterie like liver salami.
Piazza Campo de' Fiori, 43
Those are our must-eat spots in Rome's city center. Any other additional spots you've discovered when you travel in Italy? Let us know in the comments below!
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