Rome Restaurants

In Rome, the Eternal(ly culinarily conservative) City, simple yet traditional cuisine reigns supreme. Most chefs prefer to follow the mantra of freshness over fuss, and simplicity of flavor and preparation over complex cooking techniques.

Rome has been known since antiquity for its grand feasts and banquets, and dining out has alway been a favorite Roman pastime. Until recently, the city's buongustaii (gourmands) would have been the first to tell you that Rome is distinguished more by its enthusiasm for eating out than for a multitude of world-class restaurants—but this is changing. There is an ever-growing promotion of slow-food practices, a focus on sustainably and locally sourced produce. The economic crisis has forced the food industry in Rome to adopt innovative ways to maintain a clientele who are increasingly looking to dine out but want to spend less. The result has been the rise of "street food" restaurants, selling everything from inexpensive and novel takes on the classic supplì (Roman fried-rice balls) to sandwich shops that use a variety of organic ingredients.

Generally speaking, Romans like Roman food, and that’s what you’ll find in many of the city’s trattorias and wine bars. For the most part, today’s chefs cling to the traditional and excel at what has taken hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to perfect. This is why the basic trattoria menu is more or less the same wherever you go. And it's why even the top Roman chefs feature their versions of simple trattoria classics like carbonara, and why those who attempt to offer it in a "deconstructed" or slightly varied way will often come under criticism. To a great extent, Rome is still a town where the Italian equivalent of "What are you in the mood for?" still gets the answer, "Pizza or pasta."

Nevertheless, Rome is the capital of Italy, and because people move here from every corner of the Italian peninsula, there are more variations on the Italian theme in Rome than you'd find elsewhere in Italy: Sicilian, Tuscan, Pugliese, Bolognese, Marchegiano, Sardinian, and northern Italian regional cuisines are all represented. And reflecting the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of the city, you'll find a growing number of good-quality international foods here as well—particularly Japanese, Indian, and Ethiopian.

Oddly enough, though, for a nation that prides itself on la bella figura ("looking good"), most Romans don't fuss about music, personal space, lighting, or decor. After all, who needs flashy interior design when so much of Roman life takes place outdoors, when dining alfresco in Rome can take place in the middle of a glorious ancient site or a centuries-old piazza?

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  • 1. Etablì

    $ | Piazza Navona

    On a narrow vicolo (alley) off lovely cobblestone Piazza del Fico, this multifunctional restaurant and lounge space is decorated according to what could be called...Read More

  • 2. Necci dal 1924

    $$ | Pigneto

    Pigneto is full of hip restaurants and bars now, but Necci is the neighborhood's original hangout, the haunt of famed director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who...Read More

  • 3. Sorpasso

    $$ | Prati

    The focus at this happening spot, open from early morning until late in the evening, is on using excellently sourced products to make simple but...Read More

  • 4. Caffè di Marzio

    $ | Trastevere

    Over a coffee or a cocktail, sit and gaze upon Santa Maria in Trastevere's glistening golden facade at Caffè di Marzio. The outdoor seating is...Read More

  • 5. Caffè Propaganda

    $$ | Celio

    Black and white tiles create the atmosphere of a Parisian brasserie at this hip all-day bar/restaurant, but the heart of the large food menu is...Read More

  • 6. Dagnino

    $ | Repubblica

    Hidden inside a covered arcade, this Sicilian pasticceria, which opened in 1955 and proudly wears its midcentury modern design, boasts pastry cases filled with sweets...Read More

  • 7. Forno Conti & Co.

    $ | Esquilino

    At this new bakery on a quiet street near Piazza Vittorio, Scandinavian-inspired minimalist design is the backdrop for bread and pastries by fourth-generation baker Sergio...Read More

  • 8. Il Margutta

    $$ | Piazza del Popolo

    Parallel to posh Via del Babuino, Via Margutta was once a street of artists' studios (including Fellini's), and this chic vegetarian restaurant, with changing displays...Read More

  • 9. La Zanzara

    $$ | Prati

    This bright and modern restaurant functions as a bar, caffè, and restaurant all in one, with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. The menu runs...Read More

  • 10. Panella

    $ | Esquilino

    It's on the pricey side, but the baked goods here are top-quality and the coffee drinks are excellent. Come in the morning for a cornetto...Read More

  • 11. Panella

    $ | Esquilino

    Opened in 1929, this nearly century-old spot is one of Rome's best bakeries and sells both sweet and savory baked goods, including over 70 types...Read More

  • 12. Pasticceria Gruè

    $ | Repubblica

    This chic, modern pasticceria and caffè is the perfect place to stop for a quick lunch or something sweet near MACRO and Villa Torlonia. Run...Read More

  • 13. Tiberino

    $ | Trastevere

    Named for the island that it sits on in the middle of the Tiber River, Tiberino is a historic caffè that has gotten a modern makeover. In...Read More

  • 14. Romeo: Chef and Baker

    $$ | Prati

    The sprawling space here—it used to be an Alfa Romeo workshop; hence, the name—is an übermodern, multifaceted affair. In front is a casual bakery and...Read More

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