ROME, the eternal city. World renowned for its historical sites, The Vatican and much like the rest of Italy, its food. We were lucky enough to visit back in July and it’s safe to say we had an amazing time and returned home with happy hearts and full stomachs.
The best Italian food relies on the high quality of its ingredients; the freshness and simplicity of a dish are the markers of good Italian food. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular across the globe – you’re never more than 100 metres away from pizza, FACT. Slight exaggeration, granted.
The food in Rome is no exception to this and we made it our mission to eat as much good food as possible. We tried some of Rome’s classic dishes and we don’t regret a single bite! I’ve listed some of our favourites down below and hope you get to try them on your next visit to Rome!
As it’s already been mentioned, let’s start with pizza, everybody’s favourite! If you deny it, I know you’re lying… In Rome you really are only ever 100 metres or less from good pizza. One of our favourite pitstops was Pizza Zaza. Just round the corner from the Pantheon, it was in the perfect location for a quick refuel after a day of sightseeing.
You pay for the pizza by weight and there is no set menu; instead, there’s fresh selection of toppings available every day. Our favourites included a simple pizza topped with shredded zucchini, the classic mozzarella cheese and tomato and a ham, mushroom and truffle pizza which really was something special.
All the ingredients at Pizza Zaza are organic and the crust is light and airy making for some of the best pizza we’ve ever tasted. No exaggerations. Paying by weight meant that you could try a selection for a reasonable price. We stopped here every afternoon on our way back to our apartment it was that good!
Address: Piazza di S. Eustachio, 49, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Fritti, or ‘Fried Things’
Fried food is a Rome signature. Must try dishes are deep fried artichoke and stuffed zucchini flowers.
We tried the Roman-Jewish style artichoke which is literally a globe artichoke chucked in the deep fat fryer and served whole in all its spiky glory. Big enough to share, we ate this alongside an aperitif , the contrast between the hot, crisp, salty artichoke and a cold, sharp birra was near perfect.
Zucchini flowers are stuffed with a cream cheese, dipped in a light batter and fried. A great appetizer and surprisingly light for a deep fried treat.
It just would not be a trip to Italy without Gelato! A bit like pizza, you will find Gelato on every corner in Rome. Good, authentic Gelato however is another matter entirely.
Before we went to Italy, I consulted a few Italian frieds of mine and I was strictly told that you won’t find good Gelato piled up high in fancy swirls, neon colours and a million flavours. This was certainly true. Look for a gelateria that serves good quality homemade Gelato for the authentic taste of Italy. A sure sign of a good gelateria is a counter full of gelato served in a modest heap with a decent selection of flavours.
Our favourite spot was a stone’s throw from our apartment in the Jewish Ghetto, the award winning Gelateria Alberto Pica. An unusual flavour that caught our eye was rice and rice and cinnamon, it sounds crazy but it was truly incredible. If you are going to Alberto Pica, you MUST try the rice or rice and cinnamon flavour Gelato, trust me!
Other flavours we tried and loved were melon, fig, pistachio, rose, honey and orange, zabaione and fragoline.
Address: Via della Seggiola, 12, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Carbonara and Cacio e pepe
Pasta is, of course, a staple across the length and breadth of Italy but carbonara and cacio e pepe are classic Roman dishes.
The best food in Rome is found by exploring the many cobbled side streets. It’s best to avoid the tourist traps in the main squares and directly opposite the major landmarks. Knowing this, we wandered endlessly through the back streets in search of a smaller, more reasonably priced restaurant and we found the perfect place to sit outside and enjoy our lunch.
Simon had the carbonara and I ordered tonarelli cacio e pepe, simply translated to ‘cheese and pepper’ and that’s exactly what it was, tonarelli pasta with a generous helping of cracked black pepper and pecorino cheese. Tangy and creamy in equal measure with a gentle warmth from the pepper.
The famous carbonara is made with pancetta, egg yolks and parmesan cheese, NO cream as can often be found in carbonara’s back home in the UK. Most people will have tried carbonara but I assure you, there is nothing like having a truly authentic one in the city of Rome. Please please please don’t settle for a tourist trap… Seek and you shall find!
The traditional English hog roast has nothing on the Italian porchetta! Porchetta is a sandwich filled with juicy slices of slow roast pork flavoured with garlic and herbs.
We found Angry Pig online prior to our trip and, after reading the glowing reviews, planned to go the day we visited The Vatican as it was only a short walk from the museums. It’s a small place with a few bar stools but the food was amazing, the beer was cold and there was a choice of different pimped out porchetta sandwiches to choose from which had extra fillings such as aubergine, tomato, mozzarella, chilli sauce and salami. Just what the Pope ordered!
The sandwiches are served on paper and when you’re finished you can sign your piece of paper, draw on it or write a message and pin it on the wall. It was fun looking at all the different scribbles whilst chowing down on a delicious porchetta sandwich.
Address: Via Tunisi, 38, 00192 Roma RM, Italy
A Meal (or two, or three…) in the Jewish Ghetto
We stayed in an apartment in the Jewish Ghetto, a historic neighbourhood near the Tiber River. Rome has one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe and a number of Kosher restaurants spilling out onto the streets, most serve up a mixture of Roman-Jewish and Middle Eastern cuisine.
We went for an evening meal at Bella Carne where we had a really fun night. A choir visiting from Chicago gave a spine-tingling surprise performance and burst into song half way through our meal!
This is where we ate the fried artichoke, along with a selection of middle eastern style dips and flatbread to start. Our mains were steak, grilled radicchio and balsamic glaze; breaded lamb cutlets and mixed salad which we shared. Dessert was a chococlate, pear and frangipane tart served warm with cream.
We just loved the atmosphere and the warm hospitality in this area. Not forgetting the amazing food, which was so different to what we had experienced elsewhere in Rome. It was a lively neighbourhood and the restaurants were filled with Italian Jewish families rather than your standard tourist.
Address: Via del Portico d’Ottavia, 51, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Our apartment was right in the middle of the Jewish Ghetto amidst the hustle and bustle of the various eateries. In the morning, the bakeries would open and the tantalizing smell of freshly baked goods would waft through the open window.
Next to us was the ‘Kosher Bistrot’ where we decided to eat lunch on our last day. From the specials menu we ordered the stuffed tomatoes and the bruschetta which came with three different toppings, washed down with a cold glass of prosecco – perfect!
Address: Via di S. Maria del Pianto, 68/69, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
I am thinking of making ‘Eating our way around…’ a blog series, if you liked this post then I would love to hear from you!
Have you been to Rome? What food did you try? Comment below!