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I have been waiting for food writer Katie Parla’s list. Katie just finished her book tour for the excellent “Food of the Italian South” and sat down to give us her favorites. She covers Rome for us, and her list is utterly thrilling - especially for those of us who are Italian food obsessed.
This Pantheon-adjacent institution is among Rome’s most satisfying trattorias. The menu highlights the classics of the cucina romana like spaghetti alla gricia (with cured pork jowl, Perorino Romano, and black pepper) and coda alla vaccinara (stewed oxtail segments). Owing to its location near a major tourist attraction—not to mention its nearly six decades devoted to quality—it’s a popular spot so book about a month out.
Salita dei Crescenzi, 31, 00186 Roma
Don’t freak when you google Cesare’s location up. It’s more than worth a trip outside central Rome for a stellar meal on a vine-shaded patio. Cesare’s fried starters like eggplant croquettes, shredded beef balls, and gnocchi on a pool of cacio e pepe (Pecorino Romano and black pepper) sauce are legendary, while the Roman pasta classics like cacio e pepe and carbonara (with cured pork jowl, egg, Pecorino Romano and black pepper) are among the best in town. Stick around for the meaty mains, especially friend lamb chops with a side of roasted potatoes. The wine list is fantastic and affordable and features natural and traditional vino from Italy, France, Slovenia, and Austria.
Via del Casaletto, 45, 00151 Roma
Chef Sarah Cicolini may have grown up in Abruzzo, the region east of Rome, but this young chef has totally mastered the spirit of Roman cooking, which that draws heavily on cured pork jowl, offal, pasta, and sautéed vegetables. Order the city’s pasta classics like carbonara, amatriciana (with tomato, cured pork jowl, and Pecorino Romano), and cacio e pepe and don’t skip the trippa alla romana, a delicate stew of tripe simmered in tomato sauce with mint and pecorino cheese. Wrap up with a maritozzo (sweet yeasted bun) filled with Chantilly cream.
Piazza Tarquinia, 4A/B, Rome, 00153
New Yorkers and fans of Sullivan Street Bakery will recognize the style of breads pizza by the slice on display at Forno Campo de’ Fiori; baker Jim Lahey honed his skills at this historic Roman bakery. Order slices of pizza bianca (a flatbread brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt) or pizza con fiori di zucca (with mozzarella, zucchini flowers, and salted anchovies). Forno’s annex just across the alley at Vicolo del Gallo 14 sells the most delicious pizza con la mortazza (mortadella sandwiched between slices of pizza bianca) year-round. In the summer, look for pizza con prosciutto e fichi (pizza bianca filled with ripe figs and thin slices of cured ham).
Piazza Campo de’ Fiori 22, 00186 Roma
Tram Tram is a charming family-run trattoria in San Lorenzo, a working class and student district northeast of central Rome. The place is named for the tram that rattles the bar as it glides along the rails outside. Meanwhile inside, the menu offers dishes from Puglia, the owner’s ancestral homeland, which highlights fresh seafood and olive oil-spiked vegetables. There’s plenty of Roman comfort food, too, like tender gnocchi dressed with mutton ragù.
Via dei Reti, 46, 00185 Roma
Start with all the fritti (fried starters) like suppli’ (rice croquettes) and fried cannelloni (stuffed pasta) at this busy pizzeria in Centocelle in Rome’s eastern periphery. You may want to walk the 5 miles back to your hotel after the first round but power through and enjoy excellent, thin-crusted pizzas stretched by hand and adorned with toppings both classic (Margherita) and creative (yellow tomatoes, burrata, and prosciutto).
Via Tor de' Schiavi, 53, 00172 Roma
There are several thousand gelato shops in Rome and Otaleg (that’s gelato spelled backwards) stands out in that crowded field. Master gelataio Marco Radicioni has a flair for bright and intense seasonal fruit sorbets and creamy, nut-based gelato. I never leave the Trastevere neighborhood without dropping in for two scoops of Crocante Totale (mixed nut brittle) and Pistachio Turco (a pleasantly savory Turkish pistachio gelato).
Via di S. Cosimato, 14a, 00153 Roma
Celebrity baker Gabriele Bonci’s (justifiably) famous pizza by the slice joint opened near the Vatican in 2003 and is largely responsible for popularizing Rome’s native pizza style across the globe. Get there right when it opens at 11 to avoid enormous crowds—and also when the rice and pasta croquette are fresh out of the fryer—and select slices from the sheet pans that fill the counter display. The excellent signature potato and mozzarella pizza is available most days but many of the other toppings change regularly. Don’t miss nearby Panificio Bonci, Gabriele’s bread bakery, either. There are two locations, one in the Mercato Centrale in the Termini train station and another near Pizzarium on Via Trionfale.
Via Trionfale, 36, 00195 Roma
Via della Meloria, 43, 00136 Roma
This wine bar in the heart of Rome’s Renaissance quarter has been pouring vino alongside simple snacks for nearly four decades. There’s an impressive selection of wines by the glass from small producers, but the bottle list is even more exciting. Well, there’s no actual list. Just head inside and peruse the shelves packed floor to ceiling with bottles from Italy’s premier natural winemakers. Take your pick and pull up a seat outside and drink in the atmosphere of one of the city’s most atmospheric promenades.
Via del Governo Vecchio, 74-75, 00186 Roma
Don’t be fooled by the austere Scandanvian decor; Marigold’s menu draws on Rome’s glorious vegetable bounty, as well as ingredients from central and south Italy. The largely plant-based menu at this all-day cafe offers a healthy break from the heavy cucina romana and each item is thoughtful and homemade. The menu changes regularly but always features house-baked sourdough. There’s an evening aperitivo (happy hour) and dinner service Fridays and Saturdays only and brunch featuring naturally leaved pastries on Saturdays and Sundays.
Via Giovanni da Empoli, 37, Ostiense 00154 Roma