When people fantasize about the charms of the Old World, its narrow winding streets and grand piazzas, what they’re really conjuring is Rome: the gleaming edifice of the Vatican and the gargantuan ruins of the Colosseum, the wraiths of caesars and gladiators, polychrome street art splashed against imperial monuments, and sharp-suited Romans walking down cobblestones eating rustic pizza and potent gelato.
For all the faded splendor of the Eternal City, fussy cooking has never had much place here — the cuisine that evolved over the millennia had to feed the masses cheaply and efficiently, and flour and water became the basis for a delicious sort of alchemy. But the thrift that inspired cacio e pepe and pizza al taglio also brought about a rich tradition of cooking intestines and offal, employing aggressive amounts of black pepper and funky shepherd’s cheeses, and a love of hardy, bitter vegetables like chicory and artichokes. The result is one of Western Europe’s most complex flavor palettes. One that, frankly, Americans are just now primed to appreciate.
Most Romans admit they’re slow to embrace the modern, even by Italian standards. But the last decade has seen some burgeoning shifts in how people eat. Pizza, long stiffly rooted in tradition, is being radicalized by a new generation of pizzaiolos embracing heirloom grains, fermented dough, and flashy toppings. Trattoria classics are going the way of Paris’s neo-bistro dishes as chefs reimagine them for an adventurous young audience with a focus on technique and sourcing. Even gelato is evolving — or rather, devolving, back to a time before chemical binders and artificial flavors. (You can, however, now get a gluten-free cone.)
So take it all in and dive into the thrilling new cuisine emerging from Rome’s peripheral neighborhoods and scrappy osterias. Or ignore all of that, bury yourself in piles of cheesy cacio e pepe and drippy scoops of stracciatella. Whatever you do, don’t overthink it — it’s Rome.
Ready to go? Eater’s bringing this guide to life with a trip to Rome, brought to you by Black Tomato. See the itinerary and book a food-filled trip now.
First, the utterly essential:
- The 38 Essential Restaurants in Rome, Italy
- Where to have a fantastic pre-dinner drink, wherever you are
- How to do Rome in 24 hours
What exactly is Roman food?
Know your al taglio from your amatriciana with our Roman food cheat sheet.
It’s everything you want:
From creamy cacio e pepe to rich carbonara to fettuccine with chicken gizzards to guanciale-spiked gricia, here’s every pasta dish worth eating in Rome, and where to try it.
And you can’t do Rome without gelato, so here’s the ultimate gelato tour of the capital.
It’s old ... and also new
The good stuff is serendipitously cheap
In these videos, Lucas Peterson, host of Eater’s Dining on a Dime, shows you how to do Rome on a budget.
And it’s everywhere
- Where to stay, what to do, and how to eat in Rome’s most enchanting neighborhoods
- Think you can’t have any of this stuff? Surprise — here’s how to survive (and thrive) in Rome, gluten-free
Editor: Lesley Suter
Consulting Editor: Katie Parla
Art Director: Brittany Holloway-Brown
Copy Editors: Rachel P. Kreiter and Emma Alpern
Fact Checking by: Pearly Huang and Samantha Schuyler
All illustrations by: Laura Anastasio
Header image by: Meghan McCarron
Contributors: Giancarlo Buonomo, Natalie Kennedy, Eric J. Lyman, Meghan McCarron, Katie Parla, Rachel Roddy, Luciana Squadrilli, Lesley Suter
Thank you: Meghan McCarron, Sonia Chopra, Matt Buchanan, Brittany Holloway-Brown, Milly McGuinness, Adam Moussa, Patty Diez, Manami Takashina, Carolyn Alburger, James Park, Maureen Giannone Fitzgerald, Stephen Pelletteri, Scotty Kan, Vesta Partovi, Carla Francescutti, Clifford Endo, Amanda Kludt, Andrea Cecchi Vannucci, McGraw Wolfman.