Roman cuisine is defined by a unique set of ingredients, techniques, and dishes that set it apart from the food of all other Italian cities. Generational trattorias serve a delicious (if predictable) litany of specialties such as cacio e pepe, carbonara, roasted lamb, and assorted offal. Their ranks are bolstered by a number of neo-trattorias that take a fresh approach to the classics — just one way young chefs are nudging tradition forward in the Italian capital. There are also plenty of international flavors offering a break from the pecorino Romano- and guanciale-laden Roman classics.
Travelers tend to plan their dining itineraries far in advance, meaning last minute reservations are difficult. Consider booking a month ahead for sought-after spots. While some do offer online booking, you’ll have to try your luck by phone elsewhere, including at places so understaffed they aren’t even able to answer the phone some days; calling at the very beginning or end of service is your best bet.
Updated, March 2023:
In huge news for diners in central Rome, old-school trattoria Settimio al Pellegrino, which closed last year, has been reincarnated by the team at Cesare al Casaletto (also on this list). The new Cesare al Pellegrino serves a tight menu of comforting classics and only opens at lunch for now. Meanwhile, cocktail aficionados will find a dynamic bar scene with a view of the Colosseum at the Court, Matteo Zed’s celebrated outdoor terrace in the Palazzo Manfredi, with prices to match the five-star hotel bar location. South of the centro, in an industrial-chic space by the Tiber River, Latta Fermenti e Miscele attracts a younger, budget-conscious crowd of cocktail, craft beer, and natural wine drinkers.
Across the city, Rome’s winter temps are giving way to spring weather, which is bringing favas and peas along with it. The city is emerging from the busiest low season yet and bracing for what promises to be record tourism in the coming high season. That means you should book your meals as early as possible, a process made easier by restaurants increasingly adopting online booking systems. At some places you may need to call to reserve a table, but be aware many restaurants are still experiencing serious staffing issues and may not have the personnel to consistently pick up the phone. Bring a healthy dose of empathy and patience to every meal.
Eater updates this list quarterly to make sure it reflects the ever-changing dining scene in Rome.
Katie Parla is a Rome-based food and beverage journalist, culinary guide, and New York Times best-selling cookbook author. Her latest cookbook, Food of the Italian Islands, is available now.Read More