A writer I do not know personally, but whose writing I very much like for its directness, recently wrote of a Roman trattoria; why can’t we have more of this unpretentious shit in Sydney?  She hit the nail on the proverbial head because Roman food is, on the whole, very simple, and the environment in which it is served very basic, and I love it that way.

This is an updated version of my original Rome picks, written for friends, and friends of friends, who are visiting the city.  Rome has perhaps more gastronomic tourism and food writing than any other city on earth, so the traveller to Rome has a more than ample array of places to go for advice, but this is my list, with places chosen according to my view that a restaurant is always the sum of its parts.  Part of the equation is the food, which is all important, but the other part of the equation is the ambience, which can not be overlooked, especially when you are traveling.  I like the paper table cloth kind of places, because they kind of  fit the ignoranza* of Roman food.

That said, it is a time of change here in the eternal city and the younger generation of Romans, the ones who nod and say they feel inspired by the food coming out of cities in other parts of the world, are taking over in the kitchens and cellars of old establishments and there is creativity and new passion to be found around the cobbled streets of this ancient place as well, so I’ve included a few of these places as well.

These are the ingredients to look out for: Carciofi (artichokes – winter, spring), Fave (broad beans – spring), Puntarelle (so Roman there is no translation – winter) and anything made with zucchini romaneschi (especially in spring summer).

let’s start with….lunch in trastevere

Da Enzo Via dei Vascellari, 29, tel +39 06 5812 260  info@daenzoal29.com   On the quiet side of Trastevere near the Tiber Island, this little osteria serves simple seasonal Roman fare with great attention paid to the raw materials.  Last time I ate there I started with La Gricia – spaghetti with panfried pork cheek (a sort of an Amatriciana without the tomatoes) which as fave were in season, had a handful of Rome’s favourite beans tossed through it.  This is on a few other lists so it is best to book (which you can do only for the 7.30 slot for dinner, after then it is a free for all.  Go early or late for lunch).  Try the Carpaccio di Verdure if it is on the blackboard.  Great house made dolci.  BE PREPARED TO WAIT

gelato-Da Enzo.JPG

Da Augusto Piazza de’ Renzi, 15, closed for dinner Sat and all Sunday. Come early or late for lunch in this cramped little spot with tables spilling out on to the piazza –  there is often a queue.  This is real home cooked Roman food, served by cheerfully grumpy Roman girls.  Best are the stews: Abacchio alla Romana (lamb), Coniglio alla Cacciatora (rabbit), and in winter-spring try the Puntarelle, a side dish of crisp curly greens dressed with anchovies and garlic.  This was where Rachel and I had lunch when we had more time on our hands.

dinner at…..a classic trattoria

In Testaccio – Augustarello
One of the most Roman of al Roman places to eat.  This is where to go for the slap up lunch or dinner.  Via G. Branca, 98 ph. 06 574 6585
Outdoor patio in summer, good wine list, never disappoints

In the centre – Armando al Pantheon 
This small restaurant has been in the same place since the fifties and while it still turns out the uncomplicated Roman dishes it always has, relying on the best local produce and traditional products (it is in the Slow Food Guide). It had a makeover in 2012 making that kept the original warmth and added some contemporary cool. Salita dei Crescenzi 31,
ph. 0668803034

The Ghetto – Nonna Betta
Via del Portico d’Ottavia, 16, 06 6880 6263
Roman Jewish food deserves a post all to itself, but here I will limit myself to saying – watch out for the tourist traps of the Ghetto serving middle eastern Jewish food – and stick to those serving real Roman Jewish fare like Carciofi alla Giudia and Aliciotti con Indivia

and for pizza

Ai Marmi AKA Orbitorio (trans. Morgue) for the marble tables.  This place is classic.  The ageing waiters rushing between the cramped marble tables that make you feel like you could be in a roman film from the 60’s make the experience.  There are tables out the front too, but there’s often a queue for these and the space inside is where the real atmosphere is.  A textbook Roman pizza dinner is: Birra (not wine),  fritti (Bacalà, fried zucchini flowers, supplì) followed by pizza.  Viale Trastevere, 53, across the road from Piazza Sonnino

Pizzarium – Bonci   Gabrielle Bonci is Rome’s baker pizza boy of the moment.  He looks like Roma star Danielle De Rossi who has eaten too much, well, pizza, and has a warm and effusive personality.  He loves his bread, uses only stone ground organic flour and has an array of pizza by the slice at the Pizzarium shop – which makes it a great lunch on the move / snack option.  via delle Meloria 43 (pizza) via trionfale 36 (bakery)

a couple of new entrants……

Marigold is like something from another place, except it is in Rome.  And you can tell it is in Rome because Domenico Cortese sources the freshest and the best produce and turns it all into simple but artfully produced dishes.  Think shaved fennel and puntarelle together with roasted hazelnuts.  And then there are Sofie Wochner’s bread and other divine baked goods.  When word gets out there will be a line for her cinnamon rolls. Open for breakfast and lunch tuesday to sun, dinner fri and sat, brunch sat and sun  Via Giovanni da Empoli 37

Marigold de smak

There is nothing particularly Roman about this place, with its hip fit-out nestled into a small street in the area up north of the Pantheon.  But their food is exciting and the sourcing of local and artisan ingredients makes it worth a pit stop for lunch.  Via della Stelletta, 4


a coffee, un aperitivo, maybe a beer

Bar Fico
Piazza del Fico  www.bardelfico.com   Coffee under a fig tree, salads, simple primi and a bit of vibe.

Latteria Trastevere
Vicolo della Scala, 1.  In the heart of Trastevere this converted milk bar has pavement tables in a completely characteristic side street, great artisan beer and local wines and quality things to wash your drink down with.

Bar Checco Er Carrettiere
via Benedetta, 7, near piazza trillussa (the bar not the restaurant)  An old favourite of mine, good stop for a coffee and a mignon (tiny pastry)

Bar San Calisto
on Piazza San Calisto right by Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere.  Real old Trastevere, perfect for an afternoon aperitivo, coffee, coffee granita with cream or a house made gelato.  By old Trastevere I don’t mean belle epoche, turn of the century grandeur but more 70’s grunge all a bit down at heel but affascianante.

Big Star
I met Leo here 11 years ago so it deserves a mention.  Outside tables, fine real ales, real music.  Good for that after dinner digestivo out on the pavement.  Via Goffredo Mamelli 25

* Ignorante is an adjective that gets used to describe Roman cooking in the style that your grandmother cooked.  Very rustic, very home style, lacking in any kind of finesse or elaboration.



13 replies
  1. Vanessa Miles
    Vanessa Miles says:

    Alice, this is wonderful – how I wish we’d had it when we were in Rome recently… Next time I shall carry it with me everywhere!

  2. Penny Szatmary
    Penny Szatmary says:

    Hi Alice, this is so fabulous, thank you! Lil passed on your recommendation of where to stay and now we’ve got where to eat too. We’re so excited about exploring Rome in a couple of weeks.

  3. Carmen Pricone
    Carmen Pricone says:

    I travelled to Rome last year (3 days only) most of my time was spent in Florence & Venice and was overwhelmed by Romes history & beauty that I didn’t get a chance to really explore the food. Wish I had been given this advice then. I guess an excuse to go back.

  4. Madeleine Fogarty
    Madeleine Fogarty says:

    Thanks Alice,

    great tips. we will let you know if we stumble across anything worth adding.

    Lunch at yours today was delish,


  5. Catriona Fogarty
    Catriona Fogarty says:

    It was so lovely to see you in Rome, Alice. Thanks for the mini tour of the wares at Forno Roscioli, and the nearby cafe. I took the boys back later, and they over ordered, but enjoyed the pizza and supplies, as we stood outside at the delivery cart!
    Our timing wasn’t great for restaurants: thanks for checking Da Enzo…everyone deserves a holiday, and we liked seeing so many Italian families in the city for Epifana. We landed at Da Gildo in Trastevere after an evening trek to StPeters, and were looked after well, being served some excellent pastas, artichoke salad, and puntarelle. Returned to Emma after being caught in the rain on our last afternoon….no regrets there 😀
    Would love to have stayed longer, but who knows….? We all tossed a coin in the Trevi🤞🤞


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