Now that I’m living in the Eternal City again, I decided to compile a list of what to eat in Rome for those of you who want to eat authentic, local dishes during your visit.
Keep in mind that seasonality is very important in Italy. Recommendations on what to eat in Rome (and elsewhere) might shift, depending on the time of year, especially if we’re talking about produce. Walks of Italy has this awesome post about everything that’s in season in Italy, broken down by month.
Ready to find out what to eat in Rome? Let’s go in order of a typical Italian meal: appetizers, first courses, second courses and sides, and then we’ll talk pizza.
Let’s eat! Annamo a magnà!
Table of Contents
What to eat in Rome
Antipasti – appetizers
Bruschetta is commonly eaten in many areas of Italy, and Rome is no exception. You’ll find it served many ways, but I’m a fan of the simplest ones: bruschetta aglio e olio (with garlic and olive oil) or bruschetta al pomodoro (with tomato) are hard for me to resist.
Rome’s traditional artichokes are prepared in two different ways.
Carciofi alla giudia
Artichokes are best in the springtime, and you’ll find them everywhere at that time of year. Carciofi alla giudia are typical of Roman Jewish cuisine. If you visit Rome’s Jewish Ghetto, you’ll notice that the restaurants there compete for the best ones in town.
These artichokes are cooked so that they become slightly tender, and then they’re fried. The exterior leaves get crispy and the interior heart is soft. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and voilà, you’ve got un carciofo alla giudia.
Carciofi alla romana
Carciofi alla Romana, or Roman artichokes, are the second style you’ll find in the eternal city. They’re simple – steamed with herbs and garlic and served with a drizzle of olive oil, of course.
Supplì are essentially fried rice balls (although they’re more oblong than round). The rice is mixed with tomato sauce, which sometimes contains meat, mushrooms, or other vegetables. It is believed that the name actually derives from the French word “surprise,” which refers to the melted mozzarella in the middle.
You may also hear them referred to as “supplì al telefono”, or “supplì on the phone”. This refers to the string of melty cheese that sometimes slinks out of a freshly opened supplì and hangs down like a phone cord (yes, kids, phones used to have cords), connecting the two parts.
These are common as an appetizer, but there are also a lot of street food supplì spots. This means you can grab one and keep on a-walking.
Fiori di Zucca
You can get fiori di zucca, or zucchini flowers, on pizza and in pasta during the summer months, but the Romans have their own special way of preparing these sweet and savory bites.
In Rome, fiori di zucca are stuffed with a bit of anchovy and a bit of cheese, dunked in a batter, and fried to crispy perfection. The crunchy exterior balances perfectly with the sweetness of the flower inside, with the whole thing enriched by the creaminess of the cheese, and the salty kick of the anchovy.
If you don’t love anchovies, don’t worry! Some places also offer fiori di zucca that are only filled with cheese.
Filetti di baccalà
Salt cod is popular in many parts of Italy, and in Rome, it’s often served fried in a golden batter. This salty seafood can be eaten as an appetizer, or, like supplì, simply as a street snack while you’re walking around.
Primi piatti – first courses
I have a huge post dedicated to Roman pasta that includes tips on where to get the very best, so if you want to explore all of the pasta dishes that the Eternal City has to offer, check it out!
As I’ve said in other posts, there are four main Roman pastas (and yes, if you’re unsure about what to eat in Rome, you should probably try all four of them so you can decide which team you’re on).
Cacio e pepe
A melty combo of pecorino romano, black pepper, and pasta water coat tonnarelli or spaghetti in the simplest of Rome’s “core four”.
Gricia = cacio e pepe + pork jowl (guanciale).
Amatriciana also contains guanciale and some pecorino romano, but the key twist to this one is tomato.
Carbonara is gricia + eggs, so, guanciale, pecorino romano, black pepper, and eggs.
You may have heard that Italians DO NOT PUT CREAM IN THEIR CARBONARA – this is true! The creamy, silky texture happens one of two ways – either you can use a double boiler and heat the mixture of eggs, pasta water and cheese slowly so that it melts together without making scrambled eggs, or you can rely on the hot fat of the guanciale and the pasta water to make the magic.
Like I said above, while these four pastas are the most common and the most strongly associated with Rome, there’s much more to Roman pasta – check out my post for details!
Secondi piatti – second courses
When people think of what to eat in Rome, they think pasta, but the Eternal City has lots of offer for carnivores, too!
Saltimbocca alla Romana
Thinly sliced veal wrapped with prosciutto and sage leaves is quickly pan fried in this quintessential Roman dish.
Abbacchio allo scottadito
Lamb is a popular meat in Rome, and this is just one of the ways you’ll find it prepared (it’s also commonly roasted). Frequently enjoyed over the Easter period, abbacchio allo scottadito are grilled lamb chops. The name “scottadito” loosely translates to “burned finger”, as in, you might burn your finger gobbling down one of these chops that’s fresh from the grill.
Pollo, agnello o coniglio alla cacciatora (alla Romana)
Rome has its own way of preparing meat “alla cacciatora”, which doesn’t include any tomatoes. Instead, it’s served with a savory sauce of white wine, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and herbs like rosemary.
Pollo alla Romana
A summery secondo centered on seasonal produce, pollo alla romana is a simple dish of chicken and bell peppers.
Baccalà alla Romana
The salt cod is back! This time, the preparation is more complicated than just simply frying it.
Another dish from the very rich Roman Jewish tradition, baccalà alla romana includes tomatoes, onions, garlic, and potatoes, with a hint of sweetness provided by raisins and dried plums and a sprinkling of creamy pine nuts.
Trippa alla Romana
Lots of people associate tripe with Florence, but it’s also a classic Roman dish! In the Eternal City, it’s stewed with tomatoes and mint until tender.
Coda alla vaccinara
Here’s another of Rome’s “quinto quarto” dishes, which elevate offal to new heights. Coda alla vaccinara is oxtail that’s cooked with tomatoes and other vegetables until it’s falling off the bone.
(It’s oxtail, so you might wind up with a vertebra in your plate, but I promise, it’ll be worth it.)
Coratella con i carciofi
If you’re into offal, here’s another one for you! Coratella is a dish of lamb innards, served here with Rome’s beloved artichokes.
Contorni – sides
You might be ready for some vegetables after your meals consisting of fried appetizers, pasta and meat. Fear not – my guide on what to eat on Rome covers the city’s best veggie sides!
Note that in addition to these Roman sides, which are largely seasonal, you can also order salads, grilled veggies, etc. – the Italian diet is full of fresh produce!
This is another seasonal one, but I figured I’d include it since the season is quite long (February to May). Puntarelle are in the chicory family. These crisp greens are dressed with a mixture of garlic, anchovy, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.
Chicory gets a lot of love in Rome. The variety served “ripassata” is different than puntarelle. It’s bitter, kind of like arugula, but less peppery.
To make cicoria ripassata, the chicory is first boiled, and then sautéed in a hot pan with olive oil, garlic, and peperoncino.
Vignarola is spring in a bowl. If you visit the Eternal City at any other time of year, you probably won’t find it!
The dish contains a mixture of spring vegetables like fava beans, peas, and artichokes. Some versions include guanciale, some don’t.
Vignarola isn’t strictly a side. I’ve had it as an antipasto and even as a secondo with a poached egg and some parmigiano on top!
The height of your pizza crust will vary in Italy, depending on where you are. In the south, it tends to be thicker. In Rome, it’s thin.
I love Roman pizza, because it’s so thin that you can eat the whole thing. When you go for a pizza in Rome, everyone gets their own, which is great if you’re like me and Joey Tribbiani and don’t share food.
Pizza al taglio
While not exclusive to Rome by any means, pizza al taglio, or pizza by the slice, is ubiquitous in the Eternal City. It’s a great way to try multiple toppings! My favorite is plain pizza bianca, which doesn’t have anything fancy, or even any cheese: just some salt and olive oil.
Did I miss anything? Share your favorite Roman food in the comments!
MORE ROME POSTS AND GUIDES
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