Last spring, after the lockdown restrictions were lifted, my sweetheart and I decided that we’d go on one dinner date in Rome per week.
Each date started with an aperitivo, an evening ritual that consists of a drink (or two) and some nibbles before dinner, followed by a meal. We made sure to try all new bars and restaurants (with a few exceptions, as I had been to some before in my previous Roman life).
We chose places that were highly recommended for their great drinks and food at a moderate price point.
Going to a bunch of new-to-us Rome restaurants and bars was super fun, and I can’t wait to start up again when we’re able to.
In the meantime, I’ve written this post on where to go on a date in Rome, based on the spots we liked best.
Table of Contents
Where to go on a date in Rome
Our budget hovers around moderate. While I haven’t kept exact track of how much we spent on our dates, I’d estimate that you’ll pay between 10 and 15 euro for a plate of pasta in the restaurants covered here, and probably 15 – 25 for meat dishes.
You won’t find any Michelin stars on this list or any rooftop restaurants overlooking the Spanish Steps. If you’re looking for an extra special evening or a five star restaurant, check out this post on 16 of Rome’s most romantic restaurants, some of which include stunning views of Rome’s most famous sights.
You won’t find any super cheap options on this list either, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat well in Rome if you’re on a budget! Here’s a post on the eternal city’s best affordable eats.
How this guide to dinner dates in Rome is organized
I decided to break down the post by neighborhood, so that you can plan your date in Rome based on the location of your hotel or accommodation.
Each date highlights a spot to have an aperitivo and a nice restaurant that are in walking distance of each other. Note that they’re not all reflective of exact dates we went on – I tried to make them traveler friendly by not making you crisscross the city after a long day on a tour of the Vatican or whatever else you might have gotten up to.
I also included some burger and beer joints where you can do your dinner and drinks all in one, just in case you’ve been on one too many tours and don’t want to walk anymore.
You’ll also find some aperitivo alternates if you’re in the mood for bar hopping. By all means, feel free to mix and match.
Do you need to make reservations?
Yes! I’ve noted which restaurants don’t except them, but most places do. A few of the smaller aperitivo spots might not accept them either, but I recommend trying anyway.
Many places in Rome are now available for online booking. Check out my post on restaurant reservation apps and websites in Italy.
Some restaurants can’t be booked online, so you should call ahead of time. If you don’t speak Italian, after greeting the person who answers the phone with either buongiorno if you’re calling early, or buona sera, if you’re calling in the afternoon or evening, you can ask “Parla inglese?” which is the polite way of asking if they speak English. If they say yes, you’re in luck, if they say no, you can learn all the useful phrases you need in this handy post by An American in Rome, which details what you’ll need to say and what information you’ll be asked for.
Date #1: The disappearing duo
404 Name Not Found
Via dei Genovesi 1 – +39 3270948005 – Facebook page
Your night begins at 404 Name Not Found, a cozy café by day and cool cocktail bar by night. I alternate back and forth between Rosemary from Chile (pisco, rosemary, lemon, and egg white) and Mexican Feels (Tequila, Mezcal, pineapple, raspberry, and lime syrup). Jeremy prefers the bar’s decadent namesake, Name Not Found (gin, raspberry syrup, egg white, white chocolate and lavender).
Piazza di Santa Cecilia 24 – +39 065800757 – Website
Tucked behind the next corner in Piazza Santa Cecilia is Roma Sparita. Although they have a spacious interior, request a table outdoors, weather permitting, and enjoy your meal with a view of the tranquil piazza that the restaurant sits in.
I’ve tasted many things at Roma Sparita, but none is better than the crispy cheese bowl filled with a creamy nest of tagliolini cacio e pepe, adored and made famous by everybody’s favorite bad boy traveler and foodie, Anthony Bourdain.
Date #2: Sweet summertime
Vicolo della Scala 1 – +39 0658332008 – Website
With tiny tables tucked under fairy-lighted trees on a side street in Trastevere, Latteria is a romantic little spot to sit and soak up a warm evening (and some delicious natural wine) with your sweetheart.
I love natural wines, especially tart, fruity, fizzy rosés and crisp, kombucha-y sparkling whites. If you’re not familiar with natural wines, let the server know what kinds of wine you typically like and ask for a recommendation. They’re not for everybody, so if you’re not feeling adventurous or just plain don’t like them, check out the alternate aperitivo locations below.
Osteria der Belli
Piazza di Sant’Apollonia 11 – +39 065803782 – Facebook page
You’ve got about a five-minute stroll to Osteria der Belli for dinner, which is a Roman-Sardinian restaurant that specializes in seafood. The first time we went it was a boiling August evening. We sat outside, sweating and fanning ourselves with our menus, when a cheery waiter approached our table and asked what we wanted. We hadn’t really even looked at the menu. “Ok,” he said, “ci penso io.” (Leave it to me). “Grilled or fried?” I said grilled, Jeremy said fried. He rattled off the dishes he’d bring us – grilled fish with artichokes and roasted potatoes for me, and a mix of fried seafood for Jeremy. He also talked us into splitting a plate of spaghetti vongole as a primo and a bottle of icy Vermentino to wash it all down.
Date #3: passport at the ready
La Punta Expendio de Agave
Via di Santa Cecilia 8 – +39 065816665 – Website
Who’s up for a Mexican/Roman mashup? Start with smoky Mezcal or tangy tequila cocktails at La Punta Expendio de Agave, a snazzy little spot with a beautiful backlit bar and a barrage of bright colors inside.
The owners (who run the Jerry Thomas Project and Freni e Frizioni, two other popular spots in Rome) spent a few years doing research in Mexico before they opened La Punta, hoping to bring an authentic piece of the country to the Eternal City.
Hungry but don’t want to ruin your appetite? Have some nibbles while you sip – La Punta Expendio de Agave has a kitchen that turns out great Mexican food in small portions.
Trattoria da Enzo al 29
Via dei Vascellari 29 – +39 065812260 – Website
Exit La Punta and head back to Rome, to da Enzo al 29, one of her most beloved trattorie. A stone’s throw from the bar (and from the spots listed in Date #1, actually), da Enzo is popular among Romans and tourists alike.
I’ve never not seen a line there, so be absolutely sure to book for dinner (they don’t accept reservations for lunch). Sit outside. Get the carbonara. Thank me later.
Burger and beer alert!
Via Guiseppe Parini 4 – +39 0658332681 – Website
Luppolo Station is a great spot in Trastevere to sample some craft beers and chow down on a delicious burger. The beer selection rotates, and they’ve got natural wines on the menu, too.
Apertivo alternates in Trastevere
Freni e Frizioni
Via del Politeama 4 – +39 0645497499 – Website
Freni e Frizioni is a Roman institution. Get in line, grab your cocktail, and head outside to lean on the low wall and enjoy it like a local.
Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà
Via Benedetta 25 – Website
Craft beer lovers, this place is for you. A divey pub just behind Piazza Trilussa, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà (which translates to what have you come here to do in Roman dialect) has a rotating offering of sixteen beers on tap. I believe there’s a small interior, but there’s no need to book a table – the fun spills out into the street.
Date #4: Old and New
Drink Kong, which regularly ranks among the the best bars in the world, is modern, sleek and chic, with thin neon lights slicing through the all-black interior.
The cocktail list is a blast – fruit and veg cordials are paired with spirits and flavored bitters and tonics, and even beer and wine. I love the Freya (Grey Goose, blueberry cordial, peach liquor and sugar) and Jeremy loves, well, every cocktail he’s tried at Drink Kong.
They have good nibbles here, too, if you’re feeling peckish before dinner. The menu changes, but the current one offers fish and beef tartare, dumplings, bao, tacos and even a pastrami sandwich. A few small things – olives, chips and maybe a dumpling or two – are generally brought out with each round.
Trattoria Vecchia Roma
Via Ferruccio 12 – +39 06446 7143 – Website
Get ready to transition to from new Rome to old at Trattoria Vecchia Roma. Technically located in the Esquilino neighborhood that abuts Monti, this downstairs spot is casual and lively, a great example of Roman food and fun at its best.
They’re known for two flambéed pasta dishes, which they toss in wheels of cheese – the amatriciana is tossed in a wheel of pecorino, and there’s also a spaghetti dish that’s tossed with parmesan.
Date #5: Cozy corners
Black Market Hall
Via de’ Ciancaleoni 31 – +39 349199295 – Website
Black Market Hall is a speakeasy. Full of quiet cubbyholes and old-fashioned décor, it’s a treat just walking from the small entrance through the labyrinthine hall to the lounge, where a sparkling chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
In addition to the ample indoor seating, there are two small outdoor spaces on either side of the lounge where you can enjoy the delicious potions the bar staff whips up. Last time I was there I really enjoyed a grasshopper with vanilla-infused gin (well, actually, I had two).
La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali
Via della Madonna dei Monti 9 – +39 06 679 8643 – Website
Not far from the Colosseum and Roman Fora, La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali strikes a rare balance between being beloved by both tourists and Romans. I kept seeing it pop up on lists by local bloggers, so I had high hopes the first time I went. It met my expectations and then some.
Jeremy got amatriciana, and I got spaghetti with cozze e pecorino (a mix of mussels and pecorino cheese that breaks Italy’s sometimes breakable ‘no seafood and cheese’ rule), with garlicky breadcrumbs sprinkled on top.
We went on a hot summer night and sat outside, watching the waiters buzz around and life go by, but I sneaked a peek inside before we left because I had read that the décor was cute and cozy. It is! Check it out, especially if you’re a cat lover.
Via degli Zingari 49 – +39 349 164 9565
Libro diVino is a bar that’s also a bookshop. It gets pretty mobbed, but if you go early you can snatch one of the cute little tables outside.
Ai Tre Scalini
Via Panisperna 251 – +39 06 4890 7495 – Website
Ai Tre Scalini has been around since 1895 (!), and it’s a classic spot in Monti for aperitivo. They have a great wine selection and delicious small dishes. Try the ricotta di bufala with truffle honey if they have it. I don’t even like truffle, but somehow, the earthy flavor works wonders with the sweet honey and creamy cheese.
Date #6: Busy and buzzy
Via del Monte della Farina 38 – +39 06 6880 6989 – Facebook page
Il Vinaietto is a great place to grab a glass of wine before dinner. It’s always busy, with most of the small tables inside being packed enough that people stand outside with their drinks in hand. I don’t think they do much in the way of snacks with aperitivo, but they offer one quirky bite: hard-boiled eggs for 1 euro.
Emma Pizzeria Con Cucina
Via del Monte della Farina 28 – +39 06 6476 0475 – Website
Emma’s got a spacious, modern interior, but it serves up classic Roman pizza and traditional pastas made from some of Italy’s finest ingredients (with a few twists, too).
It’s touristy in that it’s popular among tourists, but it’s not a tourist trap. Emma’s popularity keeps the kitchen heaving and the staff on their toes, but I’ve always had good service.
Date #6: Central classics
Enoteca Cul de Sac
Piazza di Pasquino – +39 06 6880 1094 – Website
Right off Piazza Navona lies Cul de Sac, an enoteca that serves excellent small plates for aperitivo and full meals as well. It started out as a wine and oil shop in 1900 before becoming a wine bar in 1977.
Their house-made patés are creamy and flavorful. Pair one with a good bottle from their extensive wine list (1,500 different wines, to be exact) and voilà, you have a perfect aperitivo.
Armando al Pantheon
Salita de’ Crescenzi 31 – +39 06 6880 3034 – Website
Armando was the first place we went when we started up our date night routine. For this reason, it holds a special place in my heart (and my stomach, because the food is excellent).
In my experience, people dress up a bit to go to Armando, so if you’re looking for a special place for a romantic dinner without breaking the bank, this is it.
The chef, Claudio Gargioli, is the son of Armando himself, who opened the restaurant in 1961. Chef Gargioli does Roman classics right. They’re known for their saltimbocca and pasta alla gricia, both of which are excellent, but my personal favorite is a Roman dish that’s not common on most menus: fettuccine con le rigaje (fettuccine with chicken giblets in tomato sauce).
The dining room is intimate, and it’s made warmer by the richly toned wood paneling and gold stained glass above the kitchen door. Want to keep your romantic evening going after dinner? Take a 10-minute stroll to the Trevi Fountain and throw in a coin with your sweetheart.
Burger and beer alert!
Via degli Specchi 6 – +39 06 683 8989 – Website
If you’re in the center and are craving a casual craft beer and a big juicy burger, head to Open Baladin, just off Campo de’ Fiori, for a bit of both.
There are tons of great places to go for drinks in the center of Rome. Here are some others that I like.
Via dei Banchi Vecchi 14 – +39 06 9944 8583 – Facebook page
Il Goccetto is a small wine bar with a lively crowd out front on most nights. They only have a few table inside, but they’ve recently opened a larger outdoor section with lots more seating.
Bar del Fico
Piazza del Fico 26 – +39 06 8865 7702 – Website
Bar del Fico has a lot of seating both indoors and out. It’s a super popular spot with great cocktails. I love their Paloma on a summer night.
Date #7: Take it Slow
Via Galvani 39/41 – +39 06 9521 5816 – Website
Masto is a cozy wine bar and Slow Food grocery shop that has a seasonal menu.
I’ve never had a bad drop at there, and the small plates I’ve had (melted Toma cheese with guanciale, meat and cheese boards prepared fresh on the spot) have all been excellent. They might even give you a little bite of Modica chocolate to end your meal on a sweet note.
Flavio al Velavevodetto
Via di Monte Testaccio 97 – +39 06 574 4194 – Website
About a minute away from Masto is one of my favorite restaurants in Rome, Flavio al Velavevodetto. Ample outdoor seating on two levels and interior windows that provide a peek at the Monte Testaccio (a centuries-old pile of ancient Roman clay pots and amphorae) make Flavio a pleasant place to dine, regardless of where you sit (well, they do have one table near the bathroom that’s not so cute).
I love their cacio e pepe, and I LO-O-OVE their tiramisù. It’s thick and rich and is studded with chocolate and pieces of coffee-soaked ladyfingers. Don’t miss it.
Be prepared to take it slow – the menu warns diners “In questa osteria, la parola fretta non esiste!” or “In this osteria, the word ‘hurry’ doesn’t exist!”
FYI, for booking purposes, note that there are two locations, one in Testaccio and one in Prati, near the Vatican.
Date #8: Small town/big city
Oasi della Birra
Piazza Testaccio 39 – +39 06 574 6122 – Facebook page
If you ask anyone where to go for an aperitivo in Testaccio, odds are they’ll say Oasi della Birra.
Set on the Piazza Testaccio, Oasi della Birra is busy every night of the week. People line up to get a beer or a glass of wine and either snag one of the few tables out front or spread out onto the benches in the piazza.
Piazza Testaccio feels like a small-town neighborhood. Kids whizz by on bikes and scooters or just run around, while parents chat and have a cheeky drink at the Oasi while the kids are occupied.
Felice a Testaccio
Via Mastro Giorgio 29 – +39 06 574 6800 – Website
Just off the Piazza Testaccio is one of Rome’s most famous trattorie, da Felice. Named by the New York Times as what “might be” Rome’s best trattoria in 2009, da Felice is an elegant spot to have a date night in Rome.
If you’re a cacio e pepe fan like me, you’ll be treated to the waiter preparing it for you at the table. Note that they have a gluten-free cacio e pepe, too!
Date #9: Old and new, take two
Via Marmorata 13 – Facebook page
Tram Depot is one of the cutest bars in Rome.
It’s not a bar in the traditional sense – it’s actually an old tram car with tables surrounding it.
Tram Depot is seasonal, open roughly from March until October, so if you’re here in the winter, you’ll have to find another spot to have your pre-dinner tipple. If you’re here when Tram Depot is open, go! It’s incredibly popular and I don’t believe they take bookings, so go early.
One caveat: there’s no bathroom, so keep that in mind when trying to decide if you should have one more drink.
Via Marmorata 39 – +39 06 575 5100 – Website
Luckily you may not need to worry about the bathroom, because just across the street from Tram Depot is Trattoria Perilli, where you’re going for dinner.
In its current location since 1911, Perilli is run today by the family’s fourth generation. The old-fashioned décor and the waiters’ uniforms seem to be a nod to the restaurant’s long legacy.
Known for their Roman classics, including the quinto quarto dishes (read: offal), my favorite pasta at Perilli is the simple gricia.
Date #10: Double Zeros
Via Ostiense 68 – +39 06 5730 1961 – Website
Doppio Zero is famous for its abundant aperitivo buffet. You can easily just make a dinner out of it, if you choose to.
These days, they’re bringing an assortment of food to the table because of the COVID-19 restrictions (they can’t have a bunch of people huddled around a buffet), so if you want to be able to eat dinner, maybe ask them to just bring a few things rather than the whole shebang. The last time I went, they brought a few salads, a few pastas, pizza, roasted potatoes, and even a dessert plate.
Via Ostiense 56 – +39 06 5730 5081 – Website
My advice is to show up at Pizzeria Ostiense early, because they don’t take bookings.
I like this spot for a few reasons: they make super thin-crust Roman pizza (with 00 flour), which I love, the house-made fritti that are excellent, and the atmosphere is fun and lively. Don’t miss the fiori di zucca if they have them, and the filetto di baccalà is one of my favorites in the city.
Date #11: Simply the best
Barnaba Wine Bar & Cucina
Viale della Piramide Cestia 45-47 – +39 06 2348 4415 – Website
Named for Saint Barnabus, the saint who – get this – protects against hailstorms (a scourge for winemakers), Barnaba has a carefully curated and ever-changing collection of wines.
According to their website, 99% of the wine at Barnaba comes from small producers, and the majority of them are natural. They estimate the mix as about 1/3 champagne, 1/3 foreign (mostly French), and 1/3 Italian.
Barnaba has an interesting menu that changes frequently, but it’s always full of small plates that are great for sharing with a chilly white on a hot night or a rich red in the winter sun.
Barnaba was recently nominated for best wine bar in Rome by MangiaeBevi, an online food and beverage magazine.
Osteria Fratelli Mori
Via dei Conciatori 10 – +39 331 323 4399 – Website
Osteria Fratelli Mori was recently voted Rome’s best osteria the same contest that nominated Barnaba. I’ve been to Fratelli Mori several times, and the food has always been delicious. They make a great taleggio-filled fiori di zucca without anchovies (Jeremy doesn’t like anchovies, so this is a good option for him).
The desserts at Fratelli Mori are superlative. Go for the tris dei dolci to get a sampling of the best, which includes tiramisu, buffalo ricotta with candied oranges and pistachios, and a yogurt mousse with berry sauce and granola.
Date #12: A heavenly night
We’ve done this exact date more than once. A friend brought me and my sweetheart to La Mescita and then Ristoro degli Angeli early last summer, and we enjoyed it so much we added it into our date night rotation!
Via Luigi Fincati 44 – +39 333 301 5847 – Facebook page
La Mescita is another natural wine bar in Rome that offers a variety of Italian wines by the glass and bottle. Each glass comes with nibbles until 8:30pm.
This is a popular spot with a small interior (the majority of the tables are out on the sidewalk), so make sure to book ahead of time.
Al Ristoro degli Angeli
Via Luigi Orlando 2 – +39 06 5143 6020 – Website
Al Ristoro degli Angeli is just around the corner from La Mescita, tucked under a portico. The aesthetic of the place reminds me of Bologna or Padova, where many restaurants, bars and cafés can be found under cover to protect patrons from the frequent rains in those cities.
What grabbed me the first time we sat down at Al Ristoro degli Angeli was a line on the menu that read “In questo ristorante è consentita la scarpetta!” which gives diners permission to swipe up any extra pasta sauce with bread (in Italian, fare la scarpetta).
Al Ristoro degli Angeli serves up some Roman classics and a variety of other dishes, too, along with daily specials. They have twinkly lights strung up across the arches, and the owners and staff make you feel right at home.
I hope you enjoy my suggestions for your date in Rome! Do you have a favorite spot to go for date night in the Eternal City? Share in the comments!
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