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Epicurean Destination Guide to Rome, Italy: Rome Dining, Restaurants, Food

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Campo dei Fiori
flower_market_rome.jpg

Rome restaurants and Rome dining, wine stores, food shops, cafes, accommodations, kitchen stores, and more.

Up-to-date Rome: cuisine & markets based on multiple visits over the past 14 years and multi-week stays in the past year. 
A complete pdf version of the guide is also available.
Our editors have returned yet again to Rome to put together the most complete & authoriatative guide to dining, food, and value for the Eternal City!
We will guide you to one-of-a-kind epicurean experiences without burning a hole in your purse!

Rome Guide download

Rome Restaurants: Dining in Rome

Rome Kitchen Stores

Rome Museums of Gastronomic & Culinary Interest

   

Value Restaurant in Trastevere

Over the past couple of years restaurant prices have risen substantially in Rome. Searching for a good price to quality ratio, we encountered Il Ponentino in the Piazza del Drago, Trastevere. This is standard everday fare, but of good quality and excellent price. Pizzas and pastas were good, as was the fritura. Ponenino even keeps up the traidtion of a free glass of sparkling wine before dinner!

Piazza del Drago, 10; Tel. 0658301939 

Rome: A restaurant to remember: Quinzi & Gabrieli

Ambiance/Service
***
Food
**
Overall
***

Price

***

Among the most celebrated seafood restaurants in Rome, Quinzi & Gabrieli leaves an indellible memory of gustatory enjoyment in a smoothly run establishment.
 
The ambiance of the restaurant exudes an effort at aesthetic elegance. The room you take your seat in will determine the tone and feel. Quinzi has even given the rooms mood names: Sunrise at Portofino, Sunset at Capri, and Night-time at Elba. Frescoes, painted by stage design students from the Academy of Fine arts, cover 100 square metres of the restaurant using methods from the eighteenth century.
 
Though some reviewers have encountered less than refined service, we found everyone courteous and informed, to the point of making suggestions about courses and quantity of food that enhanced the meal. The wine list comes good and pricey, but so does the restaurant.
 
Our shaved artichoke appetizer perfectly balanced the earthy, sweet, and bitter of carciofi with the opulent acidity of extra virgin oil. The pasta dishes count among the best we've encountered in Italy, demonstrating subtlety and complexity. Disappointingly unavaialble according to the maître d'hôtel: two of the famous dishes we had wanted--spaghetti with lobster and a squid's ink pasta.
 
Romans go to Quinzi for fresh seafood, and the platters of raw and cooked crustaceans are truly amazing assemblies served on gigantic platters. The secondi we devoured cannot be falted, but the primi piatti were the real stars.
 
Quinzi & Gabrieli

Via delle Coppelle 5-6

Tel. 06 6879389

 
 

Just Opened Macelleria

Macelleria Angelo Feroci has recently opened across the street from Fortunato's restaurant, near the Pantheon, offering a sselection of high quality ready-made dishes as well as butchery products.
 
Crepes con fiori di zucca
Lasagna di mare
Cappone ripieno per bollito
etc.
 
Maccelleria Angelo Feroci
Tel. 06 68801016

Cantina del Vecchio
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Try the selection of excellent wines by the glass

Ambiance/Service
**
Food
**
Overall
**

Price

**

Cantina del Vecchio
Via dei Coronari, 30
Tel. 06 6867427
 
Central Rome has numerous excellent restaurants--some of which we touch on here--but few have a modern, cosmopolitan twist like
Cantina del Vecchio. It's not that this cozy restaurant and bar bowls you over with post-modern flourishes, but rather it manages to convey to its guests an urbane sophistication just enough out of the Roman trattoria theme to be quite refreshing.
 
Vecchio is not a great value, but prices are in line with food & service quality.
 
Well-selected wines by the glass and a menu that will have you debating between various selections has brought us back more than once.

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Having settled in to the apartment just off Piazza Capranica in central Rome, two stone's throws from the Pantheon, we returned today to the old culinary haunt of Trastevere. The first mission, to visit the market there in the square next to the famous seafood restaurant Alberto Ciarla and then to hunt down the pasta shop nearby where once we drooled over golden squares of ravioli rounds of orecchiette. The market was there sure enough, brimming with fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit, but alas the plain pasta shop with the plate glass window and flourescent lights has vanished.

A quick enquiry turned up another shop--smaller but nicer--called Il Tortellino where the signora behind the counter made up a 1/2 kilo selection of 4 different pastas. Truly artisan creations, this shop leaves nothing desired except a return in a couple of days to try four more types. 

Il Tortellino
Via L. Santini 18/A
Trastevere, Roma
Tel. 06581 2733
Profumo e sappori della pasta fatta in casa

Among the Rome finds foodvacation is proud to promote in this guide is Ristorante la Campana, known as il locale piu antico de Roma since there has reportedly been an inn/restaurant at this location since at least the early 16th century.
 
Dishes bursting with distinct flavours included homemade artichoke ravioli with red sauce; tagliolini with zucchini blossoms and bottarga; stuffied and fried fiori di zucchafettuccine al tartufo bianco (tartufo nero also); lamb cutlet with fried artichokes; the superb animelle di abbacchio con funghi; baby octopus fettuccine; and eggplant parmesan. The latter may sound hackneyed, but it was a rustic, authentic, and flavorful parmigiano, with perfectly cooked eggplant, including some skin, mozzarella baked to its textural supreme, parmesan artfully applied, and a just spread of concentrated tomato sauce. 
 
Unlike many restaurants where all the primi piatti have more or less similar flavors--good or not--at La Campana the pasta strongly express individual personalities--the octopus fettucine full of red pepper spice and garlic oil; the animelli with perfectly cooked mushrooms and black truffles; and the tagliolini with bottarga full of sharp sea flavors and delicious egg pasta.
 
Service is professional and very attentive but familial. A slap on the shoulder and a few jokes may accompany the waiter. Ambiance is typical upscale Roman, but prices are relatively reasonable.  A full dinner for two with a bottle of wine was about 78 euros, for 3 persons, 137 euros.
 
The wine list appears good, but we had the house wine.
 
Ristorante La Campana
Viccolo della Campana, 18
Tel. 06 6875273
 
 

Searching for some kitchen tools, pots, or dishware to bring back home? Need a pan or chef's knife to augment the horrible selection in your vacation rental? Check out House & Kitchen, a cooking store founded in 1886 and still going strong. Located very close to the Piazza Venezie on the Via del Plebescito, right across the street from the Venezie museum. The shop usually has good deals, and always seems to have a nice selection of espresso machines. Flatware, dish sets, copper & stainless pots, knives, pasta machines, and lot of kitchen gadgets will keep you musing about the possibilities for culinary creativity.
 
House & Kitchen
Via del Plebiscito, 103. ROMA 
Tel. 06 6794208

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Il Tortellino
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Knowledgable service & a mouth-watering variety of pasta

Looking for fresh white truffles or exquisite, well-selected cheeses? The answer is: Volpetti alla Scrofa. Prices are relatively high, but the products chosen for this little shop are superb: fresh & dried pastas, olive oils, and truffle products too.
 
Volpetti alla Scrofa
Via della Scrofa 31-32
Tel. 06 68300334

The Financial Times Rome Dining Restaurants Guide

http://www.romesweethome.it/

New Year's in Rome

We arrived at the Rome airport only to discover our flight cancelled, relegating us to spending New Year's Eve in Eternal City. Alas . . . the horror.

Already in the city of classical anitquity and papal purview for ten days, we returned to the heart of the Trastevere district, in a third floor apartment overlooking the Piazza St. Maria and its 12th century basilica adorned with delicate frescoes and glittering mosaics.

Trastevere, across the Tiber from much of the rest of historic Rome, is as old or older than any other part of the City. It has a lived-in character that persists today, and is full of family-run businesses and unpretentious shops and restaurants, it is a place where people walk the streets, from piazza to piazza just for the joy of doing so. One of our favorites was just below the apartment--the Piazza de Santa Maria in Trastevere is dominated by an imposing former Palazzo, now Vatican territory, and the church of the same name. It was here, legend has it, that years before Jesus's birth, a sibyl prophesied his coming and said that a well of oil would flow from the ground on his birthday. Bernini designed a fountain for the square, which one can enjoy while dining or having coffee. Despite the fact that before we arrived we thought the cafe life would be shut down by late December, daytime temperatures are actually quite pleasant, with clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine.

As firecrackers and the appropriately named Roman Candles burst and boomed in anticipation of tomorrow, we walked the streets of this ancient neighborhood, originally a Jewish district, site of a holy miracle, and later home to many wealthy Roman family Palazzos. Trastevere has great character--quite a statement in a city of amazing architectural and historical quality unparalleled in the world, the seat of classical Roman civilization and a mighty contributor to Renaissance humanism. Reminding us in its contemporary state of a cross between Greenwich Village and SoHo with medieval streets, Trastevere denizens also enjoy a plethora of restaurants, food, and dining options, from fancy osteria to lively trattoria and some of the city's best pizzeria. Add to this food stores, wine bars, pastry shops, and open-air markets and you have a gustatory wet dream.

Not that we care a lot about food, but we had already witnessed Rome at Christmas, received the Pope's blessing, and noted the Romans' fierce patronage of restaurants. In fact, Roman restaurant culture rivals that of anywhere we had seen, at least during the holidays--a time when in North America the culture dictates family feasts, not going out to eat. Rome at Christmas means that every restaurant is packed and reservations remain unavailable days or weeks in advance, at not just the Michelin-starred destinations, but also every neighborhood grill. We had lucked into a local osteria that offered us a table a little earlier than the expected crowds, and we enjoyed a festive ambience and fine cuisine amongst ever-increasing crowds until every table in the place was filled.

For New Year's Eve, this restaurant culture becomes even stronger. The newspaper on December 30 reported record numbers of restaurant goers spending record amounts of money for fixed menus, wine, of course, coffee, champagne, and a festive atmosphere. "We will lock the doors" informed the proprietor of Gino's di Trastevere when we requested a table not too near the entrance. Those unlucky enough--think of our fellow airline passengers--to have no reservation the day before St. Sylvester's feast face a fate of wandering Rome's maze of medieval, cobble stoned streets, hunger-filled and with every dining room ablaze and full of good smells, but their entry securely blocked. Somehow we had slipped onto the reservation list of this popular Trastevere restaurant and pizzeria, with the necessary wood-fired oven, less than stuffy atmosphere, and very pleasant service.

To say that Rome's denizens take with alacrity to New Year's Eve celebrations would be an understatement. Dinner at Gino's passed well--octopus salad with olive oil, rigatoni with lobster, seafood risotto, and a well-prepared fish fillet followed by mille-feuille pastry in a light creme anglaise and Spumante. We then made are way up the Gioniccolo Hill, a relatively easy walk from Trastevere and one of the highest points around the city. Thousands thronged here, lighting off firecrackers, torches, and every variety of firework--small and large. People ringed the display, keeping out a watchful eye for any particular sparkle or light from the hundreds of similar festive gatherings all around the ancient city.

To understand the fireworks in central Rome, one must understand that it is still a city where most buildings are at least three-hundred years old, with many dating back one- to two-thousand years. There are no particularly tall buildings except for the domes of the basilicas scattered across the landscape. So every Roman Candle sent up that night anywhere in the city was visible to us on the Gianicolo. As midnight approached, fireworks were sent aloft from every piazza--and there are many--in every district. Near by and far away, the bursts of red, pink, purple, blue, green, and bright white brought the night sky to immediate life. Occasional booms accompanied the largest and nearest bursts.

Revelers sprayed champagne, sang in groups, and generally had a great time.

Ambiance/Service
**
Food
**
Overall
*

Price

*

 La Buca di Ripetta

Via di Ripetta, 36

Tel. 06 321 93 91

This charming restaurant not far from Piazza del Popolo tries hard. High quality table linens. Banquettes and wrought iron lamps. Cozy ambiance. The menu is great: diverse and obviously with some modern culinary touches, without loosing its Roman sense of place.


However, the promise of a great menu goes south when most of the dishes you request are unavailable: stuffed rabbit, tenderloin with porcini, puntarella salad, pear ravioli. Had the wine not already been poured on hearing that the house lacked yet another of our selections, we would have left. The food we did finally consume was good-- fresh pasta with seafood, raddichio ravioli with Gorgonzola sauce, squid ink pasta with baby octopus, shaved artichoke salad—however the size of the secondi was uniformly small. The beef medallion with barolo sauce came with no sauce; the veal roast in tiny slices and mediocre. The wine list is well selected.

EnoValue
 
iL ViNAiO has the best selction of wines for under 12 euros a bottle we have seen in central Rome, as well as an excellent assortment of grappas, alcohols, and liqeurs. Like most enoteca, it also has bottled sauces and condiments, as well as biscotti and other sweets. It has become our favorite for daily wine purchases. The owner gladly provides advice and will choose within your price range. Bottles we have seen in other shops for 16 euros are 13 euros here.
 
We've never had a bad wine from Il Vinaio!
 
Enoteca Il Vinaio
Via dei Potoghesi, 5
Tel. 06 6897 4068

A Trattoria to Skip

Settimio (al Pantheon)
  • Via delle Colonnelle, 14, Rome, Italy

Tel. 06 6789651

 

Lessons in how to not run a restaurant.

Ambiance/Service
*
Food
0
Overall
0

Price

*

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Don't advertise ingredients you don't have

This family-run trattoria is the closest eatery to our apartment at Piazza Capranica, not far from the Pantheon. A first visit last year had forged in our minds the idea of returning specifically in late Fall to sample the pasta with white truffle. The ambiance is charming enough, Roman style, and the food we tried was decent, though not spectacular. However, the white truffle dish appeared heavenly when we saw it served by the owner to an adjoining table of two distinguished-looking Italian gentleman who had come specifically for this dish.

 

We reserved the day before for 9 p.m. on a Saturday night and specifcally asked if white truffles would be available. Of Course!

 

We arrived exactly on time to find a line consisting of several couples. No one was asking if anyone had reservations, and there was no book or list in sight. At least 4 different staff members asked us how many we were, but to no avail.

 

They seated 3 couples ahead of us, even after we told 2 different members of the Settimio clan including the peripatetic owner, that we had reserved the day before. We waited between 10 & 15 minutes for a table, standing in the dining area looking into the kitchen (and watched the cook throw a dirty door mat onto the floor without washing her hands afterwards).

 

The restaurant was full, but obviously the management's intent was to cram as many people in as possible, service be damned. Fill the tables! Indeed, we expected some slowness, however service dragged even by Roman trattoria on a Saturday night standards. We finally received our wine, water, and bread and ordered, including--of course--the white truffle tagliolini. No problem.

 

The waiter did inform us that the grileld porcini mushrooms and the fresh wild mushroom salad we wanted were not available, so with dissapointment we ordered a mixed salad and an anitpasti plate.

 

After another long wait, the waiter appeared with the appetizers, which failed miserably; both a disgrace to Italian cuisine with its ususal emphasis on freshness and bright flavour. The salad came limp and barely dressed; the antipasti with burnt beans and crusty polenta that had been wrenched of moisture by too much time out on the kitchen counter. Far from superlative. But . . .  we were waiting attentively, expectantly for the pasta.

 

After an hour and twenty minutes at Settimio, the waiter arrived with a bowl of tagliolini, a bowl of grated parmesan, and a spoon. No white truffles, he said, kind of timidly hiding the pasta dish behind his back. On top of the tagliolini were . . . black truffles.

 

We told the waiter this was unacceptable and he disappeared to deal with another unhappy table receiving a wrong order. He then finally went to the kitchen and hid out before returning to tell us there was absolutely no white truffle pasta avaiable.

 

We immediately demanded the check and decided it was time to inform him about the true quality of the antipasti. He disappeared again and returned about 5 minutes later with il conto.

 

No offer was made to reduce the bill after we had wasted 1.5 hours waiting for a house specialty the restaurant had promised to deliver.

 

We assembled at the cash register to find the same waiter writing up tickets. Not even lifting his head, he intended for us to wait yet longer to take the credit card, scribbling away at a little desk with the credit card machine by his arm.

 

Irate, to say the least, we demanded in broken Italian and fluent Spanish that he take the card and let us pay without further delay. The owner intervened and converted from the charming characteristic host to an unapologetic and argumentative old man. No white truffles today, he said. The best thing he did was dramatically crumple up the bill an waive his arm for us to leave, which we happily did, seeking out a still-open Chinese restaurant at 11 p.m., an evening ruined.

 

--Write down your reservations and honour them

--Don't take guests with no reservations before guests with reservations

--Great and acknowledge guests when they walk in the door 

--Inform diners at the outset about what is not available that's printed on the menu

--Don't take an order for white truffle tagliolini--the most expensive item on the menu and the house specialty-- and then wait more than an hour, when the dish is to be served, to tell your client that you're out

--Be courteous, apologize, and make a gesture to keep your guests happy when a mistake occurs

 

Settimio is unlikely to learn these lessons, but other restaurateurs might.

 

***********

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Ristorante al Pompiere

Via S. Maria dei Calderari, 38

Tel. 6 686 8377

Having sampled the popular Pompiere's food and service periodically over 8 years, the latest judgment is not favourable. A Jewish Ghetto restaurant listed in numerous guidebooks and also popular with locals, the ambiance is unique--2nd floor rooms with very high ceilings, stark white walls, fading artwork, and huge street-light lamps lending an overly-lit ambiance to everything. Families and business people at times fill the three halls—for lack of a better word—awaiting carciofi a la giudia, fiori di zucca, and cod fish.

At its best Prompiere satisfies with character and good food. The classic antipasti are very good. There's no better place for carciofi alla giudia. Service is somewhat clinical.

However, our latest encounter—and we were going back based on previous experiences, because we wanted to—failed miserably to impress, except in negative ways.

Other than the appetizers—which remained good to excellent—the food we received ranked from poor to middling. We appeared to be the only table ordering the highly recommended “daily special” Zuppa di pesce. The seafood risotto turned out to be asparagus risotto, and arrived undercooked and dry. Both pasta dishes came to the table a bit too much more than al dente, glomming onto teeth like glue. The accompanying sauces lacked any depth or richness.

The Zuppa was a display piece, with good fresh seafood flavor, but impossible to eat—with so many tiny bones in the chunks of fish it was like chomping down on a pin cushion. Eggplant Parmesan was middling and overcooked—no attempt to be anything special.

The waiter and the kitchen argued with us over sending the undercooked risotto back, with the Bengali waiter who spoke good English two seconds earlier suddenly switching to rapid, accented Italian. After a little delay, he informed us that the risotto was fine because other tables were eating it.

Some ForbesTraveler Hotel Picks
 
Given the size and influence of the capital city, it's no surprise that Rome provided five of the top 25 hotels, all strolling distance from most of the city's famed attractions. Closest to the Piazza del Poppolo is the Hotel de Russie, described as "the" hotel in Rome by more than one Forbes Traveler 400 board member. It's an unusual retreat, offering an excellent spa, terraced gardens for strolling and even a tranquil butterfly oasis. Near the foot of the Spanish Steps, the Portrait Suites is a tasteful boutique property that feels more like staying at a quiet private residence. Its rooftop terrace offers an excellent nighttime view and makes a fine place to relax from a day of business or sightseeing.
 

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