The Best Food to Eat in Rome

September 16, 2011

From food to language tips to the best attractions in the country, our Italian travel blog has all the info you need to visit Italy. If you want to delve even deeper, join us on one of our expert-guided walking tours

If you’re traveling to Rome… then you’ll be eating in Rome! The capital of Italy, you won’t want for delicious food during your trip.

While you’re here, though, you’ll notice that Rome has so many visitors that not all of its restaurants are truly “Roman.” Unfortunately, many eateries cater to tourists, serving up “Italian” food that aren’t fresh, seasonal or even Roman!

So what is Roman food? Here are some of the foods of Rome and the Lazio region that you just have to order.

And to really experience the best food Rome has to offer, don’t miss our Rome food tour!


Bruschetta al pomodoro, a popular antipasto in Rome

Perhaps it was first invented in Tuscany, perhaps in Rome. Either way, bruschetta today is a staple on the menu of most Roman restaurants. A very simple dish, it’s said that it came about when 15th-century olive oil makers would toast their bread over a fire that they used to keep warm in the winter, then would taste-test their own olive oil on it. Today, the recipe is pretty much the same: A good bread, rubbed with only a bit of garlic (this is not garlic bread… which doesn’t exist in Italy!), and topped with olive oil. One of the most popular varieties, of course, is bruschetta al pomodoro (with tomatoes). Just make sure you pronounce it correctly: it’s “broo-SKETT-ah,” NOT “broo-shet-ah!”

Pecorino romano

Lazio’s answer to parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino is a cheese made from sheep’s milk (the name comes from pecora, meaning “sheep”). Hard, salty, and delicious, D.O.P.-protected pecorino is the staple of many Roman pasta dishes, and what you’ll often be offered instead of parmigiano.


One of our favorite Roman foods

Porchetta, here served as an antipasto in Rome

Not just a food of Umbria and Tuscany, porchetta is also served in Rome; it’s the pork carved from a stuffed, herbed young pig. It’s served either in a panino at lunchtime or as an antipasto option at dinner.

Carciofi alla giudia 

Carciofi alla romana, a food of Rome

When in Rome, you have to try carciofi alla romana

Artichokes are popular in Italy. In Rome, there are two classic ways to cook them. This way, meaning “Jewish artichokes,” is a recipe from Rome’s ancient Jewish community; it involves frying artichokes to a delicious crisp. For more on the Jewish cuisine of Rome, check out our blog on how Jews invented Roman food. and if you love artichokes then there’s also…

Carciofi alla romana 

Here, artichokes are slow-cooked so they’re buttery and tender. Even if you don’t like artichokes, try one of these two types. We promise they’re not like the artichokes back home.

Fiori di Zucca

One way to try fiori di zucca? On a pizza!

These are “zucchini flowers,” and they show up in Roman cuisine in all different ways; some pastas will even incorporate them. The most popular (and traditional) way, though, is on the fritti menu as a fried antipasto or a side. That’s when they’ll be stuffed with mozzarella cheese, usually an anchovy or two, and deep-fried.

Fave al guanciale

You’ll see fave, or fava (broad) beans, often on Roman menus. Only order them when they’re in season—the spring. In this popular contorno (side dish), they’re served with guanciale, or pork jowl.


Another typical Roman contorno or antipasto that should be served (and eaten!) only when it’s in season: from November through February. These crunchy green chicory shoots are served as a salad, dressed with olive oil, vinegar, anchovies and garlic.


Fried foods of Rome, including baccala and fiori di zucca

Some of Rome’s best fritti, including baccalà (left) and fiori di zucca (right)

A codfish, you see this prepared many ways in Rome. If you see it on the fritti menu, then the fish is served up fried—as a popular antipasto or a contorno with some pizza.


Of course, you can get pizza Italy-wide—but Roman pizza is among the best. Don’t expect thick, fluffy pizza here; instead, Roman pizza is paper thin, crisp, and always baked in a wood oven.

Gnocchi alla romana

Usually served on Thursdays, these soft, tasty dumplings are made of semolina and served in sauce.


Meaning “little holes,” this is a long pasta, slightly thicker than spaghetti. And yes, it’s got a (tiny) hole in the center. You can find dozens of varieties of pasta around Italy, but bucatini is most closely associated with Rome. Most trattorie worth their salt will make this themselves, in-house (“fatto a casa”), but always ask to be sure. There’s nothing like fresh pasta! You often see this served with amatriciana or alla gricia (see below).


A thicker version of spaghetti, and another popular Roman pasta.

Pasta e ceci

Pasta with chickpeas. A very old, simple, and delicious recipe. Not only that, but it’s also nutritious! Legumes are often known as the meat of the poor, and this pasta was no different. Served by nonne, or grandmothers, throughout Italy to give a healthy dose of both carbohydrates and protein in one simple, inexpensive dish!

Pasta alla gricia

One of the most classic Roman pasta dishes

Pasta alla gricia—delicious!

A very simple, and old, Roman pasta: It’s simply pasta (hopefully handmade!) with pecorino, black pepper, and guanciale (not really “bacon” and not pancetta, but pork jowl).

Pasta arrabbiata

Literally “angry” pasta, this is one for the spice-lovers. It’s a pasta with a sauce of tomatoes, chopped garlic and a lot of peperoncino (red chili peppers)… hence the “angry”!

Cacio e pepe

One of the “holy” Roman pastas, this is a pasta served with grated pecorino cheese, black pepper, and is mixed with some of it’s own boiling water. It’s simple, but surprisingly delicious. Think of it as a spicy macaroni and cheese! 

Pasta all’amatriciana

A great food of Rome

The third classic Roman pasta (of three), this is pasta in a sauce of guanciale, tomato, a little red pepper, a bit of wine, and pecorino. It’s named after Amatrice, the Lazio town that’s said to have come up with the dish. And while the sauce might have a bit of garlic, most frown on there being any onions.

Pasta alla carbonara

The second of Rome’s most popular pastas, this is not as it’s made back home: Although the sauce is creamy, there’s no cream in it at all! Instead, the proper Roman carbonara is made of diced guanciale, eggs, and either parmesan or pecorino… and that’s it.

(Check out our fun video below to find out more about how the Romans make carbonara!).

Rigatoni con pajata

A pasta with pajata. What’s pajata, you say? Well, it’s the intestine of an unweaned (read: milk-fed) lamb or calf. Those intestines are cleaned and skinned, of course, but that partially-digested milk, called “chyme,” is left inside. When it’s cooked, it becomes thick and creamy. It’s usually served in small tubes with a red sauce in pasta. And while all of that might sound disgusting, believe us: It’s delicious. This, by the way, is one of Rome’s many cucina povera dishes, food created from offal by people who couldn’t afford anything else.

Saltimbocca alla romana

One of the best foods of Rome, Italy

Saltimbocca… doesn’t it look like it wants to “jump in your mouth”?

Veal wrapped in prosciutto crudo and sage, then rapidly fried. So tender and flavorful, the name literally means “jump-in-mouth” in the Roman dialect.

Coda alla vaccinara

Oxtail, another member of the cucina povera clan, slow-cooked until it falls off the bone and usually served in a hearty tomato stew.

Involtini alla romana

Rolls of beef stuffed with carrots and celery and served in a tomato sauce.


Tripe: Yes, that’s stomach lining, often served simmered and finished with a tomato sauce. The texture is a bit like pasta, and if nobody tells you what you’re eating, you might not even know!

Trippa—also known as tripe. A Roman specialty!

Crostata di ricotta

A classic Roman dessert, this is a cheesecake made with ricotta. It’s just sweet enough, and often finished with chocolate or a fruit of the season (we love it when cherries are available!).

Want to learn to cook like a real Roman? Check out this video of our fun pasta-making class with a chef in Rome!

You might also like:

Is Prosciutto Crudo Raw? Italian Food Facts

Where to Find the Best Gelato in Italy

Six Tips to Know Before You Go to Venice


by Walks of Italy

View more by Walks ›

Show Comments

17 responses to “The Best Food to Eat in Rome”

  1. Liz says:

    I loved all the food in Rome, everything is so fresh 🙂 We had the Pasta alla carbonara when we were there and it was delish.

  2. eggnostriva says:

    Romans, and most italians prefer dried pasta, even if they make it themselves. if you are buying dried pasta, look for the cheaper brands. The more expensive stuff is pressed through stainless steel dies, which makes the surface of the pasta smooth. This means the sauce will noit stick to the pasta. If you check out cheaper pasta. It tends to come from smaller makers, with older bronze dies in their machines. This makes the pasta rougher, so the sauce sticks.

  3. Kerri says:

    A bad idea to read this post just before lunchtime! I am yet to travel to Rome but the more I read, the more I want to go…. especially for the food, yum! 🙂

  4. Delicious foods there! I can’t help visiting Rome and taste these foods. Oh, I am so hungry now!

  5. Balfie says:

    Hi, this is a great post. We just got back from Rome, the food was amazing, only one disapointing meal the whole time we were there. 🙂
    I dont know if you can help, they have bottles of olive oil and what we thought was balsamic vinegar on the tables. However now we are home we realise it cant have been balsamic vinegar. Would you know what the condiment is? I am having trouble finding out looking online, and it was such a simple tasty dressing to add would love to use it now we are back home. Hope you can help.

    • Hi Balfie,
      Hmm! Was it a dark liquid? If so, it probably *was* balsamic vinegar; it’s just that it tends to be different (and actually the real deal) in Italy, while in the US it’s often the watered-down version! Check out this blog post we wrote on balsamic vinegar to see if that does, indeed, fit. If not… we’re as stumped as you are! 🙂 Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  6. jye says:

    food from italy is so nice i 3> it

  7. mark says:

    Try the new Italian gourmet in Rome: Fol popcorn! It’s incredible. Italian popcorn at different falvours near piazza del popolo! Amazing experience!!! Arrabbiata it’s the best one!!

  8. Michael capoccia ( see) says:

    This is from huntington beach ca…..
    I had to not be so busy as i was yesterday as i strained my back. So i did a number of chorse went down town and all that. When i came home an hour and a bit ago i found i had not eaten since breakfast of espresso, toast and eggs with peppers.
    So i made a common meal as a grew up ( mom was from southern Lazio a town called villa latina. Dads family was from Alvito.
    So i made a dinner of penne, w broccoli, a bit of baby zucinni, peppers w galric cooked in olive oil and a bit of prosciutto and tuma cheese. I sat down and found your site. Here i was eating a dish i watched my grand mother and mother make for us as a child looking at fantastic videos of classic dishes of Romano foods and thouugh i never lived in italy, a bit homesick, ! Well Mom sick and Nona sick, i missed them and watching these little shows brought them back for a bit. And dinner was very good! though you did provide the desert. I expcet in two years i will contact you for a tour when my partner and i go visit the place of my roots.

    • Walks of Italy says:

      mmm that sounds delicious Michael! We’re glad our post could help you reminisce and we look forward to seeing you on one of our tours during your next trip!

  9. Paige Clarkson says:

    Incredible! Thought I would find recommendations to food places in Rome but still, great read for those visiting Rome soon!

    I also chanced upon a food platform called BonAppetour. It seems to provide local dining experiences for at the homes of local Romans. Should be a great experience for those visiting Rome soon like me 🙂 Anyway, if you are interested. Excited for my Rome trip! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow us

Stay up to date with travel tips, local insights and all things Italy on our social channels!

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get curated Italy travel tips delivered to your inbox!

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now