Rome: A food guide
There is a light freshness about Rome in the summertime which has catapulted the city into my list of favourites. The thing about Italy is that you need to be ready for a drink and a bite at all times. The city is so full of great food it almost seems like a sin to be empty handed or on a diet. Our first night in Rome was spent bar-hopping in Trastevere, the Brooklyn to Rome’s ancient centre, starting with the obligatory Aperol Spritz and moving on to local 1-2 euro glasses of wine. My companion began his journey of Italian beers and found that at the end of 12 days he had only had the same beer maybe twice. After you travel around Italy you will find that different cities will have different menus that are quite constant across their respective restaurants. In Rome, you will find lots of amatriciana, cacio e pepe, lasagne and carbonara. We ate each of these at least twice, for our own research of course.
A few things to note, if a dish says it is spaghetti and tomato sauce, it will literally have those two things and nothing else. Most dishes are served without sides and sauces (including meats) and may be considered under-salted to the Indian or Asian palette. Also, tap water here is drinkable so try to ask for a glass of tap water rather than spending money and wasting a bottle. If you’re getting a coffee, always take it standing up at the bar as the prices for sitting down and take away are always a few euro more. Always look out for places where you hear people speaking Italian. Rome is a very touristy city so you don’t want to end up eating somewhere locals would never step foot in. Last but most definitely not least, you can drink anywhere in Rome so if you’re done eating and want to carry your wine while you stroll simply ask for a takeaway cup and move on.
Having spent almost a week in the city, I was hard-pressed to pick favourite meals however a few experiences really stood out in my mind.
Image: Trip Advisor
Da Augusto– a small, family-run trattoria in a piazza in Trastevere. This might have been my favourite meal in Rome. This was also one of the cheapest meals I’ve ever eaten! Something like 30 euro for two people including a carafe of wine. We waited in line for about 30 minutes on a hot afternoon before being rushed to a small wooden table where the waitress threw down menus and glasses of water. We were lucky enough to be here on a Sunday when the daily special is a homemade lasagne so delicious you may be tempted to order a second. When you’re done, the hurried waitress will scratch your bill down on your paper “table cloth” and let you leave satiated and ready for a nap.
La Carbonara– a Roman institution, definitely a fun dinner place which was very busy and lively when we went. I was unfortunately really tired so I don’t think we were able to fully appreciate the space however it’s geared towards both tourists and locals so though you may find slightly elevated prices, the servers speak good English and will help you out with the menu. The carbonara here is unbelievable as are the desserts and mains.
Image: Trip Advisor
La Campana– a great place which is both classy and really authentic. According to our server, who was hilarious by the way, there has stood a restaurant in this same venue for over 500 years. The saffron and artichoke risotto here might have been the best thing I’ve eaten in my entire life- though my sister ordered it so I only got a few bites. I ordered the fettucine with porcini mushroom and, to my misplaced surprise, was given a plate of fresh pasta, mushroom and little else. Seeing that I wasn’t too pleased, our incredible server quietly removed my plate, replaced it with a small serving of ravioli with the instructions ‘Eat’.
Da Enzo– extremely similar to Da Augusto, Da Enzo is one of those places every guidebook will list out as a must visit while in the city. Here you will find long lines, delicious food and quick service. We did not enjoy our meal as much as we did at Da Augusto but look out for their specials because we only noticed these much nicer sounding dishes, after we ordered.
Gelato– we enjoyed Fatamorgana and Fleur de Lis way more than the famed Giolliti where you need to wait in line for 15-20 minutes. When looking for authentic gelato, keep an eye out for the word ‘artigianale’ and do not fall victim to high, creamy looking piles of cream. The higher the gelato is, the more sugar, air and artificial flavouring that has been used.
Rome is one of those cities where every person’s ‘must-try’ list will be diverse and probably only feature a couple of the same names. This is simply because you have restaurants on every corner, each doing something right or else they wouldn’t be standing there. The best way to go about finding places to eat is doing a little bit of research on the internet, beyond TripAdvisor. Looking at personal blogs is really helpful as you’ll get first-hand, personalised advice. Also, make sure to ask locals where they eat whenever you can for an authentic dining experience!