Rome’s foodscape can be dazzling so let's start with a classic: this small, unshowy trattoria in an unheralded corner of Trastevere rarely disappoints with its old-time decor, friendly staff and reliably hearty Roman cooking. This might be the place to try the city’s staple pasta, the silky cacio e pepe (just cheese and pepper), or maybe the polpette (meatballs in tomato sauce). Either way, locals love this place, so expect to wait for a table.
Via dei Vascellari, 29, Trastevere
Now with two Michelin stars, chef Anthony Genovese’s smart but unstuffy restaurant close to Piazza Navona is still regarded as the ne plus ultra of fine dining in Rome. His time cooking in Asia gives him the edge: expect a clever cross-pollination of flavours from East and West. OK, he’s not giving it away (it's €185 for the top-tier ten courses), but if you’ve got the cash to splash, do it here. The set lunch might be a more doable alternative (at €85).
Via dei Banchi Vecchi 129/a, Piazza Navona
Chef Sarah Cicolini’s relative newcomer in Rome’s San Giovanni district inspired a full feature in the New York Times when it opened in late 2017. Not, it turns out, for some newfangled technique but simply for nailing classic trattoria fare – specifically, carbonara. Yup, it’s that good. So is pretty much everything else on the menu at this pleasing, retro-cool dining room that fills with local pasta sophisticates most lunchtimes. Highly recommended.
Piazza Tarquinia, 4, San Giovanni
A delightful, dinky cheap-eat bang in the middle of the city’s Centro Storico, where chef-owner Arcangelo Dandini set out to reinvent his beloved city’s street food. He’s done just that. Expect a small menu of suppli fried rice balls, including a delicious cacio e pepe variant as well as some highly addictive croccante (croquettes). Oh, and there’s dessert: the zuppa di cioccolato bianco (white chocolate with candied ginger) is pure joy.
Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 143, Centro Storico
Antica Birreria Peroni
If you’re heading to the Trevi Fountain (and, let’s face it, you probably are) this vibey, throwback beer hall is a handy spot to have on the radar for two reasons. First, for the fresh draught beer and the dependably satisfying, no-fuss comfort food – anything from a large plate of spicy tomato pasta amatriciana to Roman-style tripe. Second, unlike too many restaurants in Rome, it's open all day – midday till midnight.
Via di San Marcello, 19, Piazza di Spagna
This small, atmospheric deli/eatery close to Campo de' Fiori has that local, secret vibe and is well known to the city’s chefs for its produce. In-the-know food obsessives head here for the tiny restaurant that does a short menu of pasta dishes where sourcing is everything and the quality really shows. Alternatively, the bar makes a fine perch for an aperitivo-hour negroni if you can luck out on a seat.
Via dei Giubbonari, 21, Regola
Broadly accepted as the city’s best pizzeria al taglio (by the slice), this place has become known in Rome for the quality of its pizza (the potato/mozzarella number especially). Locals flock to the rammed store close to the Vatican Museums, so don’t expect to linger at lunchtimes (and probably bring a sense of humour to work through the crowd): but, wow, is it worth the hassle.
Via della Meloria, 43, Vatican
Fiuggi-born chef Giulio Terrinoni quickly earned a Michelin star for the creative, cleverly calibrated seafood tapas at his minimal-chic restaurant just off Via Giulia in Rome’s historic centre. You can order à la carte but the best bet is the four-course tasting menu (at €85 for four dishes; €140 for ten) which might start with carpaccio di scampi and move on to a seriously good cappellacci di faraona (guinea fowl-stuffed pasta). Either way, call ahead for the highly coveted outdoor tables.
Vicolo del Malpasso, 9, Regola
Sure, Monti is known as the boho-cool neighbourhood of Rome but, even so, the classic spots happily coexist with the hip new openings. Easily the best in the area – and, some say, the best in Rome – is this immensely popular trattoria that specialises in marchegiano cooking (from Italy’s Le Marche region), which means superb pastas as well as game dishes such the coniglio imporchettato (truffle-stuffed rabbit with sausage).
Via San Vito 13, Monti
Rome’s young creatives are smitten with this peppy neo-bistro, run by an all-female quartet, in the quietly trendy Regola district close to Ponte Sisto. And it’s not hard to see why: the leafy outdoor garden is gorgeous, the service is bright and the menu centres on light, brunchy comfort food. Particularly the filling, gastro burgers, colourful salads and what might be the tastiest panini in town – the Il Panino has grilled octopus and stracciatella cheese. Yes please.
Via delle Zoccolette, 22, Regola
For breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch, this cosy, hipster-hygge restaurant/bakery has few peers in Ostiense. Either come for a takeaway coffee and a cinnamon swirl or grab a table and sample the fabulous pasta fresca dei journo or brunch dishes you never knew you wanted, like grilled octopus with green-tomato salsa. There are natural wines aplenty and veggies are well cared for.
Via Giovanni da Empoli, 37, Ostiense
Armando al Pantheon
Opened in 1961, this small, heart-on-sleeve, 14-table trattoria close to the Pantheon shows a studied commitment to old school, diet-be-damned Roman cooking. With a hardcore following of locals, the roster of pasta dishes includes the classic cacio e pepe, and there are quintessential meat dishes such as saltimbocca alla romana (prosciutto-wrapped, wine-marinated veal).
Salita dei Crescenzi 31, Pantheon
The fact this very well-regarded Trastevere restaurant on Janiculum Hill is outside the city centre and yet still so popular is testament to chef Fundim Gjepali’s loyal constituency of locals. It’s not undeserved – with one of the best wine lists in Rome (1,200 bottles and counting), and a truly creative take on Roman cooking. From the fresh and zesty snapper-apple ceviche to the Piedmontese beef tartare with smoked foie gras, it’s all incredibly good.
Piazzale Aurelio 7, Trastevere
180g Pizzeria Romana
Is pizza ever worth a schlep? Of course it – but when it’s this good, and you're in Rome, the question is especially silly. This is regarded as some of the best thin-crust pie in town, so what’s a few euros in a cab? Besides, this spot isn’t actually that out of the way. It’s based in Centocelle, the slowly rising neighbourhood that’s been endlessly hyped as the new, go-to foodie hotspot in Rome. Do pizza for lunch and hang around for snifters – nearby natural-wine specialist Menabó is brilliant.
Via Tor de' Schiavi, 53, Centocelle
Everyone from Joe Biden to Anna Wintour to Italophile George Clooney has dined at this swanky but surefooted seafood specialist close to Piazza Navona. But, hey, don’t let that put you off: mere mortals are welcome too, and an alfresco table on the cobblestone piazza feels like one of life’s great joys, Roman style. Not least because the fresh fish is phenomenal, the wine is grand, and, frankly, given its starry following, prices could be a lot more cynical. Call ahead.
Piazza de' Ricci, 144, Regola