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What To Eat in Rome: 8 Authentic Dishes You Must Try

June 29, 2022
roma restaurant

“I’m having a relationship with my pizza,” said Julia Roberts while eating Italian pie in “Eat Pray Love.” That sentence sums up the connection that we — as Italians — have with food. It’s not a simplification, nor a stereotype, we are obsessed with food and we care a lot about our culinary traditions. 

Are you traveling to Italy and want to feel a little bit of our love for food and try some incredible food experiences? That’s what I’m here for! In this post, I’ll share with you what to eat and where to go for the most authentic food in Rome.

1. Have breakfast with a maritozzo

Photo by Cristina Carrisi

Forget the traditional croissant. The maritozzo is on a totally different level. It’s twice the size of a normal croissant and it’s filled with whipped cream. It is said that the very first maritozzo was made in ancient Rome and was filled with honey and raisins.

The recipe has been changing over the centuries until the maritozzo that we know today, the one that we can find in coffee shops and bakeries, was born. This sweet is usually eaten for breakfast, but you can also have it as an afternoon snack and — why not? — as a dessert!

Where to go:

  • Roscioli: A bakery, a restaurant and a coffee shop rolled into one. This place is home to many Rome foodie pleasures: maritozzo, pizza, focaccia and many more.
  • Il Maritozzaro: The name itself invites us to go there and eat a huge maritozzo, despite its distance from the city center. This is a small pastry shop close to the Trastevere train station in the south of Rome where you’ll find lots of authentic Roman spirit.

2. Taste authentic Italian gelato

gelato roma
Photo by Cristina Carrisi

We’re not going to be modest. As Italians, we elevated ice cream into a work of art known and loved worldwide. But what is traditional Italian gelato and where can we find it?

Rome is full of great places where you can have a really good gelato, especially in the historic center. Let me show you my personal top three favorites:

  • Giolitti: The king of Roman ice creams. Wherever you’ll go, you’re never going to find an ice cream like this. It’s simply the best, no matter which flavor you pick and, cherry on top, whipped cream is for free! 
  • Della Palma: This ice cream place, located in the Colonna neighborhood, is very close to the Pantheon and offers more than 150 different flavors. Good luck choosing!
  • Frigidarium: A very small but very good ice cream place close to the stunning Piazza Navona. 

3. Can’t decide between a sandwich or a pizza? 

There is a place where you can have a pizza and a sandwich at the same time and that place is called Trapizzino! 

There are six different locations all around Rome where you can eat this famous Italian pizza pocket  And in any of those places, you can have a pizza-sandwich in many different flavors, mostly classic, savory Roman recipes. 

4. Enjoy the apericena buffet

apericena roma
Photo by Cristina Carrisi

The apericena is more than a meal — it’s a ritual. 

It’s not a dinner or a break. It’s something you can have before going to a club or maybe just after a chill walk in the streets of Rome at twilight. It’s an aperitivo and a dinner at the same time because, as you might have noticed, we don’t like to put ourselves in the position of choosing, so why not both courses at once?

The usual hour to have an apericena is between 6 and 7:30 p.m. and you can order it in a bar or diner where you’d buy a drink — a beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail — and with that, you’ll have an entire buffet where you can eat whatever you want, no limits!

Where to go:

  • Oppio Caffé: Did you just tour the Colosseum? If so, this restaurant is perfect for you as it’s nearby. With a terrace view of the Colosseum, this is the spot for an apericena in the oldest corner of Rome.
  • Freni e frizioni: This is a cocktail bar close to the river Tiber in the Trastevere neighborhood. If you’re looking for an unusual and healthier buffet, this is the right place for you.
  • Doppio zeroo: This bar is located in the south of Rome and it’s the perfect place for an apericena if you’re visiting the San Paolo Basilica or the Roman Pyramid. It has many choices. You can see a preview of the buffet in the photo above.

5. Have lunch at the oldest Osteria in Trastevere

Photo by Cristina Carrisi

Fancy a real Roman dinner? Then Trastevere is the place to be. This Roman neighborhood — home to those people that claimed to be the “real Romans” — is full of traditional restaurants. 

Every corner of this quarter has a lot to offer, but there is one restaurant that is a little bit more special than the others since it’s the oldest one in the area: the Antica Osteria Rugantino

There are many different dishes you can taste here, but if you want to experience a real Italian tradition, choose among these three types of pasta:

  • Carbonara: No, carbonara doesn’t have cream in it! It is made with eggs, pecorino cheese, guanciale meat, pepper, and cooking water. 
  • Amatriciana: The “red” Roman pasta, even if it is actually from Amatrice (a small village east of Rome), it’s very popular in all of central Italy, and it’s made with tomato sauce, guanciale meat, and pepper.
  • Cacio e pepe: This is the best option if you’re vegetarian. It’s made with a lot of pecorino cheese melted down with the right amount of cooking water. Even if it is the recipe with the fewest ingredients, it is definitely the most difficult one to make!

6. Just a little hungry? Supplì is the right choice

If you have been to Sicily, you might know what we’re talking about because arancino and supplì are kind of siblings. 

The supplì is a little fried ball that looks like a meatball, but it is actually made with rice. The traditional one is the one with rice, cheese and tomato sauce, but you can actually find it in many different flavors, including the cacio and pepe one!

Where to go: 

  • Da Venanzio: The best place where you can have both the traditional and special supplís. 
  • Il Fornaretto di Trastevere: This is definitely one of my favorite places. It is located in the less touristy part of Trastevere, not so far from the center, and it is a very authentic Roman diner. If you decide to have a supplì or slice of pizza there, you won’t regret it!
  • Alice Pizza: A classic and the most popular Roman chain for pizza and supplì. You can find Alice in most Roman districts.

7. Forget the traditional Italian pizza

Photo by Chiara Di Cataldo

Let’s keep talking about pizza, but not the traditional one with cheese and tomato. Let’s talk about “pizza con la mortazza,” better known to tourists as focaccia with mortadella.

This typical Rome street food is very simple. It is a kind of sandwich made with focaccia bread and stuffed with a lot of mortadella. You can find it in most bakeries in Rome, including the ones mentioned before such as Roscioli, Alice Pizza and Il Fornaretto di Trastevere.

Bonus tip: Another great place where to have focaccia with mortadella is the bakery Pizzarium Bonci, close to Saint Peter’s Square. It’s the perfect place to stop by before or after our Vatican Guided Tour

8. Eat a flower in the Campo de’ Fiori

If you decide to take our Best of Rome at Twilight Walking Tour, at the end of it, you’ll come upon a square that is named Campo de’ Fiori or, translated from Italian, field or square of flowers the Flowers Square. 

This location is the perfect place to start a night out with your friends or to taste the famous fiore di zucca fritto — which is a fried pumpkin flower — in the bakery Forno Campo de’ Fiori. It can be a starter, it can be a snack and it can even be on a pizza. It can be many things and definitely one of the most authentic things to eat in Rome.

Rome Foodie Experiences You Can’t Miss

If you’re planning your trip to Rome, come hungry and prepare your stomach! This city will welcome you with a lot of food throughout the day. Remember that — as Italians — when it comes to food, we don’t accept a no as an answer. Don’t be surprised if we open the doors of our houses to invite you to have dinner with us, even if we just met in one of our beautiful squares. It’s more than a meal. This is our culture.

For more inspiration about what to eat in Rome, read our guide on where to eat near the Colosseum. Want dinner with a view? We’ve got you covered there, too, with these incredible rooftop bars and restaurants in Rome.