Traveling to Rome and wondering where to eat and how to find truly good Italian food in Rome?
Italy is synonymous with some of the best food in the world and no trip to Italy would be complete without trying its food… and the drinks, of course! But how often do you hear stories of travelers telling you they had the worst food and service experience in Paris, London, or Rome…
We certainly had our share of bad food all over the world, Italy included, and mostly in the early years of our travels… We have learned a lot over the years and we are getting better at finding good places to eat when we travel. Read about our recent experience and find out how to find the best food in Rome.
Due to the lack of time before our trip, we didn’t do any research as to where to eat in Rome. Customer reviews can be extremely helpful, but I find it difficult to follow the advice in big cities as you never know where exactly in the city you will be at the time you want to eat lunch, dinner, or have some coffee… And I’m not one of those people who would walk to the other side of town for a restaurant, even if it has some amazing reviews.
So here is some general advice and our top tips that will lead you to the best food in Rome without too much effort. Find out!
Our top tips for finding the best food in Rome:
1. Ask locals for advice – eat where locals eat
One of the best ways to find the best food anywhere in the world is asking locals about the best places to eat. This definitely counts in Rome where there are so many restaurants and so many choices…
We asked for some recommendations for where to eat in Rome at our hotel, and they pointed us to an excellent restaurant nearby. It didn’t look fancy but served simple home-made Italian food at a fair price. Furthermore, it was just around the corner from our hotel.
We found it so good that we ate there for three evenings in a row. We were not the only ones – the place was packed with locals every evening. In case you are interested, the restaurant is called L’Orso 80 and is located just a few blocks North of Piazza Navona – 33, Via dell’Orso.
I’m sure there are so many other great restaurants in Rome that are just as good. And the absolute best way to discover them is by following locals’ advice.
2. Eat what locals eat
Once you found a good restaurant in Rome and are seated at a table, don’t rush to order just yet! Look around before ordering the food and see what locals eat. If it looks good, order the same. If you are not sure, ask your waiter for suggestions and be open-minded to try something new!
We have applied this trick several times and got to taste some dishes we would have never ordered ourselves.
Like the Roman Jewish artichoke (carciofi alla giudia), which tasted very good and much better than expected by the looks of it (see the picture higher above).
Or our 15 pieces – 15 EUR antipasti menu which turned out to be 15 plates and not 15 pieces, as we had expected. That was the only time we didn’t finish our meal… In the meantime, the Italians next to us didn’t seem to have any difficulties to finish it. They even ordered some pasta for the main course and a dessert on top of it all… Unbelievable!
3. Don’t eat at the restaurants near the main tourist landmarks
If you want to find some really good food at decent prices in Rome, try not to eat at the restaurants at the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, etc. They are usually much more expensive, the service is often bad because they expect high turnover, and the food is usually warmed up and not made when you order.
You can have a 10 EUR tiramisu and a 7 EUR coffee at Piazza Navona at a tiny table so close to the other people that you can follow at least two conversations if you want to…
Or you can walk for 2 minutes to one of the quieter streets a bit outside the main tourist routes and have a home-made tiramisu for 4 EUR and a coffee or tea for 2-3 EUR. Service with a smile and a nice quiet table are a bonus.
Don’t hesitate to look for better price/quality restaurants even if you think you are in the tourist area and there is nothing else around!
Often, you only need to walk a block or two away from the main tourist routes in order to find some local restaurants with a great menu and low prices.
TIP: If you have internet connection on your smartphone, check Google Maps for the restaurants in the area where you are at that moment. Look for smaller places with great reviews. Bonus points if they come from the locals!
You can easily find a pizza or pasta for less than 10 EUR, even in the city center of Rome, if you just leave the main tourist routes behind. I once had an excellent chicken and artichoke dish at a tiny local restaurant for just 7 EUR. This is the price of a cup of tea at the Piazza Navona…
4. Look for artisanal ice cream (gelato artigianale)
If you are looking for good ice cream in Rome, you’ll also have to make a bit of effort to find a truly good gelateria.
The best places are the ones where you can get artisanal ice cream. Look for a sign ‘gelato artigianale’ or ‘gelateria artigianale’ and don’t settle for less than that!
One of the best places for ice cream in Rome is Giolitti with more than a hundred different flavors. We had ice cream at Giolitti several times and it was absolutely delicious!
We tried several flavors, including coffee, wild cherry, pomegranate, and rice. I liked the rice flavor the best and I would recommend it to anyone! Great discovery!
5. Familiarize yourself with Italian coffee before you order
I am not a big coffee drinker myself, but every time I visit Italy, I end up trying some Italian coffee just for the experience. I always find their regular coffee terribly bitter, but it’s just something you have to try at least once!
When I was in Rome with my cousin, she ordered an espresso and her reaction to the bitter black substance at the bottom of the tiny cup was ‘I think they forgot to add water’. From then on, she only ordered cappuccino or late macchiato, and it was somewhat more drinkable.
Someone at the table next to us ordered a cup of caffe Americano and received a tiny cup with a bitter drink, the size of espresso in the rest of Europe…
After many trips to Italy, I now learned how to ask for the coffee that I actually enjoy drinking. But it’s still much stronger than anywhere else in Europe.
The Italian definition of a good coffee is very different from that of the rest of the world.
In all honesty, I find it completely overrated.
But this is what traveling is all about, isn’t it?
You cannot experience the country and its food if you are not open to different habits, different food, and yes, also their undrinkable coffee…
So go ahead and order some coffee next time you are in Rome! For the most authentic experience, I would suggest you try a tiny espresso. Just make sure you get some water (and lots of sugar) with it to get rid of the taste…
6. Join a food tour or a cooking class
If you want to taste some of the best food in Rome, consider joining a local food tour. Alternatively, there are also cooking classes for those who love more authentic hands-on experiences.
Before I left for Rome, I was hesitant to book one of the food tasting tours. They do look amazing, by the way, and in the end, I was sorry I didn’t take the time to do it. It was so busy when we visited that all the best food tours were full and impossible to book last-minute.
So if you absolutely want to join a local food tour, make sure you book in advance! That way you can choose a tour that fits your schedule and interests. Here is one of the best-rated small-group street food tour with a local in Rome. Here you can find more highly-rated local food tours.
Because we missed the opportunity to join a tour, we organized our own Italian food tour in Rome, spread over different parts of the city, and over three days. Basically, every meal we had, we tried to turn it into something special….
We visited two markets in Rome – Campo de Fiori market and the Trastevere market. There, we tried amazing fresh fruit, dairy products, and all kinds of local snacks.
We also visited some local food stores selling cheese or pastry and tried some of the specialties they have.
We also looked for some slow-food restaurants for lunch and made sure to order something new every time…
We had coffee and Italian desserts at different cafés all over the city. We had artisanal ice cream and tried flavors we had never even heard of before.
And we also had Spritz because, apparently, it’s just something you have to try in Rome. Even though the weather at that moment was not ideal for this fresh summer drink…
We ate some of the best mozzarella di bufala and also the best pizza I ever had.
The best of all this experience was discovering some amazing new food in Rome that we have never tried before… The worst was that we had to go on a serious diet after a few days in Rome…
So, this is our simple guide to finding the best food in Rome.
Of course, you can also research the best restaurants in Rome, but unless you are prepared to cross half of the city in search for a specific restaurant every time you get hungry, it’s easier to just apply these simple tips and avoid tourist traps. This way, you’ll find the best food in Rome, every time again!
As I said before, any trip to Italy is for a very big part about the food. So make sure that you take the time to find the best places and don’t settle for mediocre.
More travel inspiration and tips for Italy:
- Where to go: Best Places to Visit in Italy
- What to eat: Italian Food by Region
- Milan: Best of Milan in One Day
- Rome: Tips for Visiting Rome
- Venice: Best of Venice in One Day
- Cinque Terre: Best of Cinque Terre in One Day
- Tuscany: Most Beautiful Towns in Tuscany
- Amalfi Coast: Amalfi Coast Itinerary
- Emilia Romagna: Emilia Romagna Itinerary
- Italian Lakes: Lake Garda and Bellagio, Lake Como
- Italian Mountains: Best Hikes in the Dolomites
P.S. Special thanks to my cousin for the pictures in this post. She often had to wait for me to take a picture (or two) before she could start to eat or drink. She said she would think twice before going on a trip with me ever again since drinking cold coffee, eating cold spaghetti and melted ice cream is no fun… 🙂
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