There’s so much to love about Rome – but perhaps above anything else, when we think of Rome, we think of food! Roman food is up there with the best in the world, with time-honored traditions and a long list of delicious dishes that define the Eternal City.
From divine pizzas and heavenly pastas to decadent sweets and deep fried delicacies, the food in Rome will seduce your senses and tantalize your tastebuds like no other. With a marvellous mix of modern street food joints, fine dining establishments and old world tavernas, it’s a true foodie’s paradise.
However, with so much to sample, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve delved into the delicious detail of traditional Roman cuisine to pinpoint the most important, most delectable, most downright luscious food to try in Rome.
After all that walking visiting the best places in Rome, a hearty meal is rightly deserved!
Pizza Al Taglio
Translating literally as “pizza by the cut,” pizza al taglio is one of Rome’s most famous dishes and pretty much the perfect street food. This is a special variety of pizza that’s different than the standard kind – the dough is rich, thick and crunchy, and the pizza is made in large rectangular trays, so it can be easily cut into small portions for eating on the go.
You’ll be able to sample pizza al taglio and other street food delights on a street food, wine and walking tour, which takes you through the history of Roman cuisine while you get lost in the sights and sensations of central Rome.
Pizza Alla Romana
Pizza varies from region to region throughout Italy. Pizza alla Romana, Rome’s trademark pizza, is unique to the city and totally different from other Italian pizzas. Olive oil is added to the dough, which gives it a distinctive golden brown color and crispiness, while the sauce and toppings go right the edge, leaving minimal crust.
Neapolitans call it a ‘cracker’ or a ‘frisbee’, but dismissive local rivalries aside, it’s absolutely delicious! Book yourself a pizza-making workshop and learn from a local chef how to make your own.
Sometimes, simplicity is bliss. Ideal for those whose taste are a little less on the saucy side, pizza bianca is made without tomato sauce and with minimal toppings. Roman pizza bianca consists of freshly baked focaccia topped with quality olive oil, salt and herbs such as rosemary.
It’s all about simple ingredients that combine for maximum effect. In Rome, few do pizza bianca better than Casa Manco – a family run pizzaria in the Testaccio neighborhood.
The latest street food craze in Italy, Trapizzino is a mashup of the words ‘pizza’ and ‘tramezzino’. It’s essentially a pizza sandwich, baked in the form of a triangular pocket and filled with some of Rome’s most delectable dishes, often cooked for several days to get the most amazing flavor.
Trapizzino was invented in Rome in 2008 in the Testaccio neighborhood by pizza master Stefano Callegari and is a trademarked street food, meaning you can only get them from the authentic Trapizzino venues in Rome – there are six of them scattered around the city.
Typical fillings include pollo alla cacciatore (hunter’s chicken), polpetta al sugo (meatballs), parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant with parmesan) and coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew).
Pasta alla Carbonara
Probably the most famous of all Roman pasta dishes, pasta alla carbonara is a lusciously rich and creamy dish using only a few simple ingredients – pasta, eggs, hard cheese, cured pork and freshly ground black pepper. The cheese is usually Parmigiano-Reggiano or grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or a combination of the two) and the pork is usually guanciale – a tender cured meat typically used in Roman cuisine.
A simple, humble dish, carbonara highlights the beauty of fresh ingredients working together in perfect harmony. Learn about carbonara and other classic Roman dishes on a Rome Trastevere food tour.
A world-famous dish that dates back almost 100 years, Rome’s Fettuccine Alfredo combines simple handmade pasta with butter, parmesan cheese and pepper. Three simple ingredients, yet the taste is sublime.
Invented by Alfredo Di Lelio in 1908, apparently for his wife who had lost her appetite after giving birth, Fettuccine Alfredo became world renowned after Hollywood stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford came to Rome on their honeymoon. They fell in love with the dish and word quickly spread around Hollywood about the delicious pasta dish.
The famous restaurant that created the dish – Il Vero Alfredo – still serves the famous dish to this day! You can even take a cooking course at Il Vero Alfredo and learn how the authentic dish is prepared.
Cacio e pepe
Leonardo Da Vinci once said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Well, Leo wasn’t wrong, and this dish proves his point. Translating as ‘cheese and pepper’, cacio e pepe consists of spaghetti (or, more traditionally, tonnarelli) grated pecorino romano cheese, black pepper and olive oil.
Its beautiful simplicity has made it one the trendiest pasta dishes in recent years, but there’s nothing like trying it in a restaurant in Rome. Visit the charming al42 homestyle venue for the best cacio e pepe in town.
Gnocchi alla Romana
Gnocchi alla romana – gnocchi Roman style – is different from the potato kind. It’s traditionally made with semolina, milk, butter, parmesan and pepper, layered in large discs then baked in the oven.
The result is surprisingly light, considering the pure comfort food quality. You’ll find it on taverna and restaurant menus throughout the city.
While ravioli is more common in northern Italy than it is in Rome, you’ll still find many Roman restaurants that specialize in their own version of these classic Italian pasta pockets.
Trattoria Monti offers excellent service, charming ambience and ravioli to die for. Fancy making your own? Take a ravioli cooking class in Rome and learn from a local chef how to make the perfect ravioli.
Pasta alla Gricia
A luscious dish with roots in the Lazio region of Rome, pasta alla gricia is another pasta in which the magic comes from simple ingredients and precise preparation. Pecorino romano, freshly ground black pepper and guanciale (smoked pork cheek) make for a terrifically tasty trio, while the pasta (usually spaghetti or rigatoni) holds everything together.
Pasta alla gricia is said to have ancient origins – apparently Romans were tucking into it as far back as 400AD!
Coda alla Vaccinara
A renowned dish in the Eternal City, coda alla vaccinara is essentially oxtail stew, Roman style. This sublime slow cooked comforting classic is Roman food at its finest, with a complex, rich and hearty flavor that takes the breath away.
Head to Checchino dal 1887 to sample coda alla vaccinara at its most authentic. An old-fashioned Roman restaurant beloved by locals, it is said be the place where the dish originated. You might even get to discover the secret ingredient that makes this dish so divine!
Trippa alla romana
Trippa alla Roman is one of Roman cuisine’s most distinguished ‘Quinto Quarto’ dishes – literally ‘fifth quarter’, a reference to the idea that offal can be extremely valuable and overlooked in cooking.
Translating as ‘Roman tripe’, trippa alla romana is typically a Saturday lunchtime dish – you’ll find it served up in many traditional trattorias throughout the city. A simple, humble dish, there are two ingredients that make the flavor really sing – pecorino romano and wild mint.
Allesso di Bollito
One of the tastiest traditional dishes to eat in Rome, allesso di bollito is a classic meat dish that consists of simmered beef chunks served in a sublime sandwich. The secret is to soak the freshly baked bread in the meat juices, taking the flavor to a whole new level.
You can learn to cook this and other Roman classics in a small group cooking lesson in Rome. You’ll buy all the ingredients from local markets, chatting with the farmers and vendors about what Roman produce so special. Then you’ll learn from a top local chef about how to cook authentic Roman food.
The pride of Rome, Porchetta is a bona fide pork sensation, stuffed with herbs, seasoned with salt, slow roasted and served with a tall frosty one. Head to Bono Bottega Nostrana in the San Pietro district for some knockout Porchetta served alongside seriously tasty street food.
Fancy getting to know the history of this delicious dish? Do your tastebuds a flavor favor and sample some local porchetta as part of a Rome food tour focused on the Trastevere and Campo de Fiori parts of the city. You’ll get some insider knowledge to go with this incredible authentic Roman street food classic.
Pollo alla Cacciatora
Known as ‘hunter’s chicken’ to you and me, pollo alla cacciatora is a big, hearty, rustic dish. Traditionally served as peasant food, but nowadays served to anyone with good taste and a healthy appetite, it’s flavored with herbs such as rosemary and sage, as well as garlic, peppers and – the all-important deal clincher – a good quality red wine.
This feels like the kind of dish best served for a long lazy lunch in a cozy Roman restaurant. Try I Buoni Amici Roma, a comfy old-school joint that’s just a stone’s throw from the Colosseum.
Saltimbocca alla Romana
Typically served as a second dish following a pasta starter, saltimbocca alla romana consists of thin slices of veal combined with prosciutto and sage, and quickly fried in butter, then finished with a flourish of freshly ground black pepper.
The flavor jumps in your mouth – hence the name ‘saltimbocca’ (literally, jumps in mouth). Best served as part of a three-course feast, with good wine and good company in the center of the Eternal City.
Polpette al Sugo
A meatballs dish to die for, polpette al sugo is pure comfort food, Italian style. The sumptuous flavor comes courtesy of a mixture meat (typically beef and pork), herbs, garlic, and mountains of cheese (pecorino romano and parmesan, standard). The meatballs, or polpettes are then slow cooked in a silky tomato sauce for maximum flavor.
Learn how to make pristine polpettes with a private cooking class in a local’s home in Rome. Talk about ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’!
Filetti di Baccalà Fritti
Little bites of deep fried heaven, filetti di baccalá fritti is a famous Roman street food that you’ll find in many fast food joints in Rome.
It’s essentially simple deep fried battered cod, but the magic comes from the preparation – the cod fillets are soaked for hours beforehand to reduce the salt and tenderize the fish, and the batter is made using local sparkling water for a light, crispy texture.
Guazzetto di Pesce
From light and crispy to rich and hearty – guazetto di pesce is a comforting fish stew with big bold flavors and a Roman rustic charm. Traditionally, a mix of monkfish and swordfish is used, along with flavors such as garlic, fresh tomatoes, basil, laurel and white wine.
For the finest of fine dining, head to La Rosetta – one of the best seafood restaurants in Rome, or for something a little more homely, check out the old-world charms of Mamma Angelina. Both serve up proper Roman guazetto di pesce that you won’t forget!
Frittura di Paranza
A marvelous medley of seafood and fish, fried to perfection and served with wedges of fresh lemon, frittura di paranza is one of those rough and ready pleasures that make Rome street food so irresistible. ‘Paranza’ is the name of the local trawler fishing boats used to catch the typical ingredients of this dish – anything from mullet and prawns to small squid and sole fish.
If fish floats your boat, don’t miss the wonderful Pesciolino, a lovely little intimate seafood restaurant in the heart of Rome that serves up the best frittura di paranza in town.
Aliciotti con l’Indivia
A dish that is the epitome of delicious simplicity, aliciotti con l’indivia consists of just two ingredients – sardines and endives. That’s it! It originated in the Jewish quarter of Rome, back in the 1600s when Roman Jews were only allowed to eat small fish and certain other ingredients, by order of the Pope.
That didn’t stop the Jewish mothers and grandmothers of the time from inventing this stone cold timeless classic which, 400 years later, is still enjoyed throughout the Eternal City.
Carciofi alla Romana
One of the finest local vegetarian specialities, carciofi alla romana is a tender and juicy dish that’s best enjoyed between February and April, when romanesco artichokes are in season.
The artichokes are soaked in lemon water to soften them, before being stuffed with a mixture of mint, black pepper and garlic, then tightly packed in a saucepan to steam until tender and delicious. Serve with a chilled white and enjoy on a terazza, as you watch the world go by.
Rome’s take on the humble Sicilian favorite, arancini, supplí (also known as supplí al telefono) is one of Rome’s most iconic street food dishes. Traditionally, it’s made with rice, tomato sauce and mozzarella, then breaded and deep fried for a truly delicious balance of flavor.
The name is typical of the Roman sense of humor when it comes to naming their most beloved dishes – ‘supplí’ meaning surprise and ‘al telefono’ referring to the fact that, when broken open, the stringy mozzarella between the two halves of the ball makes it look like an old-fashioned telephone.
Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Zucchini flowers are plentiful in Rome. They are stuffed with mozzarella or ricotta and then deep fried. On some menus stuffed squash flowers are also available, which I’m yet to try. Pure bliss if you ask me!
Another Roman twist on a Sicilian classic, this vibrant vegetable stew combines fresh and flavorful ingredients (eggplant, tomato, celery, pepper) for a delicious, versatile dish. Caponata can be served as a main, a side or an antipasto (starter).
It’s sometimes served atop a freshly baked panini or as a calzone filling for the perfect summertime street food.
Spinaci alla Romana
A fresh and tasty typical Roman side dish, spinaci alla romana is a mix of seasonal spinach, toasted pine nuts, raisins and extra virgin olive oil. Although you’ll see it served up in trattorias from April until December, it’s a particularly common dish come Christmas time.
Concia di Zucchine
Another traditional Roman side dish, this one has its roots firmly in Jewish cuisine. Roman zucchinis, olive oil, mint, parsley and garlic combine for a dish that’s first fried, then baked for maximum flavor.
The quintessential Roman dessert, gelato is a particularly silky, thick and luscious type of ice creams that Italians go mad for… and little wonder. There are few more delicious delights than slowly savoring a gelato on a summer’s night in Rome.
In fact, gelato originated in Ancient Rome. The story goes that Emperor Nero would have snow imported from Mount Etna and serve it spliced with honey and fruit at decadent banquets. 2,000 years later, at the beginning of the 20th century, the first ever gelaterias appeared… and the rest, is silky sweet history.
Said to be Rome’s oldest ice cream parlour, Giolitti is well worth a visit for those with a sweet tooth and a love of food history. Fancy making your own? Try a Rome gelato class where you’ll get the chance to make three different flavors of the classic Roman dessert.
These sweet doughy whipped cream-filled honey-flavored breads can be found in pastry shops and cafés throughout Rome. If you’re in the mood for a big messy indulgent breakfast, maritozzi is a mid-morning must – and the Italian coffee on the side is practically obligatory.
Another of those iconic Roman foods that comes with an amusing name, maritozzi loosely translates as ‘little husbands’, named after the young men who would give them as marriage proposal gifts to young ladies hundreds of years ago.
The perfect pick me up for those with a taste for chocolate, coffee and cream, tiramisù literally translates as ‘pick me up.’ Making this classic Italian dessert the authentic way is an art form – learn how to make your own with a Rome tiramisù class – and it’s practically ever-present at most good restaurants in the Eternal City.
Made from mascarpone, cocoa powder, strong coffee and, crucially, a good dash of quality cognac or rum, true tiramisù is a decadent delight.
A sweet, silky delicacy that melts in your mouth, panna cotta is one of the most famous Italian desserts in the world and one that is served in pretty much every restaurant in Rome. The name panna cotta translates as “cooked cream” – the cream is mixed with sugar and brought to the boil, before gelatin is added to give it a blancmange texture.
The panna cotta is left to set in moulds or in a glass, then the top layer is added. Typical flavors include coffee, vanilla or chocolate, but the most common is a delicious fruit glaze.
You can eat the best panna cotta in the world in Rome. The Trattoria Da Cesare al Casaletto, located on the outskirts of the beautiful city park Villa Doria Pamphili serves incredible panna cotta, as does Spirito DiVino.
Rome offers a variety of eggplant dishes, including Melanzane alla Parmigiana, a baked eggplant and tomato casserole with cheese; Pasta alla Norma, a pasta dish with eggplant, tomatoes, and ricotta cheese; and Caponata, a sweet and sour eggplant relish served as an appetizer. Other options include grilled eggplant and eggplant stuffed with meat or cheese.
Carciofi alla Giudia
Carciofi alla Giudia is a traditional Jewish-Roman dish that originated in Rome’s Jewish ghetto. The dish consists of artichokes that are deep-fried until crispy and golden brown, resulting in a delicate and flavorful texture. The artichokes are typically served with a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice and make for a delicious appetizer or side dish.
Cherry crostata is a popular dessert in Rome, typically made with a flaky pastry crust and filled with juicy, fresh cherries. The dessert is often served with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s a delicious and quintessentially Italian way to end a meal in Rome.
Polpo alla Griglia
Polpo alla Griglia, or grilled octopus, is a classic dish in Rome’s seafood cuisine. The octopus is marinated in olive oil and lemon, then grilled to tender perfection. It’s typically served with a side of greens or potatoes and makes for a delicious and healthy meal option in the Eternal City.
Osso buco is a classic Milanese dish that can be found in many Roman restaurants. The dish consists of veal shanks braised in a flavorful broth with vegetables, white wine, and tomatoes. The meat becomes incredibly tender and is typically served with a gremolata of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. It’s a comforting and satisfying meal.
Sfogliatelle is a popular Italian pastry that originated in Naples but can be found in many pastry shops in Rome. The pastry is made with flaky layers of dough and filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta filling flavored with cinnamon and candied citrus peel. It’s a delicious treat to enjoy with coffee or tea.
What is the most famous food in Rome?
You could say that Rome is most famous for its holy trinity – pasta, pizza and gelato!
More specifically, Rome’s most renowned dishes are probably two pasta dishes – cacio e pepe, and pasta alla carbonara.
Where can you get the best cacio e pepe in Rome?
There are so many fantastic places that serve up this classic dish, from cozy old world tavernas to modern innovative restaurants.
I recommend the fabulous al42 for the best cacio e pepe in town.
Where can you get the best carbonara in Rome?
If you’re going to eat in Rome, it’s worth doing it right. From the quirky elegance of Mimi e Coco and the humble brilliance of Tonnarello to the homespun charm of Mastrociccia, if you’re a fan of Carbonara you’ll be in utter heaven.
What drink is Rome most famous for?
When the sun goes down in the Eternal City, locals like to toast to good times with the city’s number one cocktail – the Aperol spritz.
This delicious aperitivo is a feisty blend of prosecco, orange bitters and soda water. Sip one as you relax on a terrace in one of the city’s most bustling piazzas, while watching Rome in all its glory.
What food was most popular in ancient Rome?
The ancient Romans took pride in using fresh ingredients to make sensational recipes that have stood the test of time. Fresh seafood such as small fish, mussels, squid and oysters, meat such as cured pork, beef and sausages, and fresh locally grown produce like artichokes, beans, mushrooms and cabbage were all popular.
Of course, the Romans also adored olive oil and wine!
Still not satisfied? Browse the full list of food experiences on Get Your Guide and Viator.