What can you say about Italian cuisine? This relatively small European country has managed to produce one of the world's favorite styles of cooking and eating. Italian food is enjoyed just about everywhere in the world, so you would probably expect the nation's capital to be one of the world's great food cities.
It is. The Eternal City is home to some truly incredible restaurants, from Michelin-starred haute cuisine to neighborhood pizzerias serving Roman-style pizza to hungry tourists and locals alike. But Rome is also a true world city, and you'll find more on offer here than just Italian food. Centuries of immigration have brought a variety of different culinary traditions to the city, where they have combined with traditional Roman dishes to make something truly incredible.
But before you go exploring, it's important to remember that Italian cuisine is intensely regional. What is known elsewhere in the world as Italian cuisine is known here instead by regional dishes. Therefore, if you want to eat in Rome in an authentic way, you'll need to seek out traditional Roman cuisine and try the dishes that come from this city rather than other parts of the country.
Fortunately, that's not too difficult. Whether you want to embark on a Rome food tour to explore classic Italian dishes or would rather guide yourself, we're here to help. Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Rome, and you'll be ready to move beyond tomato sauce and explore some of the best Roman restaurants. If you're trying to avoid meat, you'll be glad to know that just about every restaurant in the city offers multiple vegetarian options, and you can learn more in our guide to the best vegetarian restaurants in Rome. Or you can embrace your carnivorous side and sample Rome's historic taste for offal and the parts of animals others won't eat. You can even keep it contemporary by sampling the best street food in Rome. Ultimately, however you like to eat, you'll be able to do it here. And here are some of the most unmissable things to eat while you're in Rome.
Rome Food: Cacio e Pepe
A simple dish of pasta with cheese and pepper, this is one of Rome's most beloved dishes for a reason. It's the perfect comfort food and can be made with just a few ingredients that are readily available. While it might not look like much, cacio e pepe is incredibly flavorful and satisfying.
In fact, the key to the appeal of this classic Roman food is its simplicity. With so few ingredients, there's really nowhere to hide. Therefore, the quality of the ingredients and the skill it takes to make a great cacio e pepe are able to shine through. One of the most beloved classic pasta dishes you'll find in the city, cacio e pepe is one of the many Roman pastas you simply have to try on any trip to the city. Pair it with a delicious white wine like Pinot Grigio, and you'll be enjoying one of the best things there is to eat in Rome - which is saying an awful lot. Plus, this classic pasta will prove you don't need tomato sauce to enjoy incredible Italian food.
Rome Food: Gnocchi alla Romana
Another typical Roman dish, gnocchi alla Romana are a type of dumpling made with semolina flour, eggs, and Parmesan cheese. They're then boiled and baked with more cheese on top, resulting in a dish that's soft, fluffy, and absolutely delicious. While you can find gnocchi alla Romana all over the city, they're especially popular in Trastevere - one of Rome's most charming neighborhoods.
As it happens, Trastevere is one of the best places to eat in Rome, and not just for its pasta dishes. The former working-class area of the city, this underrated neighborhood is where many of the most delicious dishes the city is known for originated, and many locals still argue the best food can be found here. With fewer tourist trap restaurants and more trattorias where local residents can be found, Trastevere is the perfect place to get away from the crowds and sample amazing dishes while you visit Rome.
Rome Food: Saltimbocca alla Romana
If you'd like to embrace the carnivorous side of Rome but would prefer to stick to more appetizing parts of animals to eat, this delicious dish may fit the bill.
Saltimbocca alla Romana is a dish made with veal that's been pounded thin, then layered with sage and prosciutto before being cooked in white wine. The name of the dish literally means "jump in the mouth," and that's precisely what this flavorful meal will do.
While it's definitely not a light dish, Saltimbocca alla Romana is one of the tastiest things you can eat in Rome. So if you're looking for something hearty and filling, this is the perfect Roman dish for you.
Rome Food: Roman-style Pizza
Pizza in Rome can be a contentious issue. After all, for many people, pizza is THE classic Italian food and the first thing they want to try when they get off the plane in the Italian capital.
But the pizza that is known around the world is based more on Neapolitan pizza. And even then, today's Chicago deep dish or a California pizza are pretty far removed from their Italian origins. So sometimes, travelers find themselves disappointed when they first encounter Roman-style pizza.
Typically, Roman pizza is thinner and crispier than the New York or Neapolitan-style pizzas most people are used to. And while it might not be as doughy or topping-heavy as some of its counterparts, there's a lot to love about this classic Roman dish. In fact, some would say that once you've had a few slices of Roman-style pizza, you'll never go back to anything else.
If you want to try Roman-style pizza for yourself, head to one of the city's many pizzerias. Just make sure you're prepared for a thin and crispy slice of deliciousness. Ordering pizza al taglio, or by the slice, is how the locals do it, and it makes for great street food while you explore the city.
Rome Food: Trippa alla Romana
This undisputed classic of Roman cuisine is definitely not for vegetarians - or for the squeamish. But it is an essential part of the cuisine of the Eternal City, and something you should definitely try if you have the stomach for it - get it?
Trippa alla Romana is a dish made with - you guessed it - tripe, which is the stomach of an animal. It's then simmered in tomato sauce and served with pecorino romano cheese.
If that doesn't sound appetizing, don't worry. While Trippa alla Romana might not be everyone's cup of tea, there are plenty of other delicious things to eat in Rome. But if you're feeling adventurous, why not give this Roman specialty a try? After all, when in Rome...
Rome Food: Pasta alla Gricia
If you want to try a truly classic Roman pasta dish, look no further than pasta alla gricia. This simple but delicious dish is made with guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino romano cheese, and black pepper.
While it might not sound like much, the combination of these ingredients creates a powerful flavor that has made this dish a Roman staple for centuries. And once you've tried it, it's easy to see why.
If you're looking for something a little more filling, pasta alla gricia can also be served with eggs - making it a perfect meal for any time of day.
What's interesting about this dish is that, unlike so many classics of Italian cuisine, it doesn't use tomatoes. That's because it was invented back before tomatoes were brought to Europe. Pasta alla gricia is true Roman food and a dish that the ancient Romans would certainly recognize, going back to at least 400 AD. That makes it one of the most traditional Roman pastas and one of the most authentic things you could possibly eat in Rome.
Rome Food: Buccatini all'Amatriciana
If you're looking for a heartier pasta dish, Bucatini all'Amatriciana might be just what you need. This popular Roman dish is made with bucatini pasta (a thick spaghetti-like noodle), pancetta, and tomatoes.
It's then flavored with pecorino romano cheese and chili peppers, giving it a bit of a kick. But don't worry - the chili peppers are typically used sparingly, so it's not too spicy.
Bucatini all'Amatriciana is a filling meal that's perfect for a cold winter day. But it's also light enough that you won't feel weighed down after eating it. Paired with a glass of red wine, it's an excellent meal any time of year and one of the most popular pasta dishes in Rome.
Rome Food: Coda alla Vaccinara
This traditional Roman dish is made with oxtail, a cut of beef that comes from the tail of a cow. It's then simmered in a tomato sauce and flavored with celery, carrots, and onions.
Coda alla Vaccinara is a hearty, filling meal that's perfect for a winter day. But it's also surprisingly light, thanks to the tomato sauce. This dish is another example of the simple but delicious Roman cuisine that has been perfected over centuries.
You'll need to step away from the tourist trap restaurants of Rome's historic heart to find this dish on the menu. Explore the back streets of Trastevere and Testaccio, and you'll find this typical Roman dish on plenty of menus.
Rome Food: Carciofi alla Giudia
There's only one place in the world you should eat this dish, and that's in Rome's Jewish ghetto. Carciofi alla Giudia is made with artichokes that have been deep-fried and then flavored with lemon, mint, and garlic.
It's a dish that dates back to the 16th century, when the Jewish population of Rome was confined to a small ghetto in the center of the city. Carciofi alla Giudia is one of the most popular dishes in the Jewish tradition, and it's easy to see why.
The artichokes are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, making for a delicious and unique dish. If you're looking for something truly different to eat in Rome, Carciofi alla Giudia is definitely worth trying. The Roman artichoke season is in the spring, so that's the best time to try this ancient dish. Wander along the charming streets of the Jewish quarter, and you'll find plenty of restaurants that have perfected this kosher meal.
Rome Food: Carciofi alla Romana
If you want to try a different way of preparing artichokes, Carciofi alla Romana is a great option. This dish is made with artichokes that have been trimmed and then cooked in olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
Carciofi alla Romana is a popular starter or side dish, and it's the perfect way to enjoy fresh Roman artichokes. The cooking process softens the artichoke and gives it a delicious flavor that pairs well with just about any main course.
This dish is particularly popular in the spring, when fresh artichokes are in season. But you can find it on menus throughout the year, thanks to the popularity of canned and frozen artichokes.
Rome Food: Pasta alla Carbonara
This popular pasta dish is made with spaghetti, eggs, pancetta, and cheese. It's then flavored with black pepper, giving it a unique flavor that's both rich and savory.
Pasta alla Carbonara is a classic Roman dish that dates back to the post-World War II era. It's said to have been invented by Italian soldiers who were stationed in the town of Carbonara during the war.
The soldiers would cook this dish using the few ingredients they had on hand: spaghetti, eggs, pancetta, and cheese. They would then flavor it with black pepper to give it some extra flavor.
Today, Pasta alla Carbonara is one of the most popular pasta dishes in Rome. It's usually made with spaghetti, but you can also find it on menus with other types of pasta.
If you're looking for a hearty and filling meal, Pasta alla Carbonara is a great option. And it's one of the few pasta dishes that's actually better when made with canned or frozen pancetta.
Rome Food: Gelato
Rome is famous for its gelato, and for good reason. This delicious Italian ice cream is made with fresh milk and cream, and it comes in a wide variety of flavors.
There are gelaterias all over Rome, so you'll never have to go far to find a scoop of this delicious treat. Every local has their own favorite gelateria, but you can often judge the quality by the crowds outside on a hot summer's evening. Worst case scenario, you'll have to sample a few before settling on a favorite.
It isn't hard to eat well in Rome. In fact, going through this list, you may start to believe it's harder to find a bad meal in the city than it is a good one. But to get the best out of Roman cuisine, you'll need to step away from tourist restaurants. Searching for the perfect cacio e pepe or pizza al taglio can help you discover lesser-known parts of the city, making for a more memorable trip as well as helping you find the best food around.
With all the eating you're likely to do, check out our guide to the best hikes in Rome so you can burn off some calories. And as always, don't forget to leave your bags behind at a Bounce luggage storage so you can make the most out of your trip.