A trip to Rome, Italy, can be exciting to plan! There are so many beautiful places to see and so much rich history to take in. You’re probably also wondering about what food to eat in Rome, and I have my top 10 list for you.
Below you can learn about distinctly Roman foods and ingredients, some of which may surprise you! Each food to eat in Rome has a history rooted in this ancient city. I’ll also share my recommendations for the best places to eat in Rome Italy for each food on the list.
If you’re traveling to Italy and want a much broader list by region, this is a good Italy food guide.
Don’t have time to read a bunch of reviews and blog posts? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Rome:
Our Favorite Hotels in Rome:
- Colona Palace Hotel (budget)
- Albergo del Santo (mid-range)
- Hotel Splendide Royal (luxury)
Our Favorite Tours in Rome
- Rome in a Day (great if you’re short on time)
- Vespa Tour (a must for any visit to Rome)
- Secret Rome Food Tour (great for foodies, eat like a local)
- Book a Photoshoot (capture your memories, discount code: WANDERLUST)
The Best Food in Rome Italy
A common Italian saying is, “Italy is all about food.” The best way to experience any culture is over a meal. Eating in Rome will tell you things, like where locals eat, as well as local rituals and traditions. Italians treat a meal like an experience, seeking out the best ingredients and following certain social rules. Food is how they show love, and it’s where they gather!
In every country, food is history and relationships, and Roman food is no exception. You’ll be eating a lot of food while you travel, so make sure to add some quintessential Roman dishes to your itinerary! Keep reading for my pick of what to eat in Rome.
Cacio e Pepe
While you’ll find cacio e pepe all over Italy, it’s a must eat in Rome, where it originated! A common theme in the best Roman recipes is simplicity, and that’s where this dish shines. Cacio e pepe translates to “cheese and pepper,” and that’s just about it!
Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, and usually spaghetti are mixed with a bit of pasta water to make this mouthwatering dish full of umami, salty, creamy goodness. Some say that the recipe dates back to ancient Rome and was a hearty, travel-friendly meal for shepherds herding their sheep in the cool of spring. Others argue that cacio e pepe was an affordable option for poor families working the mines and factories around Italy in the tumultuous 1800s.
Whatever the case may be, the recipe has not changed over the ages. Many have tried and failed because when something is this good, it shouldn’t be altered!
Where to Eat in Rome for the best Cacio e Pepe
You can find cacio e pepe at eateries all over Rome! Have it for lunch at a trattoria where the locals go, like Trattoria da Danilo that’s a short walk from Roma Termini. Or for a beautiful take on the dish, order it at Trattoria Da Enzo. Here they use the more traditional tonnarelli, which is a more rustic pasta that’s heavier with more of a bite than spaghetti.
Pizza is an obvious must in in Rome! If you ask an experienced traveler what to eat in Rome, Italy, there’s a pretty high chance that 1 of their top 3 recommendations will be pizza. But don’t think of American-style pizza! In Rome, this delicious food takes on a meaning of its own. It generally involves an olive oil-based flatbread with toppings. There are 2 common types of pizza in Rome that you should try.
The first is pizza al taglio, which literally means “pizza by the slice.” This very Roman pizza is common in casual takeaway spots and pizzerias, and each place has its own variation. But they all tend to start with a thick dough baked in long rectangles. Then they’re piled high with delicious toppings like pizza sauce, vegetables, cheeses, and cured meats.
Pizza alla Romana is a very different experience, but just as delicious. It starts with dough rolled out thin so it’s crispy and crunchy. It’s common to present it with just pizza sauce baked on top, or with lots of quality toppings. The round or square pie is then cut and presented in slices.
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Pizza
Bonci Pizzarium is a super popular, trendy spot, so get there earlier and expect a line! But the decadent pizza al taglio is worth it. For pizza alla Romana, a picky local recommended Pizzeria Ai Marmi to me, and it lives up to the hype!
When eating in Rome, try to experience something other than pizza and pasta. The next food on my list of what to eat in Rome is a simple one, but it has deep ties to the dark past of Rome. Artichokes were commonly grown in parts of Italy and northern Africa beginning in the 1500s. Basically an edible thistle, it was an affordable food staple that was commonly sold by Jewish vendors at the food market in Rome.
Today you can find carciofi alla Romana, or Roman-style artichokes (cooked with olive oil and herbs), in trattorias, restaurants, and markets across Rome. But the best way to experience it in Rome is to try the Jewish-style artichoke dish, carciofi alla guidea. It’s a deep-fried dish that’s nutty, salty, and crispy with a creamy interior.
Today, the dish is a delicacy in the Jewish quarter, but it was once one of the few high-quality foods Roman Jews could afford in a life with many limitations. Outside of the Middle East, Rome is thought to have the oldest Jewish community, predating Christianity. Heavily persecuted for centuries, the Jewish Ghetto was eventually destroyed, but the Jewish community’s influence on Roman culture remains. Carciofi alla guidea is a reminder of that!
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Artichokes
You can find beautiful globe artichokes at food markets across Rome. For a very Roman time, shop for them at one of Rome’s oldest outdoor markets, Mercato Campo de’ Fiori. You’ll find carciofi alla Romana on menus across the entire city. But for Carciofi alla guidea, I can’t recommend enough Ba’Ghetto in the Jewish quarter.
No one quite knows where gelato came from, but until the 16th century, sorbetto was king in Italy. Made with sugar, fruit juice, and ice, some genius started making gelato by adding dairy, and the rest is history. But don’t get it confused with ice cream, which has less flavor, possibly because it contains more air and a higher milk fat content. Gelato is much creamier and tastier, with fruit and non-fruit flavors being popular.
Even if you’ve enjoyed this frozen, creamy treat elsewhere, a trip to Rome wouldn’t be complete without trying it at least once. And most people will tell you that you’ll try it more than once! (Every day is a great option) That’s because there are gelato shops possibly on every street in Rome. It’s a favorite of visitors and locals alike, but not all gelato shops are worth a stop!
The key to good gelato in Rome is to avoid the cheap, flashy places that fool tourists. Authentic shops make their gelato in-house with real ingredients. You’ll see the sweet dessert in stainless steel tubs under glass. And walk if you see bright, artificial colors. Natural ingredients mean muted, even brown or gray colors to the gelato.
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Gelato
Despite my warning, there are countless wonderful gelato shops to be found in Rome!
Read my guide on how to find the best gelato in Rome. It offers up some of my favorites but also explains how to find your favorite and what makes good gelato, good gelato.
Fatamorgana has a few locations with classic flavors as well as unique combinations that include savory ingredients. And Neve di Latte is another excellent chain serving up classic flavors with a location in the heart of downtown Rome.
For what to eat in Rome that you can’t get anywhere else, try a trapizzino! This is Roman street food at its finest. A local pizzaiolo invented it in 2008 and his creation has taken off. Today it’s a growing chain of shops by the same name found in Rome, across Italy, and even New York City.
It’s essentially small, triangular sandwiches wrapped in paper that you eat warm. It was created by taking pizza bread, cutting it at an angle, and stuffing it with the best hot dishes in Rome. Think meatballs and red sauce, chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmesan, and even trippa alla Romana. You get them on a stand in the shop or you can take them in a wrapper to go.
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Trapizzino
The only place to try trapizzino is at Trapizzino brand sandwich shops. There are 7 locations in Rome, including Be.Re. + Trapizzino which is a sandwich shop and gastropub combo!
The ultimate Roman comfort food seems to be those little cheesy fried rice balls you see everywhere! In Rome, they’re called suppli, but everywhere else in Italy you’ll hear them called arancini. You might have heard them called rice croquettes in the States, though once you’ve tried them, it’s hard to compare them to the Italian version!
Anytime I’m in Rome and I ask a guide or a local what I should eat, they almost always tell me I have to have suppli. They’re not wrong, it’s always one of the best foods in Rome.
True Roman suppli is eaten hot, straight out of the oil, and can be found at pizzerias and other takeaway places across Rome. They’re made of sticky risotto rice mixed with tomato sauce and pecorino Romano cheese. Typically, they’re filled with mozzarella cheese, breaded, and deep-fried into crispy golden balls.
Suppli is the best way to eat cheap in Rome. You can find them everywhere, and it’s a great snack when you’re spending the day walking around the city. I also recommend ordering them when you eat a trapizzino sandwich or a pizza slice, which is the way locals eat it.
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Suppli
Suppli is on the menu of every pizzeria and friggitoria (fried food joints), like Supplizio. They’re also available at Bonci Pizzarium and Trappizino that I previously mentioned. Or for a restaurant with a larger menu, try suppli at Emma Pizzeria con Cucina.
Torta Ricotta e Visciole
There are so many wonderful foods from the Roman Jewish community that could be added to the list of what to eat in Rome. But one of the best, and underappreciated, is torta ricotta e visciole. This is another dish that has roots in the Jewish Ghetto of days gone by. Today, you can visit Rome’s Jewish Quarter on the banks of the Tiber and find this kosher cheesecake in unassuming bakeries and on the menu of many kosher restaurants.
Torta Ricotta e Visciole is made up of a thick band of ricotta cheese, which sits on top of deep red sour cherries. The cherries have been reduced for an explosion of sticky sweet and bitter flavor. And all of this is wrapped in a buttery, flaky egg pastry. Sometimes it has a crust with lattice work on top, or sometimes it’s baked smooth until it cracks and burns to reveal the creamy ricotta below. They serve it by the slice and it’s excellent with sambuca after dinner.
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Torta Ricotta e Visciole
I recommend taking a long stroll through the streets of the Jewish Quarter and finding Look for Pasticceria Boccione on the corner of Piazza Costaguti and Via del Portico d’Ottavia. The bakery has been there for over 200 years and has belonged to the same family all that time!
For 2000 years ago, pecorino Romano has been produced in Rome. It’s a hard, grainy cheese made from sheep’s milk. It’s made for shaving and grating and has a nutty, salty, sharp flavor that comes from being aged for up to 2 years.
It was originally produced in the Lazio region where Rome is located. Today, it’s mainly produced in Sardinia, but it’s still exclusively produced using the milk of sheep from Lazio and Sardinia. In fact, the name Pecorino Romano is basically a descriptor, translating to “sheep’s [cheese] of Rome.”
Because it’s easy to store long term, it became a staple in the diet of Roman soldiers (many people think this is where the name comes from, but it’s not). Today you’ll find it on aperitivo boards with popular cured meats and bread, and paired with house wines. And it’s often an essential ingredient in many Roman dishes, including quite a few on my list!
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Pecorino Romano
Shop for pecorino Romano cheese at 1 of the many Roman food markets around the city. You can also find cuts of the popular food at formaggerias and often at salumerias. Or just enjoy eating it in some of your favorite Roman dishes!
If you want to eat like a local in Rome, visit a pasticceria and order a maritozzo with coffee for breakfast. Some say that maritozzi have their roots in ancient Rome when a version filled with dried fruit and pine nuts was eaten for Lent. And there’s somewhat of a “chicken or the egg” story involving men in the 19th century. They would propose to their sweethearts by offering up a maritozzo with a ring inside (“marito” being Italian for “husband).
This sweet, but-not-too-sweet pastry is made of a buttery, brioche-style bun filled with whipped cream. Maritozzi are shaped like a fluffy golden egg with a cream wedge of sweetened panna, a thick whipped cream. Sometimes cafes and bakeries will top it with powdered sugar, cocoa powder, or cinnamon.
Maritozzi in their simplest form is a puffy bun with whipped cream in the middle. But it’s often filled with anything from jammy fruit to Nutella. You can also find savory versions, filled with mortadella, codfish, or eggplant parmigiana. But no matter how you prefer it, maritozzi is one of the most popular breakfasts in Rome and pairs well with a cappuccino.
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Maritozzi
If you’re looking for places to eat breakfast in Rome, try to find this sweet breakfast treat. These days you’ll find maritozzi at restaurants and bars that serve breakfast, as well as bakeries and cafes all over Rome. For a restaurant, try Maritozzo Rosso. Or try Regoli Pasticceria, a family-owned pastry shop that’s been making maritozzi for over a century! And I love getting them at Pasticceria Barberini because when you order your pastry, they cut it fresh and fill it with whipped cream while you wait.
Carbonara is another beautifully simple pasta dish that most people agree started in ancient Rome, though you can find it all over Italy today. It’s one of the top Roman foods and should be on the top of your list concerning what to eat in Rome!
Interesting fact: the name Carbonara didn’t pop up in records until 1950, but the basic recipe of the dish has hardly changed in centuries. To the pasta of your choosing, you add a consisting of pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, eggs, and cured pork. It’s salty, fatty, creamy, and oh, so good.
You’ll find that there are all sorts of legends and rumors about this beloved dish. Some say it comes from 19th-century coal miners, or carbonaro, eating the hearty, easy-to-prepare food. Others say pasta carbonara became popular during World War II when Italians were living on eggs and bacon provided by American troops.
But the most likely truth is that the dish became popular in the 1950s after it was served at La Carbonara, a popular Roman restaurant. Either way, you can find it on every menu in every restaurant in Rome (and Italy) today. It’s worth savoring, but you might need a nap or a long walk afterward!
Where to Eat in Rome for the Best Carbonara
For a classic rigatoni carbonara that the locals love, go to the restaurant L’Arcangelo. Or for a more laid-back meal, you have to visit Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina. They make their carbonara with spaghetti.
Take a Rome Food Tour
One of the best ways to experience the best places to eat in Rome is to take a Rome food tour. There are many to choose from, but these are some of my favorites:
- 10 Tastings of Rome: This is a great tour and you’ll be able to try many of the foods on this list. You’ll meet a local who will show you around their favorite places to eat in Rome.
- Rome Street Food Tour: Another great tour with a local where you’ll be able to discover street food and cheap eats in Rome.
- Trastevere Rome Food Tour: Trastevere is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Rome to eat in. This is a great tour that will take you around the area with a local, trying all that it has to offer.
What are the Best Restaurants in Rome?
Obviously, this is a subjective question, and the truth is that there are hundreds of amazing restaurants in Rome. We definitely have our favorites, but it’s also fun to explore and find your own favorite. Don’t feel like you need to stick to the top 10 list on Trip Advisor. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something a little more undiscovered and less touristy. But you can check out this list of best restaurants in Rome for a good list to get you started.
FAQ about Foods in Rome
What food is Rome known for?
2 essentials everyone should eat when in Rome, as cliché as it may seem, are pasta dishes and pizza. For pasta, go with styles with their roots in this great city: cacio e pepe, pasta alla gricia, or if you’re brave, trippe alla Romana! And for pizza, 2 styles are very Roman: heavy pizza al taglio or the paper-thin pizza alla Romana.
How do you eat like a local in Rome?
There are a few rules: don’t rush through a meal; savor it. And never, ever have a cappuccino other than with a pastry for breakfast!. Also, enjoy your pizza by the slice, not the pie. And don’t be shocked when dinner is at 8 or even 9 PM. In fact, keep in mind that a lot of restaurants will close after lunch to prepare for dinner.
What do Romans typically eat for breakfast?
Whether it’s relaxing on the balcony of your hotel or stopping by their favorite café, Romans are known to enjoy a pastry and coffee for breakfast. Maritozzi are popular these days, and you can’t go wrong with a cornetto. You can find them everywhere, like at pasticcerias and cafes, and even grocery store bakery sections.
Try the Best Things to Eat in Rome
Now that we’ve answered the question of what to eat in Rome, which food will you try first? There are classic ingredients, fun street food, and dishes with as much rich history as there is flavor!
Roman dishes hit the spot and are packed with flavor. It might be surprising that most iconic foods from Rome usually involve just a few key ingredients. But the quality of each ingredient is what helps the dish come together to make such an impact.
Let that idea shape your mindset as you plan your next trip to Italy: that simplicity can be the sweetest thing!
One thought on “What to Eat in Rome: The Must-Try Foods and Where to Find them”
Pingback: Planning a Trip to Italy | I Heart Italy