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Famous Roman Dishes to Try When You Visit the Eternal City

Famous Roman dishes

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Rome’s “most famous” dishes are often mistaken for a holy trinity of pasta – cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and carbonara – but the concentration on these three dishes might make you miss the bigger picture of what Roman food really is. There are many classics that deserve to be on your Roman culinary agenda, and in this age of tourism, it’s important to seek out the places that make those classics in the best way possible – with respect to seasonal ingredients, tradition when necessary, and innovation in moderation.

From street food like supplì to modern gelato flavors that you won’t find at home… to, yes, those essential pastas – here is a list of the city’s most classic dishes (and where to eat them) to help you eat like a local.

Roman Pasta Dishes

Cacio e Pepe

foods of rome cacio e pepe

Where to try: Ristorante Al Pompiere 

It’s hard to mess with a classic, and there’s no need to get fancy with one that prides itself on its simplicity like cacio e pepe pasta. The magical combination of Pecorino Romano cheese and abundant, freshly ground black pepper is all over the city, but do as the Romans do and stick to old-school simplicity when it comes to eating it. At Ristorante Al Pompiere, set inside a historic palazzo with frescoed ceilings, both the setting and the cacio e pepe with tonnarelli (Rome’s long squiggly pasta shape) practically radiate old-world respect for tradition.

Carbonara

Where to try: Trecca

As ubiquitous in Rome as cacio e pepe, carbonara is similarly beloved for its simplicity – but at the same time for the wonderful chemistry at play in its preparation, with egg yolks tossed into the cooked pasta at just the right moment in order to turn into a luxurious sauce, along with pecorino cheese and guanciale (cured pork jowl, Rome’s favorite pasta meat). The rigatoni alla carbonara at Trecca, a “neo-trattoria” in the more off-the-beaten-path, edgier Garbatella neighborhood south of the center, is sublime even for people who don’t claim to love carbonara as much as its pasta counterparts: an ideal ratio of guanciale to pasta, not too eggy in flavor, and just the right amount of sauce.

All’Amatriciana

traditional Roman food

Where to try: La Matriciana

For a classic iteration of this red-sauce pasta with, again, guanciale, head to its namesake restaurant, La Matriciana, not far from the Termini train station. The atmosphere and decor will make you feel like you’ve stepped back into an elegant Roman past (the restaurant has been around since 1870), which is the ideal setting for devouring the saucy, luxuriously coated strands of bucatini.

LISTEN: To our podcasts on Roman Pasta – Episodes 181 and 182.

Street food in Rome

Pizza al Taglio

best street food in Rome

Where to try: Casa Manco in the Mercato di Testaccio

It’s no secret that Romans love pizza as much as Neapolitans (though of course, because of the differing styles, locals in either place will insist that theirs is better than the other city’s), but did you know that a lot of the pizza in Rome is al taglio, or by the slice? Head to Casa Manco’s counter in the Mercato di Testaccio for some of the best – the dough is made with organic flours and undergoes a long rise (100 hours) to produce the best flavor and consistency in the crust. But that won’t stop you from marveling at Casa Manco’s toppings, too – from the obligatory Roman standbys (pizza rossa, pizza Margherita, zucchini, potato) to the more whimsical combinations with seasonal vegetables (pumpkin and speck in the fall; fennel, orange, and olive in the winter).

Supplì

famous dishes in Rome

Where to try: Antico Forno Roscioli

One of the best street foods you can eat in Rome are supplì, the little fried balls of rice that have been cooked like risotto and flavored accordingly. You’ll see supplì on restaurant menus as appetizers (especially at pizzerias, where it’s typical to start the meal with something fried!), but you can also get them from plenty of bakeries and street food eateries for any time of day. Antico Forno Roscioli, the bakery of the extended Roscioli restaurant family, is a good place to try several flavors of supplì, but go early in the morning or at the end of the day to avoid the crowd. The bakers are already putting out supplì even during breakfast time!

Most Delicious Seasonal Roman Dish

Roman Jewish Artichokes

must eat food in Rome

Where to try: Nonna Betta

In Rome, there are two major styles of artichokes served whole – carciofi alla romana (Roman artichokes) are cooked simply with herbs, garlic, and olive oil, while carciofi alla giudia (Jewish artichokes) are twice-fried to an absolute crisp and seasoned with nothing but salt, which is one of the most iconic culinary delights in the Roman Jewish tradition. While carciofi alla romana can be found at mostly any restaurant as well as more casual delis, you should go straight to the source for carciofi alla giudia – Nonna Betta is the particular standout in the Jewish Ghetto. Don’t make the mistake of sharing just one artichoke with your dining companion!

LISTEN: To our podcast on How to find authentic restaurants in Rome.

Sweet treats to try in Rome

Maritozzo

eat like a local in Rome

Where to try: Bar San Calisto

The maritozzo is one of Rome’s classic pastries which is constructed almost like a rounded ice cream sandwich: the brioche-like, mildly sweet bun is stuffed to the brim with thick, precisely sculpted whipped cream. It may look like a feat to finish in one sitting, but it’s a joyful way to start the day in Rome. At the legendary Bar San Calisto in Trastevere, sitting at an outdoor table with a maritozzo is practically a rite of passage as you watch local life in the piazza go by – you won’t be sorry that this is a place where you need to take your time, bite by slow bite.

Gelato

eating in Rome

Where to try: Gelateria Torcè

Gelato options abound in the city center of course, but if you want to experience a local gelateria out of the fray, get yourself to Torcè – there are several locations, but the one right down the street from the Circus Maximus on the Viale Aventino is the closest to other sites. The gelateria makes its daily rotating flavors from scratch using artisanal methods and ingredients. Try the black sesame, the elusive zabaione (named after the Marsala-spiked dessert sauce), or some of the seasonal fruit sorbetti or savory flavors.

Tiramisù

Famous Roman dishes tiramisu

Where to try: Felice a Testaccio

Tiramisù can be considered more Italian than Roman (plenty of Italian cities claim it originated with them, and the debate continues), but there’s certainly no shortage of it in the capital. If you think you’ve tried enough tiramisù in your lifetime, think again and make room for the version at Da Felice, an institution of sorts in the Testaccio neighborhood. Served in a chic little glass and topped with an appropriate dollop of not too much chocolate sauce, it’s the platonic ideal of the dessert that all too often loses its shape and precise layers of mascarpone custard, cookies, and coffee when it’s relegated to a plate.

READ: Our itinerary ideas for spending 3 days in Rome.

Eating in Rome – Which dishes will you try?

famous foods of Rome

Exploring Rome’s culinary delights is a food lover’s dream. From the creamy, peppery delight of Cacio e Pepe to delicious seasonal artichokes, each dish tells a unique story of Roman tradition. Savor the cheesy goodness of Supplì, indulge in the classic Carbonara, and don’t miss refreshing gelato in an abundance of flavors to end your meal on a sweet note. Ready to embark on this gastronomic adventure? Which foods will you try in Rome first?

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