I am in heaven when I visit Italy and especially Rome. If you are a foodie there is so much to enjoy and this is where my ultimate foodie guide to Rome can help you. The prosecco is always flowing, the pasta is al dente and the gelato is to die for! As if that is not enough,add pizza and an aperitivo into the mix and it has to be the perfect destination.
A great reason to travel to Italy for foodies is that each of the 20 regions has their own unique culinary treats. There are numerous dishes in Rome that you will not find anywhere else in Italy. You might find a dish with the same name in another city, but you can be certain that it will not taste the same as it does in Rome.
My Ultimate Foodie Guide to Rome
Where do I start?
Obviously pizza and pasta feature on the list, but there is a host of other delicious things to try as well. If you expect to find a pizza with pineapple or banana toppings then you will be hopelessly disappointed. Italian food revolves around the seasons. What could be better than fresh local ingredients?
I always seem to be hungry when I am in Rome, even if I have just eaten. There is so much to try, but here are a few of the dishes I have to eat when I am in Rome.
Filetti di baccalà
This is always what my husband and I like to call our “first-night” dinner. The cod fillets are dipped in batter, deep fried and incredibly succulent when you bite into them. One portion is never enough. This is a cheap and delicious meal, simply served in a paper serviette, with the minimum of fuss. Our favourite place to eat the filetti is at Dar Filettaro (Location: Largo dei Librari). They don’t have a website which is why I have given you the address.
Spaghetti alla carbonara
Spaghetti is the only thing that there is in common with the creamy dish you are probably more familiar with. Don’t confuse that with this version. In Rome, the spaghetti is dressed in raw egg, black pepper, grated Pecorino Romano and guanciale (a type of Italian cured pork made from the cheeks of a pig). Sometime pancetta replaces the guanciale and the pasta could be vermicello or rigatoni. However it is served, it is yummy!
Bucatini is a thick spaghetti that looks like a tube. The hole through the pasta is the perfect vehicle to trap the sauce. L’amatriciana is made of tomatoes, pepperoncini, guanciale and grated Pecorino Romano and is my perfect comfort food.
Spaghetti cacio e pepe
This is just about as simple as it gets when it comes to pasta. The sauce is made with Pecorino Romano cheese (cacio), black pepper (pepe), and leftover pasta water. Everything is stirred into the hot pasta and creates a plate of cheesy, spicy deliciousness.
The artichoke (il carciofo) is one of my favourite dishes. There are 2 ways of preparing it, Alla Romana (Roman style) or Alla Giudea (Jewish-style). The Roman version is stuffed with breadcrumbs, parsley, mint and garlic and braised slowly in olive oil and water. I prefer the Jewish style artichokes that are deep fried to crispy perfection and look like a flower on the plate, but I love artichokes so anything goes.
Quinto Quarto (the fifth quarter) is eaten all over Rome. It originates in the Testaccio area where the slaughterhouse was located from 1890-1975. The carcass was divided in a specific way, one quarter for the nobility, the second quarter to the clergy, third quarter to the bourgeoisie and fourth to soldiers. Workers were often paid with the offal which was left and this soon became known as quinto quarto or the fifth quarter.
Romans love tripa alla Romana (tripe served with a rich tomato sauce and pecorino cheese) and coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stewed for hours in either a tomato sauce or one with a chocolate base). I enjoy the oxtail stew although I must confess that I prefer eating this in winter because I find it quite a heavy dish.
The direct translation literally means “white pizza”. This focaccia style bread can be found throughout Rome. It is a light, crisp and fluffy, lightly salted delicious snack and you can find these at bakeries all over the city. It is, in fact, the ultimate street food.
Roman style Pizza
Pizza differs throughout Italy. In Rome, the pizza is extremely thin and the base is slightly charred. Call me a snob, but I only eat pizza from a wood-fired oven. The wood fire adds an extra dimension to the flavour and tastes totally different to pizza baked in an electric oven.
“Pizza al taglio” is baked in advance and is the perfect fast food option. Large trays of pizza are prepared and cut into slices. It is quick and easy to choose the topping, the size of slice you want and pay for it.
You have to gelato when you are in Rome. It is totally divine and no doubt my favourite dessert in Italy. To understand the difference between the good and the bad my guide to finding the perfect gelato comes to the rescue. There is also a recommendation for what is, in my opinion, the best gelateria in Rome.
There is an abundance of markets around the city all offering a fantastic selection of produce. These 2 are my favourites.
Campo de’ Fiori
A market has existed on this spot for more than 400 years. If you are a foodie then you really must visit it. The name actually translates as ‘field of flowers” and naturally you can buy fresh flowers here. There is also a great selection of cheese, meat, colourful pasta, olive oil and nicely packaged items to take home as gifts.
There are a large number of restaurants around the market square as well as some speciality food shops worth popping into. Although the restaurants are generally overpriced it is still a great spot to soak up the atmosphere.
This market offers so much more than just fresh produce. The website says that there are “100 stores, 100 stories and 1000 products” and I believe it! I always buy big chunks of Parmesan cheese here that they vacuum pack for me to take home. It is excellent value. It is also a fantastic place to have breakfast, brunch or lunch. Be sure to try a sandwich from Mordi e Vai a Roman institution and Rome’s no 1 street food vendor since 2012.
Stuck for ideas? Here’s some inspiration for Rome
Hopefully, you will discover some delicious new things in Rome that will soon become firm favourites. Enjoy! Buono appetito!
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