How to find the best places to eat in Rome

How to find the best places to eat in Rome

By CarpediemRome

Everyone comes to Rome with high expectations about the food, and rightly so, but how do you find the best places to eat in Rome? There are thousands of places to choose from to eat in Rome, a trattoria, ristorante, tavola calda… what do they all mean, what kind of establishment should you be looking for and how do you pick a good one rather than a tourist trap?!  Fear not we will explain all…. as well as make some recommendations!

When to eat?

The most important thing to remember is when in Rome do as the Romans do. Firstly, know your times, Italians eat later than the Brits or North Americans and North Europeans.  Restaurants and proper Italian establishments stick to these eating times and are not generally open all day for a wide range of food.  Lunch or pranzo is from 1-3 pm and dinner or cena is served from 8 pm onwards (most places don’t open until 7.30 pm).  If you are peckish earlier 6-8 pm you can opt for the classy drink with nibbles option or Aperitivo.

How to Find the Best Places to Eat in Rome 1
Places to eat in Rome… a pizzeria!

Where to eat?

Life can sometimes seem old fashioned here, you have to know the right small shop to go to for your needs and likewise with eating.  If you want good pasta you should not go to a pizzeria, if you want to be spoilt with elegant surroundings choose a ristorante.   The main options are:

Bar – for coffee, breakfast, a sandwich, a beer but limited food options (open early till late)

Tavola Calda – literally means hot table and serves a wide range of premade dishes including sides pizza, chicken rotisserie, pasta etc

Pizzeria – makes pizza, if you want the best go to a place that specialises. Look for ‘Forno a Legna’

Osteria – a very basic, local eatery with wine in a tumbler and a paper place-mat

Trattoria – a rustic venue with a family type atmosphere

Ristorante – more elegant dining with quality table-cloths and nice wine-glasses

How to Find the Best Places to Eat in Rome 2
Restaurant in the backstreets of Rome

What to look for?

What is important for the local Roman is good food and not the decoration of the interior.  Despite always looking elegant themselves, they don’t care if they queue for a half-hour to get into a place or eat off of paper plates.  If you want a more authentic feel, go for the Osteria and Trattoria.

If you are eating like a local you want places with a simple menu in Italian.  If a restaurant has good local trade they don’t need tourists and so do not feel the need to translate their menu (in fact a bad google translation is a better bet than 6 languages).

Welcome staff should be avoided…. Like the ancient sirens of the seas these guys are there to seduce passers-by into their eatery, so if there is someone outside with a menu it is NOT a local place! Think about it… they have to pull you in (one Roman gran on her mobile phone can fill a place quicker than these guys!).

Prices!!  Pasta is the first carbs course and so should not be overly expensive €8-10 for a carbonara etc…. you should only be paying €14 for something with seafood or gold dust on it!  A good pizzeria can be judged by the Margherita from €4.50-6.50.

How to Find the Best Places to Eat in Rome 3
Delicious oven baked Italian pizza

What location?

Away from the tourists!  Locals do not visit tourist spots and so good local places are not to be found in front of the Trevi fountain or on Piazza Navona.  The good local places are usually hidden in a back alley away from the main tourist areas even just 5-10 mins away – do not be afraid to wander in all those little winding streets – that is where you will find a hidden gem!!  There a number of areas in Rome known for good restaurants some are off the beaten path. The more central is Monti, the ghetto, Trastevere, and if you are looking for real Roman food offal and all – Testaccio.

How to Find the Best Places to Eat in Rome 4
The beautiful backstreets of Monti, an area full of fantastic restaurants!

Finally, to round all this up we wanted to give you a quick list of things to look for and of course, avoid

Things to look out for

  • Stick to the correct times – remember somewhere open all day or serving dinner at 6 is not for locals
  • Choose osteria and trattoria for a more authentic feel.  If you want pizza go to a pizzeria!
  • Explore off the beaten track… in the dark back alleys
  • Look at the prices – this will confirm if you have made the right choice

Things to avoid

  • Welcome staff
  • Menus in 5 languages and menus with pictures
  • Main tourist areas and piazzas

Check out CarpeDiemRome‘s other blogs for more ideas on what dishes to eat in Rome or surviving past 6 pm with the Aperitivo. Alternatively, you could always book their food tour and they will show you the best food Rome has on offer!