Rome – The gastronomic journey
(An Insiders guide by Ishwari Thopte to Roman food and local food markets)
In 5 Fabulous Days in Rome, I gave you some top tips on planning your itinerary, shortcuts to getting into monuments and a list of fun walks to discover the charming Italian capital. This part covers my favorite dining experiences in Rome – from local markets to cafes and fine dining, find your perfect fit or try them all!
- Rome has quite a few amazing markets, some are open every day, some only on the weekends. On our first day, we walked down to Campo de’Fiori to buy some fresh local produce and made our own little salad and open faced sandwiches at home for lunch. Nothing like some yummy runny eggs, avocado, mozzarella and basil to start your Roman holiday!
Markets worth a visit are:
Campo de’Fiori (Rome’s oldest farmer market open daily till noon)
Porta Portese Market (Antique flea market open only on Sundays)
Testaccio Market (Best place to find original Roman gifts and food)
- Know the difference between an ‘Osteria’ and ‘Trattoria’. Trattorias are traditionally family owned, casual, rustic neighbourhood restaurants found throughout all of Italy that serve fresh, unassuming, conventional local food; whereas Osterias (sometimes written as Hosteria) are wine bars that have evolved to serve simple meals. Traditionally, they are simpler than trattorias and usually have no menu. The offering changes daily, according to the market and two or three courses are offered for a fixed price, including wine.
In order to get the full Italian experience, I alternated our meals between osterias and trattorias throughout our stay. Here are some of the places we visited that I would highly recommend:
Cantina e Cucina (Hosteria Pizzeria) – Best for morning coffee, quick snacks and pizza dinners. Lovely ambiance and my favorite fried artichokes.
Ditirambo (Trattoria) – A small place hidden in a by-street serving seasonal & creative Roman classics, with a vast & considered wine list. Good starter platters and desserts. Advance booking recommended for dinner.
Formula 1 Pizza (Trattoria) – A traditional family owned pizzeria with the most amazing variety of thin crust pizzas and a super cheap wine list. Best place for a cheap but tasty dinner before you head out to party in the student district of San Lorenzo.
Hosteria dei Numeri Primi (Osteria) – One of my favorite modern Italian kitchens serving an intricately planned and curated menu, some daily specials, great service and ambiance and above all, an excellent wine list and desserts! If you dine out only once, this is the place you cannot miss; especially their de-constructed tiramisu.
Sora Lella (Trattoria) – We ended our gourmet journey with this lovely traditional restaurant on the Tiberina Island. Recommended by my local Roman friends, this is a lovely eatery with exposed beams & a terracotta floor, serving a robust Roman menu & classic pastas. Booking highly recommended for dinner as it’s a very popular place.
- You cannot have enough gelato when in Italy. May it be breakfast, brunch, post lunch, supper, dinner, post dinner or the middle of the night, there is always a gelateria in sight serving a hedonic concoction of flavours and colours. You often get a choice of 2-3 flavours in the small to medium range (€2 – €4). Try a mix of coconut and mango or yogurt with raspberry for a quirky mix.
My recommendations near tourist attractions (so you don’t get bored waiting in the queue) – Gelateria dei Gracchi (St Peters Basilica), Gelateria del Teatro (Piazza Navona) & Il Gelato (Piazza del Popolo).
- Most of the menus will have some traditional Romanise dishes that you will see repeatedly at every restaurant. Being a vegetarian, here are some of the dishes I highly recommend trying: Jewish fried artichoke, Margarita pizza, veg lasagne or eggplant cannelloni with ricotta and tiramisu or panna cotta.
- For all the choco lovers, head to SAID dal 1923 in San Lorenzo. The perfect spot to relax after dinner and a long day of walking. They have cozy sofa lounges, great ambience and a fabulous variety of chocolates, hot drinks and special cocktails.