Ahhh Roma! The Colosseum, The Parthenon, Trevi Fountain and all the other sites that make this city as iconic as it is romantic. There’s no doubt Rome is one of the best destinations for travelers. But for foodies Rome is a must! Here we offer our favorite foods to enjoy in Italy’s Eternal City. Buon Appetito!
Let’s begin with the classic Italian dish-Pasta. Rome offers a few different local pasta favorites for you to enjoy. Here are the top four:
You may have had carbonara at your local Italian restaurant but you’ve never had it like they serve in Rome. To the Romans cooking is an art and carbonara is one of the many masterpieces you’ll find in this delightfully delicious city.
Carbonara is a recent dish to Rome. In fact most Romans had never heard of this specialty before 1950. While legend attributes the creation of carbonara to an American GI in World War II it’s more likely the dish was originally a product of hungry coal miners (carbonai) who had limited access to ingredients and used what they had creatively.
A true Roman Carbonara is made from raw eggs, Pecorino Romano, parmigiano reggiano and a cured pork cheek, or guanciale, which is similar to bacon. Some chefs use Pancetta in place of the guanciale. And while you’ll see Carbonara paired with different pastas most chefs in Rome feel the ridged rigatoni provides the best pairing.
It’s truly remarkable when you taste this luscious pasta dish as there is no cream included in the ingredients. The right touch by the experienced cook ensures a silky and very satisfying
Spaghetti alla Grigio
Spaghetti alla Grigio is just another example of how minimal ingredients combined in just the right (Roman) way can delight the palate as never before. By marrying the exquisite Pecorino Romano and guanciale with spaghetti you arrive at a dish so rich it’s hard to believe the recipe is so simple.
The Italians use different types of pasta shapes with different sauces because they just work better. No one can argue that especially when they taste this dish. The Italians love a good story and like many of their dishes this one is accompanied by a much-debated legend. It seems the village of Amatrice is credited by some as the source of the dish. It’s said they simply took advantage of another Roman specialty, Pasta alla Grigio, popular among Italian shepherds, and added tomatoes. Others claim the dish was invented here in Rome.
While the topic is debated quite often there’s no debate about the deliciousness of the Bucatini Amatriciana. Bucatini is a pasta similar to a thick spaghetti but hollow through the center. This collects the red and rich sauce more effectively, transporting the heavenly flavors to your palate.
The sauce is made from guanciale, Pecorino Romano, onion, white wine and meaty San Marzano tomatoes. A twist of fresh cracked black pepper and some chili flakes round out this lightly spicy sauce.
Cacio e Pepe
Here is a sauce that’s experiencing quite a trend in the States right now. This glistening pasta dish has graced the covers of many a food magazine, pasta cookbook and menu over the last few years. And well it should. But if you want to taste the real deal you need only come to Rome.
Cacio e Pepe is an example of how the right ingredients, simple though they may be, can come together to make something so wonderful you’ll think back on this dish for years to come. This iconic Roman pasta dish combines Cacio, a Roman sheep’s milk cheese with fresh cracked black pepper and just a bit of the starch water in which the pasta was cooked.
It sounds simple but there is one more ingredient involved in this epic Roman dish-that ineffable touch of magic that you only find in Rome. Cacio e Pepe blends nicely with tonnarelli pasta. A thick and chewy type of spaghetti.
Roman Street Foods
When in Rome…well you know the rest. Busy Romans love to take advantage of the quick yet unbelievably delicious foods served up in delis and take-aways throughout the city. Here are just a few of our favorites.
Suppli, similar to the Sicilian Arancini, is made from rice, grated cheese and tomato sauce or meaty ragu, with a small chunk of mozzarella in the center. The suppli is then shaped like a football, breaded and tossed into screaming hot oil to be deep fried. What results is a crispy-on-the-outside, luscious on the inside delight with melty mozzarella that, when you break the suppli open, connects each half as a telephone to a wire. That’s why you’ll often see the classic suppli referred to as al telefono. Of course there are many different combinations including those with delicious Porchetta and fennel.
Pizza al Taglio
Pizza al Taglio is pizza by the slice. A Roman fast food, this easy and oh-so-yummy style of pizza is ideal for lunch or a snack you wander Rome taking in the amazing sights. These pizzas are baked in large square trays and ready-to-eat with an assortment of different toppings, from simple marinara to sausage, cheeses, bitter greens, pumpkin and pancetta. Really there are many, many combinations offered to satisfy hungry-and discerning-foodies.
Depending on the season there are a few more amazing street foods you need to sample in Rome. Artichokes are typically available in the fall and winter months. The Romans like them two different ways; Jewish style, which is salty, crispy and deep fried, and Roman style, stewed with lots of garlic and mint and parsley.
A very recent street food trend in Rome is this triangular pizza dough pocket that’s stuffed with Marios fillings including meatballs, eggplant and cheese, chicken in tomato sauce and tongue in parsley pesto. A trapizzino is just enough of a nibble to try but not fill up as you have so much more local food in Rome ahead of you.
A whole roasted pig may not seem like a street food but when Porchetta is made into a sandwich *insert chef’s kiss* molto delizioso! The succulent meat, stuffed with garlic, fennel and rosemary has a crispy crackling outer layer and when served on a fresh Italian bun it’s just about the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
While technically not a street food, Saltimbocca is an easy nosh to satisfy your need to snack or as an appetizer. The name literally means “to jump in the mouth” and once you taste this mouth-watering bite of veal stuffed with prosciutto and sage and cooked in white wine and butter, you’ll want it to jump in your mouth as often as possible.
Who can resist a sweet Italian treat? Whether you’re capping off your meal with a cannoli or diving into a luscious scoop of gelato, Rome has plenty of sweet treats to offer. Here are our favorites.
Sure, you’ve likely had this delicate iconic Italian dessert before but until you munch on a cannoli in Rome you likely haven’t had the authentic thing. Light and crisp on the outside thanks to the deep fried yet gossamer shell, filled with cool, creamy sweetened ricotta and, if you like, a sprinkling of crushed pistachios to cap off the ends. The explosion of textures and flavors in your mouth is foodie paradise. Again, somewhat simple with a sprinkling of Roman magic.
Rome is a gelato-lovers’ dream. There are seemingly endless opportunities to taste this cool, creamy and totally Italian version of ice cream. But in order to treat yourself to the real thing you need to know how to spot the signs of the lesser versions. If the gelato is bulging out of the container the gelato maker probably used an emulsifier in the process. That takes away from the intended experience of true gelato. Likewise if the colors are vibrant and intense it's a sure sign of additives for color and flavor. Instead look for subtly colored gelato. Pistachio that’s highly hued as opposed to bright green, for example.
Italians are quite proud of their gelato and there is even a Gelato University in Bologna that delves into the history of this cool and creamy treat and teaches the craft of gelato-making!
Maritozzi are sweet buns, fluffy and light, and often filled with a delicate cream. They are a popular breakfast item alongside a cup of cappuccino. However, we give you permission to enjoy them any time of day!
In medieval times the maritozzi was filled with dried fruits, nuts and pine nuts. Today they are a popular treat on Valentine’s Day, often presented while the hopeful groom pops the question, an engagement ring hidden deep inside the maritozzo. Let’s hope she’s careful!
Maritozzi can be found at most any pastry shop in Rome.
So there you have it! A guide to Rome’s best-loved and most delicious foods. Whether you’re a foodie or just a hungry traveler you can’t go wrong with these authentic Roman delights.