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The Rome Guide

For all its mythic history—about 2,800-years’ worth—the Eternal City has a way of making all who visit it feel like they’ve discovered something entirely their own, be it a local trattoria with out-of-this-world cacio e pepe or a famous Caravaggio in a seemingly average church (rule of thumb: walk into every church you come across, you never know what can be found inside). And while so many culture-rich European cities require rigorous touring, Rome’s distinct neighborhoods are best explored by simply strolling around (navigating the cramped cobblestone streets by car is more trouble than it’s worth), as so many of its key sites sneak up on you in easily accessible piazzas. For especially meaty landmarks—the Vatican and the Colosseum in particular—a private guide guarantees you get to see as much or as little as you wish: Your hotel will help with booking or you can DIY by using a touring outfit—we like this one, which employs many local art history students as guides.

Then there’s the food. From teeny mom-and-pops to trendy newcomers to slick hotel-backed cafés—arguably some of the best spots to stop for aperitivo with a view—a good meal is easy to come by in this part of the world, though there are some standouts, many of which are covered in this guide. Note: Though Naples gets all the pizza glory, Roman-style pies are crispier, more varied in terms of toppings, and just as exceptional, so feel free to sample with abandon.

Ad Hoc

Via di Ripetta, 43, Campo Marzio | +39.063.233.040

With its fresh, al dente pasta, robust wine cellar, and romantic interiors, this restaurant is classic Rome. Pasta is made in house, while seafood is brought in daily–and with almost every dish, the truffle reigns. We particularly love how the waitstaff is so patient and friendly, always willing to help you pair the best wine for your meal. You'll inevitably leave full, so take a stroll through the city's center after.

Al Moro

Vicolo delle Bollette, 13, Trevi | +39.066.783.495

Tucked into a narrow street just steps from the Trevi Fountain, Al Moro is a completely non-touristy respite nearby. With fresh ingredients collected from local markets each morning, the menu is two-page combination of the classics, seasonal fare (think: snails in an anchovy, chile, and mint sauce, available around the Feast of Saint John the Baptist in June), plus some inventive, off-the-beaten path dishes created over the course of the restaurant’s nearly century-long history. The dining room is fairly formal; definitely make a reservation in advance if you can. There are a few tables outdoors on the narrow patio, and a space to host a private dinner if you need.

Antica Pesa

Via Garibaldi, 18, Trastevere | +39.065.809.236

The humble entrance on Via Garibaldi doesn’t exactly give it away, but this semi-fine dining restaurant has a solid reputation for being something of a hotspot. Specifically, it’s the private open-air terrace—particularly romantic at sunset— that draws locals and in-the-know tourists for return visits; inside, the walls are almost entirely covered in works by local artists. Food-wise, expect to find a lot of Roman classics (cacio e pepe, tripe, carpaccio), plus the occasional culinary curveball.

Cacio e Pepe

Via Giuseppe Avezzana, 11, Prati | +39.063.217.268

Somewhat removed from the chaos of more touristy parts of Rome’s center, this unassuming restaurant in Prati—which isn’t as warm or charming as other parts of the city, but blessedly calmer—offers excellent, locals-approved classics. You can’t go wrong with any of the pasta on the menu, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t order the restaurant’s namesake dish, which never disappoints. Note: During the week, the area swells with the bustle of workweek foot traffic from nearby business, so nights and weekends are actually a bit more relaxed here.

Da Enzo al 29

Via dei Vascellari, 29, Trastevere | +39.065.812.260

Wonderfully low-key and tucked away on a cobblestone street in Trastevere by the river, this is a great lunch or dinner spot; you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the fried artichokes and cacio e pepe are pretty hard to pass up. The wait here can get pretty long, but they do accept dinner reservations if you’re able to plan in advance.

Da Felice a Testaccio

Via Mastro Giorgio, 29, Testaccio | +39.065.746.800

Testaccio is a neighborhood known for being friendly with small-town vibes, and this no-fuss Italian spot is no exception. They boast some of the best cacio e pepe in Rome in a large, bright, brick-and-wood-lined dining room. Plus, it’s open seven days a week.

Dal Bolognese

Piazza del Popolo, 1, Flaminio | +39.063.222.799

Right on the corner across from a big, beautiful square, Piazza del Popolo, Dal Bolognese serves traditional Emilian food. This is a great place to get some fancy pasta; the dining room is elegant yet comfortable, with red leather chairs and couches punctuating the brightly lit space. Plus, if you’re looking to sit outdoors, their heated patio is spacious and boasts a view of the nearby square.

Dar Poeta

Vicolo del Bologna, 45, Trastevere | +39.065.880.516

An institution, for good reason. Dar Poeta's pizza, with its slow-rising crust, slightly tangy cheese, and fresh tomatoes, is one of our favorites in the city. The purists among us go for the margherita; the adventurous go for more heat with the Lingua de Foco. Go with dedication, as the lines are long, the crowds are thick, and it's a slight trek to find (not far, but you'll venture down a winding alley past other restos–not a recipe if you're easily persuaded or very hungry).

Due Ladroni

Piazza Nicosia, 24, Campo Marzio | +39.066.861.013

If you’re spending an afternoon strolling the banks of the Tiber, pop into this traditional Roman restaurant for a seafood-centric dinner: If you can’t decide between fish and pasta—both excellent options here—the pro move is to order the linguine with lobster or spaghetti with clams to get the best of both worlds. There are two dining rooms inside, though since the restaurant takes up a lovely corner overlooking the Piazza Nicosia, the best seat in the house is on the outdoor patio— perfect for observing your fellow diners (mostly locals) in their natural habitat.

Emma Pizzeria

Via del Monte della Farina, 28, Centro Storico | +39.066.476.0475

Opened just a few years ago by a young couple and members of Roscioli family, this restaurant serves incredible thin-crust pizza; toppings are sourced from Salumeria Roscioli, the area’s best deli counter, and the crust is from fourth-generation baker Pierluigi Roscioli. The light-filled space—owed, in part, to a great skylight—is wonderfully bright, modern, and air conditioned (there’s outdoor seating if you prefer, too). Bonus: it’s open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Fiaschetteria Beltramme

Via della Croce, 39, Campo Marzio | +39.066.979.7200

This family-owned restaurant, located near the Spanish steps—but not at all touristy—is a great spot for handmade seafood pasta, and the artichokes and meatloaf are pretty phenomenal, too. The local favorite can book up pretty quickly, so call in or email for a reservation in advance; a handwritten placard will mark your table when you arrive.

Ginger Sapori e Salute

St. Eustachio Square, 54-55, Centro Storico | +39.066.864.995

With several skylights, white walls and chairs accented with touches of rich wood, plus lots of additional lighting and greenery, Ginger is a bright and modern all-day restaurant in Roma Centro. It’s the kind of place where you can order both an acai bowl or a stack of organic pancakes for breakfast—there’s really something for everyone on their expansive, skewed-healthy menus. It’s a nice change of pace from pizza and pasta, if you’re looking for a break—although they have plenty of that here, too, plus a full wine menu. There’s another outpost in Campo Marzio.

‘Gusto

Piazza Augusto Imperatore 9, Campo Marzio | +39.063.226.273

It's hard to differentiate some of the eateries in this city given that there's so many gems, but 'Gusto stands apart for its ingenuity. More of a market-osteria-restaurant-bar hybrid, this warehouse, industrial-style space boasts some of the best provisions in the city, all under one roof. Owners Alessandra Marino and her husband, Alessandro Tudini, founded the space in the late 1990s, to offer patrons a place to grab a drink, a meal, a quick pizza, or some kitchen essentials. Since 'Gusto has grown to become sort of a culinary emporium. Do not come here expecting good service, but rather a bustling environment and exceptional dishes.

Hostaria Costanza

Piazza del Paradiso, 63/65, Centro Storico | +39.066.861.717

Come for the novelty factor—the restaurant is built into what used to be the Pompeo Theater, so you’re essentially having your meal in an ancient cave (don’t worry, there’s a breezy patio if the enclosed space doesn’t sound appealing—and stay for the excellent food: An incredibly well executed menu of Roman classics like the excellent fried zucchini flowers—pending seasonal availability, of course. And trust us, don’t skip the pasta course. This is a popular spot, so make sure to call in advance.

Hostaria Isidoro Al Colosseo

via S. Giovanni in Laterano, 59/a, Monti | +39.067.008.266

Just blocks from the Coliseum, Hostaria Isidoro is tucked inside a former 17th-century convent: Exposed brick, coffered ceilings, and dark woods all contribute to the restaurant’s charm. Excellent food (think Italian classics—ultra-fresh meat, seafood, and produce, handmade pasta) and a friendly staff make this an ideal spot for a romantic dinner.

Il Sorpasso

Via Properzio, 31/33, Prati | +39.068.902.4554

“Hipster” is not a word you would use to describe the restaurant scene in Rome, though this happy, light-filled spot is as close as you’ll get—in a way that’s not remotely pretentious. You can sit at the bar for a pastry-and-coffee breakfast, then move to the back room for a veggie-centric lunch (the menu changes according to the season’s harvest), aperitivo in the evening (the cured meats and cheeses sold at the front complement the cocktail menu), and a traditional Roman dinner after that (the fish is great, the pastas are even better).

La Matricianella

Via del Leone, 4, Centro Storico | +39.066.832.100

A good choice if you’re looking for a low-key, delicious dining experience without dropping a fortune. The menu at this cozy, family-owned neighborhood spot (checkered tablecloths and all) is quintessentially Roman—house-made pasta loaded with truffles, gnocchi, fried artichokes—with a lengthy wine list to match and daily specials to best highlight the season’s bounty. Whatever you order, make sure to get the cacio e pepe for the table: several locals have mentioned it as some of the best in town.

La Rosetta

Via della Rosetta, 8, Centro Storico | +39.066.861.002

Chef Massimo Riccioli has spent the majority of his life in this restaurant (his parents were the original founders and owners), so his familial history and dedication is reflected on his menu of beautiful, authentic, classic seafood dishes with a few modern renditions. Go here for the Gran Misto Antipasti, a mix of lightly marinated, raw, and gently cooked fish and shellfish from the Tyrrhenian Sea.

La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali

Via Della Madonna Dei Monti, 9, Monti | +39.066.798.643

All the elements of an idyllic Roman restaurant–low-lit, exposed brick rooms, red checked tablecloths, mostly local diners–are wrapped into one space at this gem. The dishes are authentic and hearty, with the chef's daily specials being the way to go (although the burrata ravioli is a mainstay–and a must). The best part? It's remained seemingly untouched by the touristy crowds.

Nino

Via Borgognona, 11, Centro Storico | +39.066.786.752

Open since 1935, this trattoria serves classic Tuscan food—they’re known for having some of the best zuppa di fagioli (bean soup) in town, plus pretty incredible steak tartare. Despite being just around the corner from the Piazza di Spagna, the restaurant itself is a wood-paneled, relatively quiet dining experience—note: if you’re not a regular, service can be less than warm, but still good.

Osteria Barberini

Via Della Purificazione, 21, Ludovisi | +39.064.743.325

Intimate and still reasonably priced (for Rome), Osteria Barberini always delivers an excellent meal and experience (you'll never forget the tagliolini with white truffles). There's plenty of fresh vegetables on the menu, making for a lighter reprieve from the rich dishes. Reservations can be tricky to snag here so be sure to book at least several days in advance.

Pierluigi

Piazza de' Ricci, 144, Centro Storico | +39.066.868.717

The specialty at this close to a century-old restaurant is fish, more specifically, super fresh oysters, and seafood-themed pastas. The kitchen takes great care to source almost exclusively from local fishermen, which explains why the menu is so heavily influenced by what’s in season and changes often. While so many local restaurants are on the casual side, this one, with its expansive wine and cocktail list and elegant outdoor seating area right on the Piazza Ricci, should be saved for a special occasion.

Piperno

Via Monte Dè Cenci, 9, Centro Storico | +39.066.861.113

It’s blasphemous to spend any amount of time in Rome without having tried Carciofi alla Giudia, a delicious fried artichoke dish with deep roots in the Roman-Jewish community. Piperno, which has been around since the 1860’s, does it exceptionally well. It’s a fairly small space so the white-tablecloth tables spill right out onto the cobblestone square in the summer months. Another menu highlight? A fried ricotta dessert called Palle di Nonno—that’s ‘grandfather’s balls’ in English.

Ristorante Aroma

Via Labicana, 125, Monti | +39.069.761.5109

Just a short walk from Colosseum, Aroma is perched on the penthouse of the hotel, Palazzo Manfredi. The draw here is really the terrace view of the attraction from a distance, removed from swarms of tourists—the 40-seat space is both grand and intimate, serving up beautifully plated, elevated classics. There’s plenty of pasta, of course, but also a separate gluten-free menu, for those who want it.

Roscioli La Salumeria

Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22, Centro Storico | +39.066.875.287

The restaurant piece of this chic, brother-operated gourmet grocery/wine bar/restaurant has become one the most difficult tables to come by. The menu is short compared to its traditional trattoria counterparts but the plates of fresh burrata, salumi, and house-made pastas are truly exceptional. The best part is that you can take home a scaled-down version of your meal thanks to a well-stocked market—the jars of cacio e pepe sauce and jugs of olive oil make for great (admittedly, difficult to pack) souvenirs. Note that the wine list and cocktail offering are some of the best in the city, so definitely come for aperitivo if you can’t get in for dinner or lunch.

Trattoria da Cesare

Via del Casaletto, 45, Montaverde | +39.065.360.15

Slightly out of the way in Monteverde, this local adored, family-owned restaurant has become an essential stop for those looking for an epic meal. While the seconds are great, this is one of those places where you should double up on the pasta course—picking a favorite between the carbonara, porcini fettuccine, cacio e pepe, and more is impossible. They’ve also mastered the art of traditional, gently fried appetizers—calamari, anchovies, squash blossoms—something that’s a lot harder to do than it sounds.