Italian cuisine is world famous, and the Italians love to spend hours chatting over leisurely meals, enjoying their food and drink. Italy is a popular destination for travelers who want to explore the unique culture, historical ruins, beautiful beaches and scenery and of course all the gastronomical delights she has to offer.
There are numerous Italian delicacies to try while you are in Rome, some you may have heard of, and others are not so well known. You will enjoy discovering these delights while on your stay in this beautiful country. Traditional Italian cuisine is a large part of the Italian lifestyle, and treasured recipes are often passed down from one generation to the next generation.
You should not leave Rome without sampling these favourite Italian dishes:
Is the national staple dish in Italy and is usually served as a first course rather than being the main meal as in other countries. The Italians cook pasta to just ‘al dente’ which means firm to the tooth so that it is not ever over-cooked or soft. While in Rome you should make sure to try pasta ala carbonara which is made with eggs, Pecorino cheese, guanciale (cured pork cheeks) and black pepper.
Rome is well known for its amazing carbonara which is a pasta dish with a sauce of eggs, Pecarino cheese, bacon and black pepper. We have done a small survey to find out where you can get the very best carbonara in Rome and have come up with the following three restaurants famous for this dish:
- Flavio al Velavevodetto (Testaccio – ancient Roman port)
- Da Danilo (Central Rome)
- Roscioli (Central)
Is a dish of crisp, fried stuffed rice balls. The stuffing is usually made of ragu: tomato sauce, mozzarella, and peas. There are, however, a variety of different stuffing fillings depending on the location the dish is prepared in. The balls are then rolled in crunchy breadcrumbs & fried to a crisp golden brown.
Some other fillings are Arancini con burro (made with a rich, creamy bechamel sauce), Arancini con Funghi (with mushrooms) and Arancini con melanzane (with eggplant). They are all delicious – be adventurous and try them all!
When you are in Rome the best place to try out this dish is at Antonella & Paola which is close to the metro station LIBYA B1, 10 minutes from Termini and 15 from the Colosseum.
4) Nonna Betta
Roman artichokes are famous worldwide, and you can sample them at their best from February to May, when they are sure to be in season and therefore fresh instead of frozen. Rome’s Jewish ghetto originally produced the most satisfying types, which are fried to a light crispness. Jewish style artichokes can be found all over Rome.
This dish probably originated in Naples and is made by covering lasagne sheets with alternate layers of ground meat, cheese, and vegetables. The added sauce can be either bechamel or tomato. You will find this dish on most menus in Rome. This is a most satisfying meal with a crisp green salad as a side dish.
6) Osso buco ala Milanese
Succulent veal shanks are braised slowly for hours in white wine and then served with a variety of vegetables. Gremolata (a condiment of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley) is added as a final touch.
Once you have eaten this scrumptious dish, you have the added treat of then scooping out the creamy marrow from the veal bones – finger-licking good!
7) Pizza Bianca
This is, in fact, a type of bread found in bakeries all over Rome and not actual pizza which you should try also. It is focaccia style pizza bread which is light, fluffy, crisp and salty – delicious.
Literally, it means fried, and you can sample an array of these mouth-watering appetizers in Rome such as baccala (salt cod), fiori Zucca (zucchini flowers in the batter) or suppli’ (fried rice balls).
9) Quinto Quarto
A literal translation is the fifth quarter, and this dish of offal originated in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome which housed the largest slaughterhouse in Europe during the 20th century. The men who worked in the slaughterhouse were often paid off with offal such as sheep intestines, tripe, and tongue. The removed parts of the animal were equal to a quarter of its total weight which they referred to as the fifth quarter or quinto quarto – hence the name of the recipes which the worker’s wives created with these offal parts.
Now, more than a century later, Italians still love these dishes and the most popular in Rome are: tripa ala Romana (tripe with a rich tomato sauce and Pecorino cheese), coda ala vaccinara (oxtail slowly stewed in either a tomato sauce or one with a chocolate base) and pajata (the intestines of baby calves who have not yet been weaned, with a tomato based sauce over rigatoni (tube-shaped pasta).
For the very best offal dishes in Rome, try the following restaurants which are all located in the Testaccio area.
- Checchino dal 1887
- Mordi e Vai
- Trattoria da Oio a Casa Mia
Dry-cured ham served uncooked, cut into thin slices and either served with pasta or as an appetizer wrapped around slices of cheese or sweet honeydew melon. The best quality prosciutto comes from the central and northern areas of Italy.
It translates as ‘jump in the mouth’ and consists of thin slices of veal, chicken or mutton, with salty prosciutto and sage or basil leaves, topped with capers. The ingredients are kept together with a toothpick and sauteed until the meat is done.
What you should drink while in Rome
The coffee shops or cafes are the ideal places to sit and watch the world go by, catch up on gossip or just read the paper and the best accompaniment is a tiny cup of Espresso. This coffee is strong, rich and will certainly wake you up! It is delicious once you get used to it.
Alternatively, try the famous Italian cappuccino originally named after the Capuchin monk’s robes which were the same colour. This popular coffee is traditionally made with double espresso, hot milk, steamed milk foam, sprinkled with cinnamon or chocolate powder.
This Italian liqueur is very strong, made of pure alcohol, lemon zest, water, and sugar. It is quite sweet despite being made from lemon zest and is served as a digestivo (digestive) after the meal.
Is produced what is left of the grapes after they have been pressed for wine. It is between 30-60% proof and served as a liqueur after dinner. It has a distinctive acquired taste.
3) Vino Rosso
Red house wine is cheap and usually very drinkable.
Sparkling white wine much like champagne, ideal with desserts or cheeses.
Delicious Italian cocktail made from Prosecco, peach juice and a dash of maraschino cherry juice.
A herbal bitter tasting aperitif that takes some getting used to even though since 2006 they no longer use crushed cochineal insects to colour it! It is good for the digestion – try it with soda water or lemon juice.
Italy is famous for its delicious creamy gelato ice cream which is made from natural ingredients in the gelato shops. Fata Morgana, in the Salario-Trieste area, is a good place to sample: chocolate, pistachio, mojito mint, lime, blueberry cheesecake and rice pudding gelato.
This is a sticky sweet made with honey, egg whites, toasted nuts and citrus zest.
You have probably heard of this classic creamy dessert which includes ladyfingers, coffee, eggs, sugar, cocoa, and mascarpone cheese.
4) Sweet Salami with Hazelnut Cream
This desert does not include salami! It is made from butter, dark chocolate, sugar, milk, broken biscuits, eggs, rum, and hazelnut milk. It looks like a dark Swiss roll, try a slice of heaven!
5) Ricotta Cannoli
Traditionally a Sicilian pastry dessert, these tubular shells of cannoli or pastry dough are stuffed with a sweet ricotta cream and then fried. Ricotta is whey cheese from cow, goat or water buffalo. The best can be found at I Dolci di Nonna Vincenza, try these bite-sized portions that melt in your mouth.
6) Torta Caprese
A rich chocolate cake with almonds is a must for anyone who loves chocolate, and you can find the best at Said in the San Lorenzo area.
Similar to the French croissant the cornetto is not as buttery or flaky. It is a tasty choice for breakfast and comes in a variety of ways, plain, dusted with sugar, glazed with syrup or stuffed with Nutella, cream or marmalade. Caffe Barberini is the perfect place to try cornetto either with cappuccino or espresso. It is a great way to start the day.
We hope this small guide will be of use in your journey through the culinary delights on offer in Rome. Enjoy your stay and Buon Appetito!