Top 10 restaurants in Rome (6 -10)

Hello all,

The rest of the list is a bit later than expected.  We have been through some trying times recently which I will blog about next.  In the meantime here is the rest of the list!   Although I did say they would be in order, upon reflection I can’t order them as they are all so different and depend on what kind of dinning experience you are seeking.  The caveats from the last blog still apply though.


6.  Ai Spaghettari – di San Cosimato, Trastevere 57-58-59-60

A beautiful, succulent and rich experience of a typical, contemporary restaurant, that has nevertheless been around for half a century or more.   It is based in the most traditional part of Rome, Trastevere, a mostly pedestrian only precinct, which is now packed with restaurants and is an enchanting neighborhood to eat in.  Ai Spaghettari is always noisy, has the television blaring, and is always full.  A pizza oven greets you at the door and you can watch while your pizza is made, being flung up in the air and all. There are vast amounts of seating outside and in, and service and menu are both good, featuring lots of traditional Roman specials.  If you don’t book you may be waiting a while but you will get a seat eventually.


7.  Pizzeria Popi Popi – Via delle Fratte di Trastevere 45, 06-589-5167

I avoided going to this restaurant for years as it looks like the typical tourist trap often found in Trastevere.  Red checkered table cloths, tables set outside in front of a beautiful, white marble church, and filled with tourists.  Then my Italian husband and his mates took me there.  Now we know the waiters by name.  Frequented by both Italians and tourists alike, its cheap and cheerful outdoor atmosphere make it a superb summer Roman dinning experience (and indoors for Winter).  They have a large and traditional menu (including pizza) and the food always tastes surprisingly good for its quick production, volumes turned-over, and large variety.  Their Tiramisu is one of the main  reasons we keep going back.  By the way, once I asked the waiter what the significance of the name was.  He told me its the sound that Italian men make when they squeeze the breast of a woman “popi, popi”.   Booking is optional, just turn up and the waiters will look after you.

8. Ciak – Vicolo de’ Cinque, 21 ,Trastevere 06 5894774

Carnivores unite! The window is packed with hanging dead animals of the kind not often seen – boar, pheasant, deer and hare.  If you need an iron or blood fix this is the place to come.  Deep rich, red salamis of wild boar, pastas with venison ragu, stews of hare, Fred Flintstone steaks of beef, pork and veal are all on the menu here and nothing much else.  If meat is what you are after you will get any kind your heart desires (including heart…..).  It feels like you are eating in a Tuscan agroturismo with bare brick walls, lively noise and Chianti bottles everywhere.  The huge open grill is at the front and you can go and choose your type and cut of meat before cooking.  Best to book as it tends to be a restaurant that people go to specifically for this kind of food.

9.  Spaghetteria L’ Achetto – Via dell’Archetto, 26, Trevi Fountain 06 678 9064

This is the Frat Boy version of these top ten restaurants in that it has foregone all the add-ons of Italian cuisine and just focuses on the pasta.  Exactly 100 different pasta dishes can be ordered here and not much else.  But why would you bother coming here for anything else, their pasta dishes are fantastic?  Originally another restaurant I stayed away from as it seemed too gimicky to be good food to me, but I was dragged again along by my husband and his mates who had all eaten here for years.  Once I tasted my Fiume di Londra (London Fog) pasta dish I understood that no short cuts had been taken in delivering high quality, mouth watering food by focussing on just one type of dish.  This is a great place to go when you are sick of the same menus in all the other more traditional restaurants of Rome, although here you can get the traditional plates as well of course.  Try also the Pasta al Limone and the Penne alla Vodka a traditional dish that many restaurants disdain to put on their menus but is delicious and won’t make you drunk (although perhaps best not served to children).  Their vegetable dishes and Tiramisu are pretty good too.  Seating is outside partly and right on the cobblestoned street so cars will pass at your elbow.  Inside there is plenty available although it is a bit warren like, underground and airless at times.  If you book try to sit outside or ask for a table close to the entrance.  This restaurant is literally around the corner from the Trevi fountain.

10.  Est, Est, Est – Via Genova, 32, Nationale  06 488 1107

This is a gorgeous, out of the way, nourishing and cosy restaurant.  It is situated off the main shopping strip of Via Nazionale, close to Termini and right at the end of a dead end street.  It serves most things but I come here for the pizza which is slightly different from the pizza you will get in most of Rome.  Instead of the delicious light, thin-crust pizza that is typically Roman, these guys follow the Neapolitan tradition of thick crusted, doughy pizza bases.  Most Roman pizzas, like their pasta dishes, have two, maybe three toppings on them.  Don’t be tempted to do more, especially not in this restaurant, as you will be unable to finish it.  Toppings  are designed to enhance the pizza base not drown it out, similar to the toppings for pasta.  For example the best pizza is usually the Margarita (named after their last Queen) which consists of tomato paste, mozzarella cheese and basil (the three colors of the Italian flag) .  The wood panelled walls and old-world decor make it a relaxing and casual dinning experience, inexpensive and a nice place to eat as a couple or in a small group.  The menu is not large but has most traditional Roman food on it.  It is small, quieter than the other restaurants and has high quality food.


Top 10 travel tips for a cheap Roman Holiday

1.  Stand up

Romans go to a café (called a bar here in Italy), two or three times a day to eat and drink cheaply.  Tourists go to the same bars and it costs more than three times the price.  Why is this?  Inherent racism?  No, it is because Romans stand at the bar and eat, tourists sit down and order and are waited on.  Hence the cost of this is added onto all the produce.  If you want to lower your eating and drinking costs by two thirds then stand at the bar and drink your coffee or eat your sandwich like the locals.  And pay like a local.  If you need to sit down (and I admit we all do), find a stone bench in a piazza, or some steps, or pay a visit to a church (don’t try eating in there though).

2.  Breakfast out

 There is a theme here.  Apart from your hotel, the biggest expense will be eating, and Rome, Italy in general, is not the place to skimp on this experience (let me know if you would like to know which European countries you could skimp on this experience J).  Therefore many of these tips will be how to lower this cost.  (And all tips are relevant for most Italian cities, not just Rome.)

If you are staying in a B&B or hostel, and/or your breakfast is not included, then head to your local bar (café).  There will be one within 100 metres of you, if you are staying in a city.  Order freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee and the local breakfast pastries called Cornetti (they will be on display so you can choose the type you want) and eat it standing up at the bar, along with the locals.  It will usually cost under 5 Euro in a suburb and under 7 Euro in the centre of Rome.


3.  Find a Rosticceria

 A Rosticceria is a place that does a bit of everything – pizzas, pastas, roast meats, vegetables.  It’s the closest things Italians have to a take away, where they can pick up an entire meal, pre-cooked and take it home.  You generally can’t order the food as it is pre-cooked, ready, and on display.  You can however eat it on the premises, complete with drinks.  There is no table service and it is not for a leisurely or romantic meal, but the food is usually good and much cheaper than a restaurant for a hot meal.  If you are walking around the centre there is one off Campo dei Fiori on your way to Piazza Navona, on Via dei Baullari.

4.  Picnic in the parks

 As an alternative to a Rosticceria for lunch (I don’t recommend on skimping on dinner, I recommend treating yourself to a restaurant dinner as often as possible in Italy), any supermarket or local grocery store (Alimentari) will make you up a bread roll with cheese and/or prosciutto/salami.  You can ask at the bread counter for this.  Tell them (or point to) the type of bread you want and that you would like a Panino.  The cheeses and meats are usually on display next to the bread so you can also point if necessary.  They will charge you on the weight of the products that you order.  It is much cheaper than buying them ready made.  Beware though that cheese and meats are the extent of what they will offer (no salad) and usually only one of each before becoming impatient and putting you in the class of annoying foreigner to be ignored.

5.  Don’t eat near a monument

 On the subject of dinner…..walk up to and around monuments, touch and experience them, gaze at them and photograph them but don’t eat near them.  The rent is horrifically expensive in any place that is historically or artistically famous causing restauranters to recuperate their costs through their prices, in addition to economising on wait staff and food quality.  They also generally don’t need to attract customers with their food as they have a steady supply of daily tourists such as you.  Eat in quiet back alleys, pedestrian lanes, or main streets that have no sights to offer but the menu.

Next five, next fortnight.