Arriving in Rome you instantly find yourself greeted with endless possibilities and choices. Whether you are looking for a delicious Italian pasta dish, pizza, caffe, or gelato, everywhere you look there are signs on restaurants and shouting waiters claiming to offer “THE BEST” of all of these. Conveniently, the signs are often written in English, and aside from offering the best pizza, pasta, or gelato, frequently claim to offer the freshest ingredients.
Step one: when you find one of these places, keep walking. Ignore the shouting waiters and enticing food on display. For new or even slightly experienced travelers it is so easy to get lured in. The food, although generally visually appealing, is usually horrible tasting, terribly far from fresh, and obscenely overpriced.
One of my only regrets from my time abroad comes when I think back on all of the money I wasted on horrible pizza, gelato, coffee, you name it, in the first couple of weeks. To help some of the girls heading to Rome after me avoid similar problems I compiled my own little guide to the city. I have since passed it on to coworkers, classmates, and friends as they prepared to travel to the Eternal City and after receiving great responses from all who followed even one of the suggestions, I decided to share it with the masses.
Dining Roman Style
Baccanale – One of the best places for a really good panino at an even better price. Just 3 euro will buy you a massive sandwich, which is unbeatable. My favorite was the mozzarella e pomodoro, but I heard great things about all of the others. It’s located right in Campo de Fiori making it easy to find. There is an actual sit down restaurant called Baccanale, but if you go around the corner there’s a little window in the wall where you can order your panino to go.
Via dei Baullari, 25 00186 Rome, Italy
RossoPomodoro – This restaurant also offers both a To-Go window and sit down option. At the To-Go window they have really good pre-made pizzas for 2 euro. These are undoubtedly some of the best fast food style slices you can find in the city. The food inside is also great. My friends and I stumbled in the door one night thinking we had discovered this super chic hidden gem of a restaurant. We later found out it’s actually a huge chain in Italy … like their version of Olive Garden. Not as chic as we thought, but a stellar find nonetheless. Their heaping plates of pasta and delicious veggie loaded salads make up for it!
Largo di Torre Argentina, 1, 00186 Rome, Italy
Miscellanea – Conveniently located right next to the Pantheon, this little gem is without a doubt one of the best. The Pasta Carbonara is absolutely to die for. I still long for it! Formerly known as Mickey’s, Miscellanea has been a study abroad student hangout for years, so they love Americans. Often you will find the waiters happily popping open a bottle of “sexy wine” a.k.a. strawberry wine for you without you even asking. If you’re a student, or appear to be one, it is frequently on the house, but sometimes it’s not so don’t take it too easily, especially if you don’t have the money to pay for it!
Via Della Palombella, 34/35 (Pantheon), Rome, Italy
Caffe Sant’Eustachio – This is a little hard to find, but a great place to go to buy souvenirs for people and the cappuccino is superb. Conde Nast Traveller considers one of the best places for cappuccino in Rome so it’s legit. If you’re a big fan of chocolate, you may want to give their hot chocolate a try. It is by far the most intense thing I’ve ever tasted. Imagine the richest chocolate bar you have ever tasted, melted down, and poured into a cup. I’ve met very few sweets I didn’t love, and I couldn’t even finish my small cup. It was so bad and so good at the same time … I’m still not sure if I recommend it, but the caffe I would recommend without a moment’s hesitation.
Piazza di Sant’Eustachio, 82, 00186 Rome, Italy
Pascucci – I could go on for days about Pascucci. When you eat at a place nearly every day for three months, becoming a regular, it becomes like a little home away from home and the workers like a family. There is a younger guy who works there named Patrizio and he makes the best cappuccino on earth. He uses the same products as everyone else who works there, but he has the process perfected down to an art. I don’t know what it is, maybe they are just made with a little extra love. While sipping on a cappuccino the perfect complement is the frutti di bosco cornetto. Fresh out of the oven they taste like a little piece of heaven.
Via di Torre Argentina, 20, 00186 Rome, Italy
Frigidarium – Frigidarium has some absolutely amazing flavors of gelato (biscotti, amaretto, and stracciatella take the cake), and the best part is, for no cost they’ll dunk your cup or cone of gelato in chocolate shell. ABSOLUTELY TO DIE FOR. I can hardly handle even writing about it. It was a sin to not get Frigidarium every single evening I was in Rome.
Via del Governo Vecchio, 112, 00186 Rome, Italy
Old Bridge – Old Bridge is fantastic because the gelato is delicious and they heap massive scoops of it onto the cones. It is then topped off with fluffy whipped cream – and all for only 2 euro! Unbeatable. The only drawback is that it’s a little bit of a hike to get there … which I guess could be good for working off the gelato. To get there you have to essentially walk to the Vatican, through St. Peter’s square and it’s probably 3 minutes from there. On this one asking for directions is almost unavoidable, but well worth it.
5 Viale dei Bastioni di Michelangelo, Rome, Italy
Della Palma – If you want a huge variety and lots of exotic flavors this is the place to be. There are coolers the length of entire walls which seemingly house hundreds of flavors with just about everything you can imagine. It’s very near the Pantheon and therefore caters to the tourist crowds so it can be a smidge pricier, but it is well worth the cost for a unique gelato experience. If you’ve ever wanted Dark Chocolate Cayenne gelato, look no further.
Via della Maddalena, 20, Rome 00186
Giolitti – I have to admit, much to the disgust of many of my friends, Giolitti was not my favorite at first. Eventually it grew on me, but personally I still like other places better. For many of the Rome girls however, this gelateria was heaven on earth so I think I would be disowned if I didn’t include it. It’s a historical gelateria in Rome with a variety of pastries, tartes, and chocolates available as well, so I do recommend giving it a whirl!
Via Uffici del Vicario 40, 00186 Rome, Italy
This may seem like an odd thing to include in a place where browsing outdoor markets is expected. I learned quickly and the hard way that the little fruit vendor carts, while perfectly adorable, are also tourist traps with prices that are through the roof. There are some great options in the Campo di Fiori markets, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to peruse the items in a foreign supermarket and see what you can pull together for a quick snack or easy meal.
Despar – Throughout Rome you will see signs with a little Christmas tree like emblem on them, which is the symbol for the Despar grocery chain. This seemed to be the most common grocery in the city and would be the one most comparable to an American supermarket. From little granola cookies, to yogurt, to fresh produce, they have nearly everything you could ask for and the prices are really reasonable.
Whether you are experiencing Rome for a day or moving there indefinitely, if even one of these recommendations helps you enjoy the experience more or save a bit of money I will consider this little guide a success!