Five Rules for Finding Rome’s Best Restaurants

How to find the best restaurants in Rome - don't eat here!
It can be tough to simply stumble across great restaurants in Rome, a city that's thick on the ground with mediocre, overpriced dining options. And so, to eat at the very best restaurants in Rome, it's always advisable to have a list of recommendations with you (and to make reservations in advance).

But what if you just want to eat well, avoid Rome's worst dining options, and not spend tons of time researching and booking restaurants? Then just keep these five rules in mind. With these tried-and-true ways to find yummy food, even without a guidebook, who knows… you might even stumble across a trattoria you never would have discovered otherwise!

1. Get away from the uber-tourist centers… or at least be aware that the closest you are to, say, the Colosseum, the harder it'll be for you to find top-notch nosh. There are some nhotable exceptions to this: The local favorite Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, for example, is remarkably close to the Roman forum for having such darn good food. But while the family that runs Taverna has the pride and business acumen to keep their food delicious and their prices moderate, not every restaurant so well-positioned will do the same. Especially watch out for the areas right around the Vatican and the Trevi Fountain, which are veritable food deserts.

2. Run, don't walk, away from that oh-so-friendly host trying to get you to come inside. He seems nice? He speaks English? He's telling you you're beautiful and your husband is a lucky man? That all means one thing: His food's not good enough for people — most notably Italians — to come in on their own.

3. A tourist menu can be okay. Yes, if it's posted on the door as "MENU TURISTICA: 10 Euros for appetizer, pasta, and wine!", you might be in trouble. But if you go inside and are handed an English menu, don't worry. Most restaurants do this these days.

4. Never look for a place to eat at 6pm. Or 7pm. Or anytime before 8. As a general rule of thumb, if it's open that early, it'll be catering to tourists: Italians never eat before 8:30.

5. Trattoria, hosteria, taverna…meh. Any difference there once was between these has pretty much slipped away. Just remember that a birreria is more a place for fried food and beer, and that most good pizzerias aren't open at lunch.

Finally, remember what you're looking out for: That hole-in-the-wall place that doesn't even look like a restaurant on the outside, but when you walk in (remember, at 9pm), it's bustling with Italians. Eat only at gems like these, and you're guaranteed to have some of the best food in Rome.

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4 comments

  1. Hi Amanda,

    Great job on your blog, it is very interesting!

    I am visiting Rome for one day on a cruise. I’ve been to Rome before – otherwise only 1 day in the city would be a sin! Anyhow, we’ve only had a 2 good meals in Rome and one of them was pizza and the other Osteria Da Giovanni I think is only open for dinner.

    Where would you recommend for a nice lunch? We’d like something with outdoor seating and Italian dishes – we want a relaxing lunch between sightseeing.

    Thanks!

  2. Hi Liz,

    Thanks! So glad you find the blog useful.

    One thing: When will you be arriving in Rome? If in August, remember that it’s ferragosto (I’ve written a recent post on what that is here), so many of my favorite local places will be shut. Either way, though, make sure you call the establishment in question to make sure you’re not there on the one day they close!

    In general, you’re going to find that the city’s best restaurants, especially for lunch (not as popular for restaurants here as in the States), are going to be outside the immediate historic center. However, if eating near the sites is very important to you (and with just one day to spend, I bet it is!), one place I always like to recommend is . It’s a family-run restaurant, a stone’s throw from the ancient forum, with consistently good Italian dishes. They’re open for lunch, and they have some outdoor seating, although book in advance if that’s a must-have. One other place I quite like in the center is called Da Francesco, near Piazza Navona. Pretty good Roman food, good prices, and even pizza, rare at lunchtime. Plus, there’s plenty of outdoor seating.

    Hope that helps. Let me know how it goes, and enjoy your stay in Rome!

  3. Hi, We are a family of five, 3 kids 21yrs,18yrs and 13yrs,coming to Rome from Australia for my husbands 50th birthday in July. We will be in Rome on the night of his birthday, we are all foodies,I was hoping to book somewhere special for the occasion (Italian of course) We are staying at the Star hotel Metropole, Via Principe, Amedeo.
    Hoping you can help me. I have loved reading all your stories on this web site. I have printed them all off and now have a very thick “Rome file”
    Thanks for your help
    Regards Lisa

  4. Hi Lisa,
    I’m glad my blog has been helpful for you!

    There’s no better place than Rome for a special birthday dinner. For something super-special (and super-pricy), the word on the street is that La Pergola is the place, and it’s certainly Rome’s most famous and lauded restaurant… I can’t say I’ve been there myself, however (a little tough on a writer’s salary!). But worth checking out.

    Another good option might be the restaurant on the rooftop of Hotel Raphael — expensive, but with good food and great views. (I ate there last year). Filippo La Mantia’s resturant on the rooftop of Hotel Majestic also tends to get top marks from people, although I haven’t tried it myself. I think the terrace restaurant at Hotel Splendide Royal, which has a Michelin star, is also supposed to be quite good.

    What I’m more familiar with is the more moderately-priced places (more in the 30-50 euro per person range), which don’t tend to be on rooftops and have quite such spectacular views, but also have excellent food! For that, I’d say consider Le Mani in Pasta in Trastevere, Trattoria Monti in Monti, or Da Danilo on the Esquilino.

    I hope that helps!

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