Osteria Fernanda, the Best Restaurant in Trastevere

Osteria Fernanda restaurant in Rome

If you saw a dish like this one (the colors! the presentation!) while dining in Rome, you might assume it comes from one of Rome's Best Restaurants—you know, the places where "Best Restaurant" comes in caps, like La Pergola or Il Pagliaccio. At the very least, you might assume a meal at said restaurant would set you back a pretty penny. 

You'd be even more convinced of this after taking a bite. Super-fresh, perfectly roasted octopus on a black bean sauce, adorned with a slice of celery gelatin (yes, really). And that's just the antipasto.

But despite the creative dishes and the high-quality ingredients, this is no La Pergola. It's Osteria Fernanda, a restaurant in Trastevere. Perhaps the best restaurant in Trastevere. And the price is a fraction of what you'd spend at Fernanda's Michelin-starred neighbors.

Da Fernanda in Trastevere, Rome

Located near Porta Portese (would you look at that… you can get there on the #3 bus!), Osteria Fernanda is a small but elegant space, contemporary with just the right "old Rome" touches (brick archways, wooden floors). If you can, reserve a table upstairs (shown above)—the tables downstairs are a little close together.

From the start, the service was impeccable. I was there with a visiting Scottish friend and her mother, and speaking with them in English; we were the only English-speakers in the place. But we were treated with the same courtesy and respect as the tables of Italians around us. (After more experiences than I can count, especially in Rome's centro storico, where the polar opposite is true, it's admittedly sad that this is worth mentioning). The owner, who took our orders, was polite, helpful, and, yes, spoke English. 

But the food is where things really got going. First came a delicious amusebouche, one of those little complimentary "extras" that are rare at any but the most expensive Rome restaurants. The antipasti were perfect: the octopus (above) was delicious, although the second antipasto we ordered, an "escalope of foie gras, Szechuan pepper gelato, lemon puree and crushed nuts," blew my mind (below). Hot and cold, melt-in-your-mouth soft and crunchy, meaty and citrusy—everything was there. And it all worked. 

Osteria Fernanda, Rome restaurant in Trastevere

After setting such a high bar, the primi could have been letdowns. They weren't. Although out of the three dishes were ordered—mine, acqua e farine pasta filled with Roman artichokes on cuttlefish-ink and bottarga, was creative but good—the most traditional was actually, in my opinion, the best. Yep: bucatini all'amatriciana. 

It just might be the best amatriciana I've had in Rome. Ever.  

The best amatriciana in Rome

Too full for the delicious-looking secondi (next time, I'm going for the beef cheek with artichoke gelatin, Jerusalem artichoke sauce and licorice), we went right for the desserts. Big surprise: They were fantastic, too. And the presentation was lovely.

Dessert at Osteria Fernanda in Rome

Even though the prices were listed on the menu (our octopus starter was €15, the amatriciana was €14), the bill could have been almost anything. Would they charge us for the amusebouche? Assume we were all tourists and take advantage by adding a 15% servizio or an exaggerated pane e coperto charge? And how much were the bottles of wine that the owner had recommended, and that we hadn't double-checked the price on?

For two antipasti, three secondi, two dolci, two bottles of wine, bread, and water, the price came out to about €110. Or a little under €40 a head. The wines had been under €15, and, yes, the amusebouches were complimentary. Cheap? No. Incredible value? Yes. (There also are two tasting menus, one 4-course taster for €33 each and one 5-course taster for €38).

I will be back.

And Osteria Fernanda? I'm sure foodie fame is coming your way. And more tourists, too. Just please, please, don't change. Okay?

Osteria Fernanda. Via Ettore Rolli 1. +39 065894333.

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11 comments

  1. Oh this looks so cute and the food looks great! I’ve been looking for a nice but moderately-priced restaurant in Trastevere to take a friend out for dinner one night in June while I’m in Rome… this is perfect!! Your blog never fails to deliver! Thank you!

  2. We also spent about E40 a head, but drank a bit more and ate a bit less. Again, the food and service were impeccable. Complimenti for the fun read and the lovely photos!

  3. Osteria Fernanda and Gelato I Caruso delivered 2 of the most memorable experiences from our 7-day, first-ever Rome trip. Thanks for your work. I only wish we’d found your blog on day 1 of our trip.

  4. PS I gave a hat tip to you on my Twitter feed. We owe you for the recommendations. The owner at Osteria Fernanda explained much of the Italian-only menu to us in English tonight. (My husband’s Italian is nonexistent; mine is based on singing 18th and 19th century opera, not exactly up to date for menus.)

  5. Hello, I love your blog! I am going to Rome this weekend with my family and I have printed your recommandations. I have a big problem though. I have been surfing the net trying to find any good places to eat in the area of our hotel (which I understand is not that great, and is reaaaaaaly far from Rome center) in the Giardinetti quarter (http://www.capitalinn.it/dovesiamo.aspx)
    Can you please give me some tips, if you know this area?
    Thank you so much!

  6. Hi Diana,
    Thank you for your kind words! And I’m happy to help.

    It’s not right at your hotel, but one place not to miss if you’re in the Cinecitta area (which isn’t far from you, and would be on the way if you’re planning on exploring the Via Appia or the Catacombs) is Sforno, one of the best pizzerias in the city: http://www.sforno.it/.

    Other than that, this isn’t a very restaurant-heavy area. After doing a little research online myself, the best places looked like Il Punto at Via gasperina 151, or Ristorante L’Ostrica at Via Tuscolana 2086, but neither of these are really within walking distance of your hotel.

    What are your transportation options? Remember that Romans generally dine at 8:30 or 9pm. So if you’re relying on public transport, I might recommend, if you don’t want to stay in the city center all day, coming back to your hotel to relax between 7 and 8 and then taking the tram or metro to a neighborhood like Testaccio or San Lorenzo to eat.

    I hope that helps!

  7. Thank you so much! I am writing everything down 🙂
    The problem is that my parents got an organized trip through an agency (O.o) So we don’t really know what’s going to happen in the evening when we finish sightseeing in the city centre, if we will take the tourbus to the hotel, or they will let us go back by public transport. I was thinking that if they want to go back to the hotel by bus, before 8:00 PM, we will have trouble finding food (or anything to do) in that area, so that is an issue. The problem is that otherwise we have to go by metro like 15 stations to Anagnina station, and then another 5 stations by bus 🙁 , that is if we decide to stay till later in the city centre and the agency leaves us there :))
    By the way: how’s the weather down there? It sais on the internet it’s quite chilly and rainy next week.

  8. Hi Amanda, your blog is excellent – it has been so helpful planning our trip to Italy in June. Do you know if Osteria Fernanda is open on Sundays? Most likely we’ll have to decide between having dinner here or at L’Asino D’Oro on Saturday night – do you have an opinion or comparison between the two? Grazie!

  9. Mary Jane-
    Unfortunately, both Osteria Fernanda and L’Asino d’Oro are closed Sundays. So yes, if you only have the weekend in Rome, you’ll have to choose! Frankly you can’t go wrong with either one; the food at both is excellent. Ambience-wise, I prefer Osteria Fernanda, but location-wise, if you’re staying in the center, L’Asino d’Oro is more accessible. I hope that helps… either way, enjoy!

    Diana-
    Hmm, that does make it trickier! I would imagine you should have the freedom to take public transport or do whatever you like after the touring finishes during the day. I’d also imagine that they’re aware of the fact that it’s a bit of a food desert out where you’re staying, so I certainly hope that they allow you the flexibility to eat in the center on your own! Anyway, let me know how it all works out. The weather here is lovely, by the way, but already quite warm. Bring layers!

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