Wondering where to eat near the Vatican... especially when you need something fast? Don't flop down at one of the osterie you see just outside the Vatican walls—I don't care how pushy nice the host trying to lure you inside seems to be. And don't (please, don't!) go to the Subway that's opened up in the area.
Look: There are tons of terrible food options in this touristy area. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to avoid them.
As always, here's help.
Here are the five best spots to have lunch on the go—in the shadow of St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums. (All are within a 10-minute walk of one sight or the other, if not both).
If a steady diet of pasta and pizza has left you craving a soup, salad, sandwich, or smoothie, then head to this hole-in-the-wall around the corner from the Vatican museums. Grab a quinoa or a pasta salad (€5-€5.50), or have a sandwich or salad made fresh from the long list of ingredients to choose from, including lots of vegetarian-friendly options. No matter how many ingredients, sandwiches are €4 and salads are €5, making this one of the best deals in town. (P.S.: My love for Fa-Bio and its super-fresh, organic ingredients runs so deep, I've even put them in the Fodor's Rome 2012 edition, on sale from September!).
Via Germanico 43, a 6-minute walk from the Vatican museums entrance/exit and a 10-minute walk from St. Peter's Basilica.
Although Duecento Gradi has gotten pretty popular since its opening right at Piazza Risorgimento, the prices—starting at €4.50 for a huge panino—remain fair, and the ingredients pretty good. Make your own panino from a long list of toppings including fontina cheese, artichoke sauce, spicy salami, and more, or pick from the list of suggested creations. Salads are available, too, and for everything, you can either grab a table, eat at the counter, or take it to go.
Piazza del Risorgimento 3, a 5-minute walk from the Vatican museums entrance/exit or from St. Peter's Basilica.
The best pizza you can eat near the Vatican, hands down, is served up at famed pizza chef Gabriele Bonci's Pizzarium. Located right at the Cipro metro station, this foodie haven is renowned for its perfectly chewy dough (thicker than the classic, thin-crust Roman pizzas), high-quality ingredients, and creative concoctions. Can't choose between the classic buffalo mozzarella and tomato, or something like the taleggio with zucchini and sesame? Have both: You always tell the guy behind the counter how much you want and you're charged by weight, so you can try a bit of everything.
Via della Meloria 43, a 7-minute walk from the Vatican museums entrance/exit and a 15-minute walk from St. Peter's Basilica.
Since its 1925 opening, this market has been a Prati institution. As well as meats, cheeses, oils, and other Italian delicacies you'll be tempted to buy up and bring back home, Franchi has a number of good tavola calda options—suppli and arancini, fried baccala, porchetta, even roast chicken or lasagna. Eat at the counter, or take your goodies to go. This is a popular place, so don't be afraid to be aggressive firm to get your order taken over the crowded lunch hour.
Via Cola di Rienzo 24, a 12-minute walk from the Vatican museums entrance/exit and a 9-minute walk from St. Peter's Basilica.
Located a 5-minute walk from the entrance/exit of the Vatican museums, Mercato Trionfale is the main market for the Prati neighborhood and, with some 275 vendors, one of the biggest markets in Italy. Vendors sell it all: fresh fruit and produce, cured meats, cheeses, breads... Grab a few items to make your own picnic to go (mozzarella di bufala? prosciutto? melone?), or have one of the sellers put a panino together for you (porchetta, perhaps?). Forget spending €12 for a small buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto antipasto at one of the area's rip-off restaurants; here, that much money will get you the same food, and more.
Just remember that the market is open until only 2pm on Wed., Thurs., and Sat. (until 7pm on Tues. and Fri.), and is closed Mon. and Sun.
Via Andrea Doria, a 4-minute walk from the Vatican museums entrance/exit and a 14-minute walk from St. Peter's Basilica.
Want more tips about where to eat and what to do? Check out The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon, below, or through my site here!