Eating Out in Rome: Must-Try Traditional Roman Dishes

Adam Jones | 26/11/2018
Saltimbocca alla Romana - traditional roman food.
Saltimbocca alla Romana

Eating out in Rome can romantic, special, and one of the best meals of your life. It might sometimes also be a bit bewildering. With a vast array of dishes and traditions, sometimes it’s hard to know what to request to get some of the best of Roman cuisine.

We’ll help you know what to eat in Rome by covering some famous Roman dishes that will be of a high standard throughout the city since they’re something the locals frequently eat.

Salad

Salad might not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to food to eat in Rome.  With the variety of heavy dishes, you’re likely to sample it’s good to have at least one salad in your pocket. 

The puntarelle (chicory sprouts) is a classic salad from the Roman area. You’ll usually find the chicory sprouts dressed with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and anchovies. It’s crispy & bitter with a decadent bit of underlying richness. A favorite across Rome.  

Pasta

When it comes to traditional Roman food pasta is, of course, something that immediately jumps to mind. A lot of pasta dishes eaten outside of Italy have shifted to meet the tastes and available ingredients of other countries. For a visiting to Rome, we’ll want to sample some pasta dishes that are quintessentially Roman.

Cacio e pepe 

There is no dish more Roman than cacio e pepe which simply translates to “cheese and pepper” in several dialects of Italian. The simplicity of the dish itself can make it deceptively difficult to master. The list of ingredients is short — black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pasta. During preparation, some of the cooking water is left over. The heat assists in melting the cheese and the starch in the water itself helps tie the pepper and cheese to the pasta. Usually prepared with long thin spaghetti, this is the most must-try dish during any visit to the Eternal City.

Pasta alla Gricia

Invented by poor shepherds working in the fields all day, pasta alla gricia is a decadent blend of crispy guanciale, pecorino cheese, and a tad of strutto. These come together to make a creamy decadent bowl of pasta that will have you coming back for more. Probably the least famous of Rome’s most delicious plates of pasta.

Mains

If you want to eat like an Emperor, you may want to sample saltimbocca alla Romana — a veal dish that is one of the most famous in Roman cuisine. The dish consists of thinly sliced veal interspersed with prosciutto crudo and sage. Butter and black pepper round out the dish making it an amazing main to sample for an evening meal. 

Does that not sound heavy enough for you? If you’re visiting Rome on a cold winter night you might try coda alla vaccinara. This is a dish of oxtail braised in a stew with celery, carrots, and a variety of fine smelling herbs. Get ready for a hearty meal that is sure to satisfy a hungry belly after long walks around Rome.

Dessert

Now, what’s for dessert? Why grattachecca of course. After you’re walking off dinner you might want to cool off with this classic Roman street food. Thin slices of ice are shaved from a block and flavored with fruit juices, syrup, or even pieces of fresh fruit.

A feast for all five senses

Now you know what to look for during your Roman adventure. Keep an eye out for small, local trattorias — often modest and off the beaten path, they can offer some of the best food in Rome Italy.