Eating your way through history: Rome’s oldest restaurants

Adam Jones | 26/11/2018
Where to eat in Rome. Restaurants in Rome
Restaurant in Rome

There are few cities in the world with a culinary history that spans not only vast amounts of distance but also vast amounts of time. One such city is Rome. Roman food has existed for millennia and some Rome restaurants have themselves existed for centuries. 

So where to eat in Rome to get a taste of culinary history? We’ve found for you some Roman trattorias that have best around for ages and remain some of the best places to eat in Rome.

La Matriciana

This restaurant has been warming the bellies of Romans since 1870. The lore of this restaurant is that a woman from Amatrice moved to Rome and started cooking a dish that was bucatini in the style of Amatrice — bucatini all’amatriciana. The restaurant’s location the Teatro dell’Opera helped pave the way for its success. This dish ended up being renamed the five Ps for pasta, pancetta (bacon), pomodoro (tomato), pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) and peperoncino (chilli). 

The bucatini remains on the menu all these years later, but you can also sample a wide variety of other dishes with seafood being a particular speciality. The restaurant retains an old world charm thanks to its marble floors and imposing chandeliers. Via del Viminale 44; 06 488 1775.

Spirito Divino

Interested in Ancient Roman food? Spirito Divino’s wine cellar has existed since the days that Julius Caesar was Emperor of Rome. Eliana Catalani is the head chef bringing Roman tradition together with a modern sensibility. Everything at the restaurant is homemade and the eggs, meat, and cheese all come from farmers who are part of the slow food movement. Dishes range from wild boar from Tuscany cooked in salmi to meals with truly ancient roots — such as the lean Pork Mazio style with apple puree and celeriac, which is based on recipes used by ancient Romans. Via dei Genovesi 31 a/b; 06 589 6689

Checcino dal 1187

Eating out in Rome doesn’t have to be complicated — why not try a nice family run restaurant? In this case, the restaurant has remained in the family for more than 130 years. The Mariani family still presides over the oldest continuously running family-owned restaurant in Rome. Checcino Dal 1187 has been serving delicious dishes throughout a time of incredible evolution in Italian cuisine. Have a Roman classic like cacio e pepe or if you’re feeling more daring try the delicious but no frills trippa alla romana (tripe in tomato sauce). Via di Monte Testaccio, 30; 06 574 3816

La Campana

Not many restaurants can celebrate one centennial let alone multiple ones, but this restaurant celebrates its 500th year in operation this year. La Campana is the oldest restaurant in Rome. Today it has a reputation for delicious home-style dishes. Celebrity fans of the restaurant range from Caravaggio to Goethe, who even wrote about the Osteria Campana in one of his famous lyric poems. Go for the artichokes on the menu if they’re in season or perhaps the puntarella con acciughe. For dessert try the apple torta — word has it their recipe is hundreds of years old. Vicolo della Campana (between Via della Scrofa and Piazza Nicosia);  06 687 5273.