The first lesson in Italian cuisine is that it's plural. “If someone asks me a Roman ingredient, I say ‘pecorino cheese,’ but if they mention Naples or Campagna, I can talk about basil or mozzarella,” explains Francesco Apreda, chef at the starred restaurant Imàgo. In Rome, however, where all these worlds come together, se mangia come un lupo, meaning “you eat like a wolf,” no matter which option you choose.
It's difficult to determine which is the oldest restaurant in Rome. Various establishments claim the title. With records dating from 1518, however, La Campana is proud to celebrate its 500th anniversary this year. There, you can try dishes like carciofi alla giudia (fried artichoke) or pears in wine, which recall the roots of the Roman tradition.
La Campana - Vicolo della Campana, 18
Of the many Italian pasta recipes, two are normally attributed to Rome: spaghetti carbonara and fettuccine alfredo. The former is the house specialty at La Carbonara, in Campo dei Fiori – but you can find versions like the one at Al Moro, made with parmesan instead of pecorino and pancetta instead of guanciale. Meanwhile, alfredo is named as such because of the original recipe created by Alfredo Di Lelio, maintained to this day at the famed Il Vero Alfredo. For dessert, try any of the 54 flavors of gelato at Giolitti, an establishment that's over 100 years old. Delicious!
La Carbonara – Piazza Campo de' Fiori, 23
Trattoria al Moro – Vicolo delle Bollette, 13
Il Vero Alfredo – Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 30
Giolitti Roma – Via Uffici del Vicario, 40
But Rome can't be all about tradition. At Aroma, a starred restaurant with a view of the Colosseum, the Mediterranean influence comes through in such dishes as the sea bass with herbs. Meanwhile, Imàgo takes inspiration from the travels of chef Apreda, bringing West and East closer together. In 2017, the space, at the top of Hotel Hassler, celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a menu of the past decade's highlights, like the can't-miss Double Umami, hot parmesan cappelletti with cold tuna sauce.
Aroma – Via Labicana, 125
Imàgo – Piazza Trinità dei Monti, 6
Almost omnipresent on the menus, cheeses and pasta are also bought individually: at LABottega, the pasta is made fresh with ingredients from local producers, without industrial additives. For cheese, stop by Beppe Giovale in the Mercato Centrale, where the traditional pecorino romano can be found alongside other varieties such as erborinato di capra and parmigiano reggiano.
LABottega – Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 48
Mercato Centrale Roma – Via Giovanni Giolitti, 36
Take advantage of your stay in the city to try the several types of tiramisù served there. Two examples are the classic recipe found at the Capitoline Museums café (which also has an impressive view from its terrace), and the versions with pistachio or berries at ZUM, located at Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo. Another of Rome’s delicious secrets are the truffles: whether in olive oil or in natura, you can find them at many restaurants. At the popular Osteria Barberini, they have a special menu, with dishes like risotto carnaroli al tartufo nero or filetto di manzo al tartufo nero e porcini.
Osteria Barberini – Via della Purificazione, 21
ZUM – Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo, 20