Rome, the city where all roads lead, a centre of culture and architecture and everything else. Everyone visits this historic city at least once in their life and comes back home with lots of Italian souvenirs.
And after a busy day of seeing Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum and visiting the infamous Colosseum, you’d be tired enough and hungry enough to want to eat every good thing in Rome!
So there’s the all-important question of exactly what to eat in Rome, Italy? This is what my friends and I found out to be the top traditional Roman foods to try on our trips to Rome!
1. Grigliata Mista Di Carne
For meat lovers, a trip through Rome cannot be complete without eating some Grigliata Mista Di Carne, a mixed grill of salsiccia (sausage), manzo (beef), maiale (pork) and pollo (chicken).
That’s why I had on a visit to Rome while my sis dug into her Tagliolini Ai Frutti Di Mare, a rich seafood platter.
The Mistas di Carne however, is a perfect melange of different meats, which is good for individuals like me who don’t want to choose between the grigliata pollo (grilled chicken), grigliata agnello (grilled lamb), griliata di maiale (grilled pork).
Popular at Italian cookouts, the Grigliata Mistas di Carne can include any number of meats that are simply seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nothing overly spicy. Sometimes a few more spices such as pepper, oregano, or rosemary may make their way into the seasoning individually, but most often not.
The meats are grilled on hot charcoals and can also be cut into smaller pieces and skewered onto speidini which is the Italian word for skewers. When the meats reach a beautiful golden brown color on both sides, they’re ready to serve.
We didn’t go to a cookout; but enjoyed the simplicity of the Grigliata Mistas di Carne at the Goose restaurant in Rome, an old restaurant that is very popular with the locals because of its authentic Italian dishes.
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Who can talk about Rome without thinking of gelato? It’s like thinking of Paris and not seeing croissants when you close your eyes.
I mean the Italians really know their way around food, but I must admit that nothing compares to a refreshing dessert when taking a short break from the incredible sightseeing you can do only in Rome.
A lesser-known fact is that gelato as we know it was introduced in Paris first, and then it gained popularity throughout all of Europe.
The creator, an Italian chef, got plenty of advantages due to this, one being the French citizenship, and another one being that he had a monopoly over the production of this delight in the whole French kingdom.
While in Southern Italy you will encounter more sorbetto, which is a more watery and light (and also has Persian roots), in Rome we’ll mostly find the savory gelato with plenty of cream or milk. The creamy texture is really something you won’t find in any icecream in the world.
What I love the most about gelato is that in Rome it’s produced mostly in artisan shops, thus supporting small, local businesses, and the mass-produced one is not so well looked after. In its heart, gelato is still a simple dessert for simple people, that’s why it’s so loved by everyone.
By Cristina from Honest Travel Stories
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One of the best things to eat in Rome, especially for all who love sweets is Tiramisu. The best we had was in the Ristorante Pizzeria i Fratelli in St. Lorenzo, which is actually one of the coolest areas to stay in Rome. Ristorante Pizzeria I Fratelli – San Lorenzo.
Actually, a traditional Tiramisu is a dessert from the Italian region of Veneto, which was known far beyond its place of origin. This wonderful sweet dish consists of alternating layers of ladyfingers and a cream of mascarpone, egg yolk and sugar.
The ladyfingers are drizzled with cold espresso, sometimes it will be flavored with alcohol like Marsala or Amaretto, or alternatively with brandy or another alcoholic beverage. The dessert is layered and then must be chilled, best overnight, so that it solidifies. Before serving, the final layer of cream is dusted with plenty of cocoa powder.
When we had been to Rome, we had our Tiramisu wish extra fresh strawberries and with some chocolate on the top. And of course, we had an espresso to round up our fantastic desert.
By Martina from PlacesofJuma
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4. Trippa Alla Romana
Tripe may not be to everyones taste but it is as essential to cucina romana as pasta, pizza or gelato.
Romans have even given its own affectionate nickname – ‘quinto quarto’ or the fifth quarter. This in reference to the fact that these undesirable cuts comprise a quarter of the weight of a butchered animal but are considered much less valuable.
As a consequence of this low cost tripe has historically been connected to frugality and therefore the poor who made the most of what they had on hand.
In Rome quinto quarto dishes are also connected with the Testaccio area – Rome’s former meatpacking and slaughter district.
Whilst tripe dishes can be found across Italy in Rome they have a uniqueness and depth not found elsewhere. Two of the cities most beloved dishes are Trippa alla Romana and Pajata.
Trippa alla Romana is made using thin strips of tripe slowly cooked with tomatoes and onions spiced with the classic roman ingredients of mint, ball pepper and salty pecorino romano.
Our own favourite though has to be Pajata. This is calf intestine with partially digested mother’s milk still inside also cooked with tomatoes but this time with added nutmeg.
I fully understand why this may not sound appealing but as full time travellers we hold the old adage of ‘When in Rome…’ close to our hearts. Where better to follow this than in Rome itself?
By Paul from The Two That Do
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5. Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
If pasta is an iconic Italian food, then Spaghetti alla Carbonara is definitely one of the most authentic Roman dishes.
Since the “carbonari” are charcoal burners or coal miners, some believe that this dish was prepared for charcoal workers.
However, its fame is tied to the US military rations that were distributed at the end of World War II, which provided eggs and bacon to the locals. In turn, local chefs used these ingredients to cook for the American soldiers: pasta carbonara became a favourite.
The name “carbonara” was first used in 1950, but similar recipes combining lard, eggs and cheese are documented since the 1800s.
Throughout the years, ingredients such as cream, garlic, spices, and different types of cheese and pork meat were added and removed, before arriving to the current, simple and delicious recipe.
Long pasta is preferred, with spaghetti as the first choice. Without being specific, the dressing includes just eggs, grated hard cheese, cubes of cured pork, and black pepper.
But, to be precise, traditional Roman restaurants will use “Pecorino Romano” cheese and pork jowl “guanciale” meat.
Both these ingredients provide a stronger flavour than their easy-to-find correspondents, Parmesan and pancetta or bacon. Especially lovely was the Spaghetti alla Carbonara at restaurant “Le mani in pasta” in Rome.
Ever since I was little, supplì were always present in my events, side by side to Mexican treats. These Italian delicacies were passed down from my Italian great-grandmother to my Mexican mom.
They’re supposed to be made of meat-based risotto, but since my great-grandmother needed to adapt to what was available in Mexico, they were made instead with Mexican white rice, ham, and cheese.
The word comes from the Italianization of the French word for surprise. According to legend, French soldiers would call this snack, surprisa as it would only reveal its true self after the first bite.
The traditional recipe called for rice cooked in ragù of chicken giblets as Italians are prone to saving food and using every part of the animal.
Today, supplì are made with rice cooked with meat ragù, soaked in egg, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried. The surprise is melted mozzarella cheese on the inside!
It was the original Roman street food, sold by vendors in plazas. Today, you can find them in most pizzerias and some restaurants.
Supplì are similar to arancini, but not to be confused with them. Arancini have multiple fillings and are rounder or cone-shaped, while supplì have to be made with rice cooked in ragù, with mozzarella inside, and have a more cylindrical shape.
Although today, you can find supplì made of cacio e pepe and carbonara, not just red rice and mozzarella.
Don’t forget to try these Roman food staples, and eat with your hands. Italians eat very few foods with their fingers, supplì is one of them!
By Lorenza from When I Roam
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7. Cacio E Pepe
While many people don’t think of macaroni and cheese as a traditional Italian dish, it is one of the original recipes from Rome.
Cacio e pepe (or cheese and pepper) is a simple but elegant dish. It’s one Italian dish that dates all the way back to the Roman Empire.
The Roman shepherds considered this the perfect meal because dried pasta, aged pecorino, and black peppers were easy to carry and hard to spoil. This delicious and simple spaghetti and cheese recipe is one that never goes out of style.
There is no butter, cream, or oil in the recipe – the secret is good quality Pecorino Romano and a few spoonfuls of the pasta water make for a thick, creamy and delicious cheese sauce.
Pair it with an Italian Pinot Grigio for an elegant meal. Making this dish at home instantly transports me back to Rome without leaving my kitchen.
By Pam from Directionally Challenged Traveler
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If you’re visiting Rome, Porchetta is one dish you must try in the city of Rome. It is a whole wood fired suckling pig.
The pig is usually deboned and seasoned with rosemary before it is cooked in the oven for five to eight hours. Traditionally, the pig is cooked in a special wooden oven as the fired wood adds a unique flavor of its own.
The traditional Porchetta craftsmen make sure to select a one-year old pig that weighs a maximum of one quintal. This is why the Porchetta from these traditional craftsmen is a brand itself all around the country.
Porchetta is believed to have originated from a small town called Ariccia in the Castelli Romani Region. The town is about a 30-minute train ride from Rome.
Due to this, you will find ‘Porchetta di Ariccia’ at various restaurants all over the city. I recommend ‘Barretta Pesce e Porchetta’ for a delicious Porchetta Panini.
Local Romans though prefer to get their Porchetta straight from Ariccia. Many drive to the town for a delicious dinner at one of the typical Fraschette in Ariccia.
These Fraschette serve some of the best Porchetta with the typical wine of the region. The pasta and other starters from Ariccia are also absolutely delicious and totally worth the effort.
If you’re short on time though, you can learn about the porchetta and other meats on a local street food tour.
By Merryl from Merryl’s Travel and Tricks
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9. Pizza Bianca and Pizza Rossa
Pizza bianca and pizza rossa (respectively “white pizza and red pizza”) are two of the things you’ll always be able to find at any bakery or “pizza al taglio” shops in Rome and Lazio.
Even if the locals call them “pizza”, these can be regarded as one type of Italian bread. These types of bread are seasoned simply, one has got olive oil and salt on top, while the other has olive oil and tomato sauce.
For the lovers of spicy things, the pizza rossa often comes in a version with a layer of crushed parsley and chili pepper seeds on top.
The locals like to eat them at any hour of the day, especially as a snack in between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner. They are sold by weight, so once you are in front of the bread counter, you should ask for “a piece of pizza rossa or pizza bianca” and then point out to the clerk how big or small you’d like it.
The pizza bianca can easily be cut open and filled with delicious ingredients like cheese, ham, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, pesto, grilled veggies, and in this way it functions as a meal.
These are some of the most popular foods in Rome, they are cheap but very yummy and you just can’t skip them on your trip to Rome!
By Annalisa from Travel Connect Experience
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10. Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa
Pasta “Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa” or “Orecchiette con Broccoletti” can be found in the culinary tradition of many regions in southern Italy. As is so often the case in Italy, this dish also differs from place to place.
Orecchiette is a traditional Puglian pasta. If you have been to the capital of the Bari region, then you must have walked along Orecchiette Street where ladies make kilograms of this pasta for sale.
And what about the add-ons? In Tuscany, they are called rapini, in Rome broccoletti, in Naples friarielli and in Puglia – Cime di Rapa.
We are talking about turnip greens or its closely related broccoli rabe. The name changes depending on the region, especially according to which part of the plant is used.
The term “broccoletti” is used to refer to the sweet-tasting flowers or green broccoli and “cime di rapa” to the slightly bitter-tasting leaves or turnip greens.
Some chefs prefer green broccoli, others prefer the tender leaves of turnips. Near the coast, the dish is served with “acciughe” (anchovies).
The further inland and the higher you get to the mountain regions, the less fish is used in the recipes. In return, the amount of “peperoncini” (chilli) used increases.
Luckily, in Rome you can find all kinds of pasta recipes come to life. However, I recommend trying the original Puglian version with turnip greens as it’s practically impossible to find outside of Italy.
By Inna from Executive Thrillseeker
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The last time I visited Rome with my sis, we got 5 of these tasty Italian dishes off our must-have list. So we’ve just got another 5 foods to try in Rome on our next trip. What about you? How many of the popular Roman foods have you eaten? And which will you try next? Comment and let us know!
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I’m an East Indian foodie and travel blogger from Bombay, India. I’ve travelled across parts of Europe and Asia, and love writing about my experiences with people and cultures. And naturally, I love food, wine, and travel, and have an endless bucket list of places to go to, and experiences I must blog about.
I also love baking and experimenting with food, with a little help from my family. If you must know, my favorite things are nice rainy days, the smell of cakes in the oven, playing in the snow, glasses of wine, and dark chocolate.
More info about me here!