It's no secret that we had a passionate love affair with the food in Rome. We could have filled the entire month there just with eating, and we basically did! So, choosing favorites was tough, but I think these 5 are all solid picks. A few caveats... Since we were on a tight budget during our stay, we almost exclusively ate out for lunch and stuck to more affordable places. Therefore, this list doesn't take into account any of the nicer restaurants in Rome that we sadly missed out on. Also, we could easily have given all five of these spots to gelaterias alone, so we will be making a separate list just for our favorite gelato soon.
Alfredo E Ada
As soon as we sat down in the tiny, wood-paneled dining room of this cozy trattoria, we knew it was going to be great. There are only a few tables, and even though they had only opened moments before, they were all already full of hungry Italians. There is no written menu. Instead, the waitress will quickly list the daily offerings, which usually include a few pasta dishes, a few meat dishes, and a soup or two. The servings are generous and most cost between €7 and €10. We tried a tomato pasta, a lasagna, and a lamb, potato, and rosemary stew that was out of this world. We washed everything down with a few glasses of house red wine, which at just €1 per glass was easily the best deal that we found in Rome.
Mordi & Vai
After reading multiple blog posts that mentioned the incredible panini being served up at this popular stall in Testaccio market we figured we had to check it out for ourselves. Sure enough, in an otherwise quiet marketplace, the Mordi & Vai stall was mobbed with people waiting for their sandwiches. These are not your typical prosciutto and cheese panini that you can find at most cafes in Rome. Instead, you choose between 15 meat-focused sandwiches like the Tripa Alla Romano (tripe in tomato sauce) or the Vitella Alla Carbonara (little bits of veal in carbonara sauce). Don’t be intimidated if it looks crowded when you arrive, the take-a-number order system is efficient and the guy behind the counter makes sammies at lightning speed.
We quickly developed a love/hate relationship with this trendy, all-day bar and bistro across the street from our Airbnb. Love because it’s outdoor patio was the perfect place to enjoy a coffee and cornetto in the morning or a spritz and a cheese plate in the evening. Hate because the noisy patrons who frequent it at all hours made it very difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Grumpy complaining aside, it really is a wonderful spot for an appertivo and one of the more stylish spots that we visited in Rome. Plus, dining there is the perfect excuse to make your way out to the lovely Pigneto neighborhood, an area full of great food and nightlife spots, not frequently visited by tourists.
After a long morning of pushing our way through crowds at Rome’s iconic sights and recoiling from the sky-high prices at tourist-filled trattorias, we were desperate for a tasty Italian meal that wouldn’t break the bank. Enter: Pastaficio. This standing-room-only spot right around the corner from the Spanish Steps only offers two pasta options a day, but will serve you a hearty portion for a mere €4. If you get there early enough, they will throw in a free glass of wine as well. Just make sure you don’t take your pasta to go and eat it on the Spanish Steps like we did or you might end up with an angry policewoman yelling at you (eating on the steps is illegal apparently).
Like many millennials, we are suckers for of a so-called “artisanal” food court. Repurpose any large industrial space into a collection of local restaurant stalls and a communal dining area and you can bet we are going to love it. So it’s no surprise that we were big fans of the Mercato Centrale in Termini station (there is also a location in Florence FYI). With 17 different stalls created by popular local chefs, it is the perfect place to try a variety of different Italian dishes without having to trek all over town. All of the stalls we tried were amazing but we especially loved Trappizino, which sells triangles of warm pizza bianca stuffed with filling ingredients like meatballs, or Sausage and Brocolli. The Pier Danielle Seu pizza stall churning out wood-fired pies was another favorite.