It used to be said that you could get three types of food in Rome: Italian … Italian … and Italian. While over the past decade-and-a-half the city has embraced other foods of the world, no visit to Rome would be complete without several trips to the city’s traditional restaurants.
Patriotic Italians take their food very seriously. One of the outcomes of their culinary passion is the intricate way restaurants are categorised. How well do you know your ristorantes from your osterias and tavernas?
Admittedly, in modern Rome, the differentiation between these types of establishments is increasingly blurred – restaurants desperate for business play less and less respect to old customs. It’s not unheard of for restaurants to describe themselves as a ristorante, osteria, taverna and a trattoria in order to seduce the hungry hordes. Best to avoid such places!
Many a traveller in search of that ever-illusive “authentic” experience hopes to eat and drink like a local. And when it comes to Rome, the romantic, casual, mid-priced, homely and family-run affair they seek comes in the form of a trattoria.
What distinguishes a trattoria from, say, a ristorante? For starters it’s likely to be on a side street, as opposed to sitting on a piazza. The food will always be traditional Roman cooking. But most importantly, the family that owns the business runs the business. Mama and Papa will be hosting you and cooking your food, creating that relaxed and welcoming atmosphere that you always dreamed of.
But it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the classic trattoria from ristorante in Rome. So we’ve found the best five trattorias in the city for you – the less formal restaurants that place almost as much emphasis on the atmosphere as on the food.
Worth the half-hour tram ride to the hard-working district of Quarticciolo. Do as the local old ladies and university students do and try the house specialty: quail.
Flavio al Velavevodetto
The dining room’s display of ancient terracotta pieces positively screams trattoria. Arrive hungry in order to gorge on the breaded and fried lamb chops.
Armando al Pantheon
Less than 200 metres from the Pantheon, this cosily-lit old school gem has not succumbed to the tourist throngs. But, given its location, advance booking is advised.
Felice a Testaccio
Run by three generations of the same family since the mid-1930s, Felice has obtained near cult status. Try the homemade tonnarelli – long, square-shaped spaghetti.
This austere hole-in-the-wall charmer on Piazza Sallustio serves simply prepared fish and meat dishes. Enjoy Roman classics and Le Marche-influenced delights.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…
(Image: Context Travel)Brett Ackroyd