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Rome food has a rich culinary history spanning many centuries, emperors, invasions, new world ingredients, and modern interpretations.
The city’s cuisine reflects techniques and ingredients from centuries past and diverse culinary influences.
While exploring traditional Roman food in the Eternal City we were struck both by its simplicity, and rich cultural heritage.
From traditional Roman pasta dishes, artichokes, the best Supplì, and whipped cream Maritozzo pastries, each are layered in history.
There’s something special about Rome food that’s different from other regions of Italy.
On your culinary travels, we invite you to find out why and what to eat in Rome like a local.
Here are 15 of the best foods in Rome to savor in Italy’s capital city.
Four Roman Pasta Dishes
1. Cacio e Pepe – Pecorino Romano Cheese & Black Pepper Pasta
Cacio e Pepe which translates from Italian to “cheese” and “pepper” is one of four iconic Roman pasta dishes.
It is a simple dish, with a rich and creamy sauce, made with long pasta like linguine, fettuccine, or tagliatelle.
Authentic Cacio e Pepe contains only three ingredients pasta, freshly ground black pepper, and Pecorino Romano cheese.
Cacio e pepe pasta may sound minimalist at first, but it packs a flavorful punch.
Freshly ground black pepper adds a pungent hit to the creaminess of the grated Pecorino Cheese and starchy pasta water that is vital in emulsifying the sauce.
Of the four famous pasta dishes in Rome, Cacio e Pepe was my favorite. This rich and delicious iconic Rome pasta dish should not be missed on your Rome visit.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: One of the tastiest ways to explore traditional Roman cuisine is on a local food tour. See the 10 Best Rome Food Tours: Eat Like A Roman in Italy
2. Amatriciana – Pasta with Tomato, Pecorino Romano Cheese & Guanciale
Of the four iconic Rome pasta dishes, Amatriciana is the only one that is made with tomato sauce.
Amatriciana is traditionally made with tomato sauce, guanciale or pork cheek, Pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly ground black pepper.
Amatriciana pasta is named after Amatrice, a mountain town in the region of Lazio. The dish found its way to Rome and firmly established itself as one of the four iconic pasta dishes.
This is especially interesting as tomatoes are not indigenous to Italian cuisine. But, were brought over to Europe by the Spanish in the period of colonization.
The quality of ingredients is key to Amatriciana pasta. Fresh pasta pairs with a rich tomato sauce and guanciale to make a delicious meal.
As Claire’s favorite Rome pasta dish, be sure to savor it at restaurants all over the city.
3. Gricia – Pasta with Guanciale & Pecorino Romano Cheese
Pasta alla Gricia or known simply as “Alla Gricia” is the other iconic Rome pasta dish. It consists of just four ingredients. Pasta, Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and guanciale
Although Pasta alla Gricia is the lesser known of the four classic Roman pasta dishes, it is the oldest of them all, and the original recipe from which the others have developed.
Some refer to Pasta alla Gricia as “carbonara without eggs.” And, in some places, it is called “White Amatriciana” because it lacks tomato sauce.
It is a hearty and delicious dish made from a few staple but high-quality ingredients.
You can eat Pasta alla Gricia at many of the city’s best eateries, as the dish is typical of the local cuisine.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: While in Rome, we took fun cooking classes to learn to make these iconic Roman pasta dishes. Read about Rome Pasta Making Class Review: Top 3 Best Cooking Classes You’ll Want To Take
4. Carbonara – Pasta with Egg, Guanciale & Pecorino Romano Cheese
Pasta Carbonara is another emblematic dish of Roman cuisine. It is another one of our favorite Rome foods and is popular throughout the city.
The Carbonara pasta dish consists of pasta that has been tossed in a creamy sauce of Pecorino Romana, fresh eggs, black pepper, and guanciale or pork cheek.
The origins of the Carbonara pasta are disputed. Some suggest that the dish was first brought to the city by the Carbonari or charcoal men, who were mine workers in the Italian Apennines.
Hard pasta and cheese were easy to transport and non-perishable. The workers would prepare the dish in advance and eat it cold.
Meanwhile, others suggest that the dish came to Italy when Americans GIs arrived in the country during World War II.
They brought powdered eggs and bacon with them, giving rise to this Rome food in its contemporary form.
Regardless of its origins, Pasta Carbonara, a classic and favorite Rome food should be among one of the top dishes you should savor.
Meat Dishes to Have in Rome
5. Saltimbocca alla Romana – Roman Style Veal wrapped with Prosciutto and Sage
Saltimbocca alla Romana was one of our favorite Rome foods. This delightful Roman dish comes together with relatively few ingredients.
Tender veal cutlets known as escalopes, are wrapped in prosciutto and fresh sage. The veal cutlets are then pan-fried or sautéed in white wine and butter.
The result is a salty, tender meat dish with a delicately flavored, silky white wine sauce. Saltimbocca is hearty, rusty, and mouthwatering.
There are many legends about the origins of Saltimbocca. One involves Pellegrino Artusi, considered the father of Italian cuisine.
In his cookbook on Italian cuisine, “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well,” he included the recipe for Saltimbocca alla Romana after having had it at Le Venete, a popular Roman restaurant.
Even though the origins of Saltimbocca alla Romana are hotly contested, it is a revered Italian food and unmissable in Rome.
6. Trippa alla Romana – Roman Style Tripe
Trippa alla Romana, or Roman-style tripe, is one of the Eternal City’s most traditional dishes.
It is made from tripe or cow stomach, which is slowly simmered until it is tender enough to eat.
The tripe is then combined with pecorino romano, mint, onions, tomatoes, carrots, and white wine to make a rich tomato sauce.
This ancient and traditional dish, once found in peasant kitchens is a much loved Rome food.
Its history dates back to the principle of “quinto quarto” or the fifth quarter. In the past animals were divided into quarters or quarti.
The best quarter or primo quarto went to the nobility. The second quarter went to the clergy, the third to the merchant classes, and the fourth to soldiers. Quinto quarto went to everyone else.
As such, Trippa alla Romana was an ideal cheap protein for laborers and workers, who were often paid with scraps of this quinto quarto.
Trippa alla Romana can be found at traditional Rome restaurants around the city. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the robust flavors of this local Roman dish.
While in Rome, don’t hesitate to eat Trippa alla Romana. You might discover a new favorite Italian food.
Seasonal Vegetable Roman Dishes
7. Carciofi alla Giudia or Romana – Jewish-style or Roman style artichokes
Artichokes are an integral part of Roman cuisine. In Italian, they are known as Carciofi and there are two types of Roman-style artichokes.
Carciofi alla Romana or Roman-style artichokes are enjoyed as a side dish or a main dish for a meat-free dinner.
The Carciofi alla Romana artichokes are hollowed out and stuffed with garlic and herbs like parsley, or mint. They are then braised in water and olive oil for a fragrant and delicious food.
Carciofi alla Giudia, the second kind, are Jewish-style artichokes that are deep-fried whole in oil.
The outer leaves are crispy while the interior heart is tender, nutty, and full of flavor.
The best time to enjoy artichokes in the Eternal City is in the Spring when they are abundantly available.
Regardless, of when you visit Rome, be sure to indulge in Roman-style artichokes.
8. Cicoria – Chicory
Cicoria is Italian for chicory, which also goes by the name of dandelion greens or wild endive.
We were surprised to find chicory offered as a vegetable side dish at Roman restaurants.
Cicoria alla Romana is a vegetable dish with a bitter, punchy taste. Chicory is combined with olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes to make a nutritious yet flavorful dish.
The greens are first boiled to remove some of the bitterness and grassiness of the leaves. And, the Cicoria is sautéed in olive oil with garlic and peperoncino chili pepper which adds a spicy kick.
Chicory grows abundantly in Rome and it is easy to harvest. It’s one of the staples of Roman cuisine.
Some contend that Cicoria alla Romana is a more classic Rome food than any of the city’s pasta dishes.
You’ll find it in Roman restaurants across the city, where it sometimes goes by the name Cicoria Ripassata alla Romana.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to learn how to make any of these Rome foods from scratch, consider taking a cooking class. Here are 10 Best Cooking Classes in Rome: From Pizza, Gelato to Pasta Making
Best Rome Street Foods
9. Suppli or Supplí al Telefono – Fried Rice Balls with Mozzarella
The Supplí is arguably the most famous Rome street food. They are beloved flavorful bites that you must eat in Rome.
Supplí are deep-fried rice balls filled with beef and mozzarella cheese. These deep-fried morsels are crunchy on the outside but gooey on the inside.
Suppli gets its name from the stringiness of the mozzarella. When pulled apart, the mozzarella cheese looks like telephone wires.
The name may also come from the French word for ‘surprise’, because of the surprise filling of these rice balls.
You’ll find Suppli in the city’s bakeries or at some pizzerias. They are a delicious snack and easy to eat while sightseeing in Rome.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: During our Rome visit, we took a Rome food tour to the Trastevere neighborhood and discovered one of the best Suppli vendors in the city. Read more Trastevere Food Tour: How To Eat Like A Local in Rome Trendy Neighborhood
10. Porchetta – Italian Pork Roast “Little Pig”
Porchetta is an iconic Rome food that should be on any “must eat” list on a Rome visit.
Pork is deboned, slow-roasted, and stuffed with herbs and spices to make porchetta. It is tender and flavorful and enjoyed by itself or with accompaniments.
As a street food, tender slices of pork are stuffed into Porchetta bread. The flavors are heavenly with succulent textures, and this was Claire’s favorite Rome street food.
The name, Porchetta translates to ‘little pig’. It usually refers to a whole roasted suckling pig.
Throughout Rome, you’ll find vendors that specialize in making Porchetta sandwiches.
These local eateries are some of the best places to try this iconic Rome street food.
11. Pizza al Taglio – Pizza by the Slice
Pizza al Taglio, or pizza by the slice, is a popular style of pizza you’ll find throughout Rome.
It is Roman pizza cooked in large trays or pans and then cut into rectangular slices.
The toppings for Pizza al Taglio are quite diverse. You’ll find classic options like Margherita pizza by the slice. Pizza Bianca is another favorite and many other creative combinations with arugula, prosciutto, and more.
The first Pizza al Taglio is said to have been made in the 1950s by a Roman baker and pizza maker.
Today, there many pizzerias, bakeries, and street food stalls offering diverse and delicious slices of Roman style pizza to try.
Pizza al Taglio remains a beloved style of Roman style pizza much loved for the variety of toppings, and easy-to-eat Rome food.
Desserts in Rome
12. Maritozzo – Sweet Dough and Whipped Cream Pastry
Maritozzo is a traditional Roman sweet bun or pastry typically eaten for breakfast. This was one of the first Rome foods that was highly recommended to us.
This sweet bun is traditionally eaten for breakfast paired with a cup of coffee. It consists of an oblong-shaped sweet bread stuffed with sweet cream.
What surprised us the most about the Maritozzo was how light, soft, and fluffy it was. The bun with light citrus flavors perfectly complemented the cream.
The Martitozzo is one of the most beloved Roman dishes and it is even celebrated on the first Saturday of December on Maritozzo Day.
13. Gelato – Italian Ice Cream
You cannot eat in Rome without enjoying gelato at some point and often, many times on your visit.
Rome, like most cities in Italy, is known for its exceptional gelato. This Italian version of ice cream is made using high-quality fresh ingredients.
The main ingredients of milk, cream, and sugar churn out velvety smooth, and intensely flavored ice cream.
What sets gelato in Rome apart is not just the flavors but also the artisanal craftsmanship.
Gelato masters or “Gelatieres” take pride in making their gelato from scratch, using traditional techniques and carefully selecting their ingredients.
In Italian, ‘gelato’ translates to ‘frozen’. The history of gelato is long, reaching back over 12,000 years.
Gelato became popular in its contemporary form when Cosimo Ruggieri served it at the Florence court of the Medici family.
The best gelato is artisanal. Find it in gelaterias or Rome restaurants across the city.
Two Must-Try Roman Products
14. Pecorino Romano Cheese
Pecorino Romano cheese is a distinctive Italian cheese, that originates from the Lazio region of which Rome is the capital.
It is the most ancient cheese with a heritage dating back to ancient Rome.
Pecorino Romano is a cheese made with grass-fed sheep’s milk with a sharp bite, inviting aroma, and unmistakable taste.
Due to its distinct taste and production methods, Pecorino Romano has been granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status under European Union law.
Even today, the cheese is made using the traditional method of salting the cheese wheels several times to deliver its distinctive taste.
After aging for more than five months, it develops a dry and granular texture and a strong taste.
When young, the cheese has a soft and rubbery texture with a sweet and aromatic flavor which becomes sharper and smokier as the cheese ages.
Pecorino Romano is an excellent grating cheese over pasta dishes, bread, and baked dishes.
It is one of the top 5 cheeses consumed in Italy and one of the most exported worldwide.
This iconic cheese is not to be missed in Rome. You can also have Pecorino Romano Italian Cheese DOP delivered to your home directly from Italy.
15. Guanciale – Italian Pork Cheek Cured Meat
Guanciale is an Italian cured meat that comes from pork jowl or pork cheek.
It is a very fatty cut of pork that is seasoned with black pepper, garlic, and herbs, and then cured for at least three months.
Guanciale can be eaten by itself as thin slices on a charcuterie board or in Italian dishes.
This cured pork cheek is a key ingredient in the classic Rome pasta dishes, Carbona Pasta all’Amatriciana.
By itself, Claire loved the rich, buttery flavors of Guanciale, while I found it quite fatty. However, in Roman recipes, the cured pork cheek just melts in the mouth.
In Rome, you’ll find Guanciale in Salumerias or small deli-like shops which specialize in cured meats and traditional Italian products. You’ll also find it at the local markets and butcher shops.
This cured pork cheek specialty from Rome should not be missed on your culinary adventures.
The culture of Rome food runs as deep as the majestic ancient ruins you’ll find throughout the culture.
As you indulge and savor traditional Roman cuisine, you’ll be biting into layers of history and culinary influences.
We left Rome with a broader and deeper appreciation of the diversity of flavors in the Eternal City. We invite you to use this Rome food guide for a culinary experience to remember.
Have you had any of these Rome foods? Please let us know what your favorite Rome food is in the comments below.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
Find out more about Authentic Food Quest