When you mention the word “Italy,” one immediately salivates and dreams of the fresh handmade pastas, fluffy burrata, homemade tomato sauce, drinkable vino, and creamy gelatos available on every block. The views in Capri and Positano are jaw dropping, but the food in Rome is so incredible your jaw drops here too. You’ll thank the city for being so walkable after every meal. Somehow, I even lost two pounds after eating bread, pasta, and gelato at lunch and dinner. Who knew the pasta diet worked?! Anyway, see below for the restaurants and bites not to miss in Rome if you only have 3 days.
ROSCIOLI’S *** Make your reservation as soon as you can especially during high season. Closed Sunday’s.
Roscioli’s pronounced ROSH-OLI’S, it’s the hottest restaurant in the city. From local Italians to Texans, to New Yorker’s, everyone told me to go here, and I instantly knew why upon the sole delivery of the bread basket. They have so many different kinds (Kamut, Lariano, 5 Cereals, Rye with Honey, Pan Brioche, Pata Negra and Parmesan, Figs, Pizza Bianca, Walnut Bread) and before you know it, you’ve eaten 4 pieces. Make sure you make a res at the restaurant and not the deli counter next door. This spot is super tiny with two tops lining the meat and cheese (300 selections) counter. Sit in the back nook and enjoy the art work and wine (2,800 labels with a wine room downstairs). All of the food here melts in your mouth, and each dish is as good as the next. Things you didn’t even know that could melt in your mouth like an omelette, yes for dinner ( I was jet lagged when I ordered). I’m done with rubbery, diner omelettes in America. I loved this place and wish I had time to go back. Here’s what to order:
- Eggplant Caponata Served with Dry Fruit and Pine Nuts – The eggplants in this country are so impeccable that I might even order one over a chocolate chip cookie. I just cant get over how perfectly tender, fresh, and delicious each bite is. Salty from olive oil, a little sweet from tomato sauce, and crunch from some pine nuts, this guy is my hero.
- Parisi Egg Omelette with Fresh Herbs, Asiago from Malga and Spinach – Like I said, I was jet lagged when I ordered this and since my breakfast when I landed was cacio e pepe, I was longing for some eggs. Good thing I did, because this is definitely the best omelette I’ve ever had in my life. Buttery with a perfect egg to herb to cheese ratio. What a snack!
- Pasta of course! Go for the Bombolotto Norma with Tomato Sauce, Deep Fried Eggplant, Smoked Ricotta or the city’s most famous dish- Cacio e Pepe with Pecorino, Salt and Malaysian Black Peppter – You’re in Italy, not much else to say about why we got pasta.
- Tuna Steak with Sliced and Soy Frosted with Watermelon Salad, Mint and Green Tomatoes Mustard. Yes, this was also a wild card dish some might think. However, I’m bit deprived of sushi in Austin and I needed a tuna fix. Delighted by the sweet mustard and soy glaze, this tuna is a sure thing to order.
- Dark Chocolate Fondue with 70% Cocoa, Strawberries and Biscuits At this point, I couldn’t eat anything else so I thought. The sweet waitress then drops a bowl of chocolate and some biscuit cookies and strawberries to use as vehicles to sop it up. Ok fine!!!! P.S. Ask for a spoon when you run out of these…
I can’t decide if I like Emma or Roscioli’s better. They are so different, but I had very similar obsessive feelings with each dish devoured. Emma is a little more happening. The line firms up on a Saturday night with young people and the outdoor area is pretty cute. Inside the restaurant is pretty large. One thing I find funny about Italian service is that they are always quick to take your wine order and refill your glass, but slow to take your food order and fill up your water. Also, when you finally do order food, it’s out in a flash. I like this style! The house wine is like juice and you won’t even know how many glasses you’ve ordered because it goes down that well and doesn’t make you drunk. I found this pizzeria in The New York Times “36 Hours” column which I live and die by. And what do you know! They get their pizza dough from Roscioli’s. It all makes sense now.
- Fresh Parmigiana of Eggplants with Buffalo Mozzarella from Paestum, Cherry Tomatoes Cream, and Parmigiano Reggiano Red Cow. I’ve mentioned eggplant a lot in this country and it’s because they know damn well how to make it melt in your mouth and make you tingle inside. This is the best dish I ate my entire trip. Yes! A silly (not so silly) filet of eggplant set up in cylinders with a center full of cheese and tomato sauce that sits perfectly. It’s not like America where it can be fried to a crisp. It’s elegant, and if you don’t order it, you’re life will be over. That’s how serious this guy is.
- Pizza! The crust unlike Naples is very thin and crispy and organic because that’s how Roscioli rolls it’s dough. We got the Chorizo pie with Tomato, Mozarella, and Chorizo which is basically pepperoni or salami.
- Cacio e Pepe with handmade Tonnarelli long pasta, pecorino romano cheese, and toasted pepper from Malaysia which by the way is only 12 euros. This restaurant is one of the most memorable meals I had in Italy and one of the cheapest! Italy is truly romantic and everything here is just so happy!
Lunch at Da Enzo was my first meal in Rome, and I had been up and traveling for almost 20 hours. I sucked up my drowsiness and hunger and walked right on over until they opened at lunch time as they were about to close for the rest of August that night, and I had to get my meal in! We sat on the patio which felt like we could barely fit. This place is tiny inside and out! The menu is smaller with a handful of pastas, meat dishes, and sides which makes it easy to order. Really go for anything you are in the mood for. Also the panzanella salad is very different here than in America. It’s definitely just a bread fixture stuffed with cheese and chopped up vegetables. See below. You won’t complain.
I got this restaurant from the American expert of Rome, Katie Parla. When in doubt, refer to her blog. This place I for sure never would have found. We were lucky enough to go on a Sunday when they serve their famous lasagna in the wood-burning oven. The ragu, al dente pasta, and warm dish does a body good. They are even nice enough to split up a piece for two on different plates. That always makes me smile when they do it without asking. The pizza is not bad either. I also love this vegetable called Chicory which is a tad bitter, spicy, looks like thin spinach and I haven’t seen it on menus in America. The restaurant is super casual, laid back, a late spot, and feels like you are in someone’s home.
Nonna Betta a Kosher/Italian restaurant is found in the Jewish quarter and feels like how Katz’s would feel if it was hundreds of years back, Italian, and dainty in his own kitchen. The waiters know what’s up and act like they been working there since the wee age of 5. Just go ahead and get the Codfish Nonna Betta’s Style. It’s the softest fish, rich in butter, pistachios and holds a delicious flavor while served in a cast iron dish. Rome is also known for Fried Artichokes.
Gelato heaven! Thank you Gillie Houston for pointing me to this dairy haven. I went here twice with the second time being my last night in Rome. We raced from the Trevi Fountain at 12:50 a.m. just to get my cookie, caramel, nutella ish flavor which comes with a chocolate cookie on top and is even called “Frigidarium” just before they closed at 1 a.m. Yes, it was still packed.
Check out this food hall by the train station. It’s fun to see all the stalls from nutella filled crepes, to sushi, to sandwiches, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to make a meal here.