Here’s the thing about food in Rome: when it’s good, it’ll drive you to tears of joy over a bowl of bucatini. But like any tourist-ridden city, when it’s bad, it’s really bad – in the form of sticky laminated menus, limp pizza crust and hot pink gelato. The trick is finding the gems that locals swear by. From intimate, family-run joints to Michelin-star meals, here are five of Rome’s best restaurants.
1. La Pergola: There’s a reason why La Pergola tops just about every “Best Restaurants in Rome” list. Located on the rooftop of the Waldorf Astoria's Rome Cavalieri hotel, the three-Michelin star restaurant offers panoramic views of the city, a 53,000-bottle wine cellar and a spectacular (albeit pricey) menu of innovative Italian fare. To snag a coveted spot in the refined dining room, be sure to book a table well in advance. Appetizers and first courses from €39; main courses from €54.
2. Pizzarium: For the best pizza in Rome – and quite possibly all of Italy – run, don’t walk to Pizzarium. The grab-and-go gourmet shop serves up pizza al taglio or "by the cut" square slices, with a seemingly infinite number of toppings. They range from the classic (mozzarella and rich tomato sauce) to the more obscure (rabbit, roasted grape, and fennel seed). Regardless of the toppings, though, the real star of Pizzarium is the light, airy dough which earned Pizzarium owner Gabriele Bonci a reputation as Rome’s “King of Pizza” and the “Michelangelo of dough.” €3-5 per slice (calculated by weight).
3. Gelateria del Teatro: There are plenty of well-known places for gelato in Rome, but few have the charm and character of this under-the-radar spot between the Piazza Navona and the Vatican. When they opened Gelateria del Teatro in 2006, former pastry chef Stefano Marcotulli and his wife Silvia were on a mission to create complex, seasonal flavors using local ingredients. The expansive menu is constantly changing, but features flavors like sage and raspberry, pistachio, and apple cinnamon. The shop is tucked away at the dead-end of a cobblestone alley – a sweet spot for authentically sweet gelato. €2-5 for one to three scoops.
4. Sforno: Indulging in one of Sforno’s signature, Neopolitan-style pies requires a bit of travel – it’s located in the suburban Tuscolan neighborhood – but the pizza is so good, no one seems to mind. It’s a fuss-free space with plastic checkered tablecloths, a chalkboard touting daily specials, and an impressive beer list. Most guests start with crispy fried appetizers (fritti) like rice balls, but the real standout at Sforno is their pizza. Loaded with pecorino cheese and fresh ground black pepper, it offers a unique take on the classic Roman pasta dish cacio e pepe. €10-12 per pizza.
5. Il Pagliaccio: Il Pagliaccio brings imaginative and modern cuisine to the heart of a decidedly traditional area (Campo di Fiore) with Chef Anthony Genovese at the helm. Genovese’s career has taken him around the world – from Thailand to the French Riviera – and his background manifests itself in his eclectic menu. The intimate 28-seat restaurant serves dishes like lamb with roman broccoli, tobacco power, and champignon; and oysters with burrata, lychee, and tapioca. Dining here doesn’t come cheap, but the experience justifies the price. Mains around €50; eight-course dinner tasting for €130.