When it comes to Roman cuisine, pizza, supplì, and trapizzino steal the spotlight, but there is one category that outshines them all: pasta. Roman pasta is renowned for its rich flavors and traditional recipes. Four dishes, in particular, stand out as must-try delicacies: amatriciana, carbonara, gricia, and cacio e pepe. Each dish is distinct, yet they all share common elements—guanciale, a delicious cured pork jowl, and an abundance of cheese.
Amatriciana is a bold and tangy tomato-based pasta with salty pecorino, chili peppers, and hearty chunks of guanciale, traditionally served with bucatini. On the other hand, carbonara combines the creamy richness of eggs, parmesan cheese, and guanciale, typically paired with spaghetti or rigatoni. Gricia showcases the flavors of pecorino romano, black pepper, and guanciale, perfectly complementing rigatoni. Lastly, cacio e pepe offers a comforting blend of pecorino cheese and a generous sprinkle of spicy black pepper, served with spaghetti. In all these dishes, the key rule is to remember that pork is often included, while cheese is a constant presence.
Rome is a city that cherishes its culinary traditions, making these pasta dishes a staple on most menus. While it is essential to honor these classics, don’t be afraid to explore the city’s culinary innovations. This guide will not only point you in the direction of the best eateries serving these timeless dishes but also introduce you to the establishments that offer exciting twists on these traditional recipes.
The Crème de la Crème
Armando al Pantheon is an institution, serving loyal regulars and tourists for over five decades. This family-owned restaurant presents simple yet exceptional Roman cuisine. Their rigatoni-based amatriciana and sublime spaghetti alla carbonara are highly recommended. If you want to indulge in more than just pasta, try their saltimbocca alla romana or the tomato-infused tripe with pecorino cheese. However, securing a table here requires advance booking, as Armando al Pantheon is closed on Sundays and remains one of the hardest reservations to snag at the last minute.
Roscioli, renowned for its exquisite dishes, provides an unforgettable dining experience. Their mouthwatering amatriciana and carbonara live up to their well-deserved fame. Additionally, they offer delectable options such as burrata with sundried tomatoes and thinly-sliced mortadella with parmesan. The extensive wine list, with thousands of bottles to choose from, is a testament to their commitment to excellence.
A Fusion of Tradition and Creativity
For an authentic sit-down meal after exploring the Colosseum and Roman Forum, look no further than the family-run gem—located conveniently in the vicinity of these ancient sites. This restaurant offers a blend of Roman, Umbrian, and Southern Italian cuisine, with a pasta menu that reflects this delightful fusion. From truffle-dusted cacio e pepe to burrata-stuffed ravioli and carbonara embellished with fava beans, artichokes, and peas, their dishes are sure to captivate your palate. Don’t miss out on their seafood specials, sourced fresh from the nearby seaside town of Anzio.
Piatto Romano offers more than just a meal; it provides a historical journey. Nestled in Testaccio, a neighborhood celebrated for its role in the birth of cucina Romana, this restaurant offers a taste of the past. The rigatoni-based amatriciana and carbonara, both boasting perfectly crispy guanciale, are the highlights of their menu. Indulge in their classic desserts like tiramisu or ricotta visciole, while sipping on a bitter shot of genziana—a gentian root liqueur crafted in the mountains of Abruzzo.
Hidden Gems in the Heart of Rome
Escape the tourist traps near the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps and wander a little farther to Baccano. This modern bistro-style eatery, reminiscent of Paris or New York, boasts Rome’s finest carbonara. With Nabil Hadj Hassen, the former renowned carbonara chef from Roscioli, at the helm, you can expect perfection. Alongside their pasta offerings, indulge in buffalo mozzarella from Paestum, masterfully crafted cocktails, and one of the city’s best hamburgers.
al42 Street Food Gourmet, lovingly known as Pasta Chef, is a unique concept in Rome—a casual restaurant with takeout options. Savor their exceptional amatriciana and carbonara, featuring perfectly cooked al dente pasta and a silky sauce. This cozy spot is ideal for a stress-free lunch or a quick dinner. Its prime location near the Colosseum and Roman Forum makes it a convenient choice for a meal between sightseeing. Don’t forget to try their solid caesar salad and sample their small bottles of wine, perfect for solo diners.
A Culinary Haven in Trastevere
Latteria Trastevere is not just a wine bar; it’s a haven for pasta lovers. While they offer classic dishes such as carbonara and cacio e pepe, their menu embraces creativity and innovation. Indulge in pistachio lasagna, gnocchi with white lamb ragu, or even a Sardinian-inspired fregola paired with fresh seafood. The charming ambience, with twinkling lights adorning the wine-filled shelves, and the leafy outdoor seating make it a delightful venue for an unforgettable dining experience.
Traditional Delights with a Modern Touch
Tucked away in a quiet corner, this modest family-run trattoria offers a delectable range of dishes. Emphasizing seasonal vegetables, the menu changes daily based on the freshest market finds. From the classic amatriciana and fettuccine al ragu to unique specials like rigatoni con la pajata, their offerings highlight the flavors of the region. Accompany your meal with a glass of wine, selected from their intriguing and varied collection that encompasses everything from nearby Castelli Hills whites to elegant Barbera from Piedmont. Finish on a sweet note with a luscious panna cotta topped with wild sour cherries—if you’re fortunate enough to find it on the dessert menu.
An Authentic Taste of Emilia-Romagna
Colline Emiliane promises an immersive culinary journey. Begin with the house antipasto—a delightful combination of gnocco fritto, prosciutto slices, and parmesan chunks—perfectly complemented by a bottle of lambrusco wine. Their tagliatelle alla bolognese, lasagne verdi, tortelli di zucca, and tantalizing tortellini in brodo are all exceptional choices. To top off your experience, savor the giambonetto, a slow-cooked veal dish served with creamy mashed potatoes.
Pigneto’s Hidden Culinary Gem
In the trendy neighborhood of Pigneto, you’ll discover a local favorite. This charming eatery serves exceptional seasonal pasta dishes with a twist. Indulge in summer delights like pici pasta with figs and guanciale. Their creative offerings include a gricia made with lombrichelli—a long pasta from Viterbo—and pajata crafted with pacheri from Naples. After your meal, take a leisurely stroll through L’Isola, a lively pedestrian island that offers the perfect spot for a refreshing drink.
Embark on a pasta journey through the streets of Rome, indulging in the rich flavors and culinary history of this iconic city. From the classics to the innovative, these establishments will delight your taste buds and leave you craving more. Experience the passion and artistry that make Roman pasta an unparalleled gastronomic delight.
To learn more about Rome’s culinary wonders, visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill.