Fountain of the Rivers, Piazza Navona


The bar bears no similarity to any Anglo establishment with the same title except that food and drink is taken either standing up at the counter, or sitting down at casual tables.  This is where one goes for gelato, the wide range of coffee possibilities, a simple pastry, sandwiches of various types, other sundry snacks, and for freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice (una spremuta d'arancia, or di pompelmo, respectively)– a tradition that is slowly being replaced by the sale of bottled fruit juices.  Some bars offer hot snacks, too. 

Originally, the osteria (also hostaria) was a watering hole for drinking wines, but today, it can offer food as well, even if the menu is somewhat streamlined. 

The trattoria is associated with informal mom-and-pop establishments where nonna made gnocchi on a table at the back of the kitchen. 

The ristorante (restaurant) is generally, although not necessarily, formal.  Formal ristoranti can be pricey, but Italian casual attire is acceptable (American casual attire, such as running shoes and t-shirts, are not). 

The rosticceria  is where to go for take-out food, typically not the same lackluster kind of "take out" with which Americans are familiar.  Some rosticcerie have table service, called tavola calda ("hot table").

A Taste of Rome: Dining Out in the Eternal City
By Julia della Croce> Julia's restaurant recommendations <

La Carbonara trattoria on Campo de'Fiori specializes in fresh vegetables of the day selected from the daily outdoor market, as well as Roman specialties.

More than any other region of Italy, Rome loves food.  The eating habits of the ancient upper classes have lived into infamy for their shock value, but, in fact, the gluttonous orgies of classical times bear no resemblance to Rome’s cooking today.   What has survived is the food of the common people. If there is any excess in the city’s cuisine, it is in the propensity for very young meat (suckling pig, baby lamb, milk-fed veal and such—roasted), and an affinity for  hot pepper.  But the cooking is rustic, as unpretentious as the Romans themselves.  What is lacking in refinement is compensated for by imagination.

Rome has preserved its traditional cooking primarily in the informal trattorie and osterie, despite the international influences on the city.  This might have to do with the many fashions and trends to which it has been exposed over the centuries, which have only served to reinforce the locals’ attachment to things Roman, particularly in matters of the kitchen.  The Romans love lavish displays of food and conviviality at the table. Their cooking is lusty, and it is eaten with gusto.

To illustrate, I once took an American friend to Rome for her first visit.  It was late when we made our way to a backstreet trattoria where “real” Romans gather to eat real Roman food.    When I asked what could be distracting her from immediately giving her order, she exclaimed, “Look at the way people are eating—as if they would jump right into their plates!”  True enough, everyone around us was gesticulating wildly, arguing passionately, and filling the air with their voices all at once.  They ate with their heads close to the table, forks posed to deliver food from plate to mouth by the shortest route, all with great zest and conviviality.  As the Italian food writer, Bruno Rossi, once said, “One way to know the Romans is to meet them at dinner.”

Authentic Roman eateries serve artisanal cheeses procured at the local open-air markets in the city.

But finding good local food in Rome can be tricky. Throughout Italy, especially in Rome, the traveler is confused by the many types of restaurants that exist.  For the differences, in a nutshell see the ROMAN RESTAURANT BASICS on the left.

The sheer volume of tourists who cross the thresholds of Roman eating establishments discourages what has come to be called "slow food"– authentic  local cooking.  Once, the very definition of a trattoria was that it had a neighborhood character.  But with the decline of home cooking and the proliferation of fast foods, the  cooking has become increasingly commercial.  The good Roman restaurants are known mostly to "real" Romans, as they are wont to call themselves.  Nevertheless, I offer RECOMENDATIONS for some of the famous establishments that have consistently maintained high standards.

Photos by Paolo Destefanis (, originally appeared in Roma: Authentic Recipes from in and Around the Eternal CIty, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books, 2004)

CAMPO de' FIORI area

Hostaria Costanza, Piazza del Paradiso, 65.  Tel:  06 686 1717. Closed Sundays, and in August.  At the entrance of the Theater of Pompeii, where Julius Caesar was murdered, this restaurant serves excellent Roman cooking.

La Carbonara, Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, 23.  Tel: 06 686 4783.  Closed Tuesdays and in August.  A rustic trattoria that cooks the fresh vegetables of the day selected from the campo dei Fiori market, as well as Roman specialties. 

Vecchia Roma, Piazza Campitelli 18.  Tel:  06 686 4604.  Closed Wednesdays and the last two week in August.  A quintessentially Roman restaurant serving classic Roman food.

Filetti di Baccalà, Largo dei Librari, Campo dei Fiori.  06 686 4018.  Closed Sundays and in August.  No lunch.  Informal, busy trattoria specializing in fried salt cod.

Il Cardinale, Via delle Carceri, 6 (corner of via Giulia).  Tel: 06 656 9336. Closed Sundays , holidays, and in August.  Specializes in cooking vegetables from the campo dei Fiori market, and in Jewish specialties (the Jewish "ghetto" is not far away).

Squash blossoms, fennel, and artichokes--local seasonal specialties, greet diners on the antipasto table at the entrance of Piperno restaurant.


Evangelista, Via delle Zoccolette 11/a, Campo de’ Fiori.  Tel: 06 687 5810. Closed Sundays and in August.  A celebrity stop famous for Jewish specialties and Roman cooking.

Piperno, Via Monte dei Cenci 9.  Tel:  06 6880 6629.  Closed Sunday evenings, Mondays, Christmas, Easter, and August.  The most famous, and most pricey, restaurant in the ghetto serving Jewish and Roman specialties.


Le Volte, Piazza Rondini 47.  Tel: 06 687 7408.  Closed Tuesdays.  Specializes in Roman pizzas and simple Roman cooking.

Da Fortunato, Via del Pantheon 55 (around the corner from the Pantheon)  Tel: 06 679 2788.  Closed Sundays and holidays.  Serves Roman specialties. 


Mastrostefano, Piazza Navona, 84 (facing Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers).  Tel: 06 654 1669.  Picturesque and informal eating in the mists of Bernini's masterpiece.  Features Roman cooking.  Closed Mondays and the last two weeks in August.


Otello, Via della Croce, 81.  Tel: 06 6791178.  Closed Sundays.  Al fresco dining under a covered terrace.  Antipasti are a specialty of the house.


Marcello, Via dei Campani 12.  Tel:  06 446 3311.  Closed Saturday night, Sunday, and in August.  One of the better osterie in the area serving traditional Roman food.


Andrea, via Sardegna 28.  Tel: 06/48.21.891.  Closed Sunday night, Monday, and in August.  Considered one of Rome's leading edge restaurants.  Elegant, chic, and frequented by celebrities.


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Julia della Croce (photo D. Gilford)

Julia della Croce

Appeal’s  award-winning Contributing Editor is a journalist, food and travel writer, and author of twelve cookbooks, including Roma: Authentic Recipes from in and Around the Eternal City (Chronicle Books, 2004).