A foodie's guide to Rome

Most inevitably associate Italian cuisine with pizza and pasta, although the country offers so much more when it comes to food. Italy only became a unified country in 1861, assimilating a wealth of culinary traditions and flavours. The cuisine of Lazio differs greatly from that of other regions, with traditional restaurants and trattorie in the capital serving up dishes that you wouldn’t find elsewhere in the country. Travel writer Kiki Deere shares some must-try dishes when in Rome.


Abbacchio. Credit: Dreamstime / Vividaphoto
This succulent Roman favourite is made with fresh meat obtained from suckling lambs, resulting in pale pink, exceptionally tender meat that is virtually fat free. It’s most often enjoyed oven-cooked on a bed of potatoes or ‘allo scottadito’, seared at a high heat on a cast-iron griddle and seasoned with rosemary. Traditionally enjoyed at Easter, abbacchio is served in scores of traditional restaurants and trattorie in Rome.

Saltimbocca alla romana

Modern style traditional Italian fried pork saltimbocca alla Romana. Credit: Dreamstime / HIphoto
The name of this meat dish comes from the Italian ‘saltare in bocca’, which translates as ‘jump into your mouth’ – and rightly so. These veal escalopes wrapped in prosciutto and marinated with a rich sage, white wine and butter sauce burst with flavour and easily ‘hop’ into your mouth, bite after bite. Said to have originated in Lombardy’s Brescia, saltimbocca acquired fame in the capital and is today very much considered to be a classic of Roman cuisine.


Suppli al Telefono. Credit: iStock / Photo Beto
Rome’s most famous street food snack is undoubtedly supplì, crispy deep-fried rice balls stuffed with ragù, pecorino and mozzarella cheese, coated in breadcrumbs and eggs. At once crunchy and tender, supplì can be found in a myriad of variations that make use of delectable seasonal ingredients, from porcini mushrooms to artichokes. In Rome, they’re traditionally known as ‘supplì al telefono’; when you pull them apart, the mozzarella that lies at their heart stretches into a long string resembling a white telephone cord. They’re the perfect snack to refuel as you explore the streets of the Eternal City.

Pinsa romana

Pinsa romana. Credit: Dreamstime / Barmalini
You may be forgiven for thinking that pinsa romana is your usual pizza, although the two are different. Pinsa dough is made from an original blend of flour that combines soy, rice and wheat flour with yeast, leavened for longer than traditional pizza dough, resulting in a light, healthy and easily digestible snack. Its name comes from the Latin word ‘pinsere’, ‘to stretch’ or ‘to spread’, a technique traditionally used to make dough. Pinsa has an elongated oval shape and is topped with all manner of flavoursome ingredients, including tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto and mushrooms – to name a few. Rome is home to dozens of pinserie where you can savour this Roman delight.

Spaghetti carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara. Credit: Dorling Kindersley / Mary Wadsworth
Rome’s most emblematic dish is also one of Italy’s most famous – a deliciously creamy spaghetti dish made with guanciale (cured pork from the cheeks of a pig), eggs, pecorino romano and pepper – and strictly no cream. Spaghetti are cooked al dente and mixed together with a thick egg mixture, coating the pasta in a deliciously glossy sauce peppered with crispy, succulent guanciale that is both crispy and tender.

Carciofi alla romana

Traditional italian artichoke alla romana. Credit: Dreamstime / Oxana Denezhkina
This simple, nutritious artichoke dish makes the most of garden produce. These large flower heads are simmered at a very low heat, making them deliciously soft and tender; parsley, garlic and mentuccia (similar to mint) are used to add flavour. In Rome’s Ghetto Romano, or Jewish Ghetto, you’ll find carciofi alla giudia, an emblematic dish of Roman Jewish cuisine. Unlike carciofi alla romana, ‘Jewish-style artichokes’ are fried until crispy.

Gnocchi alla romana

Gnocchi alla Romana. Credit: Dorling Kindersley / Neil Mersh
Gnocchi alla romana taste rather different from traditional potato gnocchi, and they look rather different too. Made with semolina, whole milk, butter and parmesan, these large disks are oven-baked until crispy and golden on top, with a soft and cheesy layer lying beneath. They’re a great vegetarian option, although they also come in a wealth of variations that will delight meat lovers, including with a layer of lamb ragù.

Trippa alla romana

Trippa alla Romana. Credit: Dreamstime / Sergii Koval
A staple of Roman cuisine, trippa is a flavourful offal dish prepared by simmering tripe with tomato, mentuccia (similar to mint), and a generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese. It’s a staple of Roman ‘cucina povera’, or peasant cooking, which makes the most of whatever ingredients are available – in this case, the least valuable cuts of meat left after the animal is slaughtered (the best parts were, historically, reserved for the nobility). Tripe was once a very common part of the local diet, and was often enjoyed for Saturday lunch. To this day, you’ll see ‘sabato trippa’ scribbled on boards outside family-run trattorie.

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