The most important thing for a true Italian-cuisine-oriented foodie? Pasta, and basta! If penne, tagliatelle, fusilli or farfalle is your thing, our selected list of must-visits is bound to help you make the most of your culinary adventure during your short stay in Rome.
Pasta – a staple dish of traditional Italian cuisine
What’s so special about differently-shaped sheets of cooked unleavened dough of durum wheat flour mixed with water – as it is, in fact, what pasta is? Well, there is no accounting for taste, but the fact that this apparently simple dish has been growing strong in worldwide popularity since as early as the 12th century might serve as a proof that it is actually quite special. Still, it is not only the increasing number of pasta-lovers around the world that should be considered an indicator of the value of this national culinary treasure of Italy – the number of different types of pasta is just as impressive, amounting to 310 specific forms known variably by over 1300 names having been documented so far! Of course, we do realize that you don’t have a lifetime to spend in Rome and try all the varieties of pasta you might be offered, so let us narrow it down to the essentials; below is a list of pasta-related dishes to go for and the places that serve those dishes at a true master’s level.
If you’re going to look for an absolute Roman classic, your search may be over. Carbonara is bound to win your palate with its sensual saltiness owed to the natural richness of eggs and either smoky pancetta or mouth-watering guanciale (pig’s cheek). While it is true that its more ‘internationalized’ versions are served with cream, bacon, chicken, ham or cheddar cheese, after you taste carbonara in Rome, you’ll never to cease to look at the aforesaid ‘global’ variations as mere imitations. Usually offered with spaghetti (long-type) or tonnarelli (thick-type) pasta, it is quite a hearty dish which easily makes up a full lunch or dinner. Hungry already? Below are the top spots to try this tasty treat:
Da Gino: Vicolo Rosini 4 (Campo Marzio)
Although they are known for their signature ciocciara (peas and mushrooms with white wine and cheese), and for a bit tacky décor, they do serve truly splendid carbonara. If you manage to get a table – or reach them via phone, consider yourself really lucky. After all, that’s how it is when you’re one of the best in town.
Zii Umberto: Piazza della Malva (Trastevere)
The place is nice and fashionable, and you can get a table both outdoors and indoors. The piazza is usually very lively and pleasant to watch while enjoying your lunch. Also, the service is really friendly and highly professional, which is another argument for a visit to this restaurant.
La Carbonara: Via Panisperna, 214 (Monti)
This place enjoys a cosy, warm atmosphere, and attracts a diverse crowd of both tourists and locals. The latter go there because of delicious food, and the former go there because the latter go there for delicious food. As simple as that.
Sounds unfamiliar? Basically, it’s guanciale and tomatoes topped with a bit of pecorino cheese. It is often confused with arrabbiatta, which is also based on tomatoes, but includes an addition of garlic and chilli – go for it as well, if you’re brave enough. In principle, you will probably come across three most common variations of amatriciana: with spaghetti (the original recipe from the town of Amatrice), with bucatini (tubular spaghetti), and with rigatoni (think big, fat and ridged penne). All these options are a true delight, whichever you decide to choose. And the best place to have a go for it is…
Casa Coppelle: Piazza delle Coppelle, 49 (Campo Marzio)
The restaurant is rather fancy and the atmosphere is reflected in the dishes they offer, which always arrive at your table served elegantly and generously. The food itself is incredible – words cannot describe it, so you better call them and book a table right now!
Cacio e Pepe
Now this is something encountered virtually around the whole city of Rome, and something considered one of the most ancient recipes. Although this dish is unlike any other pasta-type thing you’ve ever tried, you’ll be probably shocked to find out that it is just cheese and pepper. Indeed, the combination of the rich flavor of pecorino romano, the spiciness of freshly-ground black pepper and the homemade tonnarelli will leave you speechless after every single bite. If you’re ready to be amazed, head preferably for:
Ristorante Pecorino: Via Galvani, 54 (Testaccio)
Though located a bit away off the strict city centre, this amazing family-run restaurant serves textbook cacio e pepe. Once you try it, you are even unable to think of any sort of improvement or addition to their specialty. The place runs a ‘no-table-without-booking’ policy, so be prepared to call in advance.