How to Find Rome’s Best Restaurants
5 Tips for Finding a Great Place to Eat in Rome
Like most big cities, Rome has its fair share of tourist traps serving up mediocre or simply bad food for inflated prices. The huge number of visitors flocking to Rome year-round ensure that even sub-standard dining establishments can thrive, particularly if they are located in key tourist spots around town. Unfortunately, this means that many people leave Rome without having experienced a truly authentic meal in the Eternal City, and many may also come away with the impression that Rome’s food scene leaves much to be desired.
Although doing some pre-trip research using blogs, scouting review sites, and making reservations in advance can help to avoid these gastronomic disappointments, sometimes hunger strikes and you need to find a last-minute option using just your instincts. Using these helpful tips should help you to locate a good restaurant wherever in the city you might find yourself. Because when you are in Rome there is nothing worse than wasting a dining opportunity on a bad meal.
Here are our Local Aromas 5 top tips to finding a great restaurant in Rome.
Get off the tourist track
The main tourist thoroughfares in Rome are packed full of restaurants. With large tour groups and hordes of crowds, particularly in high season, millions of people pound the same streets in the historic center. This means that restaurants lining the main routes and overlooking the main monuments are guaranteed trade even if their food is not up to much. Wander through Rome’s back streets, away from the crowds, to increase your chances of stumbling upon a small local trattoria, or alternatively jump in a taxi or hop on public transport to one of the city’s outer neighborhoods such as Testaccio, Ostiense, Pigneto, or Monteverde to find hidden dining gems known only to the Romans.
Ask for recommendations
Most people ask their hotel concierge for dining recommendations when they arrive in Rome but it pays to be wary of their advice. Many hotels work on commission with nearby restaurants so will endorse certain places in order to gain a kickback. Sometimes hotel suggestions work out, but for a more genuine recommendation ask locals who have nothing to gain except the desire for you to have a great meal. Roman taxi drivers are a fount of knowledge while asking tour guides, shopkeepers, or local bar or cafè workers will usually also throw up some excellent recommendations.
Avoid restaurant touts
In central Rome, a popular way to increase the tourist restaurant trade is to employ a hawker, somebody who stands on the street outside the restaurant encouraging people to go in. The law of averages ensures that, eventually, somebody will accept the offer, particularly if they are tired and hungry. However, the best places in Rome have no need to do this. Romans are a loyal bunch and when they love a restaurant they will return on a regular basis ensuring that a good clientele builds up by word-of-mouth. If the food and service are bad nobody will return, meaning that bad restaurants have a constant need to tout for new business. Steer clear of anywhere begging you to go in and you are almost sure to get a good meal.
Dine on Italian time
If you want to eat like a local you need to eat when the locals eat. Restaurants in Rome rarely stay open for continuous service through the day so will usually serve lunch between 12.30pm and 2.30pm, then close before reopening around 7.00-7.30pm for dinner. Even then the early evening timeslot is mainly frequented by families and foreigners, with the majority of locals turning up about 9.00pm, so do as the Romans and head for a relaxing aperitivo to stock up on some snacks before the main meal.
Appearances can be deceptive
As a general rule, the brasher the outside (with huge, multilingual menus and bright photographs of the dishes on offer) the less likely you are to eat well. Many of Rome’s wonderful restaurants have very unassuming exteriors with discreet signage and only a small menu in Italian on display, so it is worth taking a chance on the more subtle places you come across. Remember that even if there is a language barrier, a big smile and a buongiorno or buonasera will usually break down the iciest of serving staff. And if you really want to make your server happy and get an excellent meal into the bargain, ask for recommendations for food and wine choices, and just go with the flow.
Check out the Local Aromas foodie blog for great, unbiased recommendations for eating in Rome, and join one of our food tours and tastings to get the insider know-how about what and where to eat.