Where To Find The Best Cacio E Pepe In Rome

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I blame my Italian heritage for my undying love of carbohydrates. I grew up eating penne, fusilli or tortellini each night at dinner and truth be told, I have no desire to be weaned off pasta. Few dishes can compete with the satisfaction of a comforting bowl of noodles and there are seemingly endless variants to choose from in Italy.

Of all the pastas shapes, sizes and sauces that exist in Italy, cacio e pepe is my unrivaled favorite dish. This Roman pasta is made up of only three ingredients: 1) tonnarelli, a long, fresh pasta from the Lazio and Abruzzo regions with slightly square edges, 2) pecorino, a hard, salty cheese made from sheep’s milk, and 3) freshly cracked black pepper which, it turns out, is an extremely versatile condiment. Everything is carefully melded together with healthy dash of starchy pasta water, an essential ingredient for creating a silky smooth sauce, and then it’s ready to eat.

While restaurants in Rome often substitute spaghetti for tonnarelli, or add too much parmigiano into the mix to cut down on the tartness of the sheep’s cheese, I’m a pecorino purist and prefer to enjoy the recipe the way it was intended – in all its salty glory. I’ve eaten my way through hundreds of bowls of cacio e pepe in the Eternal City and am happy to share my favorite places to each this delicious dish.

Felice A Testaccio

Da Felice in Testaccio is one of the best restaurants in the city and well known for serving a superlative cacio e pepe: here, a waiter mixes your bowl of cacio e pepe directly at your table, carefully incorporating the ingredients until every noodle is layered in cheesy goodness. With its retro checkered floors and local feel, this stylish bistrot has been popular since it first opened in 1936 so be sure to book your table well in advance.

Felice A Testaccio
Via Mastro Giorgio, 29, 00153 Roma RM
+39 06 574 6800

Trattoria Da Danilo

Da Danilo, an old-school trattoria in Piazza Vittorio, doesn’t win any awards for its brusk service but it surely wins for visual effect: the cacio e pepe is adeptly tossed in a gigantic wheel of pecorino, thoroughly coating the noodles with plenty of cheese (and then some) and dressing them with a perfect amount of black pepper before being doled with much fanfare.

Trattoria Da Danilo
Via Petrarca, 13, 00185 Roma RM
+39 06 7720 0111

Pigneto Quarantuno

Pigneto Quarantuno, a low-key restaurant located along the main street in Pigneto, is one of Rome’s hidden gems. Everything here is excellent, from the creative antipasti and wine list to creative pasta dishes and main entrees. The cacio e pepe here is rich and creamy, salted to the perfect degree and just peppery enough – though the menu is truly tantalizing so sometimes I can’t help but order something a little more creative, like the mezze maniche pasta with pumpkin, caramelized onion and pecorino.

Pigneto Quarantuno
Via del Pigneto, 41, 00176 Roma RM
+39 06 7039 9483

Osteria da Zi Umberto

One of Trastevere’s classic trattorias, Zi Umberto hits all the right buttons: location, price point and style. It’s no frills but that’s what we love in Rome, right? I saw Jude Law here twice and take all my guests here because it’s such a Roman experience – a little boisterous but not too over-the-top. I absolutely love the cacio e pepe here, which is creamy and slightly less sharp than others, and often end up choosing a cacio e pepe variant that only Zi Umberto has on the menu: casarecce pasta with pecorino and cicoria, a bitter leafy green that complements the saltiness of the cheese really well.

Osteria da Zi Umberto
Piazza di S. Giovanni della Malva, 14, 00153 Roma RM
+39 06 581 6646

L’Osteria di Monteverde

L’Osteria di Monteverde uses spaghetti instead of tonnarelli, meaning the noodles are slightly thinner and less textured, the flavor of the cacio e pepe here is very well balanced and the pasta is perfectly cooked al dente, giving the dish a nice chewiness. This version is slightly drier than others but still thoroughly satisfying and the familial service, and local crowd, are a bonus.

L’Osteria di Monteverde
Pietro Cartoni, 163, 00152 Roma RM
+39 06 5327 3887

Lo’Steria

I’m lucky to live around the corner from Lo’Steria, a no-frills osteria that serves some of the best classics in the capital. The dishes here use excellent locally-sourced ingredients: the pecorino comes from the Tuscia countryside in northern Lazio, lending it an intriguing and delicate flavor that has a hint of sweetness, creating an exceptionally harmonious plate of pasta with nuances that aren’t present in most others. The menu here is limited but there are always a handful of daily specials to add more intrigue. Don’t miss ordering the fritti to start, they’re sublime.

Lo’Steria
Via dei Prati della Farnesina, 61, 00135 Roma RM
+39 06 3321 8749

Hostaria Romana

Hostaria Romana is a very traditionally eatery in the heart of Rome and one of the few standouts in the middle of all the action, right near Piazza Barberini. This family-owned establishment has been serving Roman classics for over 50 years and has perfected its cacio e pepe, one of the restaurant’s strongest dishes. The atmosphere is rustic, with scribblings on the walls, and the service is surprisingly warm and friendly despite the high turnover.

Hostaria Romana
Via del Boccaccio, 1, 00187 Roma RM
+39 06 474 5284

La Regola

La Regola, an old-school trattoria that reopened last year under new ownership, serves up traditional Roman dishes with a contemporary twist. Located in a sleepy piazza minutes from Campo de’ Fiori, this trattoria is a great place to enjoy the Roman classics paired with local wines from the Lazio region. The cacio e pepe here is made with 14 month-aged pecorino cheese and tossed with five different kinds of pepper, including a fragrant pink pepper that adds an extra dimension to the dish. Bonus: this restaurant is set in a pretty piazza so it’s a lovely place to dine al fresco in the heart of Rome.

Cesare al Casaletto

There’s not much to say about Cesare al Casaletto that hasn’t already been said by Rome’s food bloggers but this is certainly one of the better restaurants in the city and worth a ride to the end of the tramline to reach. All of the dishes I’ve tried here are top-notch and the cacio e pepe is superlative: perfectly creamy, peppery and ultra cheesy. What you really need to try at Cesare though are the deep fried golden gnocchi on a bed of melted pecorino cheese with a dusting of pepper – you can’t have too much of a good thing, right?

Cesare al Casaletto
Via del Casaletto, 45, 00151 Roma RM

+39 06 536015

Sforno

Owned by Stefano Callegari, one of the master pizzaiolos in Rome, Sforno introduced cacio e pepe pizza to Rome and for that I will always be grateful. This special pizza comes served with a pepper mill in the center and heaps of pecorino on each slice. The secret? Baking the dough with an ice cube and then topping it with grated cheese so it stays powdery rather than melting on the pizza. Sforno is located near Cinecittà so it’s a good spot to check out after a tour of the iconic film studio in south Rome.

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