I have spent the past decade eating my way through the Eternal City and am happy to report that its dining scene is particularly vibrant these days. There’s a new wave of chefs that are reinterpreting Italy’s classic dishes at contemporary trattorias all over the capital. Prepare your palate and don’t miss a chance to dine at Rome’s best new openings – and enduring favorites.
Altrove is a restaurant with a mission to promote inclusivity and social awareness through food: firstly, by working with a multicultural staff, and secondly, by offering a varied menu of international dishes. It serves as a training ground and economic boon for marginalized young people, including immigrants, refugees and disenfranchised Italians, and gives them the opportunity to hone their cooking and service skills in a supportive space. Open from morning to night, it boasts a café, a pasticceria and a restaurant that combines Mediterranean flavors with the native cuisines of its employees – order a buffet plate at lunch or dishes like tempura, ceviche, cous cous and kofta à la carte at dinner.
With its hipster aesthetic, alternative playlist and notable selection of orange wines, Barred brings a dose of Pigneto to Re di Roma. Owned and operated by Tiziano and Mirko Pacucci, two young Roman brothers with a passion for food and drinks, Barred offers a small but tightly-curated selection of creative, comfort dishes in which seasonal ingredients sing. You’ll find entrées like sautéed spinach with black garlic and mushroom ragù and pappardelle with artichokes and licorice. Enjoy tapas at the bar or opt for a seat at one of the few tables in this cozy spot.
€€ | Via Cesena 30
Hailed as the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy, Bistrot64 is not only worth a visit for its excellent value but for its scintillating flavor combinations that fuse Italian cuisine with Japanese aromas. Chef Kotaro Noda’s dishes are masterpieces, with color playing an important role throughout the meal from the amuse-bouche to the desserts, named for their bright hues. Look out for dishes like blue risotto served with lemon and thyme, and purple potatoes served with blackberries and mascarpone.
€€€€ | Via Guglielmo Calderini 64
4. Ego Bistrot
Trastevere is better known for its classic trattorias than its fine dining options so Ego Bistrot is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Set on the top floor of the 17th century Residenza Doria Pamphilj, the restaurant combines high-end cuisine with sweeping views of the city rooftops. The romantic terrace is perfect for dining al fresco and the menu has an ample selection of fresh seafood and shellfish. A bowl of cacio e pepe is kicked up a notch with red prawns, yuzu and mint, while spaghetti come tossed with monk fish, fennel, olives and grapefruit. [Update: Ego Bistrot has closed since this article was published.]
Epiro has been a popular spot since it first opened on a quiet corner in San Giovanni back in 2013. With modern dishes, natural wines and foraged ingredients, Epiro was among the first contemporary locales to serve truly satisfying entrées that combined flavors, colors and textures in a novel way. From February 2019, Epiro will transition into a cave à manger, or a tapas bar, with a focus on wines and a small selection of shareable plates that make the most of the season’s ingredients.
€€ | Piazza Epiro 26
Fernanda is a restaurant ahead of the game, thanks to the keen intuition and foresight of its talented team (the whole staff took a course on fermented vegetables years ago) and chef Davide Del Duca’s cuisine is refreshingly down to earth – quite literally. Roots and peels are prominent ingredients and while that may sound incongruous to most, these too-often-discounted elements are so expertly prepared, they lead as the star of the dish. The desserts are the perfect bookend to the meal: the black garlic foam with porter beer cream, tuber peels and chocolate crumble is a standout.
Osteria Fratelli Mori is named for Alessandro and Francesco Mori, two brothers with a love for cooking, who serve honest, Roman fare in a relaxed environment. The menu isn’t exactly surprising but everything is executed to perfection, from the fritti to the desserts. You’ll find Roman classics like meatballs and a Gricia with artichokes, plus woodfire pizzas that are a cross between Roman and Neapolitan style. Ingredients are sourced from the nearby Testaccio Market and local suppliers and the wine list is primarily focused on the Lazio region.
With large windows that look out into one of the most elegant streets in the capital, Giulia’s enviable location is just the first of many reasons to dine at this excellent restaurant. With chef Pierluigi Gallo at the helm, the menu offers an exciting array of creative comfort food that are at once rustic yet refined. Order the tasting menu to enjoy all the fabulous flavors in dishes such as risotto with mandarin and burnt onion and a carrot fritter with a homemade ketchup. The décor is lovely as well, with vintage furniture adding a pop to the industrial setting.
€€€ | Via Giulia 245 (entrance Lungotevere dei Tebaldi 4/A)
Set within the storied Hotel Hassler at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Michelin-starred Imàgo was the first rooftop restaurant to open in the 1950s and pairs iconic views with high-end dining. Today, Imàgo remains one of the city’s most respected restaurants thanks to its innovative cuisine and old-world charm. Neapolitan-born chef Francesco Apreda draws inspiration from his time in London and Japan to create dishes that fuse Italian flavors with curry and umami elements. Try the capellini aglio, olio e peperoncino (olive oil, garlic and red chili pepper) with smoked eel. [Update: Francesco Apreda has since moved to head the kitchen of Idylio at The Pantheon Iconic Hotel while Rome-born chef Andrea Antonini has now taken over at Imàgo.]
For heartfelt recipes with a side of hygge, be sure to stop by Marigold, a restaurant and micro-bakery that brings a touch of Scandinavia to Rome’s Ostiense district. Marigold is a dream-come-true for Sofie Wochner, a Danish baker, and Domenico Cortese, a Calabrese chef, who had long hosted Rome’s foodie community at pop-up dinners in their home by way of “The Eatery”. Today, you will find them serving freshly baked cinnamon rolls, avocado toast with poached eggs and specialty coffees to an international clientele. Marigold is open daily for breakfast and brunch, and for dinner on the weekends.
Serving up high-end street food in the heart of Rome, Mercerie was one of the most innovative eateries to open in the capital last year. A culinary project created by Michelin-starred chef Igles Corelli, it sees Italian classics reinterpreted and transformed into bite-sized lasagnas, stuffed cannoli, savory pralines and chocolate buttons. Each treat feels like a gourmet jewel and is almost too pretty too eat. Mercerie also doubles as a cocktail bar and makes for a stylish aperitivo or tasting dinner with a group of friends.
The latest restaurant to receive a Michelin star in Rome, Moma was recognized for its quality ingredients, distinctive flavors and consistently high standards. It has been a perennial favorite of Rome’s business crowd who flock to its coffee bar at all hours of the day. Located opposite the US Embassy, the restaurant is named after New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and was conceived as a “gastronomic showcase” for artistic dishes and unusual combinations. Look out for dishes like persimmon with blue cheese and walnuts and grilled calamari with fresh strawberries and foie gras mousse.
€€€€ | Via di S. Basilio 42
The younger sister of the beloved Pianostrada, PianoAlto brings feminine flair and gourmet street food to southern Rome. Like its precursor, every detail here is curated – from the fresh flowers and linen napkins to flavor combinations that entice you to order a little bit of everything on the menu. From the focaccia appetizers, gourmet panini and fritti of all types, you’ll find a wide array of shareable plates alongside fresh pastas, burgers and seasonal entrées. Grab a seat on the rooftop garden and watch the sun set over Rome’s Gasometro for a different perspective of the city skyline. As of September 2020, the restaurant has been rebranded to PianoAlto Open Space with room for coworking.
14. Rimessa Roscioli
Rome is filled with wine bars but Rimessa Roscioli stands out from the crowd because its tasting rooms double as a classroom for curious oenophiles. With hundreds of bottles lining the walls, and talented sommeliers, this is a stimulating place to learn about food and wine from passionate experts. Rimessa Roscioli hosts wine tasting dinners, olive oil tastings, cooking classes and the restaurant is even home to Rome’s first Wine Club. Through entertaining storytelling, you’ll learn about the people behind each wine while enjoying a taste of artisanal cheeses, cured meats and traditional Roman pastas.
One of the buzziest openings of the past year, Santo Palato is a retro trattoria that has become exceedingly popular with the city’s tastemakers who appreciate the nuance that chef Sarah Cicolini brings out of traditional dishes. The menu appeals to those with more carnivorous appetites; in fact, the restaurant is part of a larger cultural revival that is seeing offal grace menus across the capital. At Santo Palato, tripe, sweetbread and tongue make an appearance alongside more palatable classics like Amatriciana and Genovese. Book well in advance because it’s a popular spot.
Young pizzaiolo Pier Daniele Seu has been the talk of the town since he first inaugurated a pizzeria in Termini’s Mercato Centrale back in 2017. Last year, he opened Seu Pizza Illuminati and the contemporary pizzeria has been widely recognized as the best in the city. With neon lights and modern décor, Seu serves up gourmet Neapolitan pizzas that are baked to perfection and mouthwateringly light. Be sure to save room for the sweet dessert pizza with strawberry coulis, whipped ricotta, candied almonds and fresh mint.
With three Michelin stars to his name, a celebrated cooking academy, a partnership with Bulgari Hotels, and a number of other projects, Niko Romito is not only one of Italy’s most eminent chefs, but also one of its most dynamic. Spazio fits right into this narrative: a contemporary restaurant-laboratory, it is an interdisciplinary space where students of the Accademia Niko Romito cooking school can experiment, grow and refine their culinary abilities. The restaurant serves contemporary Italian cuisine that highlights the core essence of its ingredients – while meticulous cooking techniques enhance their nutritional qualities.
€€€ | Piazza Giuseppe Verdi 9
Led by chef Tommaso Pennestri and sommelier Valeria Payero, Trattoria Pennestri is a convivial restaurant with an exciting menu that reinterprets Italian cuisine. The wine list is extensive, with a focus on natural labels, and the service is exceptional. The menu changes seasonally but look out for pici with broccoli rabe and bread crumbs and fettuccine with sausage, mint pesto and pecorino. Trattoria Pennestri also makes one of Rome’s best desserts: chocolate mousse served between crunchy layers of Sardinian flatbread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary and sea salt.
The young staff, brimming with enthusiasm, passion and determination, make the difference at Zia, a little gem in the heart of Trastevere that serves whimsical dishes in an intimate setting. The cuisine here is sophisticated but unpretentious, and chef Antonio Ziantoni’s creativity shines through in dishes such as plin ravioli stuffed with blue cheese served in an onion and clove broth, or cabbage stewed in milk and chocolate. The whole dining experience is aesthetic and the desserts are true works of art. Order La Mela (The Apple) or La Nocciola (The Hazelnut) for innovative recreations of these ingredients.
€€€€ | Via Goffredo Mameli 45