Italian food - everyone loves it! Even American Italian food. Here in the south, Italian restaurants are usually the upscale, nicer restaurants in town. I had a list of foods I wanted to try prior to our arrival (any excuse to research food) and hit every one of them on my list, and then some!
The best appetizer! These plates are huge, you could really eat a large plate of this for lunch with just wine, but why would you miss the opportunity to eat another dish? If you have 2 or more people, definitely get this at few times while in the city. The meat and cheese are very high quality and of course, go perfectly together. Ask for a wine recommendation if you aren't sure what would go best with the dish. Most plates we had came with stone ground mustard and honey on the side like the photo below. Restaurants usually bring you a bread basket, so you can make some perfect little bread-cheese-meat-mustard bites!
Restaurant Recommendation: Cantina Belsiana (Via Belsiana, 15 Rome 00187) This small, family style cantina (designates a wine cellar in Italy) has a large wine list and great variety of appetizers. Check their Facebook page for more info. The waitress was knowledgeable and made us feel welcome which was nice, especially since we stopped in on our first night! It is near the Spanish Steps.
Much like the bruschetta you've had a home... but better! Every bruschetta we had (and we had a LOT) tasted like it had just been tossed with high quality olive oil. Probably because it had. Also, the tomatoes all taste like farm tomatoes. My mother-in-law grows tomatoes in her garden and these tomatoes tasted like those! None of that rubbery bland stuff from the grocery store. Delicious! It also is much lighter than some of the other appetizers available like the antipasto platters, which are nearly a meal in themselves. It's a good choice when you want to save room for a pasta plate later.
Restaurant Recommendation: Restaurante Camp de' Fiori (Via della Corda, 3, 00186 Roma, Italy) I can't harp on this restaurant enough. Set on the beautiful Camp de'Fiori Square, the food is the best we had in Rome and the service can't be beat. The owner and servers made us feel at home and very welcome.
3.Cacio e Pepe
First let me say that cache e pepe is the perfect dish. It is simple, light (how can pasta be light?), and full of flavor. It's a traditional Roman dish that means "pasta with cheese and pepper." I know, it doesn't sound as good as it actual is, but the pepper is good, the cheese is excellent, and the pasta is perfectly cooked. It was one of the most delicious meals I've ever had.
Restaurant Recommendation: Mastro Ciccia (Via del Governo Vecchio 76) You really can't go wrong with anything here, their casual family style atmosphere (there were actual families in there!) can't be beat. Services was very friendly.
Photo Credit: Chris Hancock
2. Spaghetti aglio e olio
Cacio e Pepe was the clear front runner for my favorite dish.... until the spaghetti agile e olio entered my mouth! This dish is similar to cacio e pepe but instead of the usual black pepper, it's get red pepper flakes and parsley. And of course Romano cheese on top! Both of these dishes are worth trying while in Rome. I had lasagna, pesto, and all kinds of other traditional pasta dishes there and these two were the ones that made the list.
Restaurant Recommendation: La Bottega del caffe (piazza madonna dei monti, 5) Located in the Monti district, this restaurant is laid back but very high quality. The service is fast and attentive, it is a busy cafe.
This may only be the top #1 must-eat dish for me and my sugar loving friends, but everyone needs to try something. Like ice cream? Get some gelato, it's on every corner. A cake lover? Try one of the many daily cakes they make. They've got chocolate, they've got white cake, they've even got Easter cake! Get it all. Get the tiramisu, the cannoli (pic below), whatever your dessert preference, Rome has got it all and for a very reasonable price. Most places had $5 desserts, and the portions were enough for two people, we all got our own and passed them around to try!
Restaurant Recommendation: Casa & Bottega (via dei Coronari 183) This gorgeous, minimalist little bar is coozy and chic. We came just from drinks and dessert and were not disappointed! Try the Tiramisu jar, it's a modern twist on the classic.
Photo credit on second photo: Diane Hancock
Have a favorite Roman dish? Let me know below!