Roman Cuisine for dummies: what to order when you visit Rome
What to order in Rome, so the waiter won’t think you’re a bit out of your mind?
Food is a huge part of every Italian vacation experience. As you may know there are hundreds of typical dishes and every region (and sometimes province, or even town) has its own.
For this reason it is very important to know “what to order” in every area of Italy: you will have the best possible food experience and the waiter will know that you are an expert!
Roman cuisine is very rich and has a lot of typical dishes.
What to order in Rome: APPETIZERS
Appetizers are ALWAYS a good way of starting a meal. Here our must have for roman fried appetizers, of course:
Fiori di zucca (fried zucchini flowers)
If you visit Rome during spring or early summer, you definitely have to try the stuffed, fried zucchini flowers. Yes, I said stuffed and fried. The filling is usually with tasty anchovies and string mozzarella: together with the crunchy fried zucchini on the outside, it makes for the perfect mix.
If you know what arancini are, then think you are on the right track to understand supplì, the roman cousin of the sicilian fried rice balls. Supplì are similar to arancini but they have an oval shape and are usually filled with tomato and mozzarella.
Want an extra tasty alternative? Try supplì with amatriciana filling. My favourite.
What to order in Rome: PRIMI
The most common “Primi” (the first dish, mainly Pasta or Rice) are:
Pasta type: mezze maniche or spaghetti
Ingredients: raw eggs, cheek lard (aged and seasoned), Pecorino cheese
Probably the most famous pasta in Italy. Raw eggs might sound a bit scary, but they slightly cook with the pasta warmth and create a delicious sauce with fat from the cheek lard and the grated Pecorino cheese.
Pasta type: Bucatini (thick spaghetti with a hole) or rigatoni (short tube shaped pasta)
Ingredients: Tomato sauce, cheek lard (aged and seasoned), Pecorino cheese
This pasta was born in the small town of Amatrice and has been adopted by roman cooks, and raised with love. Actually one of the simplest and best pasta ever.
Pasta type: May vary
Ingredients: cheek lard (aged and seasoned), Pecorino cheese
This is Amatriciana without tomato sauce. Less saucy but still creamy. And soooo tasty.
Cacio e pepe
Pasta type: Tonnarelli (thick spaghetti) or spaghetti
Ingredients: Pecorino cheese and pepper
One of the simplest and tastier pasta ever. You definitely should taste a “Cacio e Pepe” in Rome to understand how difficult it may be to prepare this dish.
What to order in Rome: Veggies
Carciofi alla Giudia
Whole artichoke fried in oil with the head down. Crispy outside, tender and sweet inside. Definitely a must try.
Chicory sprouts seasoned with olive oil, garlic and anchovies.
Fresh and crunchy, these sprouts are served raw and are a perfect side for a good meat dish.
What to order in Rome: Meat
Trippa (alla romana)
The dish is prepared with tripe (a type of edible lining from the stomachs of cattle), white onions, peeled tomatoes, carrots, white wine, Pecorino Romano cheese and pennyroyal leaves. I usually eat the Trippa only in a few restaurants where I know the food is very high quality. If you want to taste Trippa, go in one of the restaurants we suggest on IG of FB. Trippa is a Dish prepared differently in many Italian regions. The Trippa alla Romana is one of the best for my tastes.
Coda alla vaccinara
This is one of my favorites.
Roman cuisine is famous for being a “poor cuisine” where the most famous dishes are made of the QUINTO QUARTO (In the cuisine of modern Rome quinto quarto, literally the “fifth quarter”, is the offal of butchered animals).
This in particular is an oxtail dish, where the meat and bones are cooked for a long time in abundant tomato sauce. The base of the sauce is usually made with celery, onions and carrots.
It is a perfect dish for a good “SCARPETTA”.
Extra tip: if you want to know more about the best traditional tomato sauce, don’t miss our article “Sauce Three Golden Rules”
Abbacchio a scottadito (“finger burner” Abbacchio)
Roasted meat (usually chops or tight) of a lamb fed only with milk (Abbacchio). The dish must be served very hot (it should “burn your fingers” as the name says, and should be eated with bare hands. Tender, juicy and tasty.
Well, this is the “at least list” you should master before ordering your food in Rome. Now it’s your time to discover and taste other dishes and finally become a master of the Roman cuisine.
Now that you know what to order in Rome, let me give two final extra tips.
This characteristic osteria in the heart of Trastevere is a true find. Make sure you order tonnarelli cacio e pepe: the pasta is served in a crunchy Parmigiano Reggiano nest. It will blow your mind.
Osteria Ragno d’Oro
A super typical Roman restaurant mainly known from locals: make sure to stop by when you visit the Vatican area.
The highlights of our lunch here where puntarelle, carciofo alla Giudia, Amatriciana and Polpette. Yes, everything was incredibly tasty.
Is there any dish that truly surprised you in Rome?
Let us know in the comments