Italian Foods the Locals Say You Should Eat in Rome

Ciao to all my foodie friends who love Italian cuisine! If you want to experience Italian foods like a local, then you should bookmark, print, and save this page. This is a guide to all the foods you should eat while touring Rome, as recommended by locals. Believe me, when I say, Roman food is like no other. Italian breakfasts are sweet and delicious. The meals are satisfying and memorable, and in this guide, you’ll discover the best foods to eat in Rome.

Firstly, I am pleased to introduce a few Italian friends who guided me through the streets of Italy. We have been in a language exchange for over a year (they help me with Italian, and I help them with English).

On my last visit to Italy, my Italian friends showed me around Rome and Milan like only a local could. and I tried all the foods that they recommended!

collage with antonella
collage with claudio
collage with alessia

Italian Foods Before Dinner

apertivo

Italians start their evening with an apertivo (or aperitif, in French). In the Italian culture, an aperitivo is an opportunity to open your appetite, and ready your stomach for the delicious food on the horizon.

The aperitif is a before-dinner drink, which is typically dry or fizzed. Some examples include gin and tonic, an Aperol Spritz, and Prosecco.

The accompanying foods may be similar to a charcuterie board filled with olives, cheese, Parma ham, other meats, nuts, bread, and crackers.  The use of fresh ingredients is a hallmark of authentic Italian foods.

Before dinner, you must try an appetizer like Supplì alla Romana.  They look like fried rice balls, but you may also see them rolled into an elongated shape. 

There are two main recipes — the Roman supplì, and the Sicilian arancino. The main difference between the fried rice balls is that supplì are made with arborio rice and mozzarella, while arancini are made with arborio rice, mozzarella, and the addition of beef and peas.

Supplì are also a great option for a mid-day snack, and they may be served as street food. 

Best Italian Foods to Eat in Rome

Pizza

Italian foods, such as pizza and pasta, have become global favorites.

Neapolitan pizza originated in Naples, but Roman pizza, or Pizza Romana, is particularly famous for its characteristically crumbly dough. This is achieved by using authentic ingredients and cooking them in a certain way.

Italian flour is combined with water, yeast, extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt to create the thin dough and crust. There are two different styles of pizza which may be referred to as Roman pizza in Italy.  

Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), typically comes in rectangular slices and has a thicker base, similar to focaccia. It is eaten as a casual to-go snack.  

Pizza tonda (whole round pizza) has a thin base and is commonly served at sit-down restaurants. Also, note that pizzas are not meant to be shared, everyone gets their pizza (but you can share, we won’t tell anyone)!

These pizzas are a nice portion, and I could barely finish 1/3 of it. Toppings vary from 4-cheese to salmon, and they are crazy delicious!

pasta

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Pasta lovers may be in for a surprise when ordering a Spaghetti alla Carbonara dish. Most in the United States are overjoyed to see every noodle covered in a warm robe of thick creamy sauce.

But in Italy, nonnas (grandmas) everywhere have something to say about this because most of what we consider Italian food in the States is not Italian at all. Chicken should not be served with pasta. And the creamy cheese sauce does not belong on carbonara.

There. Now you know.

This Italian dish is simply made with eggs, hard cheese, guanciale (a cured meat made of pork jowls), and black pepper. Guanciale is rich and fatty and seasoned with salt and herbs, which gives the dish a phenomenal taste.

The most common type of pasta used is rigatoni or spaghetti.  

If you are a fan of rich, creamy pasta, then you must try Cacio e Pepe, a Roman pasta dish made of Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. The use of fresh ingredients is a hallmark of authentic Italian foods.

Pasta alla Grigia

Pasta alla Grigia is very similar to Carbonara The difference between these two Italian pasta dishes is the egg. Carbonara is made with freshly beaten egg while Grigia does not, but everything else remains the same.

The dish consists of pasta, Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and guanciale.

Pasta Amatriciana

Pasta Amatriciana (also referred as bucatini all’amatricianais another classic Roman dish alongside Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Pasta alla Grigia, and Cacio e Pepe.

It is usually made with bucatini pasta, which is a thick, hollow spaghetti-like shape. Is there ANYTHING more comforting than a big bowl of pasta in a rich sauce? The sauce consists of olive oil, guanciale, canned tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and pecorino cheese.

The ingredients are simple and scrumptious. If you love hearty, flavorful, and spicy pasta sauces, then you will love this dish.

Carciofi alla Guidia

Are there any veggie lovers? You should try Carciofi alla Giudìa.  They are Jewish-style artichokes, and it is one of the best-known dishes of Roman Jewish cuisine.

The dish is a deep-fried artichoke, and it originates from the Jewish community of Rome (giudìo is the Roman dialect word for Jew). It is a springtime specialty of the Jewish Ghetto.

After frying, they look golden, and I loved the nutty crunchiness of the leaves. 

Codea alla Vaccinara

Codea alla Vaccinara is a dish made from the tail of a cow and braised and served with vegetables. This Roman oxtail stew was born in the heart of The Eternal City.

We have it on good authority that it takes at least four hours to make this dish. That goes to show that Italians cook like there is no tomorrow.  

Abbachio a Scottadito

Made in homes and restaurants, Abbachio a Scottadito is a renowned lamb chop dish in Rome. It is typically marinated and served for the Easter holiday.

Saltimbocca alla Romana

The quick and easy-to-make Saltimbocca alla Romana consists of veal cutlets coated with prosciutto, sage, white wine, and seasonings. In Italy, this dish is almost as popular as spaghetti.



Best Street Food in Rome

woman with street food in italy

Supplì

You can find supplì (or croquettes) at pizzerias. We recommend going to Trastevere because there is so much more to see in this iconic neighborhood. At supplì snack bars, you’ll find other tempting flavors like cacio e pepe.

Trappizzino (Piazza Trilussa, 46 or Termini Station), Supplizio (via dei Banchi Vecchi, 143), La casa del supplì (Piazza Re di Roma, 20), I Supplì (via San Francesco a Ripa, 137). There is also a Trappizzino in New York!

Pizza al Taglio

In Trastevere or on the famous Forno Campo dei Fiori, you can enjoy the glorious taste of pizza al taglio. These are touristy areas but there are plenty of other pizzerias that sell these eats.

Fiori di Zucca

Using zucchini flowers, mozzarella, and anchovies, this unusual dish is rolled in batter and fried in olive oil. You can find them at Forno Campo dei Fiori and some pizzerias in Trastevere.

Best Desserts in Rome

gelato

Tiramisu

I can never say no to tiramisu. Next to baklava, it’s my favorite sweet treat.

Tiramisu is a popular Italian dessert known for its rich and indulgent flavors. It is traditionally made with layers of ladyfingers soaked in espresso or strong coffee, layered with a creamy mixture of mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar. The top of the dessert is dusted with cocoa powder, adding a touch of bitterness to balance the sweetness.

While in Rome, I joined a class to make pasta and tiramisu and was the bomb! I also tried it at a local restaurant where it is made fresh at Molino (via Merulana, 281) which is located near Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore.

Grattachecca

These were my favorite shaved ice treats for staying cool while touring on a hot day. It’s an Italian summer tradition! Frappès are also tasty if you love coffee with shaved ice.

You’ll find grattachecca stands like Alla Fonte D’oro and Sora Mirella along the Tiber River in the Trastevere neighborhood.

Gelato

Some of the best gelaterias in Italy are in Rome! My Italian friends took me to Otaleg gelateria (Via di San Cosimato 14A) which is located in Trastevere. They have an array of creative flavors and gelato lovers line the streets to taste their delicious creamy scoops.

Final Thoughts on the Foods Locals Say You Should Eat in Rome

Who can resist Italian cuisine? It is one of the best comfort dishes to enjoy in every season. Indulging in traditional Italian foods is a delicious trip to Italy.

Things to Know Before You Go

  • These foods are native to Rome, so you can’t get any closer to authenticity with the dishes in this city. Other regions and cities may make a dish, but it’s not the same. It would be like going to Canada for American southern food.
  • It is a very touristy place for obvious reasons, so avoid restaurants on main streets or with pictures of food and be sure to ask the advice of a local.
  • For all the seafood lovers, take note! In Italy, prawns look and taste more like small lobsters than shrimp. However, they are fresh and deliciously prepared.

It took a few days to eat my way through Rome. I send hugs and a huge THANK YOU to my friends in Italy who helped make it possible! Sharing a meal of Italian foods with them created unforgettable moments of joy and togetherness. 💚🤍❤️

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10 Comments

  1. Your post should come with a warning: Don’t read if hungry! This all sounds fabulous. How special to have friends in Italy to help guide you. I enjoyed your post.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Ha! Right? You have no idea how much I ate while writing this post. Thank you for reading and I hope you are able to visit Italy soon 🙂

  2. Valentina says:

    As Italian, I must say, finally a good article about italian food wrote from a non Italian person.
    I loved to read it .it reminded me of my Roman holiday. So much food 😉 I loved it!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Thank you so much 🙂 it means a lot to hear this from a native Italian! I can’t wait to explore Italy again!

  3. Jenn Record says:

    I love posts like like this.. I hate falling for tourist traps when eating in a few place..love your advice..and these photos have me SO motivated to visit Italy soon!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Thank you, Jenn. I hope you are able to visit soon. I really enjoyed the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat.

  4. Oh yum, this post is making me miss Rome, and particularly eating there! Haha. I had the best Carbonara in my life in Rome, and I’ve been dreaming of going back to have more ever since. Also, I love tiramisu, but I was so focused on eating as much gelato as possible in Italy I never had any and totally missed out! Guess I just have to go back now! 🙂

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Take me with you! LOL!!!

  5. Bea Pinnegar says:

    Oof, this post made me HUNGRY! Cannot wait to explore Italian food someday. Definitely coming back to this post whenever the time is right! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Ha-ha! I am already missing the pizza and pasta 🙂