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The Best Rome Food Tours, Plus Famous & Iconic Roman Dishes to Try

By Greig Santos-Buch
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Most Iconic Roman Dishes & Rome Food Tours

Learn about famous dishes Rome is best known for, along with neighborhoods in the city to sample this distinguished cuisine. Plus, our top recommendations for locally guided tours and bar crawls, restaurants and cooking classes to get a real taste of Rome according to residents.

Rome, with its rich history and vibrant culture, offers a culinary landscape as timeless as the city itself. The Roman cuisine is deeply rooted in “cucina povera,” the tradition of using simple, available ingredients to create dishes that are both nourishing and full of flavor. This ethos reflects the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Roman cooks over centuries, transforming the humblest of ingredients into dishes celebrated around the world.

Key Ingredients and Flavors of Rome

Roman cuisine is characterized by its straightforward yet flavorful components. Olive oil, pecorino romano (a sharp, salty cheese made from sheep’s milk), and fresh vegetables such as artichokes and tomatoes are staples. Pasta, particularly shapes like spaghetti, bucatini, and rigatoni, serve as the foundation for many iconic dishes. Proteins often include pork, lamb, and offal, showcasing the Roman knack for utilizing every part of the animal.

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The Most Iconic Roman Dishes

Carbonara

Anton Dobrea from Getty Images
Carbonara: A quintessential Roman pasta dish made with eggs, pecorino romano, guanciale (cured pork cheek), and black pepper. Its creamy, rich sauce is achieved without cream, showcasing the simplicity and genius of Roman cuisine. Image courtesy Anton Dobrea / Getty.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe
Cacio e Pepe: Another pasta classic, featuring only pecorino romano, black pepper, and the pasta itself. Its name translates to “cheese and pepper,” the two primary flavors of this minimalist masterpiece. Image courtesy Katrin Shine.

Amatriciana

Amatriciana dining in Rome
Amatriciana: Originating from Amatrice, a town near Rome, this pasta dish is made with guanciale, pecorino romano, and tomato. It’s a heartier sauce, often served with bucatini pasta. Image courtesy Olga Mazyarkina / Getty.

Artichokes (Carciofi)

Carciofi alla Romana
Artichokes (Carciofi): Prepared in two famous ways – “Carciofi alla Romana” (Roman-style artichokes, braised with herbs and olive oil) and “Carciofi alla Giudia” (Jewish-style artichokes, deep-fried to a crisp). Image courtesy Bonchan / Getty.

Saltimbocca alla Romana

Saltimbocca alla Romana
Saltimbocca alla Romana: Thinly sliced veal, topped with sage and prosciutto, cooked in white wine and butter. Its name suggests “jumps in the mouth,” indicative of its delightful taste. Image courtesy Don Stock / Getty.

Supplì

Supplì famous food in Rome
Supplì: Fried rice balls, similar to Sicilian arancini, but typically filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella, showcasing Rome’s love for street food that is both delicious and practical. Image courtesy Olga Mazyarkina / Getty.

Seasonal and Fresh

A hallmark of Roman cuisine is its emphasis on seasonality and freshness. Dishes often feature ingredients that are in season, ensuring that the flavors are at their peak. This not only supports local farmers and producers but also maintains a sustainable approach to eating and cooking.

The History of Roman Cuisine

From the days of the Roman Empire to the humble kitchens of the modern city, the evolution of Roman food traditions offers insight into the cultural, economic, and social shifts that have shaped this eternal city.

Ancient Beginnings

Roman cuisine has its roots in the ancient world, where the diets of the early Romans were simple, primarily based on cereals, vegetables, and legumes. Meat was a luxury, reserved for the affluent or for special occasions. The Roman Empire’s expansion brought a wealth of new ingredients and culinary techniques from conquered lands, notably Greece, which had a profound influence on Roman eating habits. Banquets in ancient Rome showcased the empire’s might, featuring extravagant dishes, some of which are precursors to today’s Roman specialties.

The Middle Ages and Renaissance

With the fall of the Roman Empire, the city faced numerous hardships that simplified its culinary traditions. The Middle Ages saw a return to simpler, more rustic fare. However, the Renaissance brought a renewed interest in gastronomy. The papal court in Rome, with its wealth and influence, attracted chefs from across Italy and beyond, who brought with them sophisticated cooking techniques and a penchant for luxury ingredients, laying the groundwork for modern Italian cuisine.

The Influence of Jewish Cuisine

The Jewish community in Rome, one of the oldest in Europe, has had a significant impact on the city’s culinary landscape. The ghetto, established in the 16th century, became a melting pot of flavors, with Jewish culinary traditions influencing Roman dishes. Carciofi alla Giudia is one such dish that exemplifies this cross-cultural exchange, showcasing the deep-frying technique favored by Roman Jews.

The Birth of Cucina Povera

Economic hardship and resource scarcity have historically shaped the Roman approach to cooking, leading to the “cucina povera” philosophy. This concept emphasizes making the most of simple, available ingredients, a practice that gave rise to many of Rome’s most iconic dishes. Pasta dishes like Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe were born out of necessity, using affordable ingredients like pecorino cheese, black pepper, and eggs to create hearty, flavorful meals that could feed families during tough times.

Modern Roman Cuisine

The 20th century brought significant changes to Rome, with the city evolving rapidly in the post-war era. The influx of tourists and a growing global interest in Italian cuisine led Roman chefs to refine and promote their traditional dishes, turning them into the celebrated staples of Italian dining that we know today. Meanwhile, the city’s food scene continues to innovate, with chefs experimenting with new ingredients and techniques while staying rooted in the tradition of simplicity and flavor.

The Roman Dining Experience

Dining in Rome is as much about the experience as it is about the food. Meals are leisurely, often enjoyed over several hours with family and friends. Antipasti (starters), followed by a primo (first course, usually pasta), a secondo (second course, meat or fish) with contorni (side dishes), and dolci (dessert) make up a traditional Roman meal. This is complemented by local wines, adding another layer of regional flavor.

Ways to Experience Food & Wine in Rome’s Various Neighborhoods, Guided Tours and Cooking Classes

For food and wine enthusiasts eager to dive deep into Rome’s gastronomic heritage, guided tours and cooking classes offer an immersive way to experience the Eternal City’s flavors while gaining insights into the artistry behind its celebrated cuisine.

Must-Visit Neighborhoods in Rome for Food and Wine Enthusiasts

Rome’s neighborhoods each offer unique culinary experiences, showcasing the city’s rich food and wine culture. Whether you’re wandering the historic streets of the Centro Storico, exploring the bohemian alleys of Trastevere, or delving into the trendy vibes of Monti, there’s a world of flavors to discover. Here’s a glimpse into some of Rome’s most food-centric neighborhoods and notable dining spots that foodies should not miss:

Centro Storico

In Rome’s historic heart, you can enjoy exceptional meals at places like Armando al Pantheon, where the proximity to the Pantheon adds a magical touch to your dining experience. Salumeria Roscioli offers an exceptional deli experience, and Otello is known for its charm. For those with a sweet tooth, Supplizio is a must-visit for creative takes on traditional Roman snacks​​.

Trastevere

This vibrant district is renowned for its intimate osterias and artisanal eateries. La Gensola excels in seafood, while Da Enzo and Osteria Fernanda offer a more casual take on Roman dishes. For a Michelin-star experience, Glass Hostaria is the place to go. Don’t forget to stop by Gelateria Fior di Luna for some of the best gelato in Rome, and Proloco Trastevere for quality local ingredients​​.

Monti

A less touristy neighborhood known for its hip wine bars and trendy dining spots. Ai Tre Scalini and La Barrique offer great wine selections, while Al Vino al Vino is perfect for a casual drink. For gourmet sandwiches, Tricolore and Zia Rosetta are excellent choices. Don’t miss Urbana 47 for organic bistro-style dining, and Fatamorgana for unique gelato flavors​​.

Prati-Vatican-Trionfale

This area is a hub for food shopping and dining, with highlights like Pizzarium, known for its innovative pizza by the slice, and La Tradizione, offering an extensive selection of cheeses. For a coffee break, Sciascia is a must-visit. Fine dining options include Romeo and L’Arcangelo, with Taki serving haute Japanese cuisine​​.

Specific Dining Recommendations

  • Trattoria Trecca offers a traditional menu with highlights such as bucatini amatriciana and a rich carbonara​​.
  • Roscioli is known for its superb wine list and famous dishes like carbonara and burrata with sundried tomatoes​​.
  • Piatto Romano in Testaccio serves classic Roman dishes, with offal and amatriciana being specialties​​.
  • Emma near Campo de’ Fiori is notable for its soft-crusted Neapolitan-style pizza, featuring high-quality toppings​​.

Locally Guided Food & Wine Tours in Rome, Bar Crawls, Cooking Classes & Unique Experiences

Local guides bring a depth of knowledge and passion to their tours that’s unmatched. They often lead you to hidden gems and local favorites that might not appear in guidebooks or online lists. These experts, with their insider’s perspective, can take you on a journey through the winding streets of Rome to discover non-touristy, authentic eateries where you can experience the true essence of Roman cuisine as locals do.

Book a Rome Wine & Food Tour in Trastevere Jewish Ghetto, Campo de Fiori

Book a Rome Wine & Food Tour in Trastevere Jewish Ghetto, Campo de Fiori
Image courtesy Gourmetaly Food Tours of Rome.

Join the celebrated Gourmetaly Food Tours of Rome, recognized as a Traveler’s Choice winner in 2023, for an immersive journey through the heart of Roman culinary culture. This tour is a must for anyone eager to delve into the essence of Rome, where food is a pivotal part of its heritage. Set out on an adventure that promises not just a feast for your taste buds with copious amounts of delectable food and wine, but also a deep dive into the daily lives of locals.

The tour weaves through the iconic neighborhoods of Campo de Fiori, the Jewish Ghetto, and Trastevere, offering priority access to historic spots. Experience the warmth of Rome’s community as you skip the line at the renowned Roscioli’s bakery for a slice of their famed pizza. Savor the crispy delight of fried artichokes at the oldest restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto, and indulge in Rome’s signature dishes like buffalo mozzarella, pecorino romano, and the irresistible supplì.

In Trastevere, relax at seated tastings where classics such as Cacio & Pepe and Amatriciana are expertly paired with exquisite wines, all while absorbing invaluable local knowledge from passionate and friendly guides. Culminate your culinary escape with a scoop of Rome’s most delicious ice cream, a sweet note to end on.

This tour, available in morning and evening slots, ensures an intimate experience with no more than 12 participants, allowing for a personalized journey through these culinary enclaves. Plus, as a token of appreciation, you’ll receive a complimentary PDF guidebook and cookbook to continue exploring Roman cuisine at home.

Rome Twilight Trastevere Food Tour


Experience the essence of Roman cuisine on the Rome Twilight Trastevere Food Tour by Eating Europe. This tour takes you through the heart of Trastevere, offering VIP access to some of the most exclusive and beloved food venues in the neighborhood. For over a decade, this pioneering tour has delighted guests with unforgettable culinary adventures under the Roman twilight.

Highlights of the tour include:

  • Exclusive Dining: Skip the queues at Da Enzo, a renowned local eatery, where you’ll toast with DOC prosecco and sample some of their most celebrated dishes.
  • Historic Wine Cellar: Gain special entry to the city’s oldest wine cellar, dating back 2000 years, and taste wines favored by historical figures like Julius Caesar.
  • Authentic Street Food: Relish in Rome’s quintessential street foods, including supplì (fried rice balls), fried artichokes, pizza, and porchetta, capturing the true spirit of Roman street cuisine.
  • Organic Gelato: Discover the best organic gelato in Trastevere and learn to distinguish between authentic Italian gelato and its imitations.
  • Culinary Wisdom: Embark on a journey to becoming a true Roman with insights and tips from your local guide, navigating the city’s culinary landscape with confidence.
  • Wine Pairing: Enjoy traditional pasta in an ambiance reminiscent of Ancient Rome and indulge in top-notch wine pairings at the distinguished Enoteca Ferrara.

Rome Street Food Tour with Local Guide

Images courtesy Raphael Tours & Events.

Dive into Rome’s vibrant street food culture with Raphael Tours & Events on a guided walking tour designed for culinary enthusiasts and first-time visitors alike. This tour invites you to savor the essence of Rome’s beloved street foods, from crispy zucchini flowers and savory supplì to delectable pastries and artisanal pizza. As you journey from one tasting to the next, immerse yourself in the historic beauty of Rome, learning about the city’s rich culinary heritage. This tour is an excellent opportunity to explore Roman cuisine’s depth and diversity while experiencing the city’s iconic landmarks. Ideal for food lovers keen to deepen their understanding of Roman street food, this experience blends delightful culinary discoveries with the enchantment of Rome’s storied streets.

The Roman Food Tour in Trastevere with Free-Flowing Fine Wine

Images courtesy The Roman Food Tour – Food Tour Rome.

This half-day walking adventure will introduce you to the authentic flavors and free-flowing fine wines that define this vibrant neighborhood. You’ll visit cherished local establishments for a series of tastings that include exquisite cheeses, cured ham, artisanal pizza, traditional pasta, and aged balsamic vinegar. As you navigate Trastevere’s charming cobblestone streets, you’ll have the opportunity to sample a selection of local wines and beers, each pairing beautifully with the Roman delicacies presented. The experience culminates with a visit to a popular gelato shop, ensuring a sweet finish to a delectable journey. Learn about the culinary traditions that have shaped Roman cuisine and discover the stories behind the dishes as you taste your way through one of Rome’s most picturesque districts.

Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Campo Dei Fiori Market Food and Wine Tour

Images courtesy Raphael Tours & Events.

Wander through the iconic Trevi neighborhood, home to the majestic Trevi Fountain and the ancient Pantheon. Your journey doesn’t stop there; enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Piazza Navona and delve into the bustling Campo de’ Fiori farmers’ market.

As you meander through Rome’s picturesque streets, indulge in multiple food stops that showcase the city’s rich gastronomy. From tasting exquisite cheeses and prosciutto to savoring freshly baked pizza and creamy ‘gelato’, this tour is a feast for the senses. Each tasting is thoughtfully paired with select wines, offering a comprehensive lunch that celebrates Italian culinary excellence.

Beyond the flavors, you’ll gain insights into Rome’s history and cuisine from your knowledgeable guide, along with valuable tips on local dining and sightseeing spots. This tour is not only an opportunity to enjoy Rome’s famous landmarks but also a chance to immerse yourself in the local food culture, making it a perfect blend of gastronomy and history.

The Award-Winning PRIVATE Food Tour of Rome: 6 or 10 Tastings

Private Rome food tour
Image courtesy Withlocals.

Delve into the heart of Rome’s culinary scene with Withlocals’ Award-Winning PRIVATE Food Tour. This exclusive journey invites you to experience the Eternal City’s flavors like a local, guided by an expert who knows every hidden gem and story behind Rome’s delicious dishes. As you wander through the historic streets of Campo de’ Fiori and the old Jewish Quarter, you’ll discover a world of taste with stops dedicated to savoring local treasures like creamy buffalo mozzarella and authentic Italian gelato.

The Roman Food Tour including Visit to the Trionfale Food Market

The Roman Food Tour including Visit to the Trionfale Food Market
Image courtesy The Roman Food Tour.

Experience the ultimate gastronomic adventure in Rome with The Roman Food Tour, offering an indulgent 4-hour journey through the city’s culinary landscape. This tour is a feast for the senses, featuring 18 different food tastings that showcase the richness of Roman cuisine. Wander through bustling food markets, meet the celebrated ‘Michelangelo of pizza’ at Pizzarium for a slice unlike any other, and explore Paciotti Salumeria, recognized as the city’s finest gourmet shop, for an exquisite selection of cured meats and cheeses.

The experience continues as you sit down in an award-winning Roman trattoria, where fresh pasta and wine await to delight your palate. The tour concludes on a sweet note with artisanal gelato, ensuring a memorable finish to a day filled with culinary discoveries. Led by a knowledgeable guide, this tour not only offers a taste of Rome’s best dishes but also immerses you in the city’s food culture, making it a must-do for any epicurean visiting the Eternal City.

3 in 1 Cooking Class in the Piazza Navona: Fettuccine Ravioli and Tiramisu

One of the highest-rated cooking classes in Rome. Image courtesy Eat and Walk Italy.

Transform your Roman holiday with a hands-on culinary adventure in the heart of the city, courtesy of Eat and Walk Italy. Situated in the picturesque setting of Piazza Navona, this intimate cooking class offers a unique blend of education and enjoyment, ideal for those looking to dive deep into Italian culinary traditions. Under the guidance of expert chefs, you’ll master the art of making fresh fettuccine and ravioli, and learn the secrets behind crafting the perfect tiramisù.

This immersive experience not only equips you with the skills to recreate these classic Italian dishes at home but also invites you to savor your creations in a convivial dining session, complemented by wine, limoncello, and coffee. It’s an ideal way to take a delicious break from sightseeing and to connect with fellow travelers in a small-group setting. Whether you’re a cooking enthusiast or simply looking for a taste of authentic Italian culture, this class promises a memorable addition to your Rome itinerary.

Take the Trip to Discover Rome’s Best Dishes and Experience First-Hand What Makes The City Standout as a Culinary Destination

Rome’s culinary traditions are deeply embedded in the city’s ability to blend the old with the new. While respecting its roots, Roman cuisine continues to evolve, incorporating contemporary techniques and global influences, all while staying true to the heart of what makes Roman food uniquely captivating. Whether it’s in a historic trattoria or a modern gastro pub, the essence of Rome’s culinary heritage shines through, inviting both locals and visitors alike to partake in a gastronomic journey that is both deeply traditional and refreshingly dynamic.

Frequently Asked Questions About Roman Cuisine

What food is Rome famous for?

Rome is renowned for dishes like Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana, and Supplì, among others, embodying the city’s rich culinary tradition through simple, flavorful ingredients.

What was a typical Roman meal in ancient times?

In ancient Rome, a typical meal consisted of three parts: the starter (gustatio) often included eggs or vegetables; the main course (primae mensae) featured meat or fish; and dessert (secundae mensae) usually consisted of fruits and nuts.

What is the most famous dessert in Rome?

The most famous dessert in Rome is Gelato, with its creamy texture and variety of flavors, it’s a must-try treat for visitors.

What are Rome’s best neighborhoods for food and wine?

For food and wine, neighborhoods like Trastevere, Campo de Fiori, Testaccio, and the Jewish Ghetto stand out as prime spots to experience Rome’s vibrant gastronomic scene.

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