Here is a diverse list of Roman dishes categorized into appetizers, first courses, second courses, side dishes, desserts, and street food. All vegetarian options have been marked clearly.
Food in Rome
Even though I come from a country that has an incredibly complex taste palette (Pakistan), I do not think I had a real connection to food and fully understood the pleasures of dining, cooking, going to produce markets, and breaking bread with loved ones until I moved to Rome.
The way that the Italians cook always reminds me of how my mother used to cook for me; she would always say that a good cook can make multiple hearty meals using the same few ingredients available in their pantry.
A lot of traditional food in Rome historically seems to follow this same concept; what dishes can be created with the food that grows locally in our gardens? How can we use all parts of our meat to ensure nothing goes to waste?
-Carciofi alla Giudìa (Vegetarian)
Artichokes are such a special vegetable that I had never eaten before I moved to Rome. They are prepared in a specific way in the Jewish neighborhood, where they fry the entire plant and serve it up; it holds a delicious, smoky, crunchy flavor.
–Carciofi alla Romana (Vegetarian)
Another Roman way of preparing artichokes that can be found outside of the Jewish neighborhood, especially in the springtime, is braising the plant and serving it soaked in garlic and mint.
–Fiori di Zucca (Vegetarian)
As someone who loves whole flowers being used in food, I got very excited when my flatmate came back home one day with a crate full of beautiful yellow and green zucchini flowers. In Rome, they are usually fried in a simple batter made of flour and water and served as fritters.
This list mostly contains varieties of pasta, as pizza and pasta are mainly served as first courses in Italy. These dishes can be found in almost every restaurant in Rome:
Authentic carbonara usually makes use of spaghetti or rigatoni pasta with a sauce made of egg and grated cheese whipped together with pieces of guanciale (pork) sprinkled on top.
Bucatini pasta tossed together with tomatoes and topped with guanciale.
–Cacio e Pepe (Vegetarian)
The traditional pasta type used is tonnarelli, and it is served with a creamy sauce made of pecorino cheese and black pepper.
–Pasta alla Gricia
This pasta is sometimes considered as amatriciana bianca as in a white sauce version of amatriciana pasta. It is made with pecorino cheese, black pepper and topped with guanciale.
-Pasta alla Pajata
Rigatoni-shaped pasta with tomato sauce and calf intestine. The way that it is cooked makes use of the meat to create a thick creamy sauce along with the tomatoes.
–Gnocchi alla Romana
This dish looks nothing like traditional gnocchi balls but instead like much larger cutlets baked together into a casserole. The dumplings are made of semolina, whole milk, butter, and parmesan cheese. The sauce is made of parmesan cheese, butter, and black pepper; the dumplings are then covered with more parmesan and baked in the oven. This gnocchi is usually served with meatballs and tomato sauce.
-Pizza alla Romana
This includes all kinds of pizza toppings; the difference between pizza made in Rome and that made in Naples is that Roman pizza is much lighter as it has a thin, crunchy crust. Some Italians that I have met have actually argued that Roman-style pizza is healthy due to the fresh ingredients and the thin crust used. Would you agree (or want to?)
-Saltimbocca alla Romana
Saltimbocca translates in English to jump in the mouth. It is a very popular second course in Rome made of veal cutlets layered with prosciutto and sage leaves.
-Straccetti alla Romana
This is another well-known Roman meat course of tender beef strips served with rocket leaves, pecorino cheese, and sometimes tomatoes. It is available at most restaurants in the city.
Usually specially cooked for Easter, abbacchio is a lamb dish cooked in the oven for an hour with potatoes, garlic, herbs, and anchovy sauce.
-Coda alla Vaccinara
Made with less valuable parts of an ox, such as the tripe or the tail, the stewed meat is usually cooked with wine and served with various vegetables.
–Filetto di Baccalà alla Romana
Some seafood dishes are also specific to the city, such as cod coated and fried in a batter made of flour and sparkling water. This may be found more specifically in restaurants in Rome that specialize in seafood.
–Salad of Puntarelle
Puntarelle is an Italian green that belongs to the chicory family. Expect strings of puntarelle drenched in a dressing made of anchovies, garlic, red-wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. It has a very distinct taste.
–Cicoria Ripassata (Vegetarian)
Chicory is a foraged wild green that is very light and airy on the palette; when served. It is usually dressed with garlic, oil, and chili. It used to be considered as the ‘poor’ man’s dish due to the fact that the green could be found growing in the wild, but I think food that can be foraged easily has a very special quality to it.
This hearty, protein-packed side dish is made up of broad beans, peas, lettuce, artichokes, spring onions, and bacon.
–Fave e Pecorino (Vegetarian)
This dish is made up of two simple ingredients- broad beans and pecorino cheese. Since it is the perfect combination of protein and carbs, it was viewed as suitable for Roman soldiers to take to battle for energy and sustenance, so it may be the perfect snack for long days out in the city.
Found widely in pizza shops around the city, supplì are the ultimate street food in Rome. They are fried balls of rice with different fillings soaking the rice. If you order classico, you will get one stuffed with meat (beef) sauce and pecorino cheese, but you can also get cacio e pepe or basil and tomato stuffings (vegetarian).
I have seen children get off from school and swarm around such shops to buy supplì as an after-school snack. It is also a great snack to soak up alcohol in your system on a night out.
These are white-flour pizza pockets stuffed with different kinds of meat, such as braised oxtail, meatballs, pork belly, etc. Trapizzini are typically found in the neighborhood of Trastevere, with some stores that exclusively sell them. Expect this street food to fill you right up; it can replace a traditional meal at a restaurant if you would rather grab some food on a day with a packed itinerary.
This Roman dessert is a loaf of flour, eggs, honey, butter, and salt split open in the middle and stuffed with whip cream. It is usually found in most pastry shops in the city, and you can replace a cornetto with it and pair it with coffee for breakfast.
–Crostata di Visciole
This tart of ricotta cheese and sour cherries in a thick shortcrust can be found in the Jewish neighborhood of Rome.
- Of course, all other kinds of Italian dishes can be found on Roman restaurant menus; this guide aids you to be able to distinguish between food that is typical of this particular region in case you aim to have a particularly Roman culinary experience.
- It is nice to know that pizza and pasta are not the only options you have in the eternal city, which is what most tourists end up sticking to for their meals.
- Since a lot of these dishes use simple, easily found ingredients, it could be fun to take note of the food you try and like and to try and recreate it at home. Making these notes on food can be another souvenir of sorts to take back with you. And you won’t just know ‘Italian’ dishes but specifically Roman ones.