On the occasion of World Pasta Day, I thought it was time to check in with some of the great dishes of Italian cuisine and attempt to track down the best pasta in Rome.
In Italy, pasta, and food in general, are a serious business, and every region claims the supremacy of its own local dishes. Rome is no different!
With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world as it becomes safe to do so again, including travellers who are likely to have a foodie/gastro experience in 2021 (e.g. eat at an exclusive restaurant, go on a food tour), the hotel experts at Booking.com asked me to help create a guide about where to eat the best pasta in Rome – plus where to sleep nearby.
The Roman food scene is distinguished by four pasta dishes, which are considered the four pillars of Rome’s cuisine. These combine simple sauces made from economical household ingredients and are served with dried durum wheat flour and water pasta.
The best pasta in Rome – traditional dishes
Carbonara may be one of Italy’s most famous exports, but it is also a recipe which is frequently prepared incorrectly in Italian eyes. Despite chefs the world over adding vegetables and even cream, carbonara should be only made with four ingredients: guanciale (pork cheek), grated Italian hard cheese, egg and black pepper.
Cacio e pepe literally translates as cheese & pepper. One of the oldest recipes in Roman cuisine and associated with the diets of itinerant shepherds in Central Italy, it is simply made from black pepper and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
Gricia, which is very similar to cacio e pepe in form, but also includes guanciale or pig cheek, is also an old recipe from the countryside of Central Italy. Another candidate for the best pasta in Rome.
Amatriciana pasta is a slightly more recent remix of gricia, and takes it name from the town of Amatrice, where legend says the recipe first developed. The recipe combines tomatoes with pan-fried guanciale for a savoury and rich tasting sauce.
But when in Rome, where exactly should you be eating amatriciana, carbonara, cacio e pepe and gricia? Read on for some top restaurant tips from yours truly, Rome-based blogger and Instagrammer Testaccina – plus hotel ideas from Booking.com!
Where to eat the best pasta in Rome + best hotels
Armando Al Pantheon
This historic restaurant in Rome’s centre may stand in the shadow of the Pantheon, but eating pasta at Armando Al Pantheon remains an authentic experience. Despite the tourists that flock in front of its awnings, this is a serious eatery patronised by locals. Run by the Gargioli family since 1961, come to Armando for a richly savoury rigatoni all’amatriciana, or a tasty cacio e pepe – but the restaurant also does a mean carbonara and gricia to make things even more confusing!
Where to stay: In the centre of Rome, 50 metres from Piazza della Rotonda, La Residenza del Sole is a charming bed & breakfast. Offering classy and refined rooms, in the morning guests can enjoy a wonderful breakfast buffet offering both sweet and savoury dishes. On top of that, Rome’s essential sights such as Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia are all within walking distance.
Checchino Dal 1887
One of the oldest restaurants in Rome today, Checchino Dal 1887 owes its history – in the hands of six generations of Romans – to its prime position in front of Rome’s former slaughterhouse. Right in the middle of Testaccio, Rome’s old meat packing district, this neighbourhood is both defined by its former major employer and by Roman ingenuity. Workers at the old slaughterhouse were often paid in offal, taking it home to their inventive wives, while the restaurants round Monte Testaccio filled the bellies of the workers with tasty, affordable food. Come to Checchino today both for the classic Roman pasta dishes, and an immense oxtail in tomato sauce – coda alla vaccinara. Perhaps the restaurant’s best kept secret is its upstairs speakeasy, serving premium cocktails. Cheers!
Where to stay: Seven Suites is a smart, modern structure located inside an historical building in the Testaccio neighbourhood, and just 400 metres away from Porta Portese, a famous Roman market for vintage clothes and furniture.
Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina
Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina is a bustling destination with a variety of functions: drop in to pick up a mouth-watering range of goodies from its handsome deli, or buy an excellent local wine. If you’re in the mood to gaze at its laden shelves while tasting something good, come to Roscioli for a classic Roman pasta dish. The prices are towards the high end for typical Roman dishes but its classics of pasta never disappoint.
Where to stay: Hotel Damaso is a 19th century building in Rome’s city centre. Just 150 metres away from Piazza Navona and a 2 minute walk from Campo dei Fiori, it offers a terrace with a panoramic view and a very fine lounge bar. It is usually particularly appreciated by Booking’s clients for its location.
Da Enzo al 29
In the heart of cobbled Trastevere, Da Enzo al 29 is a popular haunt day and night – and for good reason. Apart from standing on one of Rome’s most Instagram-worthy streets, this is a well-loved osteria for its scrumptious food and reasonable prices. This family-owned eatery serves the classic pasta dishes of Roman cuisine, but look out too for its delicious antipasti – including a raw vegetable salad and creamy panzanella – plus seasonal specials. For dessert, its tiramisu with chunks of chocolate or strawberry trifle are a must.
Where to stay: Among all of Rome’s hotels and b&bs, one in particular stands out for its incredible position and absolute charm. This small boutique hotel, called Villa della Fonte, boasts a terrace offering a view which is simply breath-taking. Located in the heart of Trastevere, is also close to both bus and tram stations – and a direct airport train.
This friendly lunch spot in the heart of Rome is close to the action, but just enough off the beaten track to be a locals’ favourite. Comprising a higgledy-piggledy collection of informal dining rooms, the team behind Ciao Checca has been slowly expanding in this corner of Rome over the past eight years. Its Slow Food philosophy and wholesome cuisine resonate with a range of fans, drawn by its seasonal and organic ingredients. It takes its name from a Roman pasta classic which isn’t actually one of the four famous dishes. Pasta alla Checca is the quintessentially summer take on pasta in Rome, combining fragrant and flavourful tomatoes with olive, oil, garlic and fresh basil, tossed with hot pasta and allowed to cool. Come to Ciao Checca too for pureed chickpeas with greens, fried strips of chicken and warming lentil soup. Bet you can’t leave the premises without trying a slice of its moist and fragrant carrot cake!
Where to stay: Campo Marzio Charming B&B is located in the heart of the Eternal City. This B&B boasts a strategic position that allows its guests to visit the historic centre without resorting to city transport, making for a stress-free holiday.
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