The stand out features of Al Cantuccio have to be the decor and the service, followed closely by the lovely, homemade food that you can just tell is made with love.
After moving to a different country, I count myself so so lucky to have traditional, Italian Sunday Lunches with Edoardo’s family, where it’s completely next level in terms of the time spent preparing and eating food. In the spirit of sharing more about what life in Italy is actually like, for the people who live and work here, I wanted to write about what a typical lunch for us.
Italian food isn't usually classified as street food or take out. Most people (read: Italians) prefer to sit down for their meals and enjoy long lunches. It must be the American in me but I still can't get away from packing lunches, eating a gelato while taking a walk and even eating to-go food on public transportation. However Rome does have quite a few possibilities for street food, with the trapizzino being the latest thing to hit the food scene in Rome.
Aside from being a mouthful, Flavio Al Velavevodetto is a fantastic restaurant serving up Roman classics in an interesting environment. If you reserve ahead of time at their Testaccio location, you can eat in their underground wine cellar. The food is made with high quality ingredients and sourced locally from the restaurant's own resources, while the wine collection is robust and affordable.
I'd heard so much about Flavio's (from Gillian's Lists, Elizabeth Minchilli, and Katie Parla) that this restaurant was at the top of my list. After reserving a table, I headed there with a friend visiting Rome, who wanted to try ALL the classics. We collectively shared a bottle of their decent house wine, a salad and giant mozzarella di bufala ball to start, followed by the Ravioli alla Velavevodetto for my friend and Amatriciana for me. Everything was delicious and the only complaint (from my friend) was that he found the ravioli a little too cheesy after the mozzarella. And that's a compliment in my book.
Their specialities include the four famous Roman pastas (Carbonara, Gricia, Amatriciana and Cacio e Pepe), oxtail (coda), tripe (trippa), artichokes (carciofi) and a fantastic tiramisu.
It's now become my go-to food spot in Testaccio, when I'm not grabbing a pizza from da Remo's. Flavio's does Roman classics very well and has a great story to back it up. If you're not set on dining under the terracotta hill of Testaccio, you can also check out their location in Prati (Piazza Quiriti).
Via Monte di Testaccio 97
+3906 574 4194
The culture of aperitivo in Italy is rooted in tradition and is one of my favorite aspects of life here. It's the idea of "preparing" your stomach for dinner with a pre-dinner drink and light snacks. Usually. It's really taken on a life of its own in Rome, however, and you can find aperitivo's with more food than light snacks. Aperitivo can be a substitute for dinner or a light drink before something heavier. Either way, it's a fantastic way to spend time with friends, at cool locations in the city. And depending on the spot, you can get a beer, glass of wine (maybe a prosecco) and always the famous Italian aperitivo drink, the spritz. I like mine light on the aperol, with plenty of fruit garnishes.
I do plan on writing up a more comprehensive guide to aperitvo's in Rome, but for today, I'm giving an overview of a famous aperitivo location in Rome, Momart Cafè. This restaurant/bar is well established among locals and is known for its unlimited and abundant buffet and beautifully-made cocktails. This is not your typical potato chips and nuts situation: Momart has an entire room full of food platters, with a separate dessert station and pizza oven that cranks out pizza for the masses. It's always full, there's always a line and you always leave feeling stuffed. Momart Cafe is one of the best aperitivo spots in Rome for the quantity/variety of foods and creative cocktail choices.
From 6:00 to 10:30, you can try out the aperitivo at this restaurant, starting at €10 for a drink and unlimited food. Getting "apericena" or aperitivo/dinner is a great option to save money and find food around the city at earlier dining hours. Aperitivo starts around 5 or 6 in the afternoon in Italy, while dinner won't be served until 7 or 8.
Momart has a beautiful terrace, which is heated in the winter and is all outdoors, surrounding by plants. There's also plenty of seating indoors, where you can watch the feast as it happens.
The main room has a large table with pasta dishes, salads, sides, meats and cheese and a separate pizza oven with slices of different pizzas. The dessert booth changes frequently but when I was there, I tried a deconstructed tiramisu, with different flavored-creams.
If you're in the city, you need to try this to experience one of the best aperitivo in Rome. It's a great way to see another side to the Italian culture of large lunches and late dinners. Aperitivo is where Romans meet up to chat after work and just appreciate the "vita bella" that they live.
Monday-Sunday 12:00 pm-2:00 am
Viale Ventuno Aprile, 19, 00162
When people think “Rome” and “pasta”, there are four main options that come to mind. Amatriciana, Gricia, Cacio e Pepe, and Carbonara. Pasta Carbonara is a classic Roman dish that dates back decades and is so simple to make. With only 3 main ingredients in the sauce, it’s one of those dishes that’s so easy to make at home, but tastes dramatically different in an Italian restaurant. If you want to practice your Italian cooking skills and learn how to make pasta carbonara at home, read on for ingredients, technique and Carbonara recommendations in Rome.
Because there are so few ingredients in this recipe, they need to be top-notch and very flavorful. The base of carbonara is a sauce made from melted pork fat, beaten fresh eggs, a good helping of pecorino and the pasta cooking water. The eggs go uncooked into the sauce and are warmed up by the hot pasta and oil, which makes the pasta so creamy. There is no cream, milk, or other ingredients in a classic Roman Carbonara. If you’re nervous about the egg component, buy farm fresh eggs or find another dish.
- 100-150 grams spaghetti (per person)
- 2 eggs, minimum, plus one extra egg per person (stick to only the yolks if you want a creamier sauce, adding a couple more to the total number of eggs)
- 100 grams guanciale (or pancetta), cut into small cubes
- 50 grams freshly grated pecorino romano cheese, more if desired (parmesan will do in a pinch but it lacks the bite of pecorino)
- 1 cup of reserved pasta cooking water
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
The difference between a good and bad pasta relies a lot on being precise with timing and technique. With Carbonara, the order of steps and timing are key.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
- In the meantime, have the guanciale in a large pan on the stove, cooking slowly over low heat. The fat from the pork must be fully rendered for the sauce the come together properly.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until combined and add the grated pecorino, black pepper and a pinch of salt to the mixture.
- When the pasta is ready, drain it (reserving a cup) and add to the pan with the guanciale.
- With the pan off the heat, stir well, until every noodle is coated with fat and slowly add the egg mixture.
- At this point, start adding a bit of starchy water to the pasta, constantly stirring. It’s better to have a bit more liquid than necessary, because as the pasta sits it will absorb more. Let sit for a couple minutes, covered.
- Move to plates and add extra pecorino on top, as desired.
It's very difficult to go wrong with a plate of carbonara in Rome. Almost every restaurant will have it, but here are some in particular that will blow your pasta-loving mind.
Da Danilo—alongside their cacio e pepe, da Danilo's pasta carbonara is one of the best I've had. Go for the wheels of cheese and truffle option.
Da Enzo al 29—a classic Roman trattoria with all of the famous pasta dishes, in the heart of Trastevere.
Roma Sparita—while I haven't been here myself, it's definitely on the list. Roman Sparita is widely held as some of the best Carbonara in town and that's saying something.
Flavio al Valevodetto—go for the big plates, variety of options and wine-cellar setting.
While it will never compete with the carbonara from my favorite restaurants in Rome, this recipe is easy and surprisingly good. Where's your favorite pasta carbonara in Rome? Have you had any success making this in your home?
Finding a decent restaurant in the center can be hard. Osteria del Pegno is the answer to all of your pasta and meaty Italian dish needs. Located right near Piazza Navona (directly in the center alongside the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain), I've always found this restaurant to be a great option when I need someplace scenic, central and delicious. While it's not the best Roman food you can find in the city, it's a nice restaurant, with friendly staff, good food and excellent wine.
Osteria del Pegno is a family run restaurant that is well known for its quality food and great atmosphere. The owner himself has come out the (many) times that I've eaten dinner there. While I've never tried their lunch, the dinner menu is comprehensive and also sticks to Roman classics and traditional dishes.
The house wine is excellent and the waiters will help you decide on a bottle from their very extensive list. The seating area itself is decorated with aging bottles and you can see that they take pride in their selection.
Both the pasta and meat dishes are fantastic. I've tried their Amatriciana, Carbonara and Ossobuco and all were amazing. Their chef's lasagna wasn't my favorite but probably because that place is taken by Edoardo's mamma's famous lasagna.
You've got to save room for Pegno's desserts, all made in house. Their tiramisu is incredible and you'll always get a complimentary glass of limoncello to end the night.
Not much more to say about this place other than, it's a great choice for those busy days in Rome when you need a decent meal or the times when you want to have dinner out and take a walk in the center.
Thursday - Tuesday 12:00 - 3:00 ; 7:00 - 10:45
Vicolo di Montevecchio 8, 00186
Da Danilo is an unassuming restaurant that’s farther away from the center than other Roman institutions. From the area (Piazza Vittorio), you would never guess that it’s been around for years and has hosted more than its fair share of celebrities. The trattoria is well known for its Roman classics, serving everything from meat dishes to desserts made in house, but it’s best known for its amazing pasta dishes. The Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe are famous around Rome and many people come here just for these.
The Cacio e Pepe (or "cheese and pepper") is something special because it’s prepared right in front of you by your waiter. The pasta is tossed in a giant wheel of parmesan cheese with a bit of the pasta cooking water, while fresh black pepper is cracked all over. To finish it off, a generous helping of pecorino is grated over top. If you’re hungry and watching this show being done for other diners, it’s pure torture.
Carbonara da Danilo is perfectly prepared with balanced flavors and a smooth, creamy consistency. But the standout at this restaurant (and my choice) was the carbonara al tartufo. Truffle oil is mixed in with the sauce and Italian black truffles were grated and sprinkled over top of the pasta. Of the multitudes of carbonaras that I’ve tried in Rome, this is my favorite. Think creamy, eggy goodness with an ever-present undercurrent of rich truffle. If it weren’t €18 for a plate of pasta, I’d go back weekly.
If you’re in Rome and want a reputable place to try out the classics, da Danilo is where it’s at. You can eat some of the best pasta of your life, while gazing at the hundreds of celebrities that Danilo and his family has met over the years at the restaurant.
13 Via Petrarca, 00185 Roma
+39 06 77200111
After learning how to make gnocchi and fettuccine by hand with a lot of practice, Edoardo’s mamma graduated me to making lasagna by hand in her kitchen. Lasagna alla Franca involves handmade pasta, béchamel sauce, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella di bufala. It’s labor intensive but the rewards are an amazing pasta al forno that will blow all of your previous tries away, made with love. Keep reading for how to make homemade lasagna by hand—ingredients, recipe and cooking notes.
As with all of Fanca’s recipes (something she has in common with most great cooks), she doesn’t use precise measurements in her lasagna. Everything is un po’ di this and a pinch of that. She’ll sometimes weigh her flour, but the number of eggs in the pasta for example, depends on how big your eggs are and the resulting consistency of the dough. Also, please excuse the lack of pictures in this post. Turns out it's very difficult to both participate in the lasagna-making process and photograph it.
- Flour (about one kilo or 8 cups)
- 6 eggs (one per person, 6 will fill a good size casserole dish)
- Olive oil
- 1 small onion or shallot
- 1 stalk of celery (washed)
- 1 carrot (washed, peeled)
- 2 liters smooth tomato sauce
- 1/2 liter of milk
- 50 g (2 tb) salted butter
- Fresh-grated, good parmesan reggiano
- 1 big ball of buffalo mozzarella (or regular)
- Cheese grater
- Glass casserole dish
- 2 sauce pans
- Pasta machine with various settings for pasta thickness
- Clean work surface for pasta making (preferably a marble table top)
- Tub of cold water
How to make homemade lasagna
- Put about a kilo of flour on your work surface
- Create a well in the middle of the flour mound and crack open 1 egg per person into the middle
- Add a pinch of salt
- Whisk eggs with fork then kneed together with the flour with hands (be careful not to kneed too much or the pasta will be chewy and tough)
- Separate the dough into small balls and flatten
- Using your pasta machine set on #1, feed one portion of dough into the top and roll dough through as many times as it takes until the sheet is thin and flour is well combined
- Continue rolling each piece of dough through the machine on gradually increasing numbers up to #6 (I was told on no uncertain terms NOT to skip a numbered setting on the machine)
- When you have various long and thin lasagna sheets, cut them into squares
- Into a large pot of boiling water (not salted), put 5-10 in and remove when they float to the top
- Transfer them into into cold water bath
- Immediately lay on clean dish towels, dab dry and cover
Béchamel Sauce Recipe:
- To a small saucepan, add 1/2 liter of milk
- Add a pinch of salt & nutmeg
- Into the warm milk, add 50 g (2 tb) of salted butter
- Whisk together until the butter is melted and the sauce is tepid
- Add 1 large spoonful of freshly-grated parmesan and 1 spoonful of flour
- The sauce should be creamy and thick. If it’s not thick enough, add more flour by the spoonful
Tomato Sauce Recipe:
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan
- Cook one small, diced onion or shallot for a few minutes
- Add 2L of smooth tomato sauce with the stalk of celery and carrot
- Add a pinch of salt
- Check the consistency as the sauce cooks and add water if necessary, as the end product must be fairly liquid.
- Simmer for at least 15 min on low heat then check flavor/consistency (could take up to 30 minutes)
- Glass dishes
- Put sauce on bottom, sprinkle with parm
- Lay one layer of pasta on top
- Add sauce
- Layer of mozzarella (regular, cut into pieces)
- Add parm
- Mozzarella and parm
- Sauce, parm and heavy layer of béchamel
- Cook for 30 minutes, or until sauce bubbles over
This recipe will make one large lasagna dish, or two smaller dishes. If you don't have a pasta maker (a life essential, according to the Italians) you could buy dried lasagna pasta or even try flattening the dough with a rolling pin. You could also sub out the béchamel for a bit more cheese if you didn't want to make so many components. But if you do all of these steps, it's pretty difficult to mess up homemade lasagna, with an end result of saucy, cheesey perfection. It's perfect for special occasions and if you freeze the leftovers, you can have fabulous lasagna even when you're feeling lazy. Let me know how it turns out!
Pizza from Naples will change your life. I had, with no exaggeration, a culinary epiphany when I tried my first pizza napoletana. The chewy crust, tangy sauce and mozzarella that actually has a flavor gets me every time. Unfortunately, there are only so many day trips I can make to Naples, which is where Da Michele Pizzeria comes in.
Da Michele is a pizza institution in Naples. It’s been around for since 1936 and is ranked on multiple websites as the “best pizza in Naples”, which can also be translated to “best pizza in the world”, by the transitive property. I’ve tried the real thing, so when I heard they opened a new shop up in Rome, you can imagine how excited I was. I went there last Friday night for dinner, around 7:30 to avoid the notoriously long lines (there are no reservations taken). After a quick look around the children’s museum it’s located in, an interesting aspect of the new pizzeria in itself, we found the entrance and were sent up to the second floor.
I had heard great things about Da Michele’s new location and the pizza really lived up to expectations. They import their products (tomatoes/mozzarella/flour) from Compagna to maintain flavor consistency and while nothing can live up to the magnificence of a pizza from Naples, theirs came pretty close.
On the menu are some new offerings, including nodini fritti (fried pizza) and other appetizers. Just like the original spot, they serve only pizza margherita and pizza rossa. Edoardo (lucky guy) went for double mozzarella on his pizza and it was decadent.
My pizza margherita was amazing. Da Michele has the flavors down just right and takes the time to check that every pizza is perfectly (read: lightly) charred, top and bottom. The only difference I found in the two variations was that my pizza in Rome was a bit heavier than the original. But it's to be expected with a doughier pizza than its Roman counterpart.
Da Michele pizzeria is a great option for families, couples or even a solo pizza excursion (which is sometimes required if you're alone when the pizza craving hits). If you can't get to Naples for the best pizza of your life, a trip to Da Michele or a classic Roman pizzeria (options 1 & 2) is a must.
Da Michele in Rome is located close to Pizza del Popolo and the Flaminia metro stop. No reservations are accepted so get there early and don't expect anything but the classics and a handful of Italian beers to go along with them.
Explora, Via Flaminia, 80/82, 00196 Roma
Every day, 12 pm-5 pm and 7 pm-12 am
Roscioli has a nice little enterprise going on in Rome. They've cornered the market for decent coffee, aperitivo, wine, salame, pizza and bread all with three small stores in the center of the city. If you head from Campo dei Fiori along Via dei Giubbonari, you'll come across Roscioli's bar, salumeria, and forno. Depending on what you're craving, you'll head to one of the three restaurants. Last weekend, I managed to get to all three.
The hardest thing about making plans in Rome is finding a decent spot for good, reasonably priced drinks/snacks in the center. It's so easy to go wrong, so when a friend and I met up for aperitivo Friday afternoon, we wandered around the center for a bit before settling on Roscioli. We went for their bar/restaurant and ordered a couple of spritz's, but it was a close call between that and the salumeria with a huge wine selection. The spritz was great and not too pricey, and they gave us some snacks for the aperitivo hour which included the BEST (truffle) potato chips I've ever tried. Talk about addicting.
The next day, Edoardo and I were searching for a bakery with bagels for a brunch. Bagels are not an easy find in Rome and after calling around, we found out that Roscioli's forno also makes bagels and for large quantities, will prepare your order ahead of time. It's been way too long since I've had a bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel so the forno was heaven sent. I bagels were a hit with all of our Italian guests as well.
For a quick drink in the center, a bottle of wine, or a fresh loaf of bread/pizza bianca, Roscioli's got you covered.
Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22
Open M-S 8:30 am-12:00 am
Within the U.S., holiday traditions vary for every family. This country has people of so many different cultures, which is represented by the diversity of our traditions. In Italy, the Roman Catholic traditional Christmas season is widely celebrated and traditions are more well-known and practiced all over the country. Being Italy, most of these holiday traditions focus on food. From my own experiences celebrating an Italian Christmas in 2015 with my boyfriend's family, and observing other families, I have a collection of general knowledge about these traditions.
Christmas Eve fish
In remembrance of the traditional church mandate of fasting pre-celebration, Christmas Eve dinner is usually served without meat and instead with a variety of fish dishes. Starters include cold fish salads, fried calamari, shrimp, and anchovies, and an oven-baked fish with potatoes. After dinner, many families also head to a midnight mass to celebrate the Christmas Eve vigil the night before. In Rome, churches are packed and the Vatican has been taking ticket reservations for months.
Christmas Day turkey or roast
On Christmas day, the Italian Santa Claus, Babbo Natale, visits every house and leaves presents. The day that Italians exchange presents depends geographically, with some in the north doing it as early as December 13, others on the 25, and more still on La Befana.
In most cases, Christmas day is celebrated with a meat dish (in comparison to the night before) and homemade pasta for a primo piatto. At Edoardo's house, this includes a GIANT plate of homemade fettuccine with ragu and an oven roasted turkey. Dolce includes all kinds of sweets and chocolates, with less emphasis on one main cake.
New Years Lentils
Lentichie for Capodanno are a yearly tradition in Italy; they signify good luck for the year ahead for the family. Usually inside they're cooked with sausages and pork ribs until the meat is tender and has flavored the pot.
The types of Christmas candy and chocolate served for the holiday depends on the region of Italy. Commonly found are candied fruit and nuts, chocolate bars, panforte (made with honey, nuts, chocolate, and dried fruit), cannoli, cookies, and many other goodies.
On the day of the Epiphany, Italian culture dictates that La Befana (a witch) comes and delivers sweets and fills stockings. This day marks the official end to the Christmas celebrations and is celebrated with yet another feast and hefty portions of Pandoro and Panettone, Italian dessert breads.
Seeing how another country and culture celebrates such a tradition-driven holiday is very interesting, especially if you can experience it within the home of an Italian family. There is a set way of doing things for every region of Italy and knowing that you're doing the same thing for Christmas that your ancestors did decades ago is a very comforting idea. An Italian Christmas if full of significance, family time, great food, and a re-centering of religion.
In the rarely frequented neighborhood of Testaccio, I found my new favorite pizzeria. It’s not polished, like Emma or as quick as getting a slice from Pizzerium Bonci, but da Remo's been around since 1976 and has some of the best pizza in Rome that I’ve found.
We headed there on a Friday night and while it’s possible to make reservations, the quick turnover rate means that a table comes up pretty quickly. We started with supplí and a carafe of wine and quickly moved onto personal pizzas. We got a margherita con bufala and a salsiccia. Both pizzas were great, with the perfect ratio of sauce, crust, and cheese. The crust was somewhat chewy, a slight deviation from the crispy Roman classic, but still beautifully thin and manageable for one portion.
The entire atmosphere screams family-run and casual, with paper covering the tables, hearty starters and consistent, fabulous pizza. The waiters were busy, brusque and delightfully Roman. Everyone in the wine cellar-esque dining room was waiting patiently for their pizza, while two pizza makers were hard at work with an assembly line of pizzas to be cooked in their authentic brick oven.
I recommend trying it on an off night (during the week) and taking your time over wine, starters, and a few different pizzas split between the group.
Da Remo is a great option if you're living in or traveling to Rome and can give you a sense of a classic Roman restaurant, outside of the touristy areas. It's neighborhood of Testaccio is well worth a look around, especially if you make time for some of the best pizza in Rome.
Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice, 44, Roma
Italian hot chocolate: Why you NEED to try cioccolata calda
The Christmas season in Italy is absolutely gorgeous. In the northern cities, you have a similar atmosphere to Germany and Austria, with Christmas markets and traditional foods. Naples is well known for its presepe napoletano (nativity scenes), while Rome is decked out in lights with mercatini scattered all over the city. It’s worlds away from the crowded mess of July and August and a great time to visit. Italian cioccolata calda is the cherry on top of this perfect season in Rome.
Many people don’t even know this hidden treasure is the one thing they NEED to try while traveling to Italy, but Italian hot chocolate will change everything you’ve ever thought about this dessert. In my experience, American hot chocolate is made with lots of milk, powdered cocoa and plenty of sugar. The result is a delicious concoction, but very different from the liquid chocolateness that characterizes its Italian counterpart. I was shocked by how rich and dark this drink was when I first tried it. It’s not something that can be guzzled down in a minute, but must be savored slowly, with plenty of cookie-dipping in the meantime.
Cioccolata calda is made with the same ingredients as the American hot chocolate, with different proportions. There is less milk and sugar added, more chocolate or cocao. The result is similar in taste and consistency to a melted 80% dark chocolate bar.
The best part is that hot chocolate is widely available wherever you want it, at almost every bar in Rome. I recommend scouting out a glamorous (read: fancy-looking with lots of gold decor) pasticceria, picking out your side-bits (arguably the most important part) and sitting outside under some heaters to people watch on a busy afternoon. My favorites counterpoints to the star of the show include classic Italian iced cookies, creampuffs, or slices of homemade cake.
If you really want to experience Italian cioccolato caldo in its purest essence, you can go to cioccolaterias, where you can choose from different grades of chocolate and degrees of cocoa content. The darkest of them are reserved for only the most dedicated of dark chocolate consumers.
This weekend I found a great option in Pasticceria Antonini (near Piazza Mazzini), which fully encompasses everything that a high end Roman coffee bar should be. Lots of fantastic dessert options, aperitivo hour, and a sinful cup of hot chocolate to boot.
For a list of other tasty cafe options, you can check this list out.