9 Piazza Augusto Imperatore
Tel: 39 06 322 6273
Mod, Conran-inspired 'Gusto—with its restaurant, pizzeria, and kitchenware shop—caused a sensation when it opened in 1998, but it's looking rather frayed around the edges these days. The wine bar, with its entrance out back in Via della Frezza, remains a lively place for an after-dinner drink. (However, the Web site's claim to offer 1,500 different labels is marred by the fact that the depleted cellars are probably out of your first three or so choices.) There's live jazz or soul some evenings, and you can soak up the wine with plates of cold cuts or cheese. 'Gusto's occupation of Piazza Augusto Imperatore continues with Tatì al 28, a bar, coffee shop, and bistro specializing in fish and vegetarian dishes.
Open daily 12:30 to 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm to midnight.
7 Piazzale Aurelio
Tel: 39 06 581 5274
The "Old Arch" on the Gianicolo hill above Trastevere has established itself as a reference point for Roman gourmets who want to eat well without breaking the bank. "Creative Italian cuisine" is an overused term, but that is exactly what chef Patrizia Mattei offers in dishes like tonnarelli with gray mullet bottarga, wild fennel, and breadcrumbs, or duck breast in vin santo sauce with stewed cannellini beans. The recipes are based on the kind of roots-y local ingredients an Italian grandma might use, but in combinations that Nonna would never attempt. The menu changes according to the season, but even in winter, lightness is a key word, with plenty of vegetables and herbs. Main courses go beyond the usual binary meat-or-fish option to embrace game (rabbit, pheasant, guinea fowl), and a small selection of side dishes (such as grilled vegetables with Piedmontese Toma cheese) can easily take the place of a secondo. There's no outside space, but the air-conditioned interior, fresh from a 2007 makeover in tones of white, cream, and dark chocolate, balances seriousness and friendly intimacy, as does the generally excellent service. Wine is another forte: If you're unsure what to order, ask knowledgeable sommelier Domenico for advice. Be sure to book at least a day in advance.
Open daily 6 pm to 11:30 pm.
44 Piazza Navona
Tel: 39 06 6819 2998
Hats off to this new café-restaurant, which is attempting to bring quality catering to touristy Piazza Navona—noted until now both for the beauty of its Baroque architecture and the uninspiring, overpriced food served by the clip joints that line it. As befits this most scenic of piazzas, seating is mostly outside, with overhead heaters making it a viable option year-round. The menu, created by Emiliano Pascucci, sous-chef to Heinz Beck at the stellar La Pergola, mixes lighter, more creative fare (raw shrimp marinated in ginger and lime) with traditional Roman dishes such as spaghetti all'amatriciana—with tomato, pancetta, onion, and pecorino cheese—or veal saltimbocca, prosciutto-filled veal rolls. But this is also a good place for a morning cappuccino or an evening aperitivo. Service is efficient and multilingual.
Open daily 9:30 am to midnight.
73 Piazza Pasquino
Tel: 39 06 6880 1094
The original Roman wine bar, Cul de Sac may not look like much inside, but its great position (just around the corner from Piazza Navona), highly prized outside tables, and reasonable prices mean that it's usually packed. The service is relaxed and friendly, and there's a small but select menu of house specialties, from lasagna to Greek salad to homemade pâtés and terrines. The wine list is as thick as a phone directory—but much more interesting—and the crowd is equally mixed with an emphasis on the artsy.
Open daily noon to 4 pm and 6 pm to 12:30 am.
29 Via Mastro Giorgio
Tel: 39 06 574 6800
When the inaptly named Felice ran it (felice means "happy," and he rarely was), this traditional Roman restaurant in the down-home Testaccio district was a spit-and-sawdust bolt-hole for traders from the local produce market. Felice's offspring have since given the place an industrial-chic makeover, and upped the ante in the kitchen. As a result, smart-set newcomers now squeeze in with salt-of-the-earth stalwarts. The decibel level is as high as ever, and the traditional Roman dishes are as generous and tasty as ever, if somewhat more refined (try the tonnarelli cacio e pepe, chunky spaghetti with crumbled sheep's-milk cheese and black pepper). The wine list is now large and interesting, and though prices have risen (haven't they everywhere?), it's still a fair value for genuine cucina romana.—Lee Marshall
Open Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 to 3 pm and 8 to 11:30 pm, Sundays 12:30 to 3 pm.
4 Vicolo Rossini
Tel: 39 06 687 3434
Good centro storico trattorias are hard to find, and Gino's is no exception: It's tucked away in a tiny cul-de-sac just around the corner from the Camera dei Deputati, the lower house of the Italian parliament. It pays to book, as the place tends to fill up with homesick deputati who come for the next best thing to Mamma's cooking. The day's specials are chalked up at the entrance to this rustic time capsule; they generally include Roman classics like tonnarelli cacio e pepe (pasta with crumbled sheep's-milk cheese and plenty of black pepper) and pasta e ceci in brodo di arzilla (a soup of pasta and chickpeas in skate broth). The house wine is onesto, as they say around these parts: rustic and unrefined, but gratifyingly low in price.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1 to 2:45 pm and 8 to 10:45 pm.
The last decade has seen a slew of high-end gelaterie open in Rome. The first, and still one of the best, is Il Gelato de San Crispino, set up by gelato revolutionaries Giuseppe and Pasquale Alongi. These brothers take things back to basics, carefully sourcing the hazelnuts that go into their nocciola flavor or the 20-year cask-aged marsala that makes their zabaione flavor so unmissable. A new Pantheon branch gives you even less of an excuse to miss out on the San Crispino experience. However, a new contender, the Gelateria al Teatro, located in a tiny cobbled cul-de-sac between Piazza Navona and Castel Sant'Angelo, is winning converts with its organic approach and unusual range of flavors, many of them based on Italian pastries like cannoli. Chocoholics will also be knocked sideways by the 85 percent cocoa cioccolato puro option. Over in Prati, north of the Vatican, Mirella Fiumanò, the owner and founder of Al Settimo Gelo, is a volcano of creativity. Devotees swarm here to enjoy inventive, gluten-free flavors such as hot chili–spiced chocolate, honey and sesame, cinnamon and ginger, and Greek ice cream (goat-milk yogurt, honey, and pistachio). But some of the capital's more traditional gelaterie are still well worth checking out, from Giolitti, the multiflavor cathedral of Roman ice cream, to lesser-known stalwarts like Alberto Pica, which does a knockout riso alla cannella (cinnamon rice), in which the risotto is so perfectly al dente it's almost crunchy.
Il Gelato di San Crispino open Wednesdays through Mondays. Gelateria del Teatro open daily. Al Settimo Gelo open Tuesdays through Sundays. Giolitti open daily 7:30 am to 1:30 am. Alberto Pica open Mondays through Saturdays.
7a Via San Sebastianello
Tel: 39 06 687 0251
A lively, young crowd packs Gina Eat&Drink for its all-day menu. Speck and Brie sandwiches, pasta e fagioli, and bresaola with shaved Parmigiano and arugula don't break new ground but are well executed and made with first-rate ingredients. Eat in the stylish, all-white room, or take your meal to go: The restaurant supplies overstuffed lunch baskets for a picnic in nearby Villa Borghese, complete with dishes, glasses, and thermoses of piping-hot espresso.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to midnight, Sundays 11 am to 8 pm.
58 Vicolo del Cinque
Tel: 39 5833 5903
In Trastevere—with its wine bars and student-filled trattorias, rowdy pizzerias and late-night dives—Glass really stands out. This place is not only design-heavy, with a shadowy mezzanine, pebble-filled floor cutouts, and dramatic lighting, it is also gastronomically innovative. United States–trained chef Cristina Bowerman has earned herself a Michelin star with creations such as warm squab salad with sunflower seeds, micro greens, and roast polenta and her signature coffee-crusted lamb with spiced cherries and asparagus. Prices are high, but so is the quality; make sure you leave room for the superlative desserts. Only the service—often slow and not always charming—can let Glass down occasionally.—Lee Marshall
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 8 pm to midnight.
53 Piazza Rondanini
Tel: 39 06 6819 2096
Concept restaurants come and go in Rome, but Grano has substance to match its style, and the location—in a pretty piazza just around the corner from the Pantheon—could hardly be better. The name translates as grain or wheat, a theme that underpins both the contempo beige and cream urban-country decor and the cuisine, with homemade bread (check out the walnut and golden-raisins version) and high-class pasta taking center stage. A plate of perfect, al dente paccheri with calamari and cime di rapa (turnip tops) sums up the chef's tasty southern-Italian approach, but there are plenty of non-carb options, too, from antipasti like a simple but fresh tuna tartare to the meat or fish main courses. The owners previously worked at Gusto, and the influence of that Roman mold-breaker is clear in the mix of strong design, creative but unfussy Italian cuisine, and reasonable prices (which extend to remarkably honest markups on wine). Service is simpatico, and the small al fresco seating area in the piazza is a delight on a summer evening (it's not undiscovered, though, so book ahead if you're angling for an outside table).
Open daily 12:30 pm to midnight.
31 Vicolo dei Soldati
Tel: 39 06 686 9432
At Il Convivio, imposingly formal decor is matched by impeccable, equally formal service. The three dining rooms are always busy, with a well-heeled, elegant crowd that doesn't mind the prices (i.e., plenty of silver-haired businessmen). The Troiani brothers turn out perfectly executed dishes, including a risotto with herbs, Roman cheese, and favas, and a sage-scented roasted pigeon with red wine and cherry sauce. The extensive wine list, with bottles from all over the world, is another pleasure.
Closed Sundays, and for lunch on Mondays.
129 Via dei Banchi Vecchi
Campo de' Fiori
Tel: 39 06 6880 9595
Formerly the chef at Palazzo Sasso in the Amalfi Coast resort of Ravello, Anthony (a.k.a. Antonio) Genovese started back at first base when he opened this charming but modest restaurant in a centro storico lane of antiques and craft shops. But his cutting-edge Italian fusion cuisine has already hooked a crowd of regulars, who come to taste creations like red prawns with toasted peanuts in a light sauce of coconut and green tea, or saddle of lamb with lemon and wild fennel, eggplant purée, and fried figs. A spring 2006 makeover brought the ambience up to par with the food, lending a touch of minimalist urban class to the rustic main dining room, with its old wooden beams and checkerboard tile floor. The wine list is small but perfectly formed, and the desserts, by French pastry chef Marion Lichtle, are to die for. The award of a second Michelin star in 2010 caused prices to creep up a little, but "The Clown" still offers a great-value epicurean dinner by Roman standards.
Open Mondays and Tuesdays 8 pm to 10 pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays 1 pm to 2:30 pm and 8 to 10 pm.
18/20 Vicolo della Campana
Tel: 39 06 686 7820
This is one of those places that hasn't changed since Fellini was a bambino. La Campana claims to be the oldest restaurant in Rome, and you'll believe it when you see the venerable waiters. But the service is impeccable, and the classic Roman cooking is as reliable as the midday cannon on the Gianicolo hill. Alongside ubiquitous staples such as spaghetti alla carbonara are more recherché seasonal delights like vignarola, a spring soup of artichokes, fava beans, and guanciale. The wine list is limited, and the ambience rather stuffy. But like the more expensive (and less worthwhile) Dal Bolognese in Piazza del Popolo, this is the sort of trattoria that attracts everyone from artists to bankers to contessas, which makes it great for people-watching.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 12:30 to 3 pm and 7:30 to 11 pm, September through July.
30 Via Federico Ozanam
Tel: 39 06 534 6702
It's a bit of a trek to get out near the end of the No. 8 tramline from Largo Argentina, but people come from all over to sample the exquisite pizza turned out by the "Greedy Cat." Though the bright, colorful restaurant also offers excellent pasta, meat, and fish dishes, the main event is the pie, with a crunchy crust slightly thicker than the usual pizza romana. Toppings include Caciocavallo cheese, artichokes, and pancetta; there's also a margherita made with superb buffalo mozzarella, and a small selection of daily specials (check the blackboard). Start with fried zucchini blossoms or fried stuffed olives. Unlike most pizzerias, this one has a substantial wine list. Book ahead, or be prepared to wait in a long line.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 8 to 11:30 pm.
Hotel Cavalieri Hilton
101 Via A. Cadlolo
Tel: 39 06 3509 2152
Believe it or not, a German chef, Heinz Beck, is the heart and soul of what is unanimously considered to be the best restaurant in Rome (a status recently consolidated by the awarding of a third Michelin star), located in the Cavalieri Hilton. Beck's creative cuisine, always grounded in the Italian tradition, sashays effortlessly from simple but succulent dishes like ricotta tortellini with pecorino cheese and fava beans to elaborate party pieces such as organic wood pigeon with a purée of dried-fruit bread and pomegranate granita. With its elegant but unstuffy decor, breathtaking views of the city, superb service—less fussy now than it was a few years back—and mind-boggling wine list (not to mention the mineral water and tea list), this is the place for a big splurge. Book well in advance, and allow for at least $200 a head with wine.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 7:30 pm to midnight.
24 Via de Leone
Tel: 39 06 683 2100
This relaxed, informal trattoria not far from Piazza di Spagna is a convenient pit stop before or after a shopping spree on the boutique strip of Via Condotti. Service is old-style Roman (that is to say, self-assured but not obsequious) and efficient. The menu champions local traditions in dishes such as rigatoni all'amatriciana (with pancetta and tomato), saltimbocca alla romana (thin veal slices with prosciutto and sage), and carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes). The clientele and surprisingly extensive wine list are more upmarket than you would expect, given the checked tablecloths and down-home cooking. In summer, book early to secure one of the few outside tables.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 7:30 to 11 pm. Closed August.
26 Via dei Prefetti
Tel: 39 06 683 2630
The first mozzarella bar in the city, and perhaps the world, Obikà is a shrine to this most versatile cheese, serving three main regional varieties gathered from the country's top producers, backed up by a supporting act of salumi, salads, and a few cooked dishes. The raw material is as genuine as they come, but the vibe is a little posed, with self-regarding waiters and cramped designer tables. Still, with its hipster clientele, this is a good place for people-watching, and there are some exceptional Sicilian and Campanian wines to take the edge off the pretension.
24 Via G. Bettolo
Tel: 39 06 372 9470
The owner, a former rugby player, and his slightly scruffy crew serve a three-course, fixed-price menu (currently $31 a head) that includes cookies and wine. Among the hearty, traditional Roman dishes on offer are pasta all gricia (with bacon and pecorino), as well as superb roast lamb. Other grilled meats and fish are available for a small supplement. Lunch has a similar menu but à la carte menu. Service is informal and gruffly jovial. There are outdoor tables, when the weather allows; but whether you eat inside or out, it pays to book ahead, as this place is popular.
Closed Sundays and in August.
94 Via Frattina
Tel: 39 06 6920 2132
The regional government of Lazio, of which Rome is the capital, opened this stylish and high-tech–looking wine bar and restaurant, near the Spanish Steps, to promote local wine and food. Eat downstairs at one of the tables that crowd around the bar, or in the coolly minimalist upstairs room. The wine list proves that when it comes to wines from this region, there is life beyond Frascati: You might be tempted by a bottle of the aromatic red Cesanese del Piglio, or by the excellent chardonnays produced by Paolo and Noemi D'Amico in Lazio's far north. A menu based exclusively on local produce includes specialties such as Monte San Biagio sausages and cannellini beans from Atina. The healthy, veggie-rich dishes on offer include an excellent fried baccalà (salt cod), crunchy on the outside and butter-soft within, served with endives, pine nuts, and golden raisins. There are also several kosher options.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 to 3 pm and 8 to 10:30 pm.
196 Via Tiburtina
Tel: 39 06 9727 3519
Since the 1970s, this former pasta factory in the student-y eastern district of San Lorenzo has been a point of reference for the city's contemporary and experimental artists. Now the upper-floor exhibition spaces have been complemented with a street-level wine bar/restaurant to cater to the cool and creative set. The decor is retro industrial, the vibe very laid-back, with one corner of the huge room dedicated to comfy armchairs and sofas for drink-in-hand lounging and the rest uncluttered with well-spaced tables. Up-and-coming chef Stefano Preli works the spectrum from traditional Roman to more creative experiments (roast suckling pig with hazelnut purée and spicy fruit, smoked duck breast with coconut milk and caramelized grapes), most of which are successful. From aperitivo hour (with bar snacks) through dinner, the clientele here is well-heeled and fashion-conscious; the ambience at lunchtime is more relaxed.—Lee Marshall
Open Tuesdays through Fridays 12:30 to 3 pm and 8 pm to 1:30 am, Saturdays 7 pm to 2 am, and Sundays 12:30 to 3 pm and 8 pm to 1:30 am.
43 Via della Meloria
Tel: 39 06 3974 5416
If hours of admiring the priceless masterpieces of the Vatican Museums has you craving a humble piece of pizza, you'll be grateful for this tiny to-go outlet, hidden away on an anonymous street less than ten minutes' walk from the museum entrance (walk down the steps to Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, take your first left, then your first right). Gabriele Bonci, a young chef expert in the use of flours and leavens, lets his pizza dough rise for 72 hours, and sells it by weight. The fresh, organic toppings include treats like wild asparagus; pesto and eggplant; and buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and anchovies. Bonci also bakes bread: The rye loaf and sourdough are both particularly good—and long-lasting.
34 Via dei Chiavari
Campo De' Fiori
Tel: 39 06 686 4045
Near Campo De' Fiori (a magnet for young Romans at night), the Roscioli family has turned their long-standing bakery and grocery store into destinations for food and wine aficionados. For our money, it's the bakery-diner side of the operation in Via dei Chiavari that works best, rather than the deli-restaurant in Via dei Giubbonari, where the wine and food is top-notch but the service is on the unpleasant side of frosty. Not so in the forno, a friendly, bustling neighborhood bakery where you can get a slice of pizza to go, or come lunchtime, perch at a few bar-height tables to sample daily specials like lasagna, involtini, or meatballs: A generous single dish plus a glass of wine will set you back about $14.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 to 3 pm.
25 Via Luigi Settembrini
Tel: 39 06 323 2617
Settembrini proves that chic design can go hand in hand with friendly service, good food, and reasonable prices. Not far from the media hub of Piazza Mazzini (state broadcaster RAI has its offices nearby), this multipurpose diner morphs throughout the day: late-morning panino bar to smart buffet lunch stop, afternoon tearoom to early-evening wine bar to full-on tête-à-tête restaurant. Roman chef Luigi Nastri insists on only the freshest, best-quality ingredients, from just-landed Puglian fish to Gerardo di Nola pasta. Dishes like the marinated beef fillet with couscous and steamed vegetables show him at his creative best. The ever-changing wine list, strong on carefully selected small Italian wineries, is a real treasure.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1 to 3 pm and 8 to 11 pm, September through July.
30 Piazza delle Cinque Scole
Tel: 39 06 687 4216
There's no sign, just a small door with red curtains. Inside you'll find a jumble of wooden tables and a sawdust-covered floor—and homemade pasta, gnocchi, and other comfort food worth the often-long wait. Though Margherita herself has become too old to cook, two assistants who trained at her side for years continue to offer straightforward, traditional food at very reasonable prices: pasta and chickpea soup, tonnarelli cacio e pepe (thick spaghetti with grated cheese and black pepper), fried zucchini flowers, osso buco, and Roman Jewish specialties, including fried artichokes. Be forewarned: The restaurant doesn't take credit cards.
Open Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays 12:30 to 3 pm; Fridays and Saturdays 12:30 to 3 pm and 8 to 10:30 pm, September through July.The restaurant sometimes closes on summer Saturdays as well; call ahead to check.
6 Piazza Sant'Egidio
Tel: 39 06 580 6033
This small, unpretentious trattoria has won the hearts of many Romans, and not just because it serves better food than most places in tourist-clogged Trastevere. The restaurant also offers jobs to mentally handicapped youth, who work both as waiters and in the kitchen. The menu features simple, consistently good dishes such as sea bass carpaccio, Tunisian-style couscous, chickpea soup, and fresh cassata and cannoli from Sicily.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 7:30 to 11 pm, September through July.
13A Via di San Vito
Tel: 39 06 446 6573
It's as difficult to get a booking at this tiny upscale trattoria as it is at most of Rome's white linen restaurants. Just up the road from the city's new ethnic hub of Piazza Vittorio, Monti is run by three good-looking brothers from Le Marche, the Adriatic coast region of central Italy that's famous, among other things, for its culinary prowess. The cuisine here is certainly a good advertisement for marchigiano genes: Dishes like tagliolini with anchovies, pecorino cheese, and golden raisins, and a thinly sliced cod carpaccio with red onions and truffles are both ambitious and delicious. In fact, with its contemporary decor, clientele of creative professional types, adventurous menu, and extensive wine list, one might think that there's little of the trattoria about the place—but the warm welcome and commitment to value for money are reassuringly true to the name.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 12:30 to 3 pm and 7:30 to 11 pm, Sundays 12:30 to 3 pm. Closed in late August.
60 Vicolo della Torretta
Largo Fontenella Borghese
Tel: 39 06 687 1445
Finding a good spot for a bite of light lunch is not easy in Rome, where a gulf yawns between the sandwich-in-a-bar and the three-course-meal jointswhich makes Vic's a welcome find. In a former vini e olio (wine and oil outletthe sign's still painted above the door) between Via del Corso and the river, this unpretentious eatery offers a small selection of filled savory crepes, plates of cold cuts and cheese, and a huge range of salads from a classic caprese (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) to more exotic options such as radicchio, golden raisins, pine nuts, and Parmesan. Rushed but charming staff serve a packed house of local workers and waistline-conscious shoppers who come here to refuel for less than $30 a head.
Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 3:30 pm and 7:30 to 10:30 pm.