They say that all roads lead to Rome. Why is that? Might it be because it’s the cradle of Western civilization as we know it today? Possibly. How about that it’s one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring cities in Europe? Could be that instead. It also has a wonderful climate and looks beautiful in any season, which we sure help its case too. But despite all those perfectly alluring factors, the main reason all roads lead to Rome is undoubted that there’s some damn fine food at the end of it. Whether it’s a trattoria, an osteria, or even a ristorante, some of the finest food you’ll ever eat can be found in Rome, whichever road you take.
But what’s the difference between a trattoria and an osteria? They both sound wonderfully inviting and quintessentially Italian, but why are there two different names for what is apparently the same thing? Well, essentially, an osteria is the less formal of the two, as it traditionally only sold very simple food and wine. Back in the day, it’d be full of old men playing endless games of cards. A trattoria was a little more upmarket and was usually run by a family. These days there’s little difference between the two, and they can be hard to tell apart. It can be even harder to find authentic ones, as Rome is overrun with thousands of eateries, not all of them as traditional as they might first seem. But never fear BUCKiTDREAMERS, we’re here to set you right; grab that BUCKiTDREAM planner and get chalking up a list of the very best, very authentic trattorias and osterias Rome has to offer.
One of Rome’s best-loved trattorias, Vecchio Roma celebrated its 100-year-anniversary last year, demonstrating that in a highly competitive field of culinary aptitude, it’s got serious staying power. Located centrally near the Termini train station and exceptionally popular with locals and visitors alike, one should not expect to walk into Vecchio Roma without booking ahead, especially in the busier seasons; this little trattoria is usually jammed full of hungry customers, though it all adds to the wonderful atmosphere. Serving up a selection of traditional Italian dishes, with an English-speaking and warm, engaging staff, Trattoria Vecchio is definitely a good place to get started as you explore authentic Roman cuisine.
Da Sergio Alle Grotto
Da Sergio could be the most authentic on the list of authentic places to eat in Rome; this little eatery oozes Italy from every pore and is so traditional that it doesn’t even have a website. And why would they need one? This family-run joint is eternally popular with natives and tourists alike, although they don’t pander to their foreign visitors; most of the staff speak minimal English, although they’re always ready with a warm welcome for their guests. The interior is relaxed and friendly; if you lean into it, you’ll be feeling like a Roman local in no time at all. The menu is short and delicious, and the dishes are served on simple, homely plates, which all add to the atmosphere. The signature dish of Da Sergio is their carbonara, renowned for its al dente perfection and traditional, no-frills feel.
There’s authenticity to spare in the hip Roman quarter of Trastevere. Located across the Tiber, it was formerly the area where all the undesirables of Rome were banished; plague victims, thieves, prisoners and other blackguards. These days, it’s achingly cool to do anything in Trastevere, which succeeds in blending the best of the old and the new. This is particularly apparent when it comes to places to eat; you won’t find too many tourists clogging up the trattorias and osterias of Trastevere, which means there’s a lot of local delights to discover, such as La Mani In Pasta, a little place located in a very unassuming side street, which livens up as soon as you get in the door. Specializing in seafood and pasta, La Mani In Pasta houses a section of wonderful dishes served up by a friendly, English-speaking staff. If the ravioli with cheese and pepper happens to be on the specials board, it’s a must-have.
We’re not done with Rome’s burgeoning little suburb yet. Popi-Popi is located in the center of Trastevere, just down from its main square. It’s a large place with plenty of outdoor seating as well as inside seating and boasts a pretty large and luxurious menu. The specialty here is on pizza, and they’re to die for. Cooked in the traditional Italian method with a thin base and sparse tomato sauce, Popi-Popi will provide you with an authentic Roman pizza with an authentic Roman atmosphere; not to mention that the friendly staff will usually insist that you finish up your meal with a shot of limoncello.
There are two unofficial rules of eating out in Rome. Number one, for the most part, the less assuming a place looks, the better the food is. And number two, if you ever see priests eating somewhere, you can assume it’s going to be great (it’s the Roman equivalent of a Michelin Star). Osteria Barberini is located off the beautiful Piazza Barberini, to the north of the city, and specializes in beautiful traditional pasta and antipasti dishes, particularly truffle pasta dishes. The chef isn’t afraid to come out and meet his customers too, and like a lot of places on this list, if something’s recommended to you, just go with the flow! Remember, there’s no such thing as bad Italian food; it’s just a myth invented by the French.
So all roads might lead to Rome, and, by extension, a collection of mouth-watering Roman restaurants, but the key is getting YOU there. Eating like a Roman Emperor might be something you aim to tick off your dream bucket list; so what are you waiting for? Give the thumbs up to Rome and get planning that gorge-fest of a trip!