EATS: Rome – Vol. 1

No matter how near or far you are from home, a recommendation for a good restaurant or bar is always nice to have.  EATS is a collection of places that I’ve enjoyed during my travels.

Li Rioni a Santiquattro
While many first time visitors to Rome vie to stay near popular spots like the Colosseum, it’s often hard to find good food in such heavily-touristed areas.  Yet just 3 blocks from the Colosseum we found a little gem in Li Rioni.  This classic neighborhood restaurant serves up Roman-style appetizers (think fried rice balls and zucchini flowers) and wood-fired pizzas that were both crispy and delicious.  It felt like a place locals would go (the table text to us was a family celebrating a birthday) and seems to be run by a father and son team (although I can’t confirm that).  You’ll find both outside and inside seating, the latter designed to look as if you’ve been dropped in the middle of a street scene with a brightly painted sky-blue ceiling and working lamp posts, creating a pleasant and casual environment that is matched with Li Rioni’s unrushed service.  My order has become somewhat formulaic – house wine, insalata mista and a pizza topped with some sort of vegetables or the traditional Margherita – which did not disappoint at Li Rioni.

Li Rioni a Santiquattro, Via dei Santi Quattro 24, +39 06 7045 0605,

Pizzeria Remo
Across town in the Testaccio neighborhood is another gem that was recommended to me by a local friend.  Da Remo is the type of pizzeria you would go with your family for a casual dinner on Friday night (that’s when we ate there).  It’s also an exception to the “Italians don’t eat before 8 p.m.” rule since this popular place does not take reservations and fills up quickly.  We arrived at 7 p.m. and it was already getting crowded, and when we left there was a waiting list and line around the corner.  Da Remo is a no frills kind of place where you sit elbow-to-elbow with other diners and are given a paper menu on which you mark your order.  Then you wait.  Patience is hard when you see the fast-paced waiters hurrying other people’s food through the dining room.  When our pizzas arrived our eyes were as big as the crispy thin crust pies, which are served hot from the wood oven, so large they spill over the sides of the plate.  Once you dig in the noisy and boisterous surroundings fade away.  The pizza is amazing.  I’ve since sent several friends to Da Remo, one who lives in New York and is a self-proclaimed “pizza snob”, who said it was some of the best pizza she’s ever had.  I concur, it’s an authentic experience you won’t soon forget.

Pizzeria Remo, Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice 44, +39 06 574 62 70,

Emma Pizzeria con Cucina
On my most recent trip to Rome, I was looking for someplace that was equally as good as Da Remo but slightly more upscale since my husband and I were celebrating our anniversary.  The same friend also recommended Emma Pizzeria near Campo dei Fiore.  The restaurant’s contemporary black, white and red decor felt upper chic but not too pretentious thanks to the exposed stone walls throughout, but since the weather was nice we requested a table outside.  We started our meal with Aperol Spritz, an aperitivo that I find synonymous with warm summer nights in Rome, followed by an assortment of antipasti including supplì (stuffed rice balls) and fiore di zucca (zucchini flowers with mozzarella) and an inslata mista.  Then the pizza arrived, which lived up to our expectations with its thin, crispy crust and perfectly melted mozzarella cheese.  You’ll also find a decent assortment of primi pasta dishes and secondi meat dishes on Emma’s menu, along with other sides, desserts and spirits, so there’s definitely reason for return visits.

Emma Pizzeria con Cucina, Via del Monte della Farina 28, +39 06 6476 0475,

Osteria da Fortunata
Also nearby just north of Campo dei Fiore is Osteria da Fortunata, a restaurant we ate at with some friends that we met a few days earlier during a cooking class in Florence (more on that soon!).  There you’ll find “Mamma” sitting at a table in the front window facing the street, hand rolling and cutting pasta, perhaps to intentionally draw people in (it worked).  We had an interesting experience to say the least at this traditional restaurant, where our jovial waiter insisted on bringing us what he thought was good that night rather than what we attempted to order.  This included a few handmade pasta dishes and petto di vitella alla fornara (veal with roasted potatoes) and what we later found out was coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew).  Oxtail is something that I wouldn’t have normally eaten but since we didn’t know what it was at the time, we devoured the meat, which was so tender that it fell apart when it met your fork, and soaked up the remaining tomato sauce with crusty bread.  When in Rome.

Osteria da Fortunata, Via del Pellegrino 11, +39 06 6066 7391,

Il Fornaio
In the same neighborhood, Il Fornaio has become one of my regular stops in Rome thanks to its tempting window display of cookies and other baked treats.  Located around the corner from the busy Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, this equally busy bakery also sells fresh-baked bread and quick bites like pizza by the slice and panini.  From the overflowing baskets of biscotti to picture-perfect pistachio tartlets, it can be difficult to make a selection but when you do act quickly so as not to lose your place in line.  You can order an assortment of single cookies by weight, which I like to enjoy as a snack in the nearby Piazza Navona.  While some items may be a little on the pricy side, a small sampling can be worth every euro cent.  I also suggest buying a bag of the pre-packaged biscotti near the register, which makes for a nice souvenir to take home.

Il Fornaio, Via Dei Baullari 5, +39 06 6880 3947, no website

Gelato is a quintessential part of any Roman holiday and needs very little explanation. Cool, creamy gelati and refreshing sorbetti are abundant at shops and cafes throughout the Eternal City, so it’s very easy to fall into a daily habit. While there are countless places for you to indulge, one tip to remember when evaluating a gelateria is that big, bright presentations may not necessarily be the best or most authentic (if the colors you see don’t exist in nature, skip it).  You can also ask for a taste of a flavor (“un assaggio”) before making your selection.  A few places I highly recommend in different parts of the city include Giolitti (Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40) in the heart of the historic center, Fatamorgana (Piazza degli Zingari, 5) in the Monti neighborhood, which boasts organic and unique flavor combinations, and Lemongrass (Via Barletta, 1) just north the Vatican.

Various locations

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