This article is part of a guide to Rome from FT Globetrotter
Don’t trust the shortlists on the best places to visit in Rome. (Or at least don’t believe that they can be exhaustive.) The Italian capital is far too big and too beautiful to be locked into a round-up of highlights. To truly sum up the best of the Eternal City, thousands of words would be needed — and still, these pages would cause arguments and people would furiously claim we’ve missed one particular gem or 1,000.
So trying to summarise Rome is not my intent: it is a city in which I lived for a few years and from which I carry many unforgettable experiences. What I can do is tell you about the places in Rome where my heart lies. These are the ones I always return to when visiting the city for business or pleasure. Each time they offer me something new.
Roscioli is probably my favorite place in Rome. It looks like a simple delicatessen with a kitchen, but it’s so much more. The concept is similar to my own company, Eataly, as it offers both Italian products and dining. There’s a little restaurant, a little wine bar . . . I love having an aperitivo in the room behind the cafeteria. A good glass of wine with some of the best products from their counters — cured hams, cheese, anchovies and fried food — can’t be topped.
Felice a Testaccio is a traditional trattoria in Testaccio, a historically working-class neighborhood that has in recent years has become one of the city’s top food and drink destinations. To me, this restaurant has an aura of myth or legend. Tables here are much coveted — and I get it. Rome is loved for its specialties, and the primi courses here are some of the best in the city, such as the pasta with cacio e pepe. Eating it here by the people who have helped make it a religion is always a wonderful experience.
Nearby, there is another favorite Roman tavern: Velavevodetto by Flavio De Maio, a local chef who was born and raised in the Garbatella district. The restaurant describes itself as a “temple of Roman cuisine” — and that isn’t an exaggeration. Here you can experience food from skilled chefs who are passionate about both classic recipes and the most current reinterpretations. I recommend the carbonara — it’s not the most traditional version of the dish, but it is truly excellent.
There are those who argue that the food is terrible in the center of Rome, an area that is perhaps better equipped to welcome one-off tourists. I disagree: there are some wonderful local gems to be found amid the monuments. One above all is Hosteria Grappolo D’Oro, a long-running restaurant near Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori where you can enjoy exceptional-quality, classic Roman dishes such as cacio e pepepasta all’amatriciana and baccala (salted code). The portions are generous and the prix fixe is very reasonable (€34 per person for four courses). You will not regret dining here.
A visit to the Eternal City is not complete without Roman pizza. If you not only want to eat an excellent pizza, but also see where the pizza-by-the-slice revolution began, you must go to Bonci. I love to eat in places like this where the only thing that matters are the ingredients and quality. You eat standing up after choosing one or more slices of pizza to be accompanied by a rich selection of quality craft beers or bubbles.
Finally, for those willing to travel beyond the city, the Roman hills will delight visitors with enchanting views and excellent restaurants. I have two recommendations. One is L’Oste della Bon’Ora in Grottaferrata (a town in the heart of the Roman Castles area), which offers a real gourmet experience with reinterpretations of traditional dishes from the Lazio region. The other is Cacciani in Frascati, a family-run restaurant that has been operating for about a century. The dishes range from the traditional to tweaked classics but are always exceptional — and a seat on the terrace will serve you a wonderful view of Rome.
Nicola Farinetti is the CEO of Eataly, the world’s largest Italian food market and restaurant concept.
Share your favorite Roman eateries in the comments
Follow FT Globetrotter on Instagram at @FTGlobetrotter
Cities with the FT
FT Globetrotter, our insider guides to some of the world’s greatest cities, offers expert advice on eating and drinking, exercise, art and culture — and much more.
Find us in Rome, Paris, Tokyo, New York, London, Frankfurt, Singapore, Hong Kong and Miami.