In the country of pizza and pasta, you’ll never have to worry about getting some good food. Especially in Rome. You can get something amazing around every corner you turn. But there are some pitfalls you might want to be aware of.
Rome is not your average city when it comes to food. You can get awesome coffee for breakfast and panini for lunch and dinner will not disappoint either. The Italian kitchen is renowned for its pasta, pizza and amazing deserts. So don’t skip eating in a small Roman restaurant where English is not the primary language spoken by the guests.
How to pick a restaurant for Dinner in Rome
I shy away from giving you direct recommendations for restaurants. I can review places where I’ve been, but that would preclude places I’ve not been that might be very good. Or, it might be that the chef has moved on to another place and the food now is different than what I tasted. So I rather give you something of a guide on how to pick a restaurant when you are in Rome. That is pretty universal and will help you in finding a good place to eat.
So, how to pick a restaurant in Rome?
- Avoid tourist area’s like the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain or the area around Termini. The restaurants here cater mostly to tourists, and their menu will reflect it.
- If the menu has pictures of the food: be on your guard. Now, I’ve had good food in plenty of places that had pictures of the food on the menu. Just be careful not to tread into the tourist trap.
- If you can, look around in side streets a bit. There you’ll usually find some neighborhood restaurants that will serve you quality food at reasonable prices.
- Italians eat dinner at a different time than most Westerners. So if a place is closed around 5 but will open later, then it will cater mostly to locals. This can be a good sign, though even local restaurants can be bad.
- If a place is busy at 6 p.m. and completely empty by 9, look elsewhere. If the Romans don’t want to eat there, neither should you.
- Eating the Termini train station is not a bad idea if you’re on a budget. What they serve here is usually reasonable quality for what you pay. It isn’t a restaurant experience but you could do way worse. But there are many cheap places in the city that will serve you a good quality simple pasta dish for under 10 euro. So don’t think that Rome can’t be done on a budget.
- If you can, check out the streets around the Piazza Navona. I’ve had some good luck there with cheap places that served me good food.
The TripAdvisor tourist trap
Where you are not getting anything special is the typical tourist trap that you find in every major city en tourist resort. Rome has these too. Usually these are easy to spot thanks to the many tour operator stickers in the window. Especially the TripAdvisor one seems to be spreading like wildfire. If you see many of these stickers at the door of a restaurant, you might want to avoid eating there.
Another thing to avoid is restaurants that are trying to get you in by chatting you up on the streets. This is a common practice in tourist areas all over Europe. But the Romans (or any other Southern Europeans) are not biting. And neither should you.
If you walk up to a restaurant to look at the menu, just take your time. See if the prices are reasonable and if you see something you like. There are some places that charge outrageous prices for relatively simple food, so always check the menu before you order. Yes, that advice also covers drinks, coffee and well… anything. Always check the prices before you order(!!!).
Just remember that when you are in a prime location like the Vatican or right next to the Colosseum, prices for drinks and food might be inflated to a point you simply should go somewhere else.