Italy’s top tourist destination – Rome – boasting immense cultural heritage, has recently become a hotspot for wine and food lovers.
While falling into tourist traps when wandering through the historical neighbourhoods is still relatively easy, the eternal city’s restaurant scene has considerably benefitted from the surge in popularity of Roman cuisine. For a large portion of the over 15 million yearly visitors, finding the perfect Carbonara or cacio e pepe is just as important as taking a tour of the Colosseum, and so the number of noteworthy establishments grows.
Informal trattorias offering hearty bowls of pasta, fried starters, and quinto quarto (offal-based recipes) are by far the most popular spots, but the city offers a lot beyond that. Options for foodies range from cosy ‘vinerie con cucina’ (wine bars serving food) to modern osterie with a cosmopolitan vibe and fine dining.
The local wines of the Lazio region have improved consistently in recent years, even though the dismal reputation deriving from a long tradition of producing low-quality bulk wine is hard to overcome. While most wine lists around Rome feature labels from all over the country, pairing classic local dishes with local wines – viscous whites made with Malvasia Puntinata, Bellone or Grechetto, or bold and spicy Cesanese-based reds – is usually a great choice.
Rome’s best restaurants for wine lovers
Chef Riccardo Di Giacinto and maître d’, Ramona Anello manage one of the longest standing Michelin-star restaurants in Rome, currently housed in the charming The H’All boutique hotel. Di Giacinto is best known for his edgy reinterpretations of Roman classics: signature dishes include salted tiramisù with potatoes, codfish and pork fat, riassunto di carbonara (pork cheek and pasta in a boiled egg), and oxtail rocher with celery jelly. The wine programme mainly relies on classic denominations, with a remarkable selection of fine wines (some also poured by the glass).
The Gargioli family has been at the helm of this small but wildly popular trattoria for over 60 years. Booking a table may prove challenging, as the cosy interior room only accommodates around 30 customers at once, but all efforts are repaid by the impeccable service and excellent renditions of timeless classics such as Roman stracciatella (egg drop soup), rigatoni with pajata (veal intestines), and bollito alla picchiapò (boiled meat with tomato sauce and parsley). Fabiana Gargioli takes care of the wine selection, which includes more than a few regional discoveries.
Boasting a prominent position in front of the Giordano Bruno statue in Campo de’ Fiori, La Carbonara is a safe haven in one of the city’s most touristy spots. Expect a dolce vita setting, with a year-round al fresco dining area and uniformed waiters serving Jewish-style fried artichokes and zucchini flowers, oxtail ‘vaccinara’, saltimbocca (veal cooked in white wine with ham and sage), and a textbook version of the namesake pasta. An over 500-selection wine list, including classics and under-the-radar gems, adds to the overall experience.
This ‘vineria con cucina’ in the Monti neighbourhood may be Rome’s best kept secret. Upon sitting in the tiny, dimly lit room, you will receive two thick wine lists; the first contains hundreds of Piedmontese wines, while the second covers the rest of the country and France. Such a wide wine programme matches a small food menu featuring selections of alpine cheeses and warm dishes mixing Piedmontese and Apulian influences. Al fresco dining options are available, too.
Housed in the Asian-inspired ground floor rooms of the Pantheon Iconic hotel, Ischia-born chef Francesco Apreda’s fine dining restaurant holds one Michelin star. Having worked in India and Japan, Apreda mixes Italian and far eastern ingredients to convey a ‘sense of sapidity’ without adding salt. Cacio e pepe risotto with sesame, and Parmesan ravioli with tuna broth feature among his cutting-edge fusion dishes. The award-winning wine list spans biodynamic wines to multiple vintages of top Barolo and SuperTuscans.
No other restaurant has a more lavish setting than this two-Michelin-star establishment within the former house of the Fendi family in the upscale Della Vittoria neighbourhood. Art nouveau furniture, statues, stuccos and chandeliers decorate the majestic dining hall. The regal atmosphere is in line with chef Domenico Stile’s neoclassic cuisine, which shows a mix of Neapolitan and French influences. The word ‘enoteca’ here refers to the central role of wine in the experience: talented sommelier Rudy Travagli oversees an outstanding wine cellar, and pours dozens of wines by the glass.
This recently renovated trattoria with a large outdoor dining area lies steps away from Rome’s main shopping streets Via del Corso and Via dei Condotti. More than for the culinary offering, which is all about Roman classics, it stands out for the impressively long wine list featuring more than 1,000 wines. Options range from value Cesanese del Piglio and Frascati to back-vintages of iconic wines. Leave room for a glass of Moscato di Terracina passito with Jewish-Roman ricotta and sour cherry cake.
Locals love this Slow food-awarded trattoria in the trendy Ostiense neighbourhood, which offers an ever-changing menu – usually including both offals and seasonal vegetarian options (as well as hard-to-beat rigatoni all’amatriciana). Most suppliers work according to organic and biodynamic principles, and so do the producers listed in the solid – if not especially extensive – wine list.
The Roscioli family owns a historical bakery, a café, a charcuterie shop/restaurant, and a wine bar/osteria, all strategically located near Campo de’ Fiori. The main restaurant is the place to go for high-end salumi and traditional dishes made with first-class produce, accompanied by a monumental wine list suiting all palates and budgets. Rimessa Roscioli sports a slightly more creative menu, and offers tailor-made wine tastings guided by renowned sommelier, Alessandro Pepe.
A Parisian-style bistrot in the picturesque Testaccio neighbourhood, Taverna Volpetti was born as the eat-in branch of one of the city’s historical salumerie. Besides flawless versions of Roman first courses, it offers some of the finest artisanal cold cuts and cheeses in town, as well as specialties from other regions like Ligurian testaroli pasta with pesto sauce, and Tuscan-style dolceforte wild boar. The well thought out wine list has a clear focus on low-intervention wineries.