When I was in Rome in July, I was under a lot of pressure to eat really good food. It was our last stop in Italy and we didn’t want to botch a single meal. I’m happy to report that we ate quite well and I have some restaurants to recommend.
Our first meal was lunch at Pizzeria San Marco which is just off Via Veneto and near Villa Borghese. Its upscale modern interior is attractive, but more importantly the pizza was outstanding. We saw other diners eating pasta that looked good too. That night, we continued along the modern theme and ate at ‘Gusto, which has a Mediterranean/eclectic menu. I had seared tuna with an Asian-type sauce and my husband had steak, which was a nice break considering that we had been eating either pasta or pizza for every meal since we got to Italy. For dessert, we shared the non-traditional tiramisu in a chocolate shell (pictured above). We enjoyed our meal but the next day we learned that we had gone to the “wrong” location. The trendier, more fun ‘Gusto that has a wine bar and a store is at Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 9. We went to the offshoot at Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 28. Not a huge deal, of course, but we would have rather gone to the main one just a block away.
We don’t tend to eat breakfasts at restaurants, we either eat at the hotel if it’s included (it wasn’t) or grab a croissant/pastry/roll as we walk around. So, when it came time for lunch the next day, we were pretty hungry but our restaurant of choice (Maccheroni) wasn’t open yet. It was opening at 1pm so we just milled around the Pantheon area and tried not to wander too far away so we didn’t get lost. This casual trattoria was worth the wait as it ended up being one of our favorite meals in Rome. We shared a caprese (mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) salad and then had the pesto fettucine. Both were excellent. Adding to the authentic, bustling ambiance was my opportunity to eavesdrop on a very entertaining conversation among a group of British college students who were spending the summer in Rome.
That night for dinner, we went over to Trastevere. Our hotel recommended a restaurant that was right on the main square. For one reason or another, we didn’t want to go there and we decided to track down one of Fodor’s recommendations, Alle Fratte di Travestere. It wasn’t easy to find, but it was a good excuse to explore the neighborhood. Luckily, we snagged a little table outside where we shared a salad and then each had a pasta dish (spaghetti bolognese for my husband, rigatoni with eggplant for me). Our meal was pretty good, but not as good as lunch.
The next day we devoted to the Vatican. Between seeing St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, we ate lunch but I don’t remember where. Nowhere too great, I guess. That evening for dinner, we asked our hotel for a recommendation near Piazza Navonna. But again, we weren’t too enthused, and wanting to ensure ourselves a good meal after an unmemorable lunch we decided to return to Maccheroni. It was good, but not as good as the day before. This was not really the restaurant’s fault though. I ordered the wrong thing: spaghetti cacio e pepe. I’m a huge carb fan (as you can tell), but not a fan of the creamy and it was just too rich for me. Luckily my husband was willing to share his pasta bolognese and that was very good. Also, we had wanted to sit outside, but it was too busy, so we sat near the open kitchen. As much fun as it was to watch the cooks make the pasta, that did not make up for the fact that it was so hot we were actually sweating (remember this was in July). I still want to go back there the next time I’m in Rome.
We spend our last day in Rome, well, outside of Rome touring the ruins of Ostia Antica. But we made sure to return to the city in time for dinner and ate at La Buca di Ripetta, a charming restaurant with a vintage Vespa parked in the middle of it. Located right near Piazza del Popolo, this was a recommendation from Julie Gilley, who sent us to great restaurants in Florence and Tuscany. I’m happy to report that this was another winner. I started with a local artichoke specialty and then had housemade ravioli stuffed with tomato and eggplant. Yes, our last meal in Rome (and in Italy, for that matter) was excellent.