Classic Roman dishes

All the best there is to eat (and drink) in Rome, Italy

Great dining experiences
Bucatini all'amatriciana at Hostaria Romanesca
• Pizza at Da Baffetto
• An old-school trattoria lunch at Fiaschetteria Beltramme
• Gelato from San Crispino or Giolitti
• A classic French feast served by nuns under frescoed ceilings at L'Eau Vive
• Buffet lunch at Birreria Peroni
• The lasagne at Il Duca
• Rigatoni con pajata at Checchino dal 1887
The typical Roman evening meal is often huge and lasts for hours. Some suspect that this conga line of courses is just a scam to get tourists to order more, but Italians often do actually eat such gargantuan meals (though of late, less frequently in today's fast-paced world).

When dining out, you're expected to order at least two courses, and it helps when you stretch out dinner with good wine and lively conversation. If you're not up to a monster meal, however, just ask for a mezza portion (half portion).

Antipasti (appetizers)

You start off with an antipasto (appetizer):

Primi (first courses)

After the appetizer, your primo (first course) could be a soup—try stracciatella, egg-drop and parmesan in broth—or a pasta.

Among the classic Roman pasta dishes are:

Secondi (main courses)

The daily special
In addition to their regular offerings, the menus of many smaller Roman eateries still follow the traditional weekly rotation of dishes: Tuesday zuppa di farro (barley-like emmer soup), Wednesday trippa (tripe), Thursday gnocchi (potato dumpling pasta), and Friday baccalà (salt cod) and/or pasta e ceci (pasta with chick peas).

When you get to the secondo (main course) you may encounter "traditional local cuisine:"

If you shy away from such culinary adventure, other main courses could include:

Dolci (desserts)

Finish off dinner with gelato (ice cream » more), a tartufo (which means "truffle" but on the dessert menu means a fudge center surrounded by vanilla ice-cream and chocolate ice-cream and dusted with cocoa) or tiramisù (espresso-soaked ladyfingers layered with sweetened, creamy marscapone cheese and dusted with cocoa).

Bevande (drinks)

Bread & Cover
Italian restaurants have an unavoidable "bread and cover" charge (pane e coperto) of anything from €1 to €15 (though most often €2—€5) added on to your bill.

If you order a table wine in Rome, you will most likely get a light, fruity white from the hills south of the city, either a Frascati or a Castelli Romani. Another excellent white wine from an Umbrian town north of Rome is Orvieto Classico. The capital's restaurants are also usually equipped with a cellar that draws on the best wines from throughout Italy.

Top your meal off with an espresso (it really does help the digestion and, contrary to popular belief, while far more flavorful than a cup of American coffee is actually far weaker, at least so far as caffeine is concerned) and a digestivo, a shot of liqueur to "aid the digestion," usually an amaro (bitter) or a grappa (clear as water, crafted from the leftovers of the wine-making process, and it makes a good rocket fuel to boot. If you want the stuff that'll burn a hole in the table should you spill some, order a grappa duro; if you want it merely to put werewolf-quality hair on your chest, ask for grappa morbido).

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This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in January 2011. All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 2008–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett