Be warned – this is a much, much longer post than I originally planned, though it should come as no surprise given that we spent the majority of our time in Rome eating! It’s safe to say that in the time we were in Rome we well and truly ate our way through the city! We had almost as many scoops of gelato and cups of coffee as we had hours in Rome and we spent every waking minute in carb comas from all the bread, pizza and Nutella stuffed pastries! But if you’re not in that state then let’s be honest, you’re not doing it right as Rome is (in my opinion!) one of the best cities in the world for food. I’d done my research and picked places to eat but we definitely had our fair share of unplanned snacks and coffee stops – every bakery and coffee shop just looked so enticing and every other shop sells gelato!
On the very first night we took our hotel shuttle to Trastevere and walked across the Sisto bridge to the city centre. I’d booked Roscioli for dinner but they didn’t open for another 30 minutes so we wandered round and ended up in the Roscioli bakery a few shops away and before we knew it we were tucking into a slab of pesto and buffalo mozzarella foccacia!
After demolishing it we headed to the actual place we’d booked for dinner. Roscioli is a cute little deli/restaurant, where you can buy a selection of cheese and meats as well as fresh bread, pasta and wine – everything good about Italy!
I absolutely loved the food there. They use fresh ingredients of the highest quality and it’s simple yet satisfying and delicious. We ordered a bread basket which came with a huge selection of breads fresh from their bakery, gazpacho, swordfish escalopes and the most incredible pasta with crispy pork cheeks.
Everything was absolutely perfect. The pasta was perfect – al dente with a creamy tomatoey sauce and the crispy salty crunch of the pork cheeks was sublime. And THEN they brought complimentary biscuits with HOT MELTED CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREAD while we waited for our bill. Holy CRAP. It was ridiculously good! After the biscuits were finished I just dipped my finger straight into the spread – elegant as always!
Then we headed out for our first gelato stop of the trip. We’d spotted a few on our way but we chose Punto Gelato as it was on the way back to the shuttle! There were SO many flavours! We got four each and there were still about twenty others that I was desperate to try!!
Our first coffee shop visit was Est Artigiani del Gusto. We’d planned to go for coffee but we ended up ordering pasta too. I love how every meal starts with bread and oils as standard – you don’t even have to ask they just bring it over! I got my first carbonara and it was beautiful – nothing like English carbonaras (obviously!). Al dente with just a hint of cream, beautiful cheese and crispy bacon bits – so simple yet so perfect. We also got coffees – there are just two options.. Espresso or Americano and they’re so rich and luxurious. I always get flat whites or cappuccinos in England but in Rome I only felt the need to add a tiny drop of milk to my coffee and it was perfect!
Then we headed to the pantheon, stopping every few steps to admire the beautiful cafes and gelaterias and finally choosing Kinder Bueno, Bounty and Biscotti at Ciuccula, literally a stone’s throw from the pantheon itself.. Talk about gelato with a view!!
Also round the corner is Venchi where you can get incredible gelato and a huge array of the best chocolates.. Plus a few amazing looking slabs (for 40€..!). There is actually a Venchi in Covent garden but something about going in Italy makes it seem so much more special! I’d booked dinner at Emma that night. It was elegant and well decorated but waitresses were circling our table like vultures – it was like eating with an audience (the photo below was taken from our table!). There were up to six of them watching us at a time and it was pretty awkward.
The bruschetta was burnt though the tomato topping was perfect – beautifully sweet tomatoes dressed simply with oil and basil. The pizzas were very thin and crispy with a strange ratio of toppings – I got four seasons but it was about 85% mushrooms, 10% ham and there was one lonely artichoke.
It was quite tasty but if you like pizzas with thick doughy crusts like I do then this place isn’t for you. There was also a strange water build up on mine. Overall I was a bit disappointed considering how highly it rated online. We didn’t fancy the desserts there, nor did we fancy spending any more time being stared at by the staff, so we bought pastries and biscuits from Roscioli for dessert!
After visiting the Vatican City we had an early lunch at Bonci pizzarium which is just a few minutes’ walk away. It seemed to be a popular spot with the locals, serving traditional style pizzas in huge square slabs where they just cut pieces off and charge by weight. We got a selection of toppings including ricotta, zucchini, rocket, mozzarella, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and Sheeps cheese.
They were all delicious but we both agreed that the simplest toppings were the best. The plain mozzarella and tomato one was my favourite! After that we walked back across the river, stopping what seemed like every few minutes for coffee, pastries and gelato. By the time we made it to the cafe I’d planned to visit (Caffe Sant’Eustachio) we’d stopped for coffee and gelato too many times to count, my favourites being Della Palma (150 flavours including Ferrero Rocher, Twix and Mars!), Giolitti (which we didn’t try but went back to another day) and the Lindt store, where we obviously couldn’t leave without buying at least one of every flavour! Some of the coffees I ordered definitely didn’t come out quite as I envisaged though.. One of them (at Sali e Tabacchi) was literally just espresso shot topped with whipped cream and chocolate!
Our final stop (the only we’d actually planned to go to!) was Caffe Sant’Eustachio, established in 1938. From the outside it looks very average, but this is a classic ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ kind of place because the coffee is insanely good – it was my favourite out of everywhere we went in Rome!
I also got a Nutella stuffed pastry which was 95% Nutella! For dinner we headed back across the river to Trastevere, where we chose to eat outside at a beautiful restaurant called Gino 51. I love all the “fritti” here (basically battered stuff!) and I’d been wanting to try zucchini flowers since we arrived so I ordered a selection – zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella, and three types of arancini! I also chose meatballs and we shared a side of bread with oil and balsamic of course 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t one of the better places we ate at but it was so peaceful to sit outside and the food was delicious. The zucca fritti was by far my favourite 🙂
After dinner we wandered back to our hotel bus stop, stopping on the way to pick up biscuits to have with coffee and some of our Lindt purchases when we got back to the hotel!
On the day we went to the Colosseum I’d planned to go to La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali but they were actually closed in August – one slight downside of all of the best restaurants being family-run is that they do tend to have at least one day a week when they close and some of them close for an extended period of time. A lot of them don’t have websites either so it’s hard to find out reliable information about their opening times.* I didn’t want to end up at a tourist trap where the waiters and waitresses stand outside the restaurant flapping menus in your face and begging you to come inside ‘just for a drink’ so we wandered the side streets and found a little café called Caffe Caffe (so original!). We ordered bruschettas and sandwiches. Their coffee, despite the unattractive mugs, was pretty good and the food was decent, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it or go back! That was a lesson to always have a back-up plan when going for a meal! 🙂 For dinner that evening I’d booked a place called il Cuore di Napoli which serves up Napoletan-style pizzas and I was so excited!
The traditional pizzas in Rome are very thin and crispy but my favourite type of pizza is one with thick, doughy crusts. The place we went to was quite a walk away, but I personally think that it’s worth the walk – the food was delicious and the service was absolutely impeccable. From the moment we sat down we were made to feel welcome and we were brought glasses of Italian wine by a waiter who genuinely looked delighted to be serving us! Before we’d even ordered we were presented with some appetizers which I think were fried potato balls (how can you go wrong!?). For mains there was never any doubt that we’d both get pizzas, but for starters we decided to share cheese and tomato gnocchi and the mixed fried platter.
I think that a lot of Italians order carb-type things – pasta and risotto etc, for their first course, and meat/fish for their second course, but we both went for carb options for our first and second courses and at this place it very nearly finished us off! The portions were HUGE! I couldn’t believe it when my gnocchi arrived, and the fried platter had a mix of arancini and battered cheeses which were delicious but ridiculously filling. I was already full by the time my pizza arrived and for one of few times in our lives, we both really struggled to finish our mains! That said, they were absolutely delicious. Marcus went for ham and mushroom and I went for the veggie pizza (red pepper, courgette and aubergine) and we both ate ourselves into the worst carb comas of our trip in order to finish them! If you’re like us and have huge appetites then this is definitely the place for you – my face lit up when the waiter brought my food!
By the weekend we’d seen the main sights and so our days were dedicated solely to food 🙂 After a serious carb coma from the night before (not helped by refusing to cut back on Nutella at the breakfast buffet) I really did fancy something a bit fresher and less smothered in cheese! Ginger was absolutely perfect – I couldn’t have imagined dishes that I fancied more.
I went for chicken meatballs with rice and roasted med veg and Marcus had salmon with soy rice. Both were incredible and the coffee was amazing too, despite us not expecting much given it wasn’t a coffee place! For dessert I tried my first ever acai bowl and it was incredible!! I wasn’t sure what to expect – it was a lot thicker and darker than I was expecting but it was sweet, refreshing and the bowl was stuffed full of granola! They’d topped it beautifully with banana, strawberries and a sprinkling of granola and I’d started saving the tiny bit of granola on top but then when I got half way down the bowl the entire bottom half was granola! Marcus tried a tiny spoonful and claimed it was vile but I genuinely can’t see what’s not to love about it.. I’ll definitely be getting one again in the future!
Then we set off in search of Giolitti – the gelato place I’d been most excited about since coming to Rome as it’s so well known. I got a sundae with hazelnut, Oreo and giandjula flavours and there’s no doubt that their gelato is exceptionally creamy and smooth. Their flavours are simple but done well – they seem to have gone down the more classic route of plain gelato with no fillings or fancy swirls. The hazelnut and giandjula were delicious but I found the Oreo a little unpleasant – it left a strange aftertaste and it didn’t have any pieces in it. Maybe that’s what disappointed me slightly about Giolitti – although the gelato was creamy and smooth I struggled to get excited about it – even the sundae didn’t look particularly exciting. Perhaps that’s just the inner child in me though, wanting big pieces of chocolate or nuts inside my gelato (though I’m strictly against any ridiculous artificially bright colours!). In my opinion it’s worth paying to sit down. The queue to pay is about 15 deep then it’s absolute MAYHEM to get the gelato itself and you can’t even see flavours amongst all the people – let alone choose some!
We ended the day with coffees and a rather large selection of cakes and pastries from the Roscioli coffee shop – one of the trio in the area (restaurant, bakery and coffee shop) 🙂 We went to all three while we were there and loved them all, but the coffee and dainty pastries at their coffee shop are a must-try!
Sunday was our last full day and we didn’t have any sightseeing planned so the entire day was dedicated to food!!
After breakfast we picked up some amazing Nutella stuffed cannolis from Don Nino (near the trevi fountain but they have other locations!) before heading to an all you can eat buffet lunch at il Margutta. On arriving i didn’t actually realise it was a veggie restaurant, but it didn’t bother me given that my entire diet had been carbs since arriving in Italy!
They had a lovely selection of pastas, breads and salads, as well as some incredible cakes which took an absolute hammering from me! My favourite was the aubergine parmagiana but there was also a huge pan of ricotta mixed with other cheeses which was incredible spread on bread! The cakes were where I really came into my own though! They had hazelnut, pistachio and a variety of cupcakes.
I tried them all before my main and they were all amazing! I spent most of my time in Rome stuffing my face full of gelato and pastries but I’m a real cake girl at heart! They don’t seem to have many cakes around Rome – this was the first place I’ve been to where I’ve seen really good cakes and I made good use of it.. I had a slice of the chocolate cake, a cupcake and four slices of the pistachio (which was by far my favourite – it was heavenly!!).
After rolling out of the buffet and complaining about how full we were we headed back towards Piazza Navona but THEN we stumbled across Frigidarium!! It had been on my list but I wasn’t in any particular rush to go until I saw 1) the number of chocolate chips in their gelato and 2) the fact that they dip your entire gelato in molten chocolate! The queue was absolutely huge too which I took to be a good sign especially given that gelato is served at every other shop here!
We both went for bacio and stratichella and I also got pistachio. It was SO messy to eat as the ice cream dripped through the chocolate coating almost immediately but it was so, so worth it! The stratichella is absolutely packed full of chocolate chips and the chocolate coating is divine! It immediately jumped to the top of my list.. Plus €4 for a their largest tub is an absolute steal!
I’ll be honest I’m not even that much of a huge ice cream fan – obviously I ate it here because it’s a crime not to but usually I’d take cake/cookies/anything over ice cream but Frigidarium is heavenly enough to convert anyone!!
We picked up ham and cheese stuffed croissants and make-your-own baguettes for dinner and they were perfect! I chose prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, basil, green olives and the most incredible mushroom and truffle spread and it was so good! 🙂
On our last full day I was even more determined to fit in all of my favourite foods! We managed to sit at breakfast for hours.. and just when we were about to leave they brought out a trolley of mini pastries which were incredible – so much softer and squishier than the big ones (I know pastries are meant to be light and fluffy but I like mine soft and a bit flat!) so we got more coffee and sat there for even longer! When we eventually dragged ourselves away we headed into Rome for gelato!
We went to a place which a couple of Instagrammers had recommended but the sign outside said egg, milk and sugar free.. aka joy free!! We swiftly moved on to il gelato di San Crispino. I’m interested as to the benefits of keeping gelato in big metal containers. A lot of places around Rome do it and I’m sure it has it’s benefits (easier to control the temperature or keeps it fresher perhaps!?) but I find that with so many gelato places around and with so many appealing flavours I want to be able to see my gelato and what it looks like!! I’m also a child and I often want to go for the flavours with the most chunks or swirls, so the plainer looking flavours didn’t appeal as much to me.. And anything fruity or yogurty is firmly out! I like fruit and I love yogurt but there’s a time and a place for it and on holiday/in gelato is not the one for me!
I think that was why I loved Frigidarium so much and clearly I wasn’t the only one – it consistently had the longest queues by far of all the places we visited! By the time it got to lunch time we were already stuffed, but I was desperate to try a little spot by the coliseum that had been shut the first time we tried to go.. And I was also determined to find another amazing pasta dish! I tried truffle a few times when i was in Rome and I loved it so when I saw truffle pasta on the menu I had to order it! The dish was so simple – black pepper, pecorino and truffle but it was absolutely heavenly!! I never wanted it to end.. And using warm crusty bread to mop up leftover sauce meant I at least got to prolong the food heaven slightly!
I also ordered the red tuna and prawn skewer which was incredible too. For €20 I was expecting a little more – it was literally just a skewer of seared tuna and giant prawns but all of their dishes here are simple and both the tuna and prawns were cooked to perfection!
Our final stop had to be another trip to Frigidarium. I usually prefer cups but the size of this waffle cone was insane – I got 5 scoops! The rest of their cones are the crappy 99p style ones so a giant sturdy waffle cone is definitely the way to go.. I saw a poor woman battling away with a dripping, melting, soggy small cone and couldn’t help feeling a little smug .. Besides since when is not getting a large a thing on holiday!? I went for 2x stratichella, 1 fondente (super rich dark chocolate), 1x frigidarium (their own flavour – caramelly honeycomb type thing – I got it for the cookie you get if you choose it but it was actually pretty good!) and 1x hazelnut. HEAVEN. After the melty mess of the previous day I asked for them to put the chocolate in the bottom of the cone as I thought getting molten chocolate on the top would have been even messier than a tub – great decision as it was incredible! I was genuinely devastated when it was over! Marcus stuck to stratichella and bacio as we both got previously but if you order their own frigidarium flavour then you get a cute cookie on top and the fondente is absolutely insane – it’s so dark, rich and indulgent!
That evening we tried more of the airport food than we had planned to! We got paninis, coffee and a muffin each in a ‘meal deal’ (I dread to think how much it would have cost without the ‘deal’ as it was a pretty poor one!), but then when our flight was delayed by over 3 hours we got given refreshment vouchers. We were given the grand total of €4,50 each, which is about enough to buy a bottle of water in their overpriced airport shops, but luckily the Easyjet woman had to take a call half way through serving me and conveniently forgot that she’d already given me vouchers, so we ended up with €18 to spend between us. All of the shops were closed or closing and the last remaining open shop claimed they weren’t selling food anymore despite the fact that I could see sandwiches left in their cabinet. I stood there and refused to leave until they sold me all of the remaining food in their shop.. it wasn’t great but it was definitely better than nothing!
*Note that although the tourist traps generally serve food all day, a lot of the good restaurants in Rome only open for lunch (12-3) and dinner (6.30/7 onwards) and are closed during the afternoon, which is worth bearing in mind if like us you eat at all hours on holiday!