Like many Argentines, I have Italian heritage – in fact, my grandmother was from Bari and she lived there until she emigrated to Argentina. I feel a very strong tie to Italy, and Rome is one of my favorite Italian cities to visit. Full of history and culture, but also an amazing place to find some of the best dishes in the world.
What better than an Italian food adventure that focuses on the greatest spots to enjoy pasta in this incredible Italian capital city of Rome!
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An April Fool’s Pasta Prank
On April 1, 1957, as part of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) current affairs program “Panorama”, the channel aired a segment that would go on to become one of the biggest April Fools’ pranks ever pulled in the history of television.
This footage showed women in traditional Swiss attire carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from their family-owned “spaghetti trees” and then laying them out in the sun to dry. The narrator explained that the spaghetti harvest was especially bountiful that year thanks to a mild winter and the “disappearance of the spaghetti weevil”. The day after the broadcast, thousands of curious viewers flooded BBC’s phone lines, demanding to know how they could grow their own pasta trees.
The whole thing was an April Fools’ joke but it’s a salient example of how foreign pasta was to people outside Italy even just a few decades ago. Today, it’s the comfort food loved by many around the world.
Still, nobody does pasta better than Rome. And you can tell because they have an entire museum dedicated to it. If you want to learn more about the history of pasta and the ancient tools and techniques Italians used to make it back then, a visit to the Museo Nazionale della Pasta Alimentari is a must.
But you are not here for the history lesson. In this post, we have compiled a list of places in Rome that are going to serve you some of the most delicious pasta you have ever had.
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Where to Find the Best Pasta in Rome
In a city as popular as Rome, tourist traps serving mediocre pasta at inflated prices are unfortunately quite common. They use subpar ingredients and charge way more than what the dish is worth.
But don’t worry, we have got you covered. Below, you will find the top spots that serve authentic Roman pasta, the way it has been for generations. They use high-quality, locally sourced ingredients which makes a world of difference in how the pasta tastes as well as its texture. You will get to enjoy it as it should be — fresh, full of flavor, and perfectly al dente.
Armando al Pantheon
If you are anywhere around the Pantheon, head over to Armando al Pantheon located at Salita de’ Crescenzi No. 31. It was founded by Armando Gargioli in 1961 and has been serving mouth-watering Roman cuisine ever since. Today, his sons, Claudio and Fabrizio, continue to uphold the family’s cooking traditions.
Their Pasta alla Gricia has been hailed as some of the best in the world by many food and travel publications so do try it. It’s a Roman classic that combines fried guanciale (Italian cured pork cheek) with pecorino romano (a salty, aged sheep’s milk cheese) and a sprinkle of black pepper. Another great option is the Fettuccine con le regaje di pollo. That’s pasta with chicken giblets in tomato sauce, a dish that will make you rethink how scrumptious giblets can be.
You may also want to indulge in the Saltimbocca alla Romana, a tender veal layered with prosciutto and sage leaves, all fried in butter and splashed with white wine. Everything they serve is made from farm-fresh ingredients. And if you are into wine, they have a sterling selection with around 400 labels, including some incredible natural options.
You will find all the pasta classics here: gricia, cacio e pepe, amatriciana, carbonara, and much more. Salumeria Roscioli is a well-known gem somewhere between the ancient Jewish quarter and the Campo de’ Fiori flower market. Opened in 1992 by Marco Roscioli and now run by the three Roscioli siblings — Alessandro, Pierluigi, and Maria Elena — this place wears many hats. By day, it is a traditional deli; by night, it transforms into one of the hottest restaurants in Rome.
The Roscioli family has been a prominent name in Rome for almost two centuries, especially for their contributions to the city’s food scene. As such, they are extremely particular about the quality and technique of their pasta.
They stick to the time-honored Roman recipes, but what sets them apart is how they create those recipes. Think semi-dried cherry tomatoes from Campania and Culatello (a prized Italian ham) from Emilia-Romagna, or fig-walnut bread made in their 200-year-old bakery, L’Antico Forno Roscioli, just around the corner. If you dare, try the pasta tossed in vanilla butter and Spanish anchovies. The ingredients include aged pecorino and Parmigiano-Reggiano, their own dried and jarred tomatoes, and finest olive oil available anywhere.
Since this is a deli, the indoors are filled with the aroma of aged cheeses and cured meats. The deli counter is almost always stocked with over 300 cheeses and 200 salamis. They also have more than 2800 labels from around the world in their wine cellar.
Antico Forno Roscioli
Yes, you guessed it right, Antico Forno Roscioli is part of the same family that is behind Salumeria Roscioli. Where Salumeria is a multi-function delicatessen, this one is more of a conventional bakery and café. Don’t expect a warm, fuzzy vibe here though; it’s all about efficiency. The staff might seem a bit intimidating as they chop pizza with heavy knives, but that’s just how Roman bakeries roll.
We know this post is about the best pasta restaurant in Rome – and you can get that here too! – but the pizza at Antico Forno Roscioli is to die for. Something as seemingly simple as pizza bianca, which is just topped with salt and olive oil, will leave you craving for more.
If you are feeling thirsty, grab a beer, wine, or soda from the refrigerated case next to the register. Seating is limited, so you may want to get a quick bite or takeout.
La Pergola at Roma Cavalieri
La Pergola is the only restaurant in the Eternal City with three Michelin stars, a title it has held since 2005. It is situated on the ninth floor of Rome Cavalieri, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, so expect jaw-dropping views of the city while your taste buds enjoy whatever Chef Heinz Beck cooks up for you.
Beck’s signature dish is Fagotelli “La Pergola” which is basically silky pasta filled with creamy carbonara sauce, topped with crispy pancetta and zucchini. It’s a modern twist on an age-old classic with ingredients like Umbrian truffles and onion jam from Tropea. They also have a spaghetti cooked in water that is intensely infused with tomatoes; this unique technique is designed to deeply embed the pasta with a rich tomato flavor from the very start of the cooking process, rather than just relying on a sauce to impart flavor afterward.
You can try the 10-course tasting “Gourmet Menu” or the seven-course option. Either way, you are in for a treat. The restaurant also has a 12-page water menu and a wine collection with over 70,000 bottles, including some of the world’s rarest wines.
This is a perfect setting if you are celebrating a special occasion or a romantic night out. The ambiance is elegant but not stuffy, and the service is impeccable.
Felice a Testaccio
Another best Italian restaurant in Rome that is run by a family and known for their recipes handed down over many many generations is the Felice a Testaccio. You will find it tucked away in the trendy Testaccio neighborhood. The locals line up to eat here so booking ahead is a good idea.
The menu is a walk-through Roman history with dishes specific to each day of the week. Thursdays, for example, are for “coda alla vaccinara,” a beef oxtail dish. For pasta lovers, we recommend the tonnarelli cacio e pepe for sure. It’s made with the finest quality Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper, and the waiter mixes it at your table for maximum creamy goodness.
They also serve pasta alla carbonara and bucatini all’amatriciana, all made from fresh herbs and guanciale-cured meat. The spaghetti alla Felice, made from cherry tomatoes and salty ricotta cheese is also worth a try.
Besides pasta, they offer an extensive variety of main courses and side dishes. During the artichoke season, their carciofo alla romana is a big hit among regular patrons. The roasted lamb with potatoes also deserves a mention.
Trattoria Da Enzo al 29
When you are touring around the Ponte Cestio bridge, a visit to Da Enzo al 29 at Via dei Vascellari, 29 should be a no-brainer. But this is also an extremely popular spot so you will want to book weeks in advance.
The restaurant’s roots trace back to the 1920s and 30s when it was a simple osteria serving only wine. Fast forward to today, and the Di Felice family has turned it into the talk of the town. Roberto Di Felice, the chef, is a wizard in the kitchen.
The restaurant offers a “pasta of the day,” but the chef’s amatriciana and carbonara pasta are legendary; both are made with Da Enzo’s own rigatoni and guanciale (a type of Italian cured meat made from pork jowl). The sauce is rich, the pasta is cooked to al dente perfection, and the pecorino has that sharp, tangy kick to it.
An interesting thing about their carbonara, instead of egg yolks, Roberto uses the entire egg, both white and yellow, sourced from San Bartolomeo in Viterbo, one of Italy’s top organic hen houses. The result is a carbonara that’s rich, velvety and melts in your mouth. Also keep an eye out for their cacio e pepe. It is a simple pasta dish but getting it right is an art form, and Da Enzo nails it.
Before you get to the pasta Rome, consider kicking off your meal with sourdough bread and ricotta served with local jams. For mains, the polpette — a blend of beef, mortadella ham, and pecorino cheese in a thick tomato sauce — is a terrific option. And if you still have room for dessert, their tiramisu is made with organic eggs and dark cocoa.
Enjoy a Food Tour or Class
Devour Tours offers thoughtfully curated tours and activities all over the world that enhance your experience and truly make you feel like a local. They have some great options in Rome, if you are wanting to take your pasta, food and even wine journey to another level. Here are a few:
Insider Tips for Pasta Enthusiasts
If you want to make the most of your culinary experience in Rome, you need to think like a local rather than a tourist. The following tips will help you do just that.
- Avoid restaurants near well-known tourist attractions. Locals usually dine a bit further out where the quality is higher and prices are more reasonable.
- Look for “Fatto a Mano” which means “handmade”. It’s a strong sign that the pasta is made in-house.
- Don’t hesitate to ask locals for their favorite pasta spots. They will likely point you to lesser-known gems where you can enjoy authentic dishes.
- When you are looking at the menu, remember, a good pasta will likely use Pecorino Romano, not Parmesan. It’s sharper and saltier.
- Always check the daily or seasonal specials. Ingredients in Italy are highly seasonal, and a special is the chef’s way of showcasing the best of what’s currently available.
- When in Rome, do as the Romans do — pair your pasta with a local wine. A simple house wine can complement your pasta beautifully.
- Romans usually eat lunch between 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM and dinner around 8:00 PM or later. Go at these times to avoid the tourist rush.
- Take cues from locals on how to eat your pasta. For example, twirling your spaghetti onto a spoon is generally considered a no-no. Instead, hold your fork vertically and twirl it to wrap the spaghetti around the tines.
One more thing: familiarize yourself with all the good old pasta dishes like Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana, and Carbonara. These are the backbone of Roman cuisine so ordering them is a must. Here is a quick rundown of our favorites:
- Cacio e Pepe is a no-fuss pasta made with tonnarelli (a square-shaped spaghetti), Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. Pecorino Romano is a hard cheese made with sheep’s milk.
- Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a creamy dish made with eggs, Pecorino Romano, pancetta, and cured pork.
- Bucatini all’Amatriciana is bucatini pasta (thick spaghetti with a hole running through the center) with a sauce made from tomatoes, hard cheese, and guanciale (cured pork cheek).
- Rigatoni con la Pajata is a more adventurous rigatoni pasta made with the intestines of a milk-fed calf. The intestines are cooked in a tomato sauce until they become tender.
- Fettuccine al Burro is also known as Alfredo, and made with fettuccine, butter, and Parmesan cheese. It’s more popular with tourists than locals but has its roots in Rome.
- Gnocchi alla Romana is made from semolina flour and is baked with cheese and butter, unlike the more famous potato gnocchi.
- Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino is a Neapolitan dish made with garlic, olive oil, and red chili peppers.
- Pasta e Ceci is a comforting chickpea and pasta soup, seasoned with rosemary and sometimes flavored with a bit of tomato.
And there you go, the ultimate guide to eating your way through Rome. Your trip to Italy won’t be complete without a meal at one of the spots listed above. If you have any suggestions, feel free to drop a comment.