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Italian food

Italian cuisine is the most popular in the world, but there's much more to it than just pizza and pasta.

TravelCurious Tip

Dine alfresco in one of the city’s squares for a truly Roman summer evening.

Not built in a day

The Italians are famous for many things, but possibly one of their most widespread influences in the world has been their cuisine. Italian cooking has crossed oceans, and today you can hardly go anywhere without finding pasta on the menu.

The Roman love for food goes back a long way: in ancient Rome dinner time at any patrician’s house was an event full of feasting, entertainment and indulgence in all appetites. The meals would last hours and were extravagant affairs. There were courses of bizarre and exotic food, like peacock, heron, flamingo (with the plumage meticulously reattached for display) and camel’s feet. There were acrobats, fire-breathers and dancers to entertain the guests while they awaited the next course.

Today most Italian mealtimes are a bit less decadent. The traditional Italian meal as we know it was born on the table of the medieval peasant. In the Middle Ages meat was scarce and so the poor would toss pasta, which was cheap and filling, in the same sauce in which the meat was cooked, thus giving it more flavour. The history of pizza goes back as far as the ancient Greeks, who cooked flatbreads topped with herbs, onions and garlic; this too became a popular cheap and nourishing peasant dish.

Tradition reigns supreme

Modern Italians have held onto a formal meal structure of multiple courses, and you will find all of these listed on any menu in Rome. First there is Antipasti, which is the appetiser; it is also perfectly acceptable to order these for lunch. Next you have the Primi, the first course, usually a pasta dish or risotto or soup - be warned that lasagne is prebaked to order in a lot of places and may not be as fresh as other items on the menu. Then there is Secondi, the second course, which is meat or fish, with seafood that bit more expensive. It is worth noting that you will typically be served exactly what you order – no sides. If you want a side dish you can order from the Contori section of the menu.

Roman pizza is distinguished from the thick Neopolitan pizza by its thin, light and crispy base which is slightly charred at the edges. You can get pizzas in most restaurants, and also buy it by the slice in various pizzerias around the city. For dessert (Dolce), you can order favourite Italian inventions like tiramisu and, of course, gelato (ice cream). Dessert is generally accompanied by an espresso. In order to wash all this down you can order a Digestivo, a small liqueur of grappa, sambuca or limoncello. And, of course, the meal should be accompanied by a good bottle of Lazian wine.

The Romans take food seriously and they do it well. Freshness, simplicity and tradition are what you’ll find on the basic trattoria menu, with dishes in common that have hundreds or even thousands of years behind them. Don't miss the chance to eat like a Roman during your stay in the Eternal City.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Piazza Navona
A lovely square on the former site of the Stadium of Domitian, boasting wonderful Baroque fountains.
The Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone
A beloved Baroque church set in Piazza Navona.
Caravaggio
An artist who heavily influenced Baroque painting whose pieces are found all around Rome.
Homemade gnocchi
A classic Italian-style dish made with potatoes and accompanied with tomato sauce usually served in Sunday lunches with the family.
Homemade meatballs
A classic Italian dish that can be made of different kinds of meat such as beef or pork, usually accompanied with pasta and tomato sauce.
Cook with a 'nonna'
Nonna is the Italian word for grandmother, and she is the soul of every Italian family.

Related Tours

Taste of Rome: Private, All-Inclusive Food Tour
Enjoy a fun-filled, delicious and scenic food tour, eating out and about in some of Rome’s loveliest neighbourhoods with the expert guidance and knowledge of your guide. On your private tour you will: 

  • Enjoy eating like a Roman with the personalised attention of your private tour guide.
  • Enter a wide variety of local markets and eateries, sampling fresh, traditional local Roman produce on this lively, interesting and not to mention tasty tour!
  • Try a variety of cheeses, cold cuts of different meats, pizza ‘al taglio’, and traditional Roman street food 'fritti' (fried food) like Suppli and trapizzino.
  • Meet and chat with the passionate owners of the food stalls, shops, cafes and restaurants you’ll visit – many of whom have proudly worked in the business for several generations. 
  • Enjoy wine and beer at different stops, included throughout your tour.
  • Enjoy the sights, sounds and delicious smells wafting on the breeze as you begin sampling the local produce and learn about where it comes from and how it’s made.
  • End your tour just off Piazza San Cosimato with delicious artisanal gelato
When in Rome, eat like a Roman! This fabulous and all-inclusive food tour takes in some of the most enchanting, traditional neighbourhoods of Rome as you taste your way through the delicious flavours of the Eternal City. From traditional cheeses like burrata and pecorino and cold cuts of meat to warming, delicious street food like trapizzino and pizza by the slice. Enjoy 'suppli' –traditional fried rice balls with tomatoes, mozzarella and minced meat and enjoy the sun-ripened flavours of Italy in one mouthful. 

This is a great opportunity to experience authentic Italian cuisine and learn about the country’s delectable wines and flavours. Embrace the smells, buzz and charm of traditional neighbourhoods as you saunter down cobbled alleys and enchanting piazzas. Your tour guide will take you to the best local eateries, markets and shops, where you will not only get the chance to taste the delicacies but also learn about the people behind the magic. Understand the traditions and values that have produced such tasty good food for generations. The Romans – and all Italians – really appreciate homemade, fresh, local produce – so it’s not surprising that Italian cuisine leads the way when it comes to global gastronomy. Your tour includes a very full meal’s worth of tastings, wine and soft drinks are also provided throughout the tour, so make sure to arrive on an empty stomach!
Small Group Food Tour of Rome's Trastevere Neighbourhood
Experience the romantic and vibrant atmosphere of a classic Roman evening of wining and dining on the best Italian food, as you wander around one of Rome’s oldest and most beautiful neighbourhoods,  Trastevere. Popular with visitors and locals alike enjoy the relaxed atmosphere created by buskers and fellow revellers! On your small group tour, you will:

  • Enjoy the personal attention of your expert guide and a small group size of a maximum of 12 guests. 
  • Enjoy several tastings of classic Roman street food from sweet pastries to savoury appetizers, including delicious Suppli, Fritti, and Pizza al taglio (by the slice). 
  • Wander through the historic and scenic cobbled backstreets of the Eternal City.
  • Learn about the Jewish Ghetto created in 1555, famous for its traditional kosher cuisine and artichokes.
  • Discover the picturesque neighbourhood of Trastevere, with its maze of cobbled backstreets and ivy-clad terracotta buildings, it is famous for its traditional Roman cuisine and street food. 
  • Admire the amber colours of golden hour, and soak up Rome’s warm and vibrant evening atmosphere. 
  • Enjoy a delicious supper of a selection of Italian pasta in one of Trastevere’s best restaurants. 
  • End at a local gelateria for a classic Italian gelato ice cream for dessert! 
Experience a magical evening strolling through some of Rome’s most idyllic and historic neighbourhoods like the vibrant Jewish Ghetto and iconic Trastevere whilst sampling delicious Roman food and wine along the way! On this small-group tour (with no more than 12 guests) you’ll get to make friends with fellow visitors over a glass of wine, as you learn all about Roman food and wine from your expert guide. 

You’ll not only learn all about the history of these vibrant areas of Rome as your stroll down the cobbled backstreets, soak up the lively atmosphere, and admire the ivy-clad amber buildings glowing in the golden hour, but enjoy stopping to try some classic Roman food such as pizza by the slice, and fried foods like baccala (battered cod) and Fiori de Zucca (fried mozzarella balls with courgettes and anchovy). You’ll also try a Roman favourite: suppli. Rice balls in breadcrumbs, cooked in a tomato flavoured ragu and with a melted ball of mozzarella in the gooey centre! Yum. 

After filling up on various appetizers, you’ll sit down at a local, family-owned restaurant in Trastevere, famous for its pasta dishes. Enjoy classic dishes like cacio e Pepe, amatriciana, carbonara, and others. Enjoy a glass or two of vino and learn all about the history, geography and winemaking process in Italy. Afterwards, enjoy a stroll to a gelateria for a dessert of delicious gelato, Italian ice cream! 
This is a truly magical evening, not to be missed! 
Private Pizza and Gelato Making Class in Rome
Enjoy a totally immersive, interactive, and delicious private cooking class where you’ll make your own Roman-style pizza and delicious Italian gelato ice cream with a local Italian chef who speaks perfect English. In your private cooking class you will:

  • -Enjoy the personalised and expert attention of your chef-instructor!
  • Feel welcome and at home with a glass of prosecco and classic Italian snacks to keep you going, as your private chef introduces the class to you! 
  • Hear about Roman pizza - how it’s made, how its thin crust differs from thick crust Neapolitan pizzas. 
  • Learn the all-important answer to the question: what’s the difference between gelato and ice cream? As you learn how to make it. 
  • See how to make a traditional Roman pizza, gather your ingredients, watch your professional chef demonstrate how to knead the pizza dough expertly – and have to go yourself! 
  • Decorate! Once your dough is ready, it’s time to get kneading again and roll it out so it’s nicely flattened, then choose from a variety of delicious, fresh Roman ingredients laid out for you. 
  • Eat and enjoy your very own handmade Roman pizza and the dolce homemade gelato after!
  • Note: Gluten-free and vegetarian options are available. 

Enjoy a fantastic foodie experience in Rome on this private pizza and gelato ice cream making class with a professional English-speaking Roman chef. Great fun for couples, friends and families, you’ll discover the secrets behind classic Roman cuisine: Roman pizza and gelato. 

Your private chef instructor will welcome you to the class with a glass of prosecco (or soft drink if you prefer) and a variety of delicious Roman-style snacks and antipasti, from crisps to olives, cheeses and meats. 

You’ll then be shown all the different ingredients that you’ll be using as you learn all about the history of pizza making and gelato ice cream in Rome. Then it’s time to get stuck in! First, make the gelato – and learn the differences between Italian gelato and ice cream. As the gelato sets, it’s time to move on to the pizza. 

You’ll learn the art of kneading the pizza dough and flattening it out. You’ll have a huge variety of ingredients to choose from for the all-important toppings before cooking it in a traditional wood-fired pizza oven. Decide will it be Bianca or Rosso (with or without tomato sauce)? Will you use cured or cooked ham? Mushrooms? Olives? Which cheeses? The choice is yours! When you’re happy with the look of your pizza, take a specially made shovel and put it into a traditional, very hot wood-fired oven for just 1-2 minutes.

The only thing left to do… is to tuck in and enjoy your pizza and gelato – Bon Appetito! 
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