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  • Writer's pictureVicky Lopez

How to Dine like a Local in Rome

Dining Like a Local in Rome: Gotta Luv Travel’s Ultimate Guide



Navigating the culinary scene of Rome can feel overwhelming – long menus, busy waiters, and unfamiliar customs. But as any Roman will tell you, it's all about knowing what you want, keeping it simple, and sometimes just asking for help. Don't make it more difficult than it needs to be. Whether you're translating an Italian menu, trying traditional Roman dishes, or figuring out the etiquette of tipping, we want to help take the guesswork out of dining out in Rome. Elevate your food journey with Gotta Luv Travel, and experience the world your way.


Where to Eat in Rome?

With a plethora of dining options, there's no shortage of delicious experiences in Rome. From upscale ristorantes to humble osterias, here’s what you need to know about each:


- Ristorante: Upscale and often innovative, ristorantes showcase high Roman cuisine with formal service. Michelin stars? Possibly. A memorable experience? Definitely.

- Trattoria: Your quintessential Roman dining experience, trattorias provide a less formal and more wallet-friendly option without sacrificing the delightful essence of Roman cuisine.


- Osteria: Once simple wine bars, osterias now offer small plates of local delicacies – perfect for sharing as you explore Rome’s historic streets.


- Pasticceria: Don't miss out on these bakeries. Try a sweet cornetto or the renowned maritozzo – pure bliss!



Italian Menu Decoded

An Italian dinner typically consists of multiple courses, but don’t feel pressured to try them all. Italian dining is about savoring each bite and doing it your way. Here is a quick guide:


- Antipasti: Small shared dishes like olives, anchovies, and cheeses.

- Primi: Pasta, rice, or soup dishes.

- Secondi: Meat or fish dishes, sometimes split into “pesce” (fish) and “carne” (meat) courses.

- Cortorni: Vegetable side dishes to accompany your secondi.


- Dolce: For dessert lovers – think Tiramisu and Gelato.

- Digestivo: After-dinner drinks to settle your meal.



Typically, locals might opt for just an antipasto and a primo or secondo, or skip the antipasto altogether and save room for a delectable dessert.


Must-Try Roman Dishes

Don't leave Rome without tasting one (or all) of its iconic dishes:

- Cacio e pepe: A simple yet flavorful mix of pecorino Romano and parmigiano reggiano cheeses with pasta water and freshly cracked black pepper. I found some Cacio e pepe seasoning while in Venice - and I cannot wait to go back and get more!

- Pasta alla Gricia: Adds guanciale (salt-cured pig cheek) to the cacio e pepe base for a richer flavor.

- Carbonara: Forget the cream-laden versions - the traditional recipe is a creamy delight with egg yolk, guanciale, and Pecorino Romano cheese.

- All’Amatriciana: With a lush tomato sauce base, this dish is a staple in Roman cuisine.


For artichoke lovers, make sure to try:

- Carciofi alla guida: Crispy fried artichokes with a meltingly soft center.

- Carciofi alla Romana: Garlicky, pan-braised artichokes.


And don’t forget to indulge in a traditional maritozzo, a sweet bun filled with rich cream.



Dining with Kids in Rome (In the event you plan to take your grandchildren with you - it's never a bad idea)


No worries here – kids are always welcome at the table in Rome. The staff are generally very accommodating and will help you pick the best dishes for young ones. If the portion sizes seem too large, ask for a mezzo porzione (half portion). And if your kids have particular preferences, pasta bianca (plain pasta) is always a winner.


Tipping Etiquette & Other Essentials

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is about tipping in Europe - So here you go for Rome.


Tipping in Rome? Keep it simple:

- Not obligatory but highly appreciated if service is exceptional. Leaving a few Euros on the table is a common practice, or add 10% in upscale ristorantes for extraordinary service.

- Cover charges (coperto): Often listed as “pane” (bread) or “servizio” (service) on your bill – not a built-in tip but a per-person service charge.


When Do Romans Eat Dinner?


Romans usually dine late, around 8 PM, often making dinner the main event of the evening. If you can't wait until then, enjoy a pre-dinner aperitivo at around 6:30 PM – a delightful tradition involving drinks and light snacks enjoyed with friends and family.


My favorite - For the best aperitivo experience, grab a table at bars or trattorias around piazzas, order an Aperol spritz or Campari soda, and indulge in “la dolce vita” – the sweet life!


Bon appétit! 🍝

Experience the world your way with Gotta Luv Travel.


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