Rome is the Italian epicentre for culture and history, yet in order to fall in love with this cosmopolitan capital city, I needed to find the most hidden restaurants and try the best authentic dishes. In Italy, there are 20 regions, each famed for their own recipes and variations. I found Rome to be a great place which enabled me to try many traditional Roman dishes, all inspired by towns and villages from all over Italy. So what is the best food to try in Rome?
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What I loved the most about eating in Rome, was how all dishes were made with simple non-sophisticated ingredients, created with passion and skill. Every time I entered an Italian restaurant, the married flavours of basil, garlic and mouthwatering seafood got hold of my senses and created the perfect eating environment, without even seeing the menu first. If this is your first time in Italy, don't forget to read how to enjoy a traditional Italian meal.
Parma Ham Melon
A great antipasto to set the tone for Italian meals to follow. I found many restaurants in Rome which brought out a small plate of Parma Ham and juicy Melon.
The combination is scrumptious but know that this is usually quite a pricey small dish.
After visiting Rome, I started making this at home, on a regular basis. It's a very simple but effective starter. Composed of sliced mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil, the Caprese Salad preserves the Italian flag colours, a great reminder of how proud the Italian are when it comes to their food.
Nothing beats the taste of freshly baked focaccia, topped with sea salt and rosemary. I like to dip it in extra virgin olive oil and sometimes I eat it with olives on the side. There are many varieties of Focaccia in Rome, with a myriad of toppings, shapes and forms.
Did you know: Focaccia was originated from Genoa and covered with onions?
Salami and Cheese Board
Eating salami and cheese together is one of the greatest joys when I'm sat down in an Italian restaurant. There is such variety of tastes and consistency. I learned to eat slowly and really take my time understanding the flavours of each and every single type of salami and cheese. An absolute must in Rome.
Spaghetti alla puttanesca
This is an old Roman recipe which has its origins in Trastevere, one of Rome's poorest district. Puttane means prostitute in Italian and this type of dish got its name due to its spicy sauce, quickly made. An odd association but I guess there is a passion for everything Italian.
The traditional Spaghetti alla puttanesca is made with tomatoes, chillies, anchovies, black olives and capers.
The original Roman Bruschetta is topped with garlic and olive oil only. In recent times, most parts of Italy adapted the Tuscan Bruschetta which in addition to the Roman toppings, adds fresh tomatoes and a few fennel seeds.
Before visiting Rome, I never tried potato gnocchi. A small restaurant owner recommended that I tried his signature gnocchi dish and in the name of culinary exploration I couldn't refuse him. That was the day I became absolutely addicted to gnocchi based dishes. I found them with cheese and butter (my favourite), swimming in tomato sauce or even served with freshly made pesto. Gnocchi makes a great starter or a side of your main.
Spaghetti alla carbonara
One of the most common Roman dishes, Spaghetti alla carbonara is a real Italian hero. Combining fresh spaghetti, bacon, egg and parmesan, it's a satisfying meal which will make you fall in love with the local cuisine.
>Did you know: Spaghetti alla carbonara sauce became popular outside of Italy after WWII thanks to the Allied forces in Rome.
Pork braised in milk
A rather unusual main claimed by two different regions: Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, the pork braised in milk are one of the most tender meats I've tasted whilst in Rome. This dish is usually marinated in wine for 24 hours, before being slowly cooked in full-fat milk. For something truly traditional, not tried by many tourists, hunt for a restaurant which sells this deliciousness.
Pizza is actually rarely eaten in Italian homes as a good pizza based should be baked using a wood burner. In Rome, there are tons of toppings to choose from for your pizza, but because I am a fan of traditional eats, I recommend trying the Margherita, yet another Italian flag commemoration: basil, mozzarella and tomatoes.
Did you know: The Margherita pizza was created in honour of Queen Margherita of Italy when she visited Naples in the 19th century
When in Rome, I found it difficult to pick one type of risotto. I came across risotto with saffron, risotto with sausage, risotto with mushrooms and many, many more. What I love about this dish is the sheer amount of love (and wine) that goes into making it. You need to add small amounts of liquid into the risotto, wait for it to be absorbed, then top it up, and so on until the risotto becomes juicy but not wet. It's usually served with grated parmesan. Absolutely mouthwatering!
Did you know: One of the earliest Risotto recipes originates from Milan, used as a side dish to fish and meat-based mains.
A Treviso recipe, this well known Italian pudding was invented after the Second World War. It can be found virtually in any sweet shop throughout Rome because it makes such satisfying dessert. Tiramisu is a very loved Italian Dolci.
I learned how to make Zabaglione years before I first visited Rome. The recipe varies dramatically throughout Italy, as for example in Milan is served with a cinnamon topping, whilst in Sardinia sweet wine is incorporated into the recipe. Zabaglione is a very light dessert made of fluffy egg yolks, wine and whipped cream. In Rome, it is usually served with a few berries on the top to make it look even more appetizing.
No trip to Rome is complete without eating as much gelato as you possibly can. There is no limit to the sheer amount of flavours you will find all around the capital. The gelato in Rome is truly the highlight of the trip.
The traditional Panna Cotta is served without any toppings. In recent times, the recipes evolved to incorporate fruits and biscuits. Because it's very light and not sickeningly sweet, the Panna Cotta can be eaten as a dessert or on its own, usually served with a hazelnut biscuit.
What are your favourite Italian dishes you tried during a trip to Rome? Tell me all about your culinary highlights in the comments section below.