Cacio e pepe is made with pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper, along with starchy pasta water, which creates a creamy sauce. The classic recipe uses tonnarelli pasta. You’ll see cacio e pepe on nearly every Roman menu, but we list the best the city has to offer.
Da Felice in Testaccio is the most famous old-school restaurant for cacio e pepe. Serving up classic Roman dishes since 1936, it’s an institution in the city and beloved by locals for its hearty, honest fare. Actor Roberto Benigni was a fan of Felice, the restaurant’s original owner, and is just one of the restaurant’s well-known patrons. The draw of the cacio e pepe here is that the waiter whips up this dish in front of you, tossing the pasta at your plate with an adept hand ensuring the ingredients are combined to perfection.
The dining room of Flavio al Velavevodetto showcases the restaurant's history | Courtesy of Flavio al Velavevodetto
Flavio al Velavevodetto never disappoints. Chef De Maio originally worked at iconic restaurant Da Felice meaning he learned from the best and has since shifted his expertise to this restaurant which means “Flavio, I told you so”. Built upon Monte Testaccio, a man-made hill comprised of discarded amphora, the restaurant has a main dining area with plenty of outdoor seating on two patios. Everything on the menu is fantastic and the cacio e pepe is well-balanced and creamy.
Just steps away from buzzing Piazza Trilussa lies one of Rome’s hidden treasures: Osteria Zi Umberto. With classic Roman service (read: brusque), high quality and low prices, its always bustling for good reason. The rotating daily specials are always excellent as are the staples. The cacio e pepe here is mild but flavorful; we recommend pairing with a side dish of cicoria.
Roma Sparita has one of the most lauded bowls of cacio e pepe in the city. This restaurant in Trastevere rose to fame after being featured on Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Rome on No Reservations back in 2011 because of its unique way of serving cacio e pepe: here, the coated tonnarelli noodles arrive on your plate served in a parmesan cheese bowl.
To sample this decadent variation in a less touristy setting, head to Officine Beat. Located in the thriving student neighborhood of San Lorenzo, this restaurant has a hip vibe, cool furniture, a great beer list and a tasty menu. You’ll only hear Italian spoken at this restaurant which is a local go-to on weekend nights.
Probably the best restaurant in Monti, this fourth-generation family-run restaurant has proven itself adept at staples but not averse to revisions of the classics. Cacio e pepe is kicked up a notch at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali with a sprinkling of black truffles.
This simple Roman trattoria is well loved by locals for its quality dishes and down-to-earth-service. Often touted as a favorite among Rome’s food bloggers, it excels at all typical dishes, including cacio e pepe as well as the other classic Roman pastas. You’ll also find an intriguing variation on the appetizer menu: deep-fried gnocchi served on a bed of cacio e pepe.
Sforno, located in southern Rome near the Cinecittà studios, is worth the trek to try one of Rome’s best Neapolitan pizzas. It is doubly-worth the trek to taste its cacio e pepe pizza. You’d be wise to share this salty pie, which is topped by a healthy dose of grated pecorino cheese and served with its own black pepper mill. The secret to achieving this perfectly cooked pizza lies in some simple chemistry: the dough is first baked with ice to ensure the center stays soft and moist and then topped by pecorino for the final minutes of cooking.