Amatriciana, gricia, carbonara, cacio e pepe – the standout pasta classics of Rome are some of Italy’s most famous dishes. In fact, the capital has a long history of pasta excellence – meaning that even summer’s hottest days demand you try a plate. Make sure you get only the finest with our guide.
This lovely little restaurant stands out amid the tourist-trodden streets around the Spanish Steps. It serves all the Roman classics but does a particularly fine line in pasta – try the spaghetti all’Otello, with a simple tomato sauce plus chunks of real tomato, or the homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, then slathered in tomato and basil.
Chef Kotaro Noda has nabbed a Michelin star for his modern redos of great Roman dishes. The cacio e pepe is the one to go for here – a simple but secret mix of cheese, pepper and pasta that made Stanley Tucci rave when he came to visit. Want to go all out? The tasting menus are spectacular value, especially considering that Michelin rating.
Another Testaccio classic, going strong since 1957, Agustarello is known especially for its cacio e pepe and its carbonara – but if you want to try what all the locals are raving about, you need the rigatoni alla pajata – pasta with the stomach lining of an unweaned calf. It’s one of Rome’s best-loved dishes and if you can stomach (sorry) the idea of it, this is the place to try it.
Film director Pasolini was among the fans of this traditional Roman restaurant in the university area of San Lorenzo, northeast of Termini station – in fact, it’s been a hub for film and cultural types for decades (and it’s been run by the same family for over a century). Although it specialises in grilled meats, the pasta is also phenomenal – go for the fearsomely yellow carbonara.
Many of Rome’s most famous dishes started life in the Jewish quarter, and Piperno – owned by the same family since 1860 – pumps out some of the best. The pasta – fettuccine, agnolotti and tagliolini – is homemade; the ricotta and spinach ravioli, served in a cream sauce, is the signature dish; and the gnocchi amatriciana is also excellent.
Sara Cicolini is the talented young chef behind this modern trattoria, which specialises in Rome’s famous offal dishes. Although she’s from the southern region of Abruzzo, she’s one of the chefs keenest on keeping the capital’s traditions going. While offal is what draws the crowds, Cicolini found fame for pasta – her carbonara in particular. She does a mean cacio e pepe and the amatriciana is excellent, too.
Traditionally working-class district Testaccio has been known for generations as one of the best places to eat real Roman food. This – one of the restaurants dug into the bottom of the Monte Testaccio hill – is one of the best places to start. Ignore the airy tables outside; you want to eat inside, among piles of Roman amphorae – Monte Testaccio isn’t a natural hill, it’s an ancient rubbish dump. The amatriciana is particularly good.
Only pasta will do when you’re ploughing through a hard day of sightseeing – but sometimes there’s just no time to stop for a lazy restaurant lunch. Enter Pastificio Guerra, just off the Spanish Steps, which sells takeaway pasta dishes as well as the fresh, uncooked stuff. The queues are round the block at lunchtime, so best go at off-peak times.