Once off the typical tourist trail, Trastevere has now been well and truly discovered. There’s still plenty of charm to be found among the ivy-draped streets but when it comes to eating out, tourist traps exist in abundance. Avoid paying over the odds for mediocre food and put your trust in one of these quality restaurants instead – the rewards, from traditional Roman dishes to innovative modern Italian cooking, are great.
This tiny trattoria is well known for dishing up some of the best cucina romana in town. As such, it’s always incredibly busy, so book for 7.30pm (the only time available) or be prepared to queue for a table. Classic pasta dishes- such as carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe are expertly done and fly out of the kitchen at an efficient speed, as do the ever-popular burrata cheese with fresh tomatoes and fiore di zucca (stuffed and fried courgette flowers).
A mix of Roman and Umbrian dishes are on the menu at this family-run trattoria in southern Trastevere. Think homely pastas like pappardelle with wild boar, slow-cooked stews and rich platters of salumi and cheese. La Tavernaccia’s most talked about dish, though, is the incredibly delicious suckling pig cooked in a wood-fired oven. The recipe comes courtesy of the Sardinian chef and ticks all the juicy-meat-crispy-skin boxes. To top it off, service is generous and courteous all round.
A certified Slow Food restaurant, Spirito di Vino sources its ingredients from small, local and, above all, high-quality food producers. Chef Eliana Catalani, a former scientist who worked alongside Nobel Prize-winner Rita Levi-Montalcini, has created a 100% organic menu that is a testament to Italian produce. She has also revived an ancient Roman recipe of braised pork with red wine, honey and apple, which Julius Caesar is thought to have dined on. Don’t leave without visiting the well-stocked wine cellar either – it dates back to 80 BC.
International cuisine is not one of Rome’s strong points, with restaurants often doctoring dishes to accommodate local palates. Thankfully, La Punta did their homework and spent over two years exploring Mexico’s distilleries and food culture. The result is a punchy cocktail menu – in the form of a beautifully designed passport in which each stamp represents a drink – and a flavoursome, Mexican-inspired menu. Dishes include tostados with marinated octopus, cheese tamales flavoured with aromatic hoja santa, and crispy shrimp tacos.
Space at the outdoor tables and chairs that spill out into the street is most coveted here but, if you don’t manage to secure a spot, the restaurant interior is picturesque too – in a ramshackle kind of way. Dine on typical Roman pastas and hearty main courses like coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew), polpettine al sugo (meatballs in tomato sauce) and trippa alla romana (tripe with tomato and pecorino). Alternatively, check out the daily specials for dishes that showcase regional and seasonal produce.
Perennially busy, Ai Marmi is one of Rome’s most famous pizza places. Named after its marble tabletops, locals come here for thin-crust, Roman-style pizza with toppings like fiori di zucca or thinly sliced prosciutto and mushrooms – though a classic margherita or marinara goes down equally well. Begin with one of the fried starters, such as a supplì or filetto di baccalà, for the authentic Roman pizzeria experience, and don’t expect the service to be anything other than hectic.
Seu's thick-crusted pizzas bow under the weight of unique toppings | Courtesy of Seu Pizza Illuminati
With Pier Daniele Seu at the helm (who made his name at Mercato Centrale and Gazometro 38), Seu Pizza Illuminati is a progressive leap away from the traditional pizzeria. The restaurant itself is chic, modern and features a handful of playful details – the neon pink ‘in pizza we trust’ sign is immensely Instagrammable – while the menu includes Seu’s own original creations as well as the classics. Ingredients normally used elsewhere in Roman cooking, such as cicoria (a bitter green vegetable) and guanciale (cured pig jowl), find new life on top of light and chewy pizza bread, alongside brightening herbs and citrus.
Cristina Bowerman leads the Michelin-starred Glass Hostaria, known for its inventive interiors as much as its contemporary food. Born in Puglia and with experience in American kitchens, Bowerman combines prestigious Italian produce, such as 60-month-aged Parmesan, with ingredients from all over the world, like sumac and kimchi. Prices are in line with fine dining, so consider one of the tasting menus, which start at €85 (£75).
The usual rule of thumb, to not eat at restaurants within the immediate vicinity of tourist attractions, does not apply to Osteria der Belli. This Sardinian restaurant lies just off Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere – where tourist traps abound – but has held its own as an authentic family-run eatery for decades. It’s well known for its regional specialities, such as fettucine alla sarda (in a rich mushroom sauce) and daily fish specials.
A pocket of light and crispy pizza bread filled with traditional Italian recipes, the trapizzino is a modern classic in Rome. This now-iconic street food was devised in 2008 by renowned pizzaiolo Stefano Callegari, who now has a number of Trapizzino shops across Rome. Straddling the line between restaurant, bar and street food joint, this outlet in Trastevere’s Piazza Trilussa serves up the usual favourites, including polpetta al sugo (meatball in tomato sauce), pollo alla cacciatora (stewed chicken in an intense, rosemary-flavoured gravy) and lingua in salsa verde (beef tongue in a herby green sauce).
Frequented by locals and tourists alike, Le Mani in Pasta is a convivial joint specialising in fresh pasta and fresh seafood. Choose from dependable favourites, like tagliolini cacio e pepe and lobster linguine, or more unusual creations like fettuccine with ricotta and pancetta. Sea bass, sea bream and turbot dominate the secondi, with the daily specials boosting the fish and shellfish offerings even further. The wine list includes some reasonably priced Italian labels from Lazio and beyond.
A new opening making waves in Rome’s dining scene, Zia is the brainchild of Antonio Ziantoni, formerly of the two-Michelin-starred Il Pagliaccio. Under his own roof, Ziantoni conjures up modern Italian cuisine using a mixture of traditional and innovative ingredients and techniques. The à la carte menu changes with the seasons and offers a good price-quality ratio, with dishes like spaghetti with quail ragù, pistachio and smoked ricotta, while the €45 (£40) five-course tasting menu and €28 (£25) three-course lunch deal are a downright steal.