With classic dishes like cacio e pepe and spaghetti carbonara hogging the limelight, a seafood restaurant might not be the hungry traveller’s first thought when it comes to dining in the Eternal City. However, fish certainly has its place in Roman cuisine and numerous fishing communities situated on the Lazio coast, just a few miles away, keep the city well-stocked with fresh seafood. Here are some of the best restaurants in Rome to enjoy a fish supper.
Named after the location’s shipping coordinates, QuarantunoDodici (4112) is an elegant, but never pretentious, seafood restaurant based in the Nautilus Marina complex at the port of Fiumicino, just outside Rome. Headed up by chef Daniele Usai, 4112 offers seafood-based cuisine in a more relaxed setting and at a more affordable price point than the Michelin-starred Il Tino – located just next door and also helmed by Usai. Expect locally caught fish cooked to perfection and finished with the occasional Asian-inspired flourish, such as the sauteed mussels “a little Thai”. The antipasti – in particular, the fried prawns with winter gazpacho – are all delicious and highlight the quality of the raw ingredients.
When talking about fish and Roman cuisine, baccalà is undoubtedly the star ingredient. This dried and salted cod is revived by a long soak (at least 24 hours but often more) in cold water before being used in a number of traditional Jewish dishes, the most famous of which is filetti di baccalà. These battered and deep-fried fillets are the specialty of Dar Filettaro near Campo de’ Fiori in the historical centre. There are a small number of other items on the menu in this tiny, no-frills restaurant but many choose to grab a fillet of fish to go eat in the picturesque piazza outside.
As the neighbourhood of Trastevere becomes more and more popular it can be tricky to find authentic eateries among the tourist traps. Situated just off Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, Osteria Der Belli occupies a prime location that might suggest an emphasis on turning over covers rather than on quality. Have no fear; this family-run restaurant has been serving up Sardinian seafood specialties for years. Locals continue to return for dishes such as seabass carpaccio, spaghetti with fresh anchovies and pecorino cheese, and farfalle pasta with prawn and courgette.
Originally working in the family restaurant in Formia, halfway between Rome and Naples, Stefano Chinappi bought his style of dining to the Eternal City in 2010. At his eponymous restaurant, Chinappi is fastidious about quality, selecting fresh fish every day from his trusted fishmonger in his hometown of Formia and personally transporting it to the restaurant every morning. Such top-notch seasonal ingredients come with an appropriate price tag so dining a la carte can add up, but the €49–€99 tasting menus offer excellent value. Raw red prawns with orange, and fusiloro pasta with red snapper and tomato are among the most requested dishes.
Thanks to its reputation as one of Rome’s best seafood spots, booking is essential at Il Tempio di Iside, particularly if you’re hoping to score an outdoor table in summer. As well as cooked seafood offerings like fusilli pasta with red prawns and pecorino, this chic restaurant does a roaring trade in raw dishes that showcase the freshness of their ingredients including oysters, sea urchin and scallops. Both fresh fish and crustaceans are used to make ever-popular tartare and carpaccio.
Located on the edge of Testaccio, La Torricella serves classic Roman dishes such as bucatini all’amatriciana and abbacchio a scottadito but is best known for its seafood offerings. Choose whatever takes your fancy from the fish counter or go for one of the restaurant’s classics like moscardini (tiny octopuses, floured and fried), alici fritti (fried anchovies) or spaghetti with clams – or, if available, telline, which are smaller and sweeter than regular clams. Service is typically Roman, meaning brusque.