Retrobottega (Piazza Navona)
This 21st-century triumvirate includes a restaurant, wine bar, and pasta lab. Chefs Alessandro Miocchi and Giuseppe Lo Iodice have pioneered Rome’s next-gen trattoria here by combining culinary tradition with innovation and style.
I particularly love coming for the produce. Every week, Alessandro, Giuseppe, and their team head out to the countryside to forage for vegetables and herbs that they incorporate into flavor-forward dishes. I also love the design; it’s an absolute left turn from the contemporary interiors and open kitchen too many restaurants favor these days. Keep in mind they’re not serving cacio e pepe here, but next door at Retropasta, Miocchi commands a team dedicated to hand-making “forgotten” or less familiar pastas. Peek behind the scenes with a counter seat for lunch. Morning to evening, Retrovino, the backstreet wine bar, doubles as a café in the morning and is the very epitome of cool enoteca in the evening.
SantoPalato (San Giovanni)
Another one of my favorite neo-trattorias, SantoPalato, makes me feel like I’m home with its charming retro vibe that’s evident from the moment you step into its tangerine-painted walls. Firmly grounded in Roman traditions, chef Sarah Cicolini turns out surprises like her divine polpetta di coda alla vaccinara in a celery-and-peanut sauce.
Sometimes even I need a break from my beloved carbonara. When I am looking for new flavors, I head to Carnal, which is chef Roy Caceres’ love letter to Latin American fare. Carnal has just a handful of tables, an open kitchen, and a rustic design. Its seasonal menu mixes traditional flavors in tapas-like portions. My daughter loves the empanadas, but I believe in full immersion with Caceres’ eight-dish tasting menu, with portions of yucca, tacos al pastor, pluma di maiale, and more.
Il Matriciano (Vatican), Felice a Testaccio, and Trattoria da Danilo (Monti)
I cannot deny the charm and quality of these three restaurants for my favorite Roman pastas: Il Matriciano’s signature bucatini all’Amatriciana, the cacio e pepe at Felice a Testaccio, and Trattoria da Danilo’s carbonara. All have a yesteryear vibe, and you half expect Alberto Sordi from I Maccheroni to show up. While Danilo is old-school, Il Matriciano is a bit more formal, and Felice is the trendy bistronomia, a stylish gastro-bistro.
Hostaria Farnese (Campo de’ Fiori)
While I should perhaps keep Hostaria Farnese to myself, it’s the place I go when I miss my zia’s home cooking. It’s a charming, cheap, and cheerful osteria. My all-time favorite order is saltimbocca alla romana (pan-sauteed veal, sage, and prosciutto), carciofo alla romana (braised artichoke with mint), and puntarelle (chicory sprouts in a vinegar-anchovy sauce). Book an outside table and you’ll have a great view of Palazzo Farnese.
Remo Pizzeria (Testaccio)
Pizza is a big deal in Italy and I love all of the iterations. First and foremost, I love pizza Romana, personal pizza with a slightly burnt, thin crust. Everybody has a favorite sit-down pizzeria and mine is Remo Pizzeria. Busy, brusque, cheap, and cheerful, I always start with Remo’s supplî, a deep-fried rice ball, which I find can calm even the grouchiest of people.
Casa Manco (Testaccio Market, Box 22)
In Rome, we sit down when eating, except for pizza al taglio (by the slice and weight). In the mornings, I usually pick up some hot and salty pizza bianca (white pizza, kind of like focaccia but much better) for my daughter’s midday snack. Most forni (bakery) have pizza, but lately, my favorite is family-run Casa Manco, because Paola and Andrea are in love, creative (hummus on pizza, yes), and rise their dough for 100 hours before even thinking about using it.
Mordi e Vai (Testaccio Market, Box 15)
If I have patience and time, I’ll queue up at Mordi e Vai, a sandwich stand in the Testaccio Market that serves the tastiest panini filled with Roman flavors like trippa (tripe) and lesso di scottona (tender slow-cooked beef). Finally, I’ll end the evening at Trapizzino (Testaccio or Trastevere), whose pizza pockets are stuffed with delicious Roman-inspired condiments like lingua in salsa verde (veal tongue in green sauce) and picchiapò (braised beef in a tomato-onion sauce).
Roscioli Caffe (Campo de’ Fiori)
There is nothing quite like an excellent cappuccino (or in my case, latte macchiato) and a homemade pastry. Enter Roscioli Caffe, the coffee outpost by Rome’s famed bakers, the Roscioli brothers. Along with spectacular coffee drinks, the pastries are divine. The cornetti are made on-site, as are the rest. Look for the old-school, hard-to-find Roman dolci (dessert) like granatine.
Regoli Caffe (Monti/Esquilino)
I love coming to this café, which has been serving what seems like the same people with the same orders for more than a century. I always visit first thing in the morning to savor the ambiance, and the classic Italian dolci that the multigenerational pastry shop is faithful to, like the maritozzo, mostacciolo, profiterole, and mignons.
Drink Kong (Monti)
I love cocktails, so Drink Kong is always on my list of places to go in Rome. Kong is considered the best bar in the city and not just because it’s ranked No. 19 on the World’s 50 Best Bars. It’s because owner Patrick Pistolesi loves what he does; he is a bartender’s bartender. He talks to you, as do his disciples, who are behind the counter making conversation and mixing up cocktails based on flavor and color. I also love walking into Kong because it’s like walking into another world where “Blade Runner,” manga, neon, and arcades meet.