Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel site, recently released its Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Destination Awards, based on millions of reviews from travelers worldwide over the past 12 months. This year they added a new category – The Best Food Destinations – and Rome is at the top of the list.
According to Tripadvisor, the city’s piazzas, open-air markets, and historic sites are huge tourist attractions, but it’s not just about tossing that coin into the Trevi Fountain. People want to sample the perfect espresso and eat gelato while walking the cobblestone streets, admiring the architecture.
The food choices are endless, from freshly made spaghetti alla carbonara to fried artichokes. In fact, eating might be the best thing to do in Rome. Many tourists plan their trips around their desire for food adventures, and Rome is a perfect spot to experience Italian culture through food.
It can be overwhelming to order a meal in Rome, with long menus full of words you may need help understanding and servers who are often very busy.
With insights from chefs, food writers, and locals, these are the top tips for eating your way through Rome like an authentic Italiano. So pack your appetite, and get ready to experience the flavors of Rome like never before.
Do a Bit of Research Ahead of Time
Performing some legwork before heading out to the restaurant can make your food journey more enjoyable. You don’t have to learn to speak fluent Italian but be sure to have Google Translate to help when needed.
You can always ask the wait staff for help if that route does not provide answers. Many will speak English, or at least enough of the language, to help you and recommend the most popular dish on the menu.
Kit Hondrum, from Kit’s Kitchen, says, “I always plan out what I’m going to order before I go, especially when I don’t speak the language. I look at Tripadvisor, Yelp, and Google Maps reviews to see what other people are ordering and decide what looks good. I like to do any translating necessary at home so that I can relax and enjoy my meal.”
Learn the Meal Courses
Italian menus contain a few meal courses that you may need to become more familiar with, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll end up with more food than you can eat.
According to Beppe Castro, from Saturdays in Rome, “The courses are divided between starters (antipasti), pasta/rice course (primi piatti) and the protein course (secondi piatti). Once you have a handle on those, you don’t need to choose from all three courses; choosing two is acceptable in Rome.”
“Don’t feel pressured to order multiple courses,” says Candice Criscione, from Mom in Italy. “If you typically eat a meat dish and a salad, focus on those sections and order from them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with large menus, especially if they’re in another language and full of unfamiliar dishes.”
If you find the portions too large, you can ask for a half portion or eat a few smaller antipasti dishes, which will also save you money.
Eat Like a Local
When it comes to knowing what exactly to order, it is best to stick with what is in season and what the locals enjoy. They are the experts, after all!
Josh Band from A Backpacker’s World suggests, “Eat where the locals are eating. For the most authentic and reasonably priced food, follow the Italians. They know what makes a good Italian restaurant and isn’t a tourist trap. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ as the saying goes.”
Another essential tip comes from Hank Lin, from Hank Campventurous, who says, “When it comes to ordering in Rome, the most important thing to remember is that Italians don’t rely on menus; they frequently offer you “il menu del giorno,” which is a daily special.
“Some restaurants have chalkboards with what is available. Most Italian dishes are designed to be shared among friends and family, so don’t hesitate to order several items and pass them around.”
Stick With Rustic Staples
You may be inclined to find the Michelin 5-star restaurants in Rome but remember the local dishes that make the Eternal city’s food culture what it is. The food culture here is firmly anchored in humble and basic ingredients using seasonal produce with dishes like rich pasta, hearty stews, and local vegetables. These are the dishes you want to put on your bucket list.
Renee Napoleone from Discover Italia recommends ordering regional specialties. “Rome’s four famous kinds of pasta are Gricia, Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, and Amatriciana. Try one, or try them all! Lastly, be sure to end your meal with a caffè or digestivo.
“Ordering “un caffè” will get you a small shot of espresso with sugar on the side. Popular digestivo choices include limoncello (for those with a sweet tooth), Amari (for those who prefer something bitter), and many more,” says Napoleone.
Eating With Kids
Traveling with kids can be a wonderful experience but eating out with them can be stressful. You often have to sit and wait for long periods of time while they get bored, and then when the food arrives, they may not even like it.
The good news is that a bit of preparation will help your little ones have a fun time at dinner, even if they have to wait, and lucky for you, Romans welcome children at dinner.
Criscione has several helpful tips for eating in Italy with children. Mix up your dining experience so you aren’t sitting in restaurants all the time. Pack a picnic from a local market, or grab a slice of pizza for dinner one night. Order something you know your kids will eat, like spaghetti alla carbonara, and then something new in an appetizer size so they can at least sample something new.
Eat outdoors on a piazza when possible, so the kids can get up and move around while the adults finish their dinner. Always bring something for the kids to do while waiting for your meal. Blank paper, crayons, or an easy card game like UNO are always popular.
Planning ahead and trying a few simple tips can make your experience in Rome more enjoyable and relaxed. Traveling can be stressful, especially when it is your first visit to an area, but making a list of places you want to eat and looking at the menu beforehand can go a long way to ensure a relaxing trip. Bon appetit!
This post was produced by Seasonal Cravings and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.