We’ve eaten a lot of food to put together this ranking, based on repeat and anonymous visits. These are our absolute favorite food & wine experiences in Rome as of May 2018.
L’Arcangelo is the polished Prati restaurant where chef Arcangelo Dardini built his name before putting it on the excellent street food outposts Supplizio and Ora da Re. I feel like I’m only now starting to understand L’Arcangelo after five visits over a decade. For a restaurant that has been so heavily covered by foreign press, I’m delighted to conclude that it’s getting significantly better with age.
Retrobottega is the most exciting place to eat in Rome, once you’ve digested the city’s compulsory Carbonara, fried artichoke and gelato elsewhere. It delivers an experience on par with the very best modern meals I’ve had in Paris or New York. That’s quite a statement to make about a restaurant in Rome, where attempts at culinary creativity often fall flat. Such attempts here are usually characterized by a repackaging of canonic dishes into alternative and often asinine forms: salt cod marshmallows, cacio e pepe lollipops, amatriciana ‘sand.’ By contrast, the cooking at Retrobottega is without artifice. It feels urgent, of the moment, and most importantly, delicious.
For a while now, I’ve been on the hunt for a new Cesare. Ever since Katie Parla called this “the perfect trattoria” back in 2012, Cesare has been prominently on the radar of hungry travelers. 2015 was a record year for anglophone press coverage (see links below), but with the recent publication of Eater’s Guide to Rome, in which the trattoria is featured prominently in four different articles, I believe we are now experiencing Peak Cesare.
I’ve never disagreed with any of these rave reviews. But I’ve wondered, like Peggy Lee, “is that all there is?”
Coming into Pipero Roma from the clamorous Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in central Rome is like stepping into another world – a quietly masculine space of tailored suits and, one imagines, important deals being struck at the well-spaced tables. The sobriety of this first impression is almost immediately countered by the effervescent energy of Alessandro Pipero, consummate host to Rome’s power elite.
If you’re lucky enough to sit in the main dining room (request this upon booking), you’ll be surrounded by reproductions from master painters. They’ve all been slightly edited, and are at once both recognizable and askew, foreshadowing the food to come.
Following in the footsteps of Stefano Caligari and Giancarlo Casa, Pier Daniele Seu is currently Rome’s most creative pizza chef to watch. Seu first came to attention at Gazometro 38 back in 2014. He left that Ostiense pizzeria to open a stall in the Mercato Centrale in 2017 and quickly became one of that food hall’s greatest attractions. He recently opened the first stand-alone restaurant to bear his name, Seu Pizza Illuminati. The name is meant to invoke bright ideas (not Masons) and a lightness in the dough. Both are delivered, deliciously.
SantoPalato is having a moment. My friends who are traveling to Rome routinely ask about this new trattoria. They’ve heard about it from Katie Parla in pieces from the New York Times or Eater (links below) and want to know if it lives up to the hype.
That hype is significant, but it’s not without substance. Sarah Cicolini is a sincere and gutsy cook who centers her cuisine around the off-cuts known in Rome as quinto quarto. Cicolini has a strong philosophy about using all parts of the animal. If you’re into that, you’re going to have a ball at SantoPalato (maybe literally).
L’Osteria di Monteverde is a fun place. It feels like a neighborhood joint, with walls covered by old maps and album covers, and with a psychotic Ghostface mask waiting to welcome you in the bathroom. Although it was highlighted in a New York Times article about what to do with 36 Hours in Rome, the tables are filled with young Romans, most of them from the neighborhood.
Epiro is my favorite sort of place – it’s a mom & pop restaurant for the modern age. Alessandra Viscardi and Marco Mattana met in art school but decided that a restaurant was their future. They opened Epiro five years ago in an inexpensive neighborhood just outside of Rome’s center. She manages the dining room and the liquids, he runs the kitchen with Matteo Baldi. Their approach is sincere and personal, and they deliver incredible value for money.
In the beginning, Epiro was a place to try inexpensive creative cooking with a good selection of craft beer and natural wine. It is still that, but the cooking is now on another level.