There are many potential reasons to celebrate the arrival of Emma Pizzeria in the center of Rome. It’s open every day. It’s spacious, so the chances of snagging an unreserved seat are high. It’s possible to dine outside in good weather. They’re open at lunch, when most pizzerias are shuttered. The quality of wine and deli products is excellent, as one can expect from a place with links to Roscioli. However, the product that’s central to their mission – thin crust Roman style pizza – is disastrously and consistently bad.
Stefano Callegari is considered a trailblazer for his contributions to creative pizza in Rome, and for his invention of the celebrated street snack Trapizzino. After Tondo and Sforno, he opened Sbanco in 2016 in a neighborhood that now includes Epiro and SantoPalato. Sbanco builds on Callegari’s winning formula of tasty pizza + fried starters + nice liquids by incorporating a serious craft beer element. Sbanco is also much closer to the center and near a subway line, ensuring that you don’t need to treat it like a pilgrimage site.
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.
Rome’s Mercato Centrale at Termini train station has rightly received a lot of attention for its street food offerings from Pizzarium, Trapizzino and other stands. Not enough attention has been paid to La Tavola di Oliver Glowig, a serene restaurant perched on a mezzanine high above the hubbub. The food is without question some of the most delicious I’ve tasted in Rome, and I keep looking for reasons to return.
I routinely offer to accompany departing friends to this chaotic transport hub under the guise of being a good host, when in reality I can’t stop thinking about Glowig’s cacio e pepe with sea urchin. One time I even stopped for lunch in between changing from one subway line to another. The setting is admittedly strange, but the food keeps calling me back.
Litro, a bright, welcoming wine and cocktail bar in Monteverde, was arguably the first in Rome to specialize in natural wines, which is to say organic and biodynamic wines vinified with minimum sulfur and no other additives. But where natural wine hotspots in other cities have sometimes taken a reactionary stance towards service norms, the team at Litro are warm and cheerful, clearly delighted to share the bar’s big list of obscure wines from throughout Italy, along with surprisingly evolved cocktail and mezcal selections.
There’s a lot to love about Giulia, a new restaurant on the prettiest street in central Rome. The service is lovely. It’s open every day, accepts online reservations, and is right in the middle of where you want to be. They have a young chef, Pierluigi Gallo, who’s just bursting with ideas. It’s not terribly expensive, and there are vegetarian options for every course.
Because Giulia ticks so many boxes, I’m sure to recommend it often. It’s important to note, however, that Pierluigi Gallo isn’t just striving to make a serviceable restaurant, he’s trying to grab a much loftier gastronomic brass ring. He sometimes misses, and usually because he’s attempted too much.
Since 1999, Giancarlo Casa has been making pizzas with cut-above ingredients, spending extra time working the dough, and charging slightly more for the result. You’ll be happy to pay the higher prices, and also the cab fare to Monteverde, for what is currently my favorite pizza experience in Rome. I say ‘experience’ because it’s not just about the excellent wood-fired pizza. The supplì and other fried starters are a true joy to put in your mouth, and the surprisingly good wine selection at la Gatta Mangiona elevates it to destination status.
Most people arrive at Roscioli with high expectations. It’s one of the most consistently and lovingly reviewed restaurants in Rome. It’s also a place that disappoints some people. Why? Because they’ve understood it to be a restaurant, when in reality it’s a shop selling exceptional cheese and salumi – one that invites you to sit down and enjoy these with some wine and perhaps a plate of very good pasta. Cheese, salumi, wine and pasta… isn’t that why you came to Rome?