Take what you’ve always imagined an authentic Roman neighborhood to look like - narrow streets, little old houses, romantic piazzas and packed full of cafes and restaurants, that’s exactly what Trastevere is. Located across the Tiber, Trastevere is known for its traditional trattorias, craft beer pubs, and artisan shops and more importantly where all the locals hangout.
One of the best things about visiting Trastevere is the huge choices of places to eat. The area is filled with pizzeria, cafès and incredible mom and pop trattorie. Follow our guide to get the inside scoop on eating like a local.
Let's start with some insider tips
What’s the difference between a Restaurant and a Trattoria?
A restaurant or ristorante is a fancier way of dining in Italy. Typically a host is waiting to seat you; then you’ll be looked after by waiters while sitting at a dressed table with your printed menu and a wine list.
A trattoria is a much more casual eatery. The menu may be printed, or it may be written on a chalkboard. Some places just won't have a menu; the waiter will tell you what is available that day. There might be tablecloths or nothing at all. But trattorias are the best for authentic Italian food.
Some other useful terms :
An “enoteca” is a winebar, most of them serve food.
A “paninoteca” is a panini bar or sandwich shop.
A “fiaschetteria” is another way to say wine bar.
Restaurants usually open for lunch from about 12 to 3 pm, and the dinner menu begins at about 7.30 pm, but Italians don’t eat until 9 pm. So the earlier you eat, the less crowded the restaurants will be but the more likely you’ll be eating with fellow tourists.
How the Italian eat – by courses.
A typical meal is a long, relaxed occasion that takes place over several courses, and almost always involves wine, as well as an espresso to top it off. Italian food customs vary a little across regions. But more or less, a typical meal in Rome (and the rest of Italy) is something like this.
A primo - pasta, soup or rice/risotto
A secondo - main course, of meat, fish or vegetable
Contorno – side dish, usually a vegetable
Caffe - In Italian food customs, after dinner, your waiter may ask if you’d like coffee, this usually means espresso ( After 2 pm Italians prefer espresso rather than a milky coffee)
Digestivo – A typical digestives of Italian food customs is limoncello, a sweet lemony liquor that originates from the Amalfi Coast.
That is the general order of a full-blown meal. But don’t worry you’re not expected to eat order all those courses on a regular day. You can order and eat what you feel like, be it just one or two courses.
Insider Tip – Waiters will never hassle you to leave a table so you may have to use the international sign for the cheque.
Where to eat
For traditional cibo romano it has to be De Enzo. It's literally a hole-in-the-wall with about 10 or 12 tables. It does up the most amazing carciofi alla giudia (Jewish style fried artichokes), and of course, it’s got the classic pasta dishes: arrabbiata, amatriciana or carbonara
If you're in the mood for some pizza, try Dar Poeta. The pizza is light and crispy thin. The great part about this place is it's open from noon all the way through the night. It doesn't close in the middle of the day like other restaurants do. Be careful around dinnertime if you haven’t got reservations, you might wait a bit.
This is an upmarket trattoria that is the definition of a “mom and pop” place as it’s a family run business, it is the ultimate Italian neighborhood spot and considered to serve the best seafood in the City. If you’re a fish-lover try the spaghetti with sea urchin, otherwise the grill provides beefsteaks and other non-fish dishes, make sure to book in advance as reservations are mandatory on the weekends.
Located close to the river Tiber, Antica Trattoria Da Carlone is a must for pasta lovers. Known to have the best carbonara in the city and paired perfectly with the house wine. If you are looking for something more exciting than carbonara, try the pasta ai fiori di zucca (pasta with pumpkin sauce). Make sure to book as it’s a very popular place for both locals and tourists!
Rome takes pride in its long tradition of artisan gelato, and sampling some is an absolute must, Trastevere has some of the best Gelato the City has to offer in Gelateria Fior di Luna. Fior di Luna is a certified organic and fair trade gelato artisans. They source most of their ingredients locally like milk, pistachios and cream and its other specialty, chocolate, in all its variations — orange chocolate, chili chocolate, chocolate with apricot sauce and more.
The perfect end to a night in Trastevere is a trip to the chocolate shot bar, known as Rivendita libri cioccolata e vini. Sample shots served in a glass made from chocolate and to make it even better there is whipped cream and sprinkles on top.
Insider Tip – When choosing a Gelateria you can tell the quality of the ingredients by the color of the pistachio, fresh pistachio gelato should almost be a light brown, while if the pistachio is green the more likely, it is to be made with artificial colors.
To get to Trastevere, take tram No.8 from Piazza Venezia, or you can take bus No.75 from the main train station (Termini). Alternatively, you can cross the River Tiber via the pedestrian bridge, Ponte Sisto, that is just a short walk south of Campo de' Fiori, the site where a daily market is held.
If you want a stress free way to see the highlights of the neighborhood while tasting some delicious food why not try City Wonders Trastevere Stroll with Exclusive Private Dinner tour. A Guide will accompany you through the cobbled streets and piazza’s of Trastevere before a private dinner in a 17th Century Villa.