As any parent will attest, the experience of eating out while on vacation changes dramatically once you bring a pint-sized person to the table. No longer is a meal out a leisurely, indulgent affair involving copious wine, plenteous plates and civilized conversation. With younger diners in the mix, a meal out is a lot more likely to involve some spills and – worst of all – dirty looks from judgmental diners on neighboring tables. Unless, of course, you are in Rome!

In Rome, dining out with kids is, pardon the pun, child’s play. Eating together as a family is an integral part of Italian culture and it’s not unusual to see little rascals in restaurants all across Rome. In fact, dining out as a family is pretty much a national pastime. What’s more, Italians expect kids to be themselves, which means they won’t be horrified should your little one happen to knock over a salt shaker. In fact, you’ll find your bambinos being cooed over by smiling wait staff almost everywhere you go.

Kid Eating Pasta

Nothing Beats a Plate of Pasta for a Hungry Kid!

Make 'em Eat Like a Local: Pasta

If you are bringing your kids to Rome, try to immerse them in the local food culture and show them how Roma’s younger denizens dine. Kids menus aren’t widespread here. It’s much more common for children to order a half portion (mezza porzione) from the regular menu. Luckily, there are more than a few Roman dishes that will prove palatable to younger diners, including pizza and pasta.

One of the best ways to find authentic neighborhood restaurants is to venture just a little further from the main tourist hotspots. Head for Trastevere, a charming neighborhood on the west side of the Tiber, where you can dine among locals at restaurants casual enough that run-around children won’t so much as raise a disapproving eyebrow. Ditta Trinchetti serves up the kind of honest, simple and delicious tasty dishes that you might expect from an Italian mamma’s home kitchen.

The Jewish Quarter also has lots of low-key trattorias where families can dine among other families. Kosher trattoria Taverna del Ghetto, which opens up onto a safe traffic-free road, serves up classic pastas, such as carbonara and amatriciana, as well as delicious fritti (fried food options such as artichokes, zucchini flowers). Further out from central Rome, there are also the beachside regions, such as the area around Fregene, where adults can sip drinks in beach clubs while kids play on the sand.

If you are sightseeing around central Rome and need somewhere nearby, Ai Balestrari, located just a stone’s throw from Campo de Fiori, is a casual family-welcoming osteria and pizzeria with friendly and snappy service. Grab a spot where the kids can see the pizzaiolo manning the wood-burning oven. If that won’t hold their attention, try getting outside table instead from where you can view street performers in action.

The Cure for the Roman Munchies: Pizza

As every parent knows, a hungry kid is not a happy kid. Which means, you’ll need to be ready to deal with snack requests at a moment’s notice. Rome’s got lots of kid-approved snacking options, the most common and sure-to-please among them being pizza taglio (pizza by the slice). If you’re near the Pantheon, Pizza ZaZa is a godsend. If you’re in the Vatican when hunger strikes, make a beeline for the nearby Pizzarium. Antico Forno Roscioli is a good option for anyone searching for pizza in the vicinity of Campo de Fiori.

Another fun way to dine in Rome is to plan family picnics. Villa Borghese, with its river views, gorgeous gardens and wooded pockets, is prime picnic turf. And even better, you don’t have to prepare the feast. Head to a deli, such as Antica Salumeria or Franchi Gastronomia, or to nearby restaurant Gina, and have them pack up a family-suitable spread for you.

Searching for ways to keep the kids entertained in Rome? Take a look at our specially designed full day Rome family tours. For something a little shorter try the Vatican Family Tour or the Colosseum Family Tour to mix and match as you please.