Checkered tablecloths, parmesan perfume and endless spaghetti carbonara. Yes, start opening your mouth because this is what awaits you when you arrive in the capital of pasta. And for sure, when you're there, you'll make one (or several) stops at the Vatican. St. Peter's Dome can be seen from all over the city, but the colonnade in St. Peter's Square, Michelangelo's Moses inside the Basilica and the unmissable Sistine Chapel are just some of the attractions that this area of Rome has for visitors.
And I'm sure that after so much art you will work up an appetite. I remember the first time I was in the area, I decided to join one of the guided tours of the Vatican Museums at noon and by the time I was done, I was starving. At that time finding a decent place seemed like mission impossible: all I could find were menus in English, oversized places for mass tourists and little authenticity.
But so that you don't get caught with an empty stomach in the middle of such an apparently touristy area without knowing where to go, I have prepared this list with my favorite places so that you don't end up falling into the "traps" that the city sometimes has prepared for tourists. Dare to eat like a local and don't miss the following:
1. The best pizzas in a family atmosphere, in Nicò
If you are looking for a good varied menu in an authentic restaurant, try Nicò, a very cozy restaurant in the Prati district (just a few meters from the Vatican) where you can dine surrounded by Romans, without hearing hardly any tourists.
It is a place frequented mostly by families living in the area and young people studying there (there are several institutes and faculties nearby), so you will find very good prices and good quality.
Here you will be able to eat the typical Roman pizza, the thin one, with crispy edges. You will finish it whole without having a feeling of fullness (which is what happens with the thick dough pizzas). The most classic is the margherita (tomato and mozzarella) but let the waiters advise you or even ask for different pizzas so you can try a little of each.
Where: Viale Angelico, 6.
Why I like this place: sometimes in Rome it is difficult to do "local life", go to the typical places where tourists do not usually enter and eat and drink like an Italian. Well, this is one of those familiar places, very authentic and very "neighborhood", with a very good quality standard and atmosphere.
Recommended if... you are looking for a traditional Italian dinner with a wide variety on the menu to choose from.
2. Snack and breakfast, at Panificio Marè Prati
If you still haven't eaten enough croissants (you can never have enough) I invite you to stop by this hidden gem (and I say hidden because it has a very small entrance and goes totally unnoticed) to buy the best sweets you will ever taste in Rome. In addition to selling to the public, this historic oven supplies pastries to many restaurants and bars in the city.
The prices are ridiculous. A "cornetto de cioccolato", my favorite, costs 40 cents. You won't be able to take just one, sorry! Just think that with all that you are walking and with all that is left to walk, these calories almost don't settle in your body. You can find it in Viale Angelico, 88 and you will have to descend a short flight of stairs to paradise. Here is their website to whet your appetite: Panificio Marè Prati.
Where it is: Viale Angelico 88
Why I like this place: the great variety of sweets and the quality you will find in this place are unbeatable. And the prices too!
Recommended if... you want to nibble on something sweet when you're in the area but you're not looking for a place to sit down. Everything here is to go.
3. Buy the best pasta dishes to take away at Pastasciutta
Never has a take-out pasta dish been so good. The last time I was at the Vatican Museums I left very hungry and short on time. Taking advantage of the fact that there weren't many people around Castel St Angelo, we decided to buy a couple of pasta dishes to go and eat them on the bridge, overlooking the river.
We went in with low expectations, but the truth is that we were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the pasta and its sauces. They have all kinds of varieties of pasta and accompaniments, so in a matter of seconds they prepare the dish you want (you can see how they do it through the glass) and as soon as you realize it, you have it in a tapper ready to go.
Consider this option if you feel like eating quietly in the apartment or hotel where you are staying or if you prefer to do like me and look in the streets of Rome for the scenery you want to enjoy during your meal. This is their website. You can find it in Via delle Grazie, 5 and you will also see that there are some places to sit down if you prefer to take it there.
Where it is: Via delle Grazie, 5
Why I like this place: few places offer such a good service, so fast and so cheap in a place close to a tourist attraction like the Vatican. Take the opportunity to try it!
Recommended if... you are in a hurry (and hungry) and you don't want to give up eating the typical Italian pasta, well done.
4. Sandwiches with gourmet cold cuts, at Bono Roma
Who said that something as simple as a sandwich could not be as delicious as the most sophisticated menu? We already know that Italians are great masters of bread production, but if we also mix it with a five-star sausage, the result can be epic.
For a quick but tasty meal, Bono Roma stands out. You can take one of the incredible "Paninos" they have on their menu to go and eat it in any of the magical corners that the city hides. My favorite is the Monti, which has mortadella, brie cheese, pistachio pate and arugula. You really have to try any of the delicacies on their menu.
Where: Via di Porta Cavalleggeri, 109/111.
Why I like this place: the ingredients are top notch, the service is fast, the staff very attentive and the price, very affordable. So with all this, Bono Roma had all the ingredients to sneak into this ranking.
Recommended if... you feel like tasting a typical "panino italiano" of great quality and enjoy the best cold meats.
5. Rome is also a great place to eat sushi and the best in town is at Temakinho
Are you already tired of pasta and pizza if you've been in town for a few days? Don't worry, I'll never admit it out loud, but I admit that it's happened to me too. If you've had your fill of pasta, pizza, lasagna, risotto and gnocchis, you're more than justified in looking for something a little more exotic.
And if you like sushi, you're in luck because near the Vatican is the best I've had in Rome. Temakinho is a chain of Brazilian-Japanese fusion restaurants (exotic, I warned you!) that makes some scandalous rolls and cocktails that invite you to spend the night sitting on the terrace. The building is also worth a visit: it is a typical three-story classic Italian palazzo converted into a restaurant with a modern design.
Don't be scared off by the fact that it is a chain. The first Temakinho restaurant started in Milan a few years ago and due to its great success it ended up opening in London's SoHo and other Italian cities. I have been lucky enough to try several and it does not lose its essence. Of course, book early because tables literally fly.
Where: Via dei Serpenti, 16
Why I like this place: I think it would be repeating myself too much if I say that this is one of the most delicious Asian dishes I've ever tasted, but I have to insist, it's irresistible!
Recommended if... you feel like trying something different and visiting one of the trendiest restaurants in Rome right now.