HOME > Chowhound > Italy >


Best espresso Rome

I did a search and was surprised to not find this already, perhaps I did not go far enough back. If so, perhaps a revisit is necessary.

I am looking for the best espresso/cappuccino in Trastevere and in central Rome, or anywhere it is worth going. I am a self professed coffee snob and cannot wait for the coffee in Italy. I only drinks, caps, or macchiatos.

I have been told about some of the nuances of ordering, ie. no cappuccinos after noon. Any other tips would be helpful.

Also my SO hates coffee (how have we survived?!), will he have any options for tea or should we pack some to make at the B&B in the morning?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Forget the afternoon "no joe rule." I have ordered cappucino all day long and love it and never had a sneer directed at me by a server. I could care less what others might sniff about.

    As for the SO, why not opt for hot chocolate? Available widely and widely treasured throughout Rome (esp if the hot cocoa is Venchi - excellent product, buy a bag and bring some home!). The SO could also simply order a Pellegrino or a mineral water with gas and lollygag with you.

    Personally, I am not a fan of the well-known pit stops by the Pantheon. Tazza is too "snug" and frantic for me, I don't relish standing at the bar armpit to armpit. Guide books say otherwise. Sant'eustachio, the other overhyped place, adds a shot of sugar as a "secret ingredient." Uh huh, that just ain't to my liking, let alone the tourist hordes jammed into the little shop. But just steps across the way is Camelloni which serves good expressi and cappucini without the hullabaloo. Plus, you can sit outside on a nice day in five or six tables there which makes for a nice stop in the Pantheon area.

    Perhaps the nicest place to stop and sip, albeit expensive, is on a lovely pedestrian piazza at Ciampini (Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina). Ciampini has very good gelato, a sizeable light menu of snacks and sandwiches and plenty of non-coffee options that will be to your SO's liking. Plus heat lamps outside if there is a chill in the air. Beware: you pay considerably more for your beverage when you sit than you would standing and sipping at the counter.

    My favorite, though, is Cafe Brazil on via Serpenti. How they manage to crank out such excellent cappucini and expressi year after year is beyond me. But they do. And they sell packets of Venchi cocoa (there is a Venchi store between Spagna and the Corso that sells cups of delicious hot cocoa along with the products, get the location online or from the hotel).

    1 Reply
    1. re: wristband

      thanks @wristband, less crowded/touristy is great! when you say more expensive if you sit, how much more?

      shot of sugar?! not cool! if my coffee needs sugar it is either over roasted or the milk has been oversteamed (burnt)

      SO would be OK with hot chocolate as long as it is not too dark, I on the otherhand would be all over a dark cup of hot chocolate. Will definitely visit Venchi!!

      What are the best coffee beans to bring home as gifts (and for self)? Do a lot of cafes roast their own?

    2. Everyone has a different opinion on coffee, so you will just have to decide for yourself. Drink cappuccino any time except directly after a meal. It's not a nuance, it's general practice. When you order a cappuccino, you can specify if you want it boiling hot, not too hot, not too much foam, lot of foam. Or you can just drink what they give you, which is what I do. The standards are pretty high here.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mbfant

        certainly meant no offense wrt sugar in coffee, that is the way I judge a great espresso vs. ok.

        what are your favorite places @mbfant?

      2. Of all the places we have had espresso in Rome, the best was Sant 'Eustaccio, on the recommendations of some Italian friends. Unlike wristband, I found the place to be very pleasant and not crowded. If you want to sit there are tables outside that offer great people-watching. We stopped there a couple of times and there was never any sugar in our espresso or cappuccino.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ekc

          You might want to check that last point. SE does indeed pop a shot of sugar to their drinks. Not just my opinion - a quick check on the web will unearth their "secret.' But, hey, if you had a lovely time and it was unfrazzled, wonderful to hear!

        2. Except for a rare case (Caffe della Pace), I have never had bad coffee in Rome. For central Rome, I go for Tazza d'Oro. True it can be crowded and except for a couple of benches, no seating but the coffee is some of the best. Terrific macchiato. Closed by early evening. Since most places serve good coffee, for me, ambience becomes very important. For that, I like La Caffettiera, especially an afternoon macchiato taken with their rhum babas. Sant'Eustachio has its following but I have never been taken with the ambience and the selling of their 'souvenirs'. Unless they have recently stop their "secret', there is always a hit of sugar on the bottom before they fill the cup. If one does not want the sugar, there is never a problem, just request before they make it. The above mentioned Camelloni on the same square is just as good without all the fanfare.
          wristband also recommended Caffe del Brasile which was our morning coffee stop when we rented a nearby apartment couple years ago. Excellent coffee but not much on ambience (very low key) and a bit out of the way, a little west of the historic center.
          In Trastevere, try the funky Bar San Calisto and Ombre Rosse for people watching.
          Coffee is inexpensive standing up, therefore, as a self professed coffee snob, try them all and make your own judgement.

          1. my favorite coffee in Rome is at Sciascia Caffè (Via Fabio Massimo 80/a, Prati). you can also find excellent coffee at Caffè Parana' in Piazza dei Cinquecento next to Stazione Termini


            1. Italians are much less precious about coffee than visitors may think. There are bars on every block, standards are generally very high, with terrific drinks getting banged out and consumed at high speed, at the counter, without fuss.

              Some bar usage which might be useful :
              - A standard espresso drunk at the counter cost 0.7 - 1.2 euro in Dec-11 (same for macchiato) and the price is clearly posted. However, sitting down changes the whole equation - the price is not generally posted but we saw a few places which posted both counter and sit-down prices, with sit-down approx. 3x that of counter.
              - You order at the counter and pay at a separate cashier. Some places insist you pay first. Sometimes it's easier to pay first - the counter might have a queue but the cashier is free.
              - It seems to be good form to leave a small tip for the bar man, 0.2 euros if you have change

              On sugar the 'secret ingredient' - Italians generally drink their coffee with sugar, sometimes quite a lot of sugar at that. I noticed that Sant Eustachio now has signs which spell out in English that their grande caffe comes with sugar - presumably because non-sugaring visitors were getting upset about this part.

              2 Replies
              1. re: shakti2

                Whether or not "Italians" are "precious" about their coffee, there are great varieties in the quality of the coffee you can get in Italy walking into a bar. Some of it can be awful -- and I'm not complaining about the places that make it with sugar. I'm complaining about the places that burn it or use inferior roasts or don't know how to clean their machines.

                I'm about to head to Roma and thus will get to test the PBSF's claim that bad coffee is rarely found in the city, and mbfant's claim that Rome's standards are high. I hope to find in Rome coffee at least as good as I have found without effort in Napoli, Torino and Trieste (and in certain spots Venice), places that are not "precious" about coffee but where skills and quality are noticeably high.

                1. re: barberinibee

                  That is definitely what I have found in various cities in North America. The best places are the ones that use high quality beans, but it seems even more than that the skilled barrista makes a huge difference. Perhaps the machinery too. I don't like espresso that is not smooth, with flavour not just dark roasted. I too will be interested to see, and will definitely try many options. I will happily repost my findings.

                  @barberinibee, please let me know what your tastes find.

              2. When it comes to coffee, you'll find most Romans have their favorites near their home and near work. Luckily, the already mentioned Cafe Brazil (better known as "the pope's" ) is in my 'hood and serves excellent coffee. My other favorite in the neighborhood of Monti is Er Baretto on Via Boschetto. Not only do they make gorgeous cappucino, but it's comfortable to sit down.

                I also love old fashioned bars that haven't been touched in years. Cafe Peru on Via Monseratto, The Latteria on Vicolo del Gallo and Bar Farnese on Via dei Baullari are all three very local, simple places that serve un-fussy, good coffee in a timeless setting.

                I'm kind of over San Eustachio. It's not bad, but way too much fuss for what they serve. I do like Tazza d'Oro, but again, do I really want to wait in line for a coffee?


                8 Replies
                1. re: minchilli


                  will do


                  I'm glad you popped in to post because I'm staying on via di Monserrato, where I've never stayed before, so I'll be sure to slip into Caffe Peru, and the others aren't so far away. I looked up your previous descriptions of these places and they all sound appealing.


                  1. re: barberinibee

                    David Downie's Rome book highlights some of the bars around town that are more serious about their roast. I will try to look at it and post if I have a chance to look. We have not had any bad experiences on our Rome visits, with quite high coffee quality overall. I am not such a big fan of Tazza d'Oro overall from most recent visits. The crowded and rushed atmosphere reduces its atttractiveness, and the coffee granita with cream is just not as good as memories of same.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Nobody has mentioned Cafffè Camerino ("il caffè con tre effe"), but it has a following, and I think it's great. It's just where via Arenula meets Largo Argentina.

                        1. re: mbfant

                          adding the link

                          Cafffe Camerino
                          Largo Arenula, 30, Rome, Lazio , IT

                      2. re: barberinibee


                        Just got back from Rome, but just before I left, I twisted a foot badly and thus only drank coffee where I didn't have to walk out of my way to get it.

                        Within those limitations, I had a cappucino at Cafffe Camerino, which I found on the watery side, but I also sipped my husband's double espresso and found it mild and pleasant, if not among the best I've found in Italy or the world. The space itself is very pleasant, made more so by the fact I ran into a Roman friend there by accident, and she described Cafffe Camerino as "my local." There are lots of pretty pastries on display as well (didn't sample).

                        I also had an espresso at Caffe Peru, which was fine. In this thread, it came more recommended for its unpretentious, retro ambience in a very style-conscious, boutique-d corner of Rome (where it seems nearly everybody is speaking English a good deal of the time, even in January).

                        Even with two good feet, I wouldn't walk far out of my way for either place. In general, almost all the coffee I drank after meals in Rome's eateries was good.

                      3. re: minchilli

                        Many people have mentioned Cafe Brasil being on via Serpenti. When I Googled it, I found a Cafe Brasil on Via della Magliana. Have they moved?

                        1. re: Sannie_2

                          There is an Antico Caffe del Brasile is still on via Serpenti in Monti. Excellent coffee.

                      4. As a part time resident of Rome I will put my money for best coffee on Al Banchi Vecchi on the street of the same name near Campo di Fiori. My wife and I will frequently walk 45 minutes in the morning to have our coffee there.

                        1. Tazza d'Oro, above and beyond.

                          1. Feb 2012 report

                            The Holy Grail of espresso remains Tazza d'Oro, the best I've ever had (though I've never been to Trieste, said to be the Promised Land of coffee). The long line of Japanese tourists did not deter me from coming and worshiping at the shrine. And it looks like someone wise has informed our Japanese friends. I didn't see a place to sit down. Why sit down anyway? To do so costs more. When jammed packed it may take a minute or two to get to the bar. That wait is also worth it.

                            At Sant'Eustachio I drank the worst cup of espresso that I've ever drunk there: all crema, no liquid. (But maybe it was supposed to be that way; I'm just a country boy.) What is more, the small room would make a sardine can seem spacious, and the patrons insist on drinking their cup at their leisure before making room at the bar. Being full of foam didn't stop me from crossing the street and, as as the wise PBSF recommends, going to Camelloni for a splendid cup.

                            I know this series is supposed to be about espresso in Rome, yet allow me to mention a fun place for cappucino: In the via Arenula, in the block before the river, there's a little place called Bar Cappucino (if memory serves me right). Not only is the cappucino tasty, but it is served with a design in the milk topping. My was the shape of an apple. Those of you who demand your coffee with Arnoldian High Seriousness may not like it, but I thought it clever.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sidcundiff

                              Tazza d'Oro I've never been that impressed with. It seems watery and slightly bitter. Yes, espresso should be almost all crema, which is one thing that does make Sant'Eustachio stand out. It should be said, however, that the level of crema at Sant'Eustachio is beyond normal, and yes, it's forced. However for me it does remain the best coffee, perhaps in the world. As to your trouble with a packed bar, you've got to be realistic. At the end of the day, any coffee shop with a good cup is going to get a reputation. That's going to attract a crowd. But the Sant'Eustachio coffee is great not because of the crema but rather because of its astonishing lack of bitterness (and I always have coffee everywhere with plenty of sugar, so its not the additional sugar masking it), and the dense flavour. By the way, should you feel inspired to try Sant'Eustachio again, just ask for an ordinary "caffe", not a "gran caffe", the latter being more of a specialty bespoke coffee drink (although the "caffe" does have sugar pre-added as well)

                              One other trick, though, you might find interesting. Much of the best espresso is to be found in the train stations. While that might seem improbable, the station espresso is where many of the locals stop for their morning dose - and if it weren't up to snuff, it wouldn't stay in business. The one in Trastevere is particularly good.

                              Venchi is great for their gianduja, simply the best in the world (pick it up from the kiosk at the airport), but many of their other chocolates (including most used for hot chocolate) are fairly ordinary. Far better are Amedei and Domori, if you can find them. It's worth asking the cafe.