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Jan 19, 2012 08:34 PM

What are a cook's best sources for ingredients in Rome?

I am renting an apartment in Rome for one week at the end of March. Many of you locals have mentioned that your favorite meals are at home with Romans... and since I love to cook, can you please recommend your favorite sources for fresh vegetables, cheeses, seafood, meats, bread, pasta, wine and other Italian "groceries" ? Where does the Roman hobbyist chef shop? Places to pick up delicious antipasti would be awesome, too. Seasonal tips (what is fresh at the end of March) are especially appreciated! Thank you :-)

PS: We are staying near Piazza Navona

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  1. Knowing just where near the piazza Navona you are staying might help others to pinpoint for you some convenient places to shop.

    At one dinner I was at in Rome, conversation turned to singing the praises of the Mercato Trionfale for quality, not just price (I'm reporting, not personally recommending). But for them it was a local market, and from the piazza Navona, you'd need to be a very dedicated shopper to travel the distance to it, and would probably want to take a bus or taxi.

    1. You are near the Campo de’ Fiori market, which is surrounded by shops. There's a fishmonger just off the piazza, an excellent butcher on the piazza, and competing bakeries, Antico Forno on the piazza and Roscioli nearby on Via Chiavari. Roscioli's salumeria cum restaurant is on Via dei Giubbonari, very near.

      Beyond that, you are asking for a great deal of information, which you can dig out of the various blogs on Rome and David Downie's Terroir guide.

      1. Thanks very much for your replies! Since you have written, I managed to locate some information on these threads that I was not able to locate last night... I will repost here:



        Campo dei Fiori

        Vittorio Emanuele

        Piazza Vittorio

        There seems to be a wide range of opinions about which markets are best according to their location, price and quality of food. I guess Rome is a highly personal city (which I am soon to learn), with some lovers of the touristy zones and some haters. Interestingly, I have read many people say that Travestere is the best place for authentic cuisine (and not Campo de' Fiori, etc). But when I mapped the highly recommended restaurants (below), the majority seem to fall in the center of the city - from Campo de' Fiori area to Spanish Steps. What's up with that? Is my list missing some Travestere gems? Or maybe those are the ones that no ones want to publicize, and that is a secrecy I can completely understand having lived in several major tourist areas during my lifetime ;-)

        For those of you who get lost in these threads like I do, below is the list that I have assembled, thanks in large part to members of CHOW. One star means good but mixed reviews (or far away from center); two stars means a must. Of course, the stars and notes are entirely my opinion based on what reviewers say -- and I have never been to Rome, I am only speculating and preparing for my trip.


        ** Checchino Dal 1887
        Via di Monte Testaccio 30, Rome, Italy
        For traditional roman food, offal - dress smartly and expect to eat oxtail, brains, etc

        ** Gelateria del Teatro
        Via de San Simone 70, 00100 Rome, Italy
        The best ice cream in Rome and arguably the world

        * La Campana
        Vicolo della Campana 18 (Cavalieri Hilton), Rome, Italy
        Eat Sunday brunch here

        * Sforno
        via Statilio Ottato 110/116, 00175 Rome, Italy
        Some say theirs is the best pizza in Rome (great dough)

        * La gatta mangiona
        Via F. Ozanam, 30-32, 00151 Rome, Italy
        Another contender for best pizza in Rome. Out of the way

        * Osteria La Gensola
        Piazza della Gensola 15, Rome, Italy
        Supposedly great food in Travestere. Reserve ahead

        * Forno Roscioli
        Via Buonarroti 46, 00185 Rome, Italy
        Excellent, non-touristy (all about the food). Reserve ahead

        * Osteria de Memmo I Santori
        Via dei Soldati 22 - 23, Rome, Italy

        ** Gori Gelateria Artigianale
        Piazza Menenio Agrippa 8, Rome, Italy
        The best ice cream in Rome according to some italians

        ** Gelato di Claudio Torce
        Piazza Monte D’Oro 91/92, Rome, Italy
        Real ice cream, a must

        * Gelateria Neve di Latte
        Via Luigi Poletti 6, 00196 Rome, Italy
        Organic ice cream. Out of the way

        * Pizzeria DaBaffeto
        114 Governo Veccho, Rome
        Excellent pizza, centrally located

        * Taverna dei Fori Imperiali
        Via della Madonna dei Monti, 9, 00184 Roma, Italy
        +39 06 679 8643
        Still a solid classic

        * Enoteca Corsi
        Via del Gesù, 87/88, 00186 Roma, Italy
        +39 06 679 0821 ‎

        * Antico Arco
        Piazzale Aurelio, 7, 00151 Roma, Italy

        * Settembrini
        Via Luigi Settembrini, 25, 00195 Roma, Italy
        Some wax poetic, others aren't convinced.

        * Pizzarium
        via della Meloria 43, 00136 Rome, Italy
        Good for not only pizza

        * 00100 Pizza
        Via Giovanni Branca, 88, Rome, Italy
        Great, but out of the way

        ** Palatium - Enoteca Regionale del Lazio
        Via Frattina 94, 00187 Rome, Italy

        ** L'Asino d'Oro
        Via del Boschetto 73, 00184 Rome, Italy

        * Hostaria Nerone
        Via Terme di Tito 96, Rome

        Wide range of opinions.

        * Armando al Pantheon
        Salita dei Crescenzi 31, Rome
        Family-run trattoria

        ** Dal Quagliaro
        Largo Mola di Bari 17, Rome, Italy
        Cult favourite in Quarticciolo. Nothing fancy, but very authentic experience.

        ** Trattoria da Danilo
        Via Petrarca 13, 00185 Rome, Italy
        Standard home-cooking go-to, but mixed reviews on current quality

        * Flavio Al Velavevodetto
        Via di Monte Testaccio 97/99, 00153 Rome, Italy

        ** La Taverna dei Monti
        via del Boschetto 41, 00100 Rome, Italy
        highly rated, must reserve

        * Domenico dal 1968
        Via Satrico, 21, Rome, Italy
        Good food, Michelin rated, italians like it, not too expensive but out of the way

        * Profumo di Mirto
        Viale Amelia 8, Rome, Italy
        Excellent for seafood

        * Beppe e I Suoi Formaggi
        Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9A/11, Rome, Italy
        Excellent cheeses to bring back to apartment

        * Caffe Camerino
        Largo Arenula, 30, 00186 Rome, Italy
        Wonderful pastries

        21 Replies
        1. re: missy_beauvois

          It's Trastevere. Trastevere is a bit less touristy than the historic center, but restaurants there tend to cater to those looking for inexpensive meals, Romans or visitors. There are exceptions, but it's not the best eating neighborhood. Testaccio is much better.

          A great many people, some of whom have only been to Rome once, post here; not all their recommendations are to be taken as gospel. You'll get more reliable opinions from long-term Rome residents (mbfant, minchilli, katieparla, vinoroma) or a Roman (tavoleromane), but you'll find that even they are not always in agreement.

          Downie's Terroir guide is good and has shops as well as restaurants. But it's a few years old and missing some of the newer places; his restaurant reviews should also be carefully parsed.

          1. re: zerlina

            Thank you, Zerlina! The good news about Rome is that people gush over their experience, so it is obviously a wonderful place. The bad news is that it is very difficult to determine the quality standards of enthusiasts. I will take your advice and focus on Testaccio. Any particular food vendors or restaurants that you suggest in this area? Note that I speak Italian.

            1. re: zerlina


              Seems to me the summary is anything but taking CHOW opinions as gospel, beginning with the observation that Rome might be 'a highly personal city' and noting that opinions vary greatly about restaurants. I'm not even sure CHOW postings were the only basis for the star ratings given the restaurants.


              You asked: "When I mapped the highly recommended restaurants (below), the majority seem to fall in the center of the city - from Campo de' Fiori area to Spanish Steps. What's up with that?"

              Many of the recommendations given on Chowhound are given in response to people asking specifically for restaurants not too far from the most famous sights of Rome, or the most popular places to stay in Rome. Tourist guidebooks, food writers and travel articles also tend to mainly recommend restaurants convenient to areas travelers will most likely be.

              Opinions about the best or better eating neighborhoods, or even the best restaurants, are often given without much recognition that not everybody thinks offal is the best thing to eat in Rome, or fried food, or pizza, etc., or that some find an informal or lively ambience "best," while others rate elegance and polished service best. Also, the presence of 3 better restaurants per street in a neighborhood may not be as rewarding as one truly wonderful restaurant stuck all by its lonesome in the middle of an otherwise eating disaster zone.

              Have you got a copy of Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler? It has an older publication date than David Downie's book, but it has a depth of information you might enjoy reading.

              Hope you find memorable eats in Rome.

              1. re: barberinibee

                Thank you, Barberinibee. These suggestions and insights are helpful. I am looking forward to eating my way around the Eternal City... and know that even the best restaurants have their off nights, so fate will bring what it will :-)

                1. re: missy_beauvois

                  I slipped back to edit my post to include a suggestion to read, Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler. so I wanted to make sure you saw the suggestion.

                  1. re: barberinibee

                    No, I missed it - but got it now! Thanks!! By the way, I bought a Slow Food guide to eating in Italy (while I lived there 3 years ago). It's still in my library, but having read and checked up on their suggestions, I think it is fire starter material. I will get a copy of Fred Plotkin instead. Thank you :-)

                2. re: barberinibee

                  Barberinibee: No, Missy_Beauvois didn't take all her recommendations from Chowhound; she said "in large part". Nor do I think that most food-conscious Rome residents would disagree that Trastevere is not the best eating neighborhood.

                  Missy_Beauvois: My preferred restaurant in Testaccio is Checchino; you seem well aware that its specialty is offal. The market in Testaccio is one that many people go some distance to shop at, but it's supposed to be moving into a cavernous new building in mid-March; opinions are divided about the advantages and disadvantages of the move. You could have a quick post-shopping bite at 00100 Pizza. Many people also go out of their way to shop for deli items at Volpetti in Testaccio.

                  Incidentally, the No. 70 bus will take you from either of two stops near Piazza Navona to the Mercato Trionfale.

                  The Roscioli to reserve at is in a deli on Via dei Giubbonari; the forno is more or less across the street. Domenico is mentioned as one of many trattorie in Michelin but has no star. La Campana, as mentioned, does not serve brunch but is popular for Sunday lunch (recent reports seem to indicate that it's currently in one of the periodic slumps in its long history). Mercato Vittorio and Mercato Vittorio Emanuele are the same; it is not on the square of that name but in a covered building nearby; many of its stalls cater to Rome's ethnic population.

                  Are you sure it's Taverna dei Monti (Roman, not generally considered at or near the top) and not Trattoria Monti (cooking of Le Marche, generally highly rated)?

                  1. re: zerlina

                    Thanks, Zerlina! I will definitely book at Checchino and try the Roscioli on Via Giubbonari. Any idea whether they close on Sunday or Monday? As for markets, I will probably focus on Trifonale due to various positive reviews.

                    As for errors in my list, yes! Sure. I pulled recommendations from multiple Internet sites and some old-fashioned books. Having never been to Rome, I am ignorant. Apologies to anyone who is offended or misled -- as I stated in my earlier posts, I am not Rome resident and I have never been to any of the restaurants in my list. In other words, use my list at your own risk (as I will be taking the same risk, hopefully mitigated by Chow commenters, at the end of March). No harm intended!

                    1. re: missy_beauvois


                      I don't believe any one could have any reason to be offended by anything you have posted. Glad you'll be taking a flyer on Trionfale and do take the bus. Mind the opening hours of the market. I hope you'll report back.

                    2. re: zerlina


                      I find the whole notion of "best eating neighborhoods" suspect. I see as many sincere recommendations for eating in Trastevere as I do for Testaccio and other neighborhoods. I spend a fair amount of time with food-savvy Romans, and the only lament I've ever heard about a neighborhood being sub-par when it came to finding good things to eat was a friend (and excellent cook) who moved from Trastevere to near the piazza Navona when she married. Yet everytime I eat at her house it is fantastic, and she doesn't go to Testaccio to shop.

                      I have yet to encounter views from Romans about food that are as dogmatic as what I have seen posted on Chowhound. The same overly-careful stuff gets posted over and over, often with a pursed-lip inflection, and yet going to Rome and dining there is actually a humorous and humane experience, open, carefree (and loud), much different from what one might expect reading Chowhound. I even saw a middle-aged Italian woman drinking a coca-cola one evening with her Roman dinner in a Roman restaurant last week. Aluminum can was right there on the table. I guess no foreigner ever told her she was only supposed to drink it in secret in her room -- advice I have seen posted on the internet for first-time travelers to Rome. (Or maybe I missed that the author was joking.)

                      People who go to Rome with a healthy appetite for food and for learning probably will and should make lots of "mistakes" discovering Rome. But a lot of the things I see posted on Chowhound as "mistakes" to avoid seem to me overstated to an extreme, and it remains my impression after several stays that a fair number of Romans would be surprised to learn there are so many mistakes a person could make just heading to out to eat in Rome.

                      1. re: barberinibee

                        I think you would agree that the Coke can does not reflect normal practice. Since the knowledge transfer here is often from people who know local practice to people who don't, those who know are obviously going to tell those who don't what is normal and urge new visitors to follow normal local practice. The risk of course is that all that advice may come off as some sort of legal code rather than a set of customs, and people will just have to realize that overall they will benefit from following the custom but will not go to jail if they don't. Also, many Italians don't drink wine, and if some Italian prefers Coke, he or she will be considered possibly eccentric, but if an American orders Coke instead of wine, he or she may be accused of cultural imperialism.

                        1. re: mbfant

                          Personally, nothing tastes better to me than the occasional Coke with a super-sized meal from McDonalds; and that is spoken as a true, normal practice, food snob. I take American pride in avoiding diet drinks when I order fast food (like, 4 times a year); and I apologize when I drink wine from a small tubular glass with almost every lunch I prepare in America. We all have our oddities, irrespective nationality. Thank God ;-)

                          1. re: mbfant


                            My own view is that Americans should drink what they choose and ponder whatever accusations are made, if they are made, as part of their travel education.

                            I do believe that not only is all the advice given on Chowhound to newcomers is sincere and thoughtful -- and generous -- but that the "Rome regulars" often go out of their way, within the limitations of an internet post, to convey some of the hazards of taking anybody's recommendations when it comes to the dynamic, complex realities of eating in Rome.

                            But one of the things I have learned living in Italy is that living in Italy has changed my reactions to Italy, to Italian restaurants, and changed what I want to eat in Italy and what I value as a dining experience. All this comes on top of an already fairly fixed personality all my own.

                            I assume that the people who live in Rome, make a living from food-related work and who also post on Chowhound are alert to the fact that they, too, in becoming Roman residents, have undergone a change that may mean they no longer really feel or understand how a visitor reacts to Rome. That is a hard thing to do. I assume they responsibly adjust for that in their advice -- and in the end, how much responsibility can one take for somebody else's food choices?

                            But what I loudly object to is the constant assertion that Rome residents who post on Chowhound will inevitably be giving the best advice or the most sophisticated advice about eating in Rome as a visitor. I don't dispute that Chowhound's Rome residents have a wider base of knowledge to draw upon, and I have no idea if they have finer tastebuds.

                            But I feel certain that going native generally works against being a good guide to one's adopted home. Those with a professional interest in being good guides will be thoughtful about the pitfalls and do the best they can to avoid them But it is hazard that needs to be "parsed" by readers of the Chow boards when it comes to taking the advice of Rome regulars.

                            The good news is, as far as I'm concerned, is that Rome is an immensely flexible place, overflowing with food, that has a long and fabulous history of feeding all comers, of seducing with food, and to this day retains a propensity for gorging on feasts. I really can no longer worry about the people who go to Rome worried about eating well, or the people who tell them their worries are justified. Rome is not a place to go if you want to eat perfectly within a budget. But it is one of the most enjoyable places to go and eat in all of Europe's capital cities.

                            1. re: barberinibee

                              Apropos of "cultural imperialism," I wanted to report that according to the NYTimes, a restaurant called "Parm" has opened in New York unapologetically serving Italain American comfort foods, I can't help but think in reaction to all the two-decade-long onslaught of restaurants in New York specializing in regional italian cuisine. As I often post on Chowhound, I truly am all for information, cultural exchange, doing as the Romans do, and I don't drink Coke instead of wine, but -- the relationships between the foods and drinks of American origin and foods and drinks of Italian origin are pretty licentious if you at it from a wider angle, and some views about how to approach (ape?) eating in Italy might be projections of fantasies, frozen in time.

                              1. re: barberinibee

                                I pretty much agree with you. I dislike many of the favorites of the "Rome regulars" who post on this board and have often posted on why locals are not the best advisors for visitors. Those of us who work with visitors, of course, make it a point to put ourselves in their shoes. As for taste buds, it's not a question of quality but of familiarity. Many Americans, used to the stronger flavors of even high-end Italian cooking in American Italian restaurants (by which I do not mean Italian-American), often find real Italian flavors a bit pale in comparison. It takes a while to understand that that's not pale, it's subtle and genuine. I do think visitors should, other things being equal, skip the Coke and opt for a local product, whether wine, beer, or acqua minerale. Everybody is free to drink anything, but since my job is communicating about Italian food to foreigners, I'm not going to apologize for recommending Italian beverages.

                                1. re: mbfant

                                  Mbfant and barberinibee, I appreciate what both of you are saying - taste is definitely a moving target, regardless your culture of origin. It is not necessary to leave your own home to butt up against disrespect for cuisine (and if you have kids like mine, your own table). Poor taste and cultural insensitivity offend me, but people can only grow from where they are planted. Freedom and creativity have this price.

                                  1. re: mbfant


                                    I was far from suggesting anybody apologize, and I heartily agree everybody should know the eating and drinking norms of Rome, and be warned that drinking Coke (or beer) may destroy the taste of their meal (or the shape of their stomach when mixed with pasta). But many of the eating norms of North Americans go beyond matters of taste, and involve norms about restaurant going and norms about being a "foodie" in general. It is another form of "cultural imperialism" to impose on eating out in Rome the norms that now prevail among "foodies" in New York City. The near absurd focus on surprising bites and singular tastes flies in the face of what I think Rome dining is fundamentally about. Visitors to Rome might also benefit from some pointers about seeking out and appreciating a "foreign" experience of eating what's on the menu that day, in a convivial way, rather than a hunt for isolated items on a checklist. plotted in a sequence, tied to a clock.

                                    I truly do get the difficulties and I think Chowhound's Rome posters are doing their level best to answer the questions asked, which are often quite narrow in themselves. I'm not in the camp that you can get a good meal anywhere in Italy (or Rome). But food priests intervening between tourists and food providers in Rome strikes me at times as overzealous, and risks being misleading or a mis-education for the visitor. I think the strike zone for having wonderful eating experiences in Rome is wide enough to allow for swinging freely more often by the visitor . I fully understand why people who have a well-deserved reputation for hitting home runs with their restaurant advice are going to choose to be very careful in what restaurants they recommend. I'm only egging on the rookies to develop their own muscles and take on Rome from more than one angle.

                              2. re: zerlina

                                The 70 will not take you to mercato trionfale, 492 will.

                          2. re: missy_beauvois

                            Aside from our opinions and the differences in them as someone has stated, your list has some factual mistakes that you might want to correct. Am on a device that doesn't make it very easy to write a point by point reply to your post, hopefully can do that tomorrow, but start out by rechecking your list, i'd suggest for the moment. (no brunch at campana, wrong roscioli, domenico with michelin star?, etc.).

                            1. re: vinoroma

                              Errors aside (and I, for one, hope that others chime in with corrections) I really appreciate the list you mad missy.
                              I will not be in Rome May but I am constantly cutting and pasting info. Your list really helps. I also plan to do a fair amount of apartment cooking.


                          3. You'll have a great time cooking in your flat, and won't lack for great places to shop for food in your area.

                            Closest open market is Campo dei Fiori. While it's a bit pricier than other markets (Testaccio and Trionfale) it's got some wonderful stands, is gorgeous and extremely convenient. Being able to walk there, from your apartment, will be a joy.

                            Trionfale and Testaccio markets are both great, and worth a trip at least to visit. But you'll find everything you need at Campo.

                            On the same piazza make sure you stop by the following shops:
                            Norcineria Viola - Amazing selection of cured meats and fresh pork.
                            Forno dei Campo di Fiori - some swear it's the best pizza bianca in Rome. I prefer:

                            Roscioli - bakery off of Via dei Giubbonari (right down the street). Great pizza and breads

                            Beppe e i Suoi Formaggi - in the Ghetto. One of the best cheese shops in Rome.

                            I personally do my weekly shopping at one of two farmers markets, the Farmers Market in Testaccio and one on Via San Teodoro (near Circo Massimo). Both are worth making an effort to go to at the beginning of your trip. Besides produce, they sell what I think is some of the best meat in town.

                            Two of the best alimentari are further afield, but worth the trip:
                            Volpetti - in Testaccio (combine with lunch at Perilli)
                            La Tradizione - near metro stop Cipro (combine with trip to Pizzarium)

                            If you are truly passionate, you may want to make a trip out to D.O. L. He has some of the best cheeses and cured meats in Rome, bought directly from the small artisinal producers he works with. But it is a trek (Via Domenico Panaroli 6).


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: minchilli

                              Thank you for this advice, Elizabeth! The thread has gotten long and I managed to miss it when you posted. I appreciate your generous information :-)