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When in Rome: Where to Eat

Buongiorno ladies and gents! Today I thought I'd take you through some of the hits and misses I found whilst in Rome when it comes to food. Most people who travel to Italy on holiday are probably looking for good food and there's plenty of actual food tour destinations and hot spots in Rome if you want to step it up to that notch. We wanted to, but we also wanted the freedom to just roam around and see where our legs and tastebuds took us. So with that being said, we were quite lucky and stumbled across some really lovely restaurants, bakeries, cafés, and gelaterias that are worth a mention and the odd one that you should avoid like the plague. I'm going to give you a run through of these places, where to find them, what you can find on their menus, what their food and service was like and their prices. So strap yourselves in a prepare yourselves for a whole lotta pizza reviews!

Piazza Navona
4 Fiumi

As Matt & I got into Rome at around 12:30am and consequently didn't get to sleep until around 2am, we had a lazy morning on our first day and went out for a wander around lunch time. Doing this in the middle of July in Rome is such a stupid idea let me tell you. It was around 37 degrees, the sun was blaring, and to be honest it meant we just didn't fully appreciate wandering around and soaking everything up. So after some aimless wandering to just get acquainted with the place, we stumbled into Piazza Navona and decided to stop here for a bite to each for a late lunch. As you can see from the pictures above, Piazza Navona is a lovely place to stop but it is busy - it has a lot of locals and tourists passing through it so be prepared for where ever you choose to eat to be busy. That being said though, the restaurant we randomly chose had great service and didn't take long to cook up our food at all.

Now, I'm useless and didn't get a picture of what we had because I was too hot, frustrated with the heat, and goddamn hungry. As it was lunch time, we decided to both have pizza (pasta is more commonly had at lunch than at dinner for a lot of Italians) and the choice on the menu looked great. Matt chose a simple spaghetti with pesto and I settled for the all-Amatriciana - a penne pasta dish with a tomato sauce and bacon which is a Rome speciality. Both dishes were served quickly, were pretty big but manageable portions and most importantly, were super tasty. Both dishes cost around 13 euros each which was maybe 2 or 3 euros more than the average price in Rome but I think that was due to the restaurant's location. 4 Fiumi also served pizzas, meat and potato dishes and fish dishes making it a good all-rounder. They also served fresh produce like mushrooms and strawberries that were on display that you could add to your meal. Although there was nothing special about 4 Fiumi in particular, Piazza Navona is a good stop-off point for food if you're near the area. We also had a ridiculous gelato on our way out of the piazza so there's plenty of choice for every craving.

Nestled between Piazza Navano and Piazza di San Pantaleo, Pasquino was the restaurant we visited on our last evening in Rome. It was busy and it was obvious why - the food and the friendly faces. The staff were very lively, friendly, some singing at the top of their voices as they served food (which I'm personally a fan of, give me all the Italian granddads singing Adele any time) but the service did slip as the night went on. The menu had a good selection of pasta dishes, meat and fish dishes, pizzas and calzones - which were the size of a small child. I picked pizza again of course and picked a "meat feast" style with salami, speck, and mushroom topping whilst Matthew had salt cod in a Rome-style sauce. It's a very relaxed place so as soon as the food is ready, they serve it so if you're in a large group, you have to be okay with the fact that you will all be eating at different times. The food was delicious, my pizza had been freshly made and woodfired, Matt enjoyed his fish dish, the only downside was it took about 25 minutes of waiting for us to get our bill so we could leave - despite asking for it 2 or 3 times. But if you've got time to spare and have drinks to finish, this place is great for a bite to eat.

Piazza Campo de Fiori
Ristorante Pizzeria Forno A Legna

Now onto my favourite Piazza for food. Campo de Fiori was somewhere we headed to on an almost daily basis but there was a reason for that - all the food we had was pretty good. Our first proper night in Rome we took a chance on Ristorante Pizzeria Forno A Legna and let me just say, it was the best. The restaurant itself is up a little side street off of the main piazza square and as you can tell from its name, specialises in pizza. They also serve salads and pasta dishes too and a range of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The menu board outside the restaurant boasted that they had free wifi and really good reviews on Trip Advisor. The front of house staff and waiters were pleasant and friendly and served us at a leisurely pace but it suited the atmosphere and laid back attitude of the place. For 11 euros each, Matt & I both had pizza - I had Diavola, a spicy salami tomato sauce pizza which is another *speciality* of Rome and Matt had Boscaiola; a mushroom and sausage topped white sauce pizza.

This was the first time I realised that there's such a thing as white pizzas. As I have never been to Italy, I wasn't aware that white pizza was *a thing*. White pizza is essentially an olive oil and creamy cheese sauce which often has oregano or parsley thrown in there for good measure. This sauce replaces the traditional tomato sauce so its almost like having a variant of a pasta sauce on your pizza! And what can I say? We loved it here. The pizzas were so thin and crispy but had a great puffed up crust. The toppings were tasty, the sauce was great, and the whole things were made from scratch and cooked in a woodfired oven so had that lovely charcoal crust to the dough base. We honestly thought we had found the best pizza place on our first night and by the end of the holiday we kinda still firmly believe that so make sure to check it out if you're ever in Rome as you will not be disappointed!

Hosteria Ballari
On a different evening (after we had visited The Colosseum, Palatine Hill & Roman Forum and the Capitoline Museums - which you can read about here and here!) we swung by Campo de Fiori again and chose another restaurant as a pit-stop before the last leg on our lengthy walk back to our apartment. Hosteria Ballari was up another side street and seemed to be just like another Forno A Legna. The owner of the restuarant was quite amusing and friendly but our service was a little bit shaky. The waiters there seemed like they wanted to be anywhere but there so naturally we had to do things like ask for our drinks 3 times and eventually received them from a grumpy waiter. But that aside, the food was actually pretty good. We both had pizza again and I (again) had Diavola and Matt settled for Pizza Lasagne. He was a little disappointed when it arrived as it wasn't an Italian meal melody mash-up like he was expecting but was in fact a salami and cottage cheese pizza. The pizzas were again woodfired and freshly made and cost around 11 euros each but weren't quite as good as Forno A Legna. The main problem with the pizzas were that they just had far too much sauce. The sauce was really tasty, but it left so much on the plate you would have been forgiven for thinking we had actually chowed down on pasta dishes. I really liked my pizza as it was really spicy whereas other Diavolas had not been despite being advertised as "spicy salami" pizzas, but all in all, Forno A Legna is the better all-rounder. And apologies again but there's no pictures because I was too damn hungry!

Forno Campo de Fiori
Now let me talk about the pizza to rival all pizzas. Although I preferred the pizza at Forno A Legna, I think that might have purely been down to topping choice as pizza at Forno Campo de Fiori won Matt over in just a bite. Our Air BnB host had highly recommended this place and told us they make the thinnest Pizza al taglio (rectangular pizza bought by the slice which is served folded in half) pizzas in Rome so we really wanted to try them out. Little did we know it's actually part of a small bakery rather than a restaurant so we kept missing the opening times. After managing to time it right, we finally got a slice of this delight and it didn't disappoint. The open-door friendly bakery is very rustic and gives you a more traditional and authentic Italian vibe compared the other tourist-filled stops. They make the pizza fresh and you basically choose how much you want (they do it by the slice but you kind of guide the guy on where to cut your piece off the main pizza!) You then turn from that serving desk to the a till desk behind you to pay for how much your pizza weighs. Our slices cost around 2.50 euros each and were folded up like paninis and honestly, I couldn't finish mine - Matt had to because they were so big!

Matt picked a white sauce slice with sausage and mushroom toppings (Pizza ai funghi e salsiccia) and I chose a speck/prosciutto ham and cheese red slice. We took our little bagged slices around the corner to a quiet spot next to a fountain and sat and ate them in the hot sun. They were absolutely delicious and the service in there was immensely fast and friendly. I wish we had had time to also check out their tiny bakery next door to the pizza bakery as they have a little cupcake/pastry sweet bakery too but it's always a good reason to go back I suppose!

Bottiglieria Il Nolano
This place deserves a mention just because it's a cute place and good place to stop for a drink. If you're a big cocktail fan, Il Nolano are known for their drinks menu & especially their cocktails but unfortunately I can't rate them as I was tea-total all holiday but they deserve a mention for their service. Their menus are all Italian so its a good idea to brush up on your Italian or simply ask one of the nice waiting staff. We ordered just a lemonade and an ale, but we were also served a small selection of four savoury puff pastry treats that were free of charge! It was a lovely calm and quiet place compared to some of the other packed restaurants so I'd definitely recommend it for a chill out from the busy streets. Because of the free snacks, I'd also recommend small families/couples etc to stop off there because who doesn't want a free puff pastry mini pizza thing with their thirst quencher? Their prices for drinks were pretty standard too so they're definitely worth a visit.

Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere

Just off the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, Matt & I had the best best breakfast and the best service we had in our whole time in Rome which was bittersweet as it was our last morning in Rome. Tonnarello was somewhere we just stumbled upon after coming out of Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere and it was so good. We sat outside and were served by a lovely friendly waiter who made sure we were served quickly and were comfortable. The restaurant inside was huge but we chose to sit outside in the quiet courtyard area where they were playing music. It was a lovely lovely place and the breakfast? Absolutely amazing. I opted for a chocolate croissant and a hot chocolate whilst Matt went for an English breakfast and coffee but look above at the menu...

Our whole breakfast came to 10 euros. 10 euros between us. Rome can get expensive when it comes to food so this place was an absolute steal *and* the breakfast tasted fantastic and as I said, the service was faultless and my breakfast actually came with free smiles! My croissant was filled with nutella and was a really nice lemony flavoured, icing coated croissant compared to our sorry excuses for a one in the UK and just look at my hot chocolate -I'm 99% sure it was just actually melted chocolate so I was overjoyed. Matt's breakfast looked, and was apparently, very tasty and he was served a "proper" coffee so these guys know their breakfasts. We wish we'd knew about this place sooner becaus we would have headed there for dinner too to see how their bigger meals fared up, but I can't recommend this place enough. Plus, the waiter gave the bill to Matt and gave me a lollipop. What more could you possibly want?!

Piazza del Popolo

Canova was another spontaneous stop for breakfast one day and is up near the Leonardo Da Vinci and Pincio and is close to the more high street/shopping areas. The breakfast menu was a simple one which had granola, yoghurts, toast, teas and coffee on it but we both decided to have a croissant and fresh orange juice each. This place is a little more pricey (the area is in general) and cost 10 euros each which could be considered a *bit much* for just a croissant and a juice but it was super tasty. The orange juice couldn't have been fresher - it had been pretty much squeezed into the glasses directly, small pulpy bits and all and the croissants? Huge and amazing. They we're the size of two regular croissants and had a lovely lemon taste and a sort of sugary glaze to them so they didn't need any butter. The service was fine and the waiters leave you to it which is something I like. The view was amazing too - the restaurant is situated on a corner of the piazza, it has stunning views of the two basilicas over the road, and it was just a generally nice place to start the day. If you're looking for a slightly fancier place for a bite to eat, this is the one for you.

P.S. There's lots of adorable birds around who aren't people shy - if you have any crumbs on your table they will come and pinch them so if you don't like birds maaaybe avoid Canova or sit inside!

Near Vatican City
Il Piccolo Pub Bistrot

Now let me talk about the worst place we went to. Our Air BnB flat was close to Vatican City and I have to warn you - 90% of the places around this area are tourist traps or places the locals don't mind eating at but they're essentially shit. We never planned to eat out near our flat because of this but on this particular day we were both really ill with the flu and didn't want to waste the day indoors so just popped out for a bite to eat. This place was your standard restaurant when it came to menu choice - both white and red pizza, pasta dishes, and some meat & potato with salad dishes too. To quote Matthew though, this was essentially "Italy's answer to Wetherspoons" I mean, just look at the picture above, then compare it to the pizza from Pizzeria Forno A Legna... You can see the difference right? Now when I look back at the picture, I can't believe I ate it and didn't send it back! They used shop-bought pizza bases and the toppings/sauce had no flavour whatsoever - at the time I thought I couldn't taste anything because of my flu! Granted the pizzas were cheaper, they were arund 8 or 9 euros, but for the sake of walking for an extra 20 minutes and for the sake of 2 euros more, I would say definitely stick to the main Piazzas on the opposite side of the river. The service here was pretty rubbish too as there were a lot of waitresses just kind of hanging around makeing it kind of uncomfortable to eat (as if eating pizza cardboard wasn't awkward enough as it was). All in all I'd say avoid the Vatican City and the surrounding area like the plague if you want a sit down meal - it's only good for gelato!

- A.
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