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Traditional Roman Food

Wholesome cooking in an informal setting

Roman Cooking

Many Roman dishes are working man’s food that is quick and easy to prepare and/or are made from ingredients considered too lowly for the ruling ecclesiastical class, who got the prime cuts. “Coda alla Vascinara” (ox-tail stew) embodies this historical fact. Another classic is “carbonara,” which literally means “pasta made the way of charcoal workers,” men who would have prepared the dish in the open on the hills around the city. Sheep’s cheese “pecorino” is a key ingredient in many Roman dishes including carbonara, but make sure you ask for “pecorino” and not “pecorina” as that means something completely different!

It’s a family affair

Many trattoria carry the family name or Christian name of the founder. So if you see a listing for a place called “Da Giovanni”, you are going to John’s place, but don’t expect to find Giovanni. Still, his descendants might be there and, in fact, a good benchmark for somewhere sporting a person’s name in its signage is that it’s family run (“gestione familiare”). If ever you get the chance watch a film called “Big Night” by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott, it captures what food and family are all about.

Some recommendations

Tratoria Luzzi

Food: Pasta, pizza and grilled meat
Area: Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, 88
Tel: +39067096332
Tip: A totally genuine Roman eatery that is 5 minutes from the Colosseum. Go when AS Roma football club are playing for an even livelier experience. Great place.

Da Tonino - Trattoria Bassetti

Food: Pasta, and grilled meat. Fish on Fridays like good Catholics.
Area: Via del Governo Vecchio, 18
Tel: +393335870779
Tip: The last of the many in an area now full of trendy places. Get there before 7:30 if you don't want to wait for a table. Go for a typical Roman pasta dish like carbonara or amatriciana.

The experience and costs

Romans are not the most refined of Italians but, both they and their cooking, are not wanting in character. Be prepared for paper table cloths, jugs of wine and big portions. Many places don’t take bookings, so try to arrive at 12:30 for lunch or 7:30 for dinner, especially if you want to sit outside in summer. Trattoria shut one day a week, so make a call before going. You can eat and drink to your heart’s content for 18-30 Euro per person.

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Stephen content writer Rome

By Stephen Wheeler Licensed Tourism translator