3 Great Restaurants to Taste Local Fare in Rome

Once you’ve visited the Coliseum, checked out the Vatican, and wandered around Rome’s historic city center, no doubt you’ll be hungry soon. While pasta and pizza are the usual fare for first time visitors, these appetizing treats can soon become rather mundane, so how about checking out these hidden culinary delights the locals would rather you didn’t know about?


La Zanzara

The streets around the Vatican City used to be a bit of a foodie desert, what with so many tourists in the area that every restaurant and bar caters just to them. But that’s not so anymore thanks to La Zanzara, which has opened up just a few steps away from his Holiness’s home.

Aimed at the sophisticated inhabitants of the neighborhood, Zanzara offers one of the best things to do with locals in Rome, according to WithLocals.com. The restaurant was opened by the owners of the Balthazar look-alike Baccano, across the river. The space reads more French bistro than Italian, with trattoria—tiled floors, wrought-iron bread racks, and bentwood café chairs seem imported straight from the Left Bank—but the menu travels all over the place. While there are plenty of Italian plates, from gnocchi to osso buco, Zanzara also serves tempura-fried cod, hot dogs, and Hungarian goulash—and it’s open from breakfast through cocktails and dinner. The trio of three mini hamburgers is one of the most popular mains, but I love Zanzara’s mini rosette: bite-size Roman rolls stuffed with things like truffle-flecked mortadella, Parmigiano, and other treats.

Don’t miss the Tagliolino burro e Alice del Cantabrico, a heavenly tangle of homemade pasta, butter, and anchovies.

Stazione di Posta

Housed in an old slaughterhouse – a crumbling yet magnificent example of Rome’s urban architecture – the Stazione di Posta is a restaurant and cocktail bar that’s located amid old former cattle stalls. The cobblestone floors and wide steel windows perfectly frame this former industrial space-come-culinary-delight. The kitchen, overseen by chef Marco Martini, pairs rigorously sourced local organic ingredients from a nearby farm with modern and creative cooking. A recent antipasto: cabbage, guanciale, and mushrooms tossed with a snowy mountain of shaved ricotta salata—earthy and rich, and decidedly porky.

Don’t miss the Ajo e ojo di mare, fat spaghetti tossed with a shellfish reduction and sprinkled with dehydrated mussel powder, Chef Martini’s own version of the traditional garlic and olive oil pasta. Outside seating, weather permitting.


Street food is Rome’s newest trend. While we’ve always had pizza bianca—ubiquitous here in the Eternal City—recently different regional specialty foods have been showing up. One of the hot spots is the Monti neighborhood where Antonio Menconi is introducing the oft-forgotten but much-loved street foods of the Ligurian coast. Farinata—a finely ground chickpea-flour batter carefully poured into a huge shallow pan then slipped into the fire-stoked oven—is the big seller. The massive sizzling-hot pancakes are cooked quickly, sliced into wedges, and then dusted with black pepper before being wrapped in paper, making for a perfect portable snack. At lunchtime you’ll also find testarolo, Tuscan wheat pancakes cut into lozenges, tossed with pesto, and sprinkled with aged sheep’s-milk cheese.

Don’t miss the best bruschetta in town—thick slices of artisanal bread toasted and drizzled with bright-green extra-virgin olive oil.

Six Films Set in Rome

Famous Italian film director Federico Fellini once said that “Rome does not need to make culture, it is culture…” It’s one of the oldest cities in the world and its very name inspires awe, longing and reminiscences. Its ancient streets and squares are instantly recognisable by even those who have never been and it’s this magical quality that makes for great cinema.

We’re going to take a quick tour of some of the best films set in The Eternal City and together they might inspire you to book your next holiday, or some Rome Opera tickets, or maybe just dream a little…


The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)

This Anthony Minghella adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel brings out the bad side of Rome, albeit in a luscious and seductive manner. It sees Americans falling for old Europe and all its highbrowed corruption. Matt Damon plays Tom Ripley, an underprivileged but smart (some might say sociopathic) social climber who has been tasked with tracking down the wealthy Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). Of course the actors are stunning, but the city is the real star – we see narrow streets, scooters, the calm-but-treacherous sea and the insides of several jazz clubs.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Many see Fellini’s La Dolce Vita as the Italian story and the three-hour film charts exactly what the so-called “sweet life” can be like. It shows us an Italy that’s recovering from the privations of World War II and uses an episodic medieval narrative style borrowed from Dante to ask questions about life, religion and culture. The iconic Trevi Fountain scene starring Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg shocked critics and censors alike and the film still has the power to make viewers stop and think.

The Great Beauty (2013)

Fellini was an outsider to Rome, having been raised in Rimini, which is possibly why he saw the city so keenly. Paolo Sorrentino is a fellow outsider (Naples) and he looks at Rome through a slightly hyper-real lens. Instead of post-war excesses however, Sorrentino brings us up-to-date with modern-day Berlusconi era hedonism. The Great Beauty is more of a hit back in Italy, but after winning an Oscar for the best Foreign Language Film in 2013, this tale of wild parties and strange performance art is sure to attract fans worldwide. Again, the city itself is one of the stars, with many architectural shots and vistas to gaze at.

Gladiator (2000)

The Eternal City was brought back to life in this epic tale of one man’s fight for revenge and justice against the corrupt machine of the Roman Empire. Ridley Scott takes us back to the year 180AD to see Maximus Decimus Meridius fall from grace, lose everything and rise again to reap his vengeance against the narcissistic emperor Commodus. With the help of CGI, Rome is shown at its jaw-dropping apex, with huge horizons and city skylines, foaming crowds and, of course the Colosseum. As well as revenge, Gladiator explores the cross-over between mass entertainment and exploitative violence, which is as relevant today as it was almost two millennia ago.