Often there is on Chowhound a post asking for a general list of Roman restaurants. The poster is usually faulted for not being more specific about location and kind of food. However that may be, still Chowhound gets a number of such requests. All I can do is provide my own short list for those new to Rome. I urge others on Chowhound to do the same, many of whom doubtless know far more than I. Maureen Fant already has her very fine list at http://www.maureenbfant.com/. And Elizabeth Minchilli and Katie Parla have their lists on their apps “Eat Rome” and “RomeFoodie” respectively. And all three Honorable Ladies have books out. And for wine Vinoroma is tops.
So I have revised and shortened my list from last year.
I first would tell someone to look for the local, the Roman specialties, food that you can’t get elsewhere, or as well done; and to look for variety, e.g. fine dining or simple, various locations, various kinds of food in Rome’s various traditions. After all, is not the whole point of travel to experience what one can’t find at home? I someone wants the food offerings and tastes to be just like home, perhaps he should stay home. If he wants the food offerings and tastes to be just like mom’s, perhaps he should visit mom. (And Americans who want exclusively sun n’ fun should consider going to Myrtle Beach).
I know best the area around the Pantheon, Piazza Farnese, Testaccio, and the Vatican. I’ll let other Chowhounders add other locations.
* in Testaccio section of the city, where offal is the specialty (yet you can get plenty of non-offal): The restaurant which I recommend highly is CHECCHINO, http://www.checchino-dal-1887.com/, which has become for me a must-do restaurant. The crowd is smaller at lunch, and you're likely to be greeted by the manager Francesco Martini, whose family for five generations have owned Checchino. He will gladly explain the offal specialities of his restaurant. Try the ox tail, called Coda alla vaccinara, which has been stewed for five hours, with the meat falling off the bone; it was a revelation to me, the taste reminding me of beef short ribs. Use your bread to scoop up the very tasty sauce. To quote Maureen Fant, this also the place to try one of Rome’s gang of four pastas: 1. Spaghetti alla Carbonara, 2. Bucatini all' Amatriciana, 3. Tonnarelli cacio e pepe, 4. Bucatini alla gricia; as well as Penne all'arrabbiata and the Tonnarelli in the same sauce as the Coda.
Also are restaurant that cultivates the Testaccio tradition and which I can recommend is PERILLI.
* In the area around the Roman Forum I recommend OSTARIA DA NERONE, Via delle Terme di Tito 96. (I was the lucky guest of Maureen Fant and her husband Franco on 04 April 2015). It has the best hors d'oeuvre table that I’ve seen in Rome. The carbonara is beyond compare. I looked with envy at Maureen and Franco's spaghetti with clams.
* Kosher: Roman Jews have their own culinary tradition. I ate well a eleven years at LA TAVERNA DEL GHETTO, via del Portico d'Ottavia, 8, http://www.latavernadelghetto.com/en/ . I found it 100% Kosher: no milk with your coffee (you’ll have to settle for soy), no rare meat. Even the wine is Kosher. The Jewish artichokes were especially good. Yet note that I haven’t eaten there for a while, and good restaurants have a short shelf life.
I have yet to eat at BA GHETTO, also in the same street; it comes highly recommended, and I’m told by the recommenders that its as much Near Eastern as Jewish. http://www.baghetto.com/
NONNA BETTA http://www.nonnabetta.it/ has its fans, Katie Parla among them; with regret I have yet to eat there.
Remember that Kosher places will be closed during Passover, Shabbat, and other Jewish holidays
For non-Kosher versions of Roman Jewish cuisine, I along with Maureen Fant recommend PIPERNO, http://www.ristorantepiperno.it/ It’s more of a Roman than a Jewish restaurant, yet the Roman Jewish classics are here.
* Rome has its own pizza tradition, differing from Naples’ and Sicily’s. Yet I don’t have enough experience to recommend a restaurant. Pizza is usually in Rome a evening meal.
* For upscale Trattorias try ARMANDO AL PANTHEON http://www.armandoalpantheon.it/ and
LA CAMPANA http://www.ristorantelacampana.com/in...
Armando tends toward the creative cuisine, and La Campana serves the Roman classics unadorned. Both require reservations, especially Armando. Both serve outstanding food. And when the trio Maureen Fant, Elizabeth Minchilli, and Katie Parla -- with Vinoroma "am Flugel" -- all sing the praises of these two restaurants, you know that they're good.
* For ultra fine dining: IL CONVIVIO TROIANI, Vicolo dei Soldati 31, expensive, and worth it. With you first bite you will hear angels sing. Have the splendid wine steward, Massimo, choose a wine for you after giving him some general indication of what you’re interested in. Then have him choose dishes off the menu that match the wine. On Saturday evening, 28 March last, Massimo was there. Ask for the waiter Erik, who joins good service with fine English. http://www.ilconviviotroiani.it/
A close 2nd to Il Convivio, and for seafood, is IL SANLORENZO. I ate here last Holy Monday. I join Katie Parla in awarding Il Sanlorenzo with “best seafood in Rome”. http://www.ilsanlorenzo.it/
And if you have the money, LA PERGOLA http://www.romecavalieri.it/lapergola... is even better than the previous two. Reservations are essential, and at least two months ahead are wise; and you must call them the day before to confirm your reservation. I ate here Easter Tuesday 2015 and ate, as the Germans say, “wie Gott in Frankreich”. The service is at the top. The wine steward knows his stuff and will choose an excellent wine to match your food. The food is worthy of its three Michelin stars.
* For an upscale wine bar, CASA BLEVE offers not only an extensive wine list but also equally fine food (and thus a combination of a wine bar and a restaurant), served with gracious service and in a palatial room.
TAZZA D’ORO at the Pantheon is the Holy Grail, the Mecca, the Mount Kailash, and El Dorado of espresso. Get the doppio. I bought two bags of beans there and took them home (the customs official let me through without hesitation). The cappuccino is also good at Tazza d’Oro, yet I have found it even better at BAR DEL CAPPUCCINO in the the Via Arenula, in the block right before the Tiber, in the center city. Remember at coffee bars that it costs more to sit down. Neither Tazza nor Bar del Cappuccino have sit-down.
CIAMPINI http://www.ciampini.com/en Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina, 29 (Sit outside if you can find a place, and be sure that your sitting right in front of Ciampini)
CARAPINA Via dei Chiavari, 37, Via dei Chiavari, 37
GIOLITTI, Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40 – fine gelato and part of the city’s tradition.
I am sure my fellow Chowhounders will tell me what to take off my short list and what to add.
I’ll try to review on Chowhound some of these places in the next few weeks, when I pray things will be going better for me.
Photo of myself at Casa Bleve, before Maureen Fant got there.