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The Best Affordable Restaurants In Rome Are Waiting For You

Eating at the best affordable restaurants in Rome have been among my favorite experiences both before and after moving to Italy and we can be your dining guide.

best affordable restaurants in rome - Carbonara

Great Carbonara

You are able to eat outside year-round and after trying a few varieties of Spaghetti alla Carbonara, you develop the ability to look at a menu and quickly determine if it is intended for tourists, for locals or for both. I’m not perfect at this, but the exciting finds that I have added to my list of places to go back to have made the experiences that much more enjoyable.

One thought that I am still working through is the idea of recommending the ‘Best’ restaurant in Rome. You see this question posted on Reddit, Facebook and YouTube and I’m starting to believe that this is the wrong question. Besides the obvious biases and subjectivity of asking someone: “What is the best carbonara spot in Rome?”, would you really feel like you missed something important if you can’t get a reservation? My current thinking is that you should just want to learn how to spot a good restaurant, because there are tons of them.

I wanted to share a few more of my favorite restaurants in Rome, but you need to keep in mind that my tastes are more traditional and I’m always on the lookout for the best Carbonara in Rome, so I will not be recommending any fusion restaurants, or a chef who loves molecular gastronomy, if that is still a thing. Take a look at my descriptions below and if you’re in the neighborhood, you might want to check them out.

Hosteria Grappolo d’Oro

This lunch at Hosteria Grappolo d’Oro was a celebration for us, so we decided to have every course and luckily they offered a tasting menu that had exactly what we wanted: traditional Roman food.

best affordable restaurants in rome - Cod and Puntarella

Cod and Puntarella

The antipasti course was a fixed selection of three starters, Panzanella, boiled beef meatballs and a cod mousse. All three were delicious, but the meatballs were a surprise. The boiled beef has a different consistency than the more common preparation and the added seasonings were fantastic.

Our pasta courses were as traditional as it gets, a Rigatoni all’Amatriciana and Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe. The rigatoni was perfectly al dente and the guanciale was nice and crispy. The Tonnarelli was a little smaller than a recent version I’ve eaten, more like the size of a spaghetti, but with a delicious sauce.

Our main courses were Cod in tomato sauce and roasted lamb. Both were the stars of our meal and I was happy that I didn’t find any bones in the cod. For our sides we got some roasted potatoes and a sautéed green, but I’m not certain what that tasty addition was. Looking at the menu, it may have been Puntarella, but this would’ve been my first time so I can’t be sure. To end the fantastic meal, we had a vanilla gelato and a quick espresso, both of which hit the spot!

Is Emma Pizzeria con Cucina The Best Affordable Restaurant In Rome?

We normally try to avoid the more touristy restaurants when eating in Rome, so I was a little hesitant about going to Emma Pizzeria. It is a popular place with tourists as I heard a lot of English speakers surrounding us, but we pushed ahead anyway and we are glad we did.

best affordable restaurants in rome - Roman Pizza

Roman Pizza with Tomatoes and Arugula

We started with a couple of appetizers, which included a simple dish of green beans with lemon, and a plate of fried Supplì al Telefono and Crocchetta di Patate, which were both fried well, crispy and not too greasy. According to the menu, the potatoes in the crocchetta were from the Grotte di Castro, which thanks to google maps I just learned is in Lazio, north of Lago di Bolsena. Both of these nuggets had mozzarella and the crocchetta also had smoked provola, which added a nice subtle flavor.

For our mains, we ordered a Pizza Bianca with tomatoes and arugula and it was made in true Roman style. It had a thin focaccia crust, which was also a little softer than other restaurants and you can see from the picture that the tomatoes were very ripe and they were delicious. We also ordered the Pasta Carbonara, of course. I enjoy comparing these across many of the restaurants we try, and I found this version to be one of the best I’ve eaten. The guanciale in particular was in large meaty chunks that were both salty and peppery and the sauce was a perfect blend of egg yolks and cheese. I was so happy with that dish that we were already starting to plan our return.

No dessert this time because we had other plans, but others around us enjoyed what looked like a delicious array of sweet offerings.

Eating Affordably In Rome At Felice a Testaccio

We were reading an interview with Eataly CEO Nicola Farinetti about his favorite restaurants in Rome and Felice a Testaccio was at the top of the list. He seems like someone we could listen to, so we made reservations for lunch and we are SO glad we did. Even though the restaurant was full, since we had a reservation we were seated immediately. The service was fast and attentive, one waiter gave us friendly recommendations for dessert and they didn’t rush us out, even though the lunch was clearly over and tables around us that showed up after us were leaving before us.

best affordable restaurants in rome - Cacio e Pepe

Signature Cacio e Pepe

After ordering a well-priced Eremo Tuscolano Frascati Superiore wine, we were quickly served our Eggplant Parmigiana and an Egg Frittata, which were both delicate, light and tasty. Our main dishes showed up shortly after we finished the first course and since this was our first visit we decided to order a couple of Roman classics. The Spaghetti alla Carbonara was amazing, with a pervasive taste of the guanciale in every bite. The other was their signature dish, Cacio e Pepe, which I ordered because of my recent obsession with Tonnarelli. When they showed up at the table, I was a little surprised because it looked like the cheese was just dumped on the bowl, but I quickly realized that this was because they did a tableside mixing of the dish, which I loved. This is their signature dish, it was the best Cacio e Pepe I’ve eaten in Rome and the Tonnarelli was amazing.

We hadn’t planned on having dessert here, but due to the high quality of the antipasti and main dishes, as well as what we saw coming out of the kitchen, we decided to stay for the dolci. Another great choice because the Tiramisù and the Black Forest cake were definitely worth staying for. 

It turns out Mr. Farinetti was right and you should definitely check out this fantastic Testaccio destination for lunch or dinner.

How To Evaluate The Best Restaurants In Rome.

Just to restate it, don’t waste your time looking for the best of this or that. Simply look for good restaurants (or gelateria, bar or pasticceria) that don’t typically cater to tourists and try the classics. Italy has such an amazing reputation for food and restaurants that you shouldn’t waste time allowing “The Best” to be the enemy of “Great Enough”.

More Ideas For The Best Affordable Restaurants In Rome

If you enjoyed this list of the best affordable restaurants in Rome, you might also enjoy these other posts that can help you plan your vacation to the Eternal City:

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