One of the great things about taking a family vacation to Rome is the food. Most kids love pasta, pizza, and gelato, and most restaurants are welcoming to children, so there is no need to stress about finding a restaurant with kid-friendly food. Yet sometimes finding good, authentic Roman food around the most popular tourist attractions can be a challenge.
Ask any tour guide where to find good food and they will tell you to walk three blocks and then pick any place that doesn’t have a menu in multiple languages out front. But sometimes, you want a bit more specificity.
First, it helps to know what foods Rome is particularly known for, so you can be sure to try some of the local specialties. Like they say, “when in Rome…”
So where can you get some of these specialties? I’ve put together a list of some of my favorites from our most recent trip, and also got some tips from Shannon Kenny, Editor-in-Chief of Italiakids.com and Director of the Arte al Sole children’s programs in Italy. Let our round up of family-tested restaurants in some of Rome’s most popular neighborhoods be your guide.
Taverna dei Fori Imperiali — Located steps from the Colosseum and Roman Forum, this homey restaurant may offer an English menu, but when we dined there we saw plenty of locals having their Sunday evening meal. The carbonara was exceptional, as well as the artichoke sautéed in lemon and white wine.
La Taverna degli Amici — Just a few blocks off Piazza Venezia and not far from the Pantheon, the staff at this restaurant speaks very little English but the language of food is easy to translate. We had the best gnocchi in Rome here (and it wasn’t even Thursday, which apparently is the day to eat gnocchi in Rome.)
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Caffe Propoganda — Just a five minute walk from the Colosseum, this upscale modern Roman restaurant looks a bit more like a French bistro inside, so may not be as good for younger kids but the food is excellent. Their reimagined dishes like the deconstructed tiramisu and eggplant croquettes were outstanding, as were their classic Roman pasta dishes like cacio e pepe and amatriciana.
Ai Balestrari — A visit to the market in Campo dei Fiori is fun, but if you want to sit down, Shannon recommends Ai Balestrari, which offers outdoor tables that seat four to five, with paper tablecloths for coloring. They offer typical Roman cuisine and pizza, and in the summer you will likely be entertained by street performers.
Hosteria da Giggetto — Not far from the Pantheon or Piazza Venezia, the Jewish Ghetto is a great neighborhood to explore. We enjoyed touring the museum and beautiful synagogue, but we also loved sampling the fritti in this neighborhood. Try to go in the spring when the carciofi alla giudea is in season because this deep-fried artichoke and its crispy leaves are such a treat.
Piperno — We also enjoyed sitting in the quiet outdoor courtyard at Piperno and sampling their fried artichoke, crochette, and fried zucchini flowers.
Pizzeria ZaZa — We found finding non-touristy food around the Pantheon challenging, but Shannon recommends Pizzeria ZaZa in Piazza Sant’Eustachio (across from the famous coffee bar). She says that here it is easy to find seating in the quiet piazza and enjoy the amazing seasonal toppings like ricotta and zucchini flower, wild mushroom and pecorino, and potato with rosemary.
Ristorante Tre Scalini — This may be a prime tourist restaurant in a prime tourist location, but you still need to go to get their famous tartufo.
If you are visiting the Vatican, you will have a hard time finding good food, but if you pop across the river to Trastevere you can eat to your heart’s content and enjoy exploring the neighborhood while you are at it.
I Suppli — One food I neglected to mention above are suppli, fried rice balls stuffed with cheeses or meats. Unlike Sicilian arancini, suppli rice is cooked with tomato sauce instead of broth. This walk in joint is perfect for a snack when exploring Trastevere.
La Renella — Maybe it is the hazelnut shells they use in their giant ovens that makes their thin crust margherita pizza so crispy, I’m not sure, but whatever it is, it is delicious.
Da Enzo al 29 — This small, casual restaurant in the quieter Testaccio neighborhood is famous for its classic Roman dishes like fried artichokes and tripe dishes, but you can also find all the local pastas like cacio e pepe, carbonara, and amatriciana.
Fatamorgana — Fatamorgana makes artisanal gelato using all-natural ingredients, not like that fluffy, neon-colored stuff you see throughout the city. We had the most amazing gelato in their Trastevere location and Shannon let me know that they also have an outpost by the Spanish Steps. Her kids love “The Prince’s Kiss,” Fatamorgana’s version of the delicious chocolate hazelnut bacio.
If you avoid tourist traps, you are bound to find something that will make you and the kids happy, but hopefully this guide will make your choices a little easier.
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Photos by Tamara Gruber.
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