In a hidden location, on a narrow cobblestone street near the Trevi fountain, this authentic trattoria is one a favorite of Alberto Moncanda, the owner of three boutique hotels, including the lovely Margutta 54. “Al Moro, is a well-known trattoria; well-known for its delicious food and grumpy owners. Film director Federico Fellini, an Al Moro regular, gave the elder Moro a part in his film Satyricon. Note the giant photo of the jowly owner in the front room. His son Franco, equally unsmiley, now runs the place, which is hidden behind the Trevi Fountain. My favorite dishes are the pasta al Moro ( a light version of carbonara) and scampi al Moro, which is also very light and delicious. I prefer this restaurant for dinner.”
This restaurant, named after the film Babette’s Feast, is recommended by fashion designer Soledad Twombly, who suggests it for lunch.
Le Mani in Pasta
I rarely hesitate to share discoveries I make while traveling but this tiny eatery in Testacchio is one I considered keeping to myself, fearing that too much exposure will ruin the pitch-perfect vibe here. (Ultimately, though, I decided to have faith that the lovely Italian gentlemen who run it know how to preserve the magic.) The no-frills dining room is small, tables are pushed so close together that you have to make friends with your neighbors, and the kitchen is located behind a glass window so that you can watch the graceful dance of the young chef as he prepares each meal to order.
The menu here includes such classic Roman pasta options as cacio e pepe and a la carbonara, both dishes that are utterly simple and therefore easy to ruin. During my recent visit, the plate of steaming spaghetti a la carbonara was a symphony of gooey yellow-orange broken up only by bits of perfectly crisp, dark-red bacon, while the tonnarelli cacio e pepe struck a wonderful balance between spice (black cracked pepper) and smooth (flakes of Pecorino cheese). The meal kicked off with a simple antipasta plate (mozzarella, bresaola, spicy salami, arugula) and finished with a forthy, strong espresso.
Around me, locals waved and shouted greeting to each other across the room; nearly everyone went into the kitchen to say hello and—quite literally—kiss the cook; and the wait staff was patient and charming with my still-evolving Italian skills. It was one of those magical meals where the first bite affirms your secret hope that you have found a place just at the right time and your last sip is made with a silent wish that it will stay the same until you can return. Go now before everyone discovers it. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Monday.
On a quiet side street not far from the bustling Campo Fiori, Pier Luigi is a great casual restaurant that serves delicious salads, pastas, grilled fish and meats. In warm weather, there are tables outside on a serene piazza. It’s a popular spot with Italian families and foodie travelers, who were tipped off to its charm by the New York Times and Food & Wine. Reservations can be made online. Open for lunch and dinner daily, except Monday.
A Roman-based insider raves about this tin restaurant:
Sora Margherita is in the Jewish Ghetto. It’s a teeny-tiny place, which only opens for lunch and dinner only during the weekends. As it is so small, you should definitely book, or maybe wander while touring in the area (it’s close to the Colosseum and Trastevere) and book a table for the next day.
Food-wise, the restaurant specialises in Roman food, which is quite simple and rustic. They do incredible pasta and when in season their carciofi alla Giudia (a whole artichoke fried in boiling oil until it becomes crispy) is incredible. You have to try sides such as broccoletti which is a kind of leafy vegetable cooked with garlic and chilli. Also, the meatballs here are fabulous, made with saffron and tomatoes. There is no wine list, just a jug of the house wine. Don’t expect anything fancy, but this is a real Roman place where the locals go.
Also, the whole area is amazing: the square on which it sits is named after the five synagogues of the ethnic groups which were present in Rome when the ghetto was established (Italian, German, Spanish, Catalan and from Aragon). They were called scuole (schools) because the the area was dedicated to study and prayer.
For an authentic trattoria experience, head to this thirty-year-old neighborhood mainstay, where regulars dine on giant egg-filled ravioli. The current owners inherited the place from their parents and carry on serving both Roman specialties and dishes from the Marche region. It’s small and popular, so make sure to book in advance.