Eat Haute Cuisine in Rome

1. Where to Stay

The art-focused Rome Cavalieri sits atop a hill north of the Vatican.Photo: Courtesy of Rome Cavalieri

Enjoy Art Nouveau touches at the Villa Laetitia (from $145), a 1911 estate on the banks of the Tiber River. All fifteen rooms feature details handpicked by owner (and fashion heiress) Anna Fendi Venturini, including original Dior and Chanel sketches. With last year’s opening of Michelin-starred Enoteca La Torre, the hotel now attracts food lovers who splurge on the five-course white-truffle menu ($191) or upcoming game menu ($203), which features pigeon, duck, wild boar, and more.

Stroll through a fifteen-acre private park, sip tea under an eighteenth-century Tiepolo triptych, and tour an art collection of more than 1,000 works at the five-star Rome Cavalieri (from $273), located on the hill of Monte Mario. Rooms come with travertine marble baths and balconies that are perfect for an outdoor aperitivo. On the rooftop you’ll find La Pergola, Rome’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, where Heinz Beck’s world-famous cuisine comes with panoramic views, vermeil plates, and 29 choices of water alone.

Enjoy fine contemporary art and cuisine at the two-year-old First Luxury Art Hotel, where 29 modern rooms (from $437) showcase sculptures and paintings by young Italian artists. Dine on Italian dishes with a twist (like oxtail rocher with celery gelée, $32, or quail glazed with honey and Calabrian n’duja, $40) at Michelin-starred All’Oro, which moved to the hotel in 2012, or admire the 360-degree views of Rome from the rooftop restaurant.

2. Where to Eat

Pipero al Rex is one of the city's increasing number of Michelin-starred restaurants.Photo: Courtesy of Pipero al Rex

Book in advance for a meal at year-old Romeo, where you can order a foie gras panino with mango ketchup ($16) and tagliolini with squid ink and tarragon ($25) before taking home artisanal panettone or three-year-aged burrata from the deli and bakery counters up front. If you don’t have time or money for a full meal, track down Romeo’s new food truck, which sells small versions of its gourmet sandwiches for $3 to $4.

Settle into the mod dining room at Pipero al Rex for a tasting menu (from $134) that includes not only the city’s most talked-about carbonara—made, per Roman tradition, with just egg, black pepper, guanciale (pork jowl), and Pecorino cheese—but also duck tartare made with apple, mustard, and snails cooked in garlic, lentils, and whiskey. Chef Luciano Monosilio’s cuisine is so polished that just a year after its 2011 opening, the sleek six-table restaurant earned its first Michelin star.

Indulge your sweet tooth with an assoluta (a mousse-filled chocolate cookie topped with ganache) at nine-month-old Pasticceria Andrea de Bellis. The bakery sells sweets that are Italian (pasta frolla, crostata) and French (profiteroles, Paris-Brest), but all feature a more refined touch than you’ll find in the city’s traditional bakeries, as seen in a tiramisù comprised of coffee-soaked chocolate sponge cake, cappuccino ganache, and whipped mascarpone.

3. What to Do

Wine expert Hande Leimer leading a class at Vino Roma.Photo: Courtesy of Vino Roma

Sip coffee among busts and models by neoclassical sculptor Canova and his student Tadolini at the Museo Atelier Canova Tadolini, where the artist’s former studio doubles as a gallery and café. Grab a cappuccino (before noon only, please—for Italians, it’s strictly a morning ritual) or indulge in one of Rome’s richest versions of cioccolata calda (hot chocolate), the perfect winter indulgence.

Check out the new Testaccio Market (Via Aldo Manuzio and Via Beniamino Franklin; closed Sunday), a modern, 50,000-square-foot complex that replaced the neighborhood’s nearly century-old covered version in summer 2012. Controversy over the market’s style and the high rental prices for vendors aside, there’s no debate over the quality of panini at Mordi e Vai; they’re stuffed with Roman specialties like tripe or sausage and broccoli. Most locals come to do their grocery shopping since they can pick up everything from fresh produce and pasta to cheese and chocolate—although a few other surprises, like the quirky home décor boutique 20MQ, are scattered among the 103 stalls.

Discover unfamiliar Italian wines during classes (from $67) with sommelier Hande Leimer at Vino Roma, where you can get an introduction to Italian varietals, or go in-depth with guided tastings devoted to the Nebbiolo grape or to Sicilian wines. If you’ve ever felt put off by the kinds of connoisseurs who seem to swirl, sniff, and spit more than drink their wine, fear not: Hande’s approach is relaxed and unpretentious.

4. Insider’s Tip

The bar at Open Baladin, where you can taste Italian microbrews.Photo: Amanda Ruggeri

While wine captures most of the national glory, Italy has begun to turn out some excellent craft beers, too. Open Baladin is a busy bar near Campo dei Fiori with more than 120 beer labels, including its own (perfect for fall: the Baladin pumpkin ale). At hole-in-the-wall beer shop Domus Birrae, you can’t sit down, but you can stand, drink, and pick the staff’s brain on the more than 300 Italian labels. Your best might be to get out of the tourist center and head for the Blind Pig, a speakeasy-style bar serving up artisanal beers plus some of the city’s best burgers.

5. Oddball Day

MACRO, a contemporary art museum, is housed inside a former beer factory.Photo: Courtesy of MACRO

Make use of the No. 3 tram to explore Rome’s off-the-beaten-path food scene. Start at Porta Maggiore, where the 33-foot-tall and strangely Fascist-looking Baker’s Tomb, built in the first century B.C., memorializes an ancient baker (look for the reliefs showing the bread-making process). Nearby, walk through the graffiti-splattered San Lorenzo neighborhood for a cup of hot chocolate at 90-year-old chocolate shop Said dal 1923. Around the corner, check out Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, an enormous pasta factory from 1905 that’s been converted into artists’ studios, galleries, and performance spaces; it’s also the home of Pastificio Sanlorenzo, a buzzed-about restaurant that serves up cucina moderna for aperitivo and dinner, plus Sunday lunch. Jump back on the No. 3 and get off at the Viale Regina Margherita Nizza stop, where Rome’s abandoned, turn-of-the-century Peroni beer factory reopened in 2010 as the new wing of Rome’s MACRO. The art museum boasts not only some of Italy’s finest contemporary paintings, sculptures, and installations, but quirky details like translucent, color-changing bathroom sinks. Have lunch at on-site restaurant MACRO 138, which serves up creative dishes using only in-season, organic ingredients. Walk off the calories with a slight detour to the Villa Torlonia—the nineteenth-century villa that served as Mussolini’s residence from 1925 to 1943—and up into the Quartiere Coppedè, a neighborhood filled with fantastical, Art Nouveau palazzi straight from a fairy tale. Finish with a meal at Michelin-starred Metamorfosi, one of Rome’s most innovative new restaurants; don’t miss the deconstructed carbonara (an egg cooked for one-and-a-half hours and topped with pecorino foam, guanciale, and fried pasta). Afterward, take a ten-minute stroll to Duke’s Restaurant and Bar, a trendy spot with an extensive cocktail list (from $13); if you’re feeling full from dinner, you always can opt for one of their “light cocktails,” which add organic aloe vera juice and use only half the amount of alcohol.

6. Links

Learn about the latest trends in Rome’s food scene at Parla Food, whose author, Katie Parla, knows the city’s culinary scene inside and out—and worries for the future of its independent artisans and local producers.

Explore Italian cuisine with Italian-American and food writer Eleonora Baldwin, whose charming blog Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino shares recipes and restaurant reviews from across Italy.

See Italy through the eyes of longtime Rome resident Elizabeth Minchilli, whose beautifully photographed blog is equal part recipes and restaurant reviews (with a focus on Rome, Venice, and Florence).

Delve into hundreds of culinary columns, roundups, recipes, and restaurant reviews at the food department of The American, one of Italy’s finest independent English-language publications.

Access dozens of restaurant, bar, bakery, and market reviews, and keep on top of Rome’s upcoming food and wine events, with the Rome Digest, written by a team of sommeliers and culinary guides who call themselves “the city’s premier wine and food educators.”

Experience Rome like a local with the tips and tricks to dining, shopping, sightseeing, and more at Revealed Rome, the popular blog (full disclosure) written by the author of this story.

Eat Haute Cuisine in Rome