With so many of the world’s most famous landmarks, it’s easy to understand why Rome, Italy is a popular European cruise destination. From the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain to the Sistine Chapel, there are countless must-see attractions in this cultural and historic city.
On your way to seeing everything cultural and historic Rome is known for, treat your taste buds to the scrumptious Roman cuisine. Here’s a list of 14 must-try dishes at various Roman spots like family-owned trattorias, pizzerias, fine dining establishments, bakeries and gelato shops. Buon appetito!
It’s not surprising to Romans that the word saltimbocca translates to “jump in your mouth.” To create this popular dish, layers of sliced veal, fresh sage and prosciutto are marinated in white wine, rolled and pan-fried for an explosion of flavor.
So the next time you order a delicious plate of saltimbocca, make sure to mop up the delicious juices with a side order of warm bread.
2. Cacio e Pepe
One of the best pasta dishes in Rome — cacio e pepe — features just three ingredients: hand-rolled tonnarelli noodles, salty pecorino cheese and a good sprinkling of black pepper.
With this dish, it’s the technique that makes all the difference. The cheese is whisked into the warm pasta water to create a creamy sauce for the noodles, and the black pepper adds a spicy kick.
If you’re into savory cheese and Italian cheese at that, order an appetizer of savory, decadent house-made burrata. A blend of mozzarella and cream, Italian burrata features a buttery flavor you just can’t recreate the same way anywhere else.
Pair it with a drizzle of olive oil and tomatoes or spread it on warm pieces of crusty bread, and enjoy it with a glass of house red wine.
When it comes to appetizers or snacks-on-the-go, many Romans turn to deep-fried rice croquettes filled with mozzarella cheese known as suppli.
These tasty morsels are golden brown, crispy on the outside, while warm and gooey on the inside. Variations of the recipe sometimes include meat, green peas and tomato sauce.
5. Fiori di Zucca
From June to September, fresh zucchini blossoms are in season and make an Italian appetizer that’s almost too pretty to eat: fiori di zucca.
To prepare this delicious starter, zucchini flowers are stuffed with mozzarella cheese and anchovies, dipped in a light flour and egg batter and deep-fried until golden brown. Each bite offers a burst of texture and flavor.
6. Pizza al Taglio
At lunchtime in Rome, there’s nothing more satisfying than pizza al taglio, or pizza by the slice. Thin-crust pizza is loaded with different toppings and served from large pans at the counter, but it isn’t pre-cut.
You specify how much you would like when you order, which means you can try one, or five, small slices of all kinds of pizza.
Not all Roman recipes have been around since the founding of Rome. Trapizzino, a popular street food is a more recent triangle-shaped pizza dish invented in 2008.
This lunchtime treat features a piece of triangle-shaped pizza dough, sliced open and stuffed with classic Italian fillings like meatballs, Roman-style artichokes, and even oxtail stew. Wrapped in cardboard or paper cone, trapizzino is the perfect-sized bite for eating on the go.
A trip to Rome isn’t complete without a plate of carbonara. To make this authentic Italian dish, spaghetti or rigatoni pasta is tossed with small chunks of fried pork and topped with a silky egg and cheese sauce. One bite of this creamy pasta and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
9. Carciofi alla Romana
When Romans need a side dish, they often opt for carciofi alla romana, or Roman-style artichokes. Stuffed with herbs and sprinkled with lemon juice, these artichokes are braised in the oven until soft and buttery, and make the perfect accompaniment to rich meats like roast pork or lamb.
Because artichokes are seasonal vegetables, you will find them on Roman menus in the spring and fall.
Sometimes the best things to eat in Rome are the simplest, and gnocchi is no exception. This humble dish combines potatoes, flour, eggs and Parmesan to make delicious, savory dumplings that melt in your mouth. Once a Thursday-only dish served with leftover sauces, you can now enjoy gnocchi every day in many Roman restaurants and cafés.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do and start your morning with a cappuccino and maritozzo for breakfast. These sweet buns are baked fresh, split down the middle, stuffed with a generous amount of whipped cream and sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.
Originally, maritozzo was only served over the Easter holiday, but now most Roman bakeries serve it every day.
One lick or spoonful is all it takes to get ice cream and froyo lovers alike hooked on Rome’s authentic dessert version: gelato. Made fresh daily from seasonal, all-natural ingredients, there are a few key differences between ice cream and gelato.
While ice cream contains more air (making it thicker), more cream and is stored at slightly colder temperatures, gelato is stored at warmer temperatures, is softer in consistency, contains less air and more milk, But don’t take our word for it, see what all the fuss is about and try a sample of gelato and let us know what you think!
Classic Italian flavors you don’t want to miss are: banana, crema, hazelnut, pistachio, and dark chocolate.
13. Porchetta Sandwich
To mix up your lunchtime favorites, go with the classic Roman sandwich called a porchetta sandwich. Served on a crusty roll, your mouth will drool at the layers of spit-roasted, deboned pork flavored with rosemary, fennel and garlic.
Savory until the last bite, you probably won’t need to add many, if any, condiments.
When you’re craving dessert, turn to a classic Roman favorite: tiramisu. While there are plenty of variations, this dessert is traditionally made with layers of coffee-soaked ladyfinger cookies and mascarpone cheese, topped with a dusting of cocoa powder.
Even though it’s rich and creamy, it’s good to the very last bite.
So while you’re on a cruise around Europe and in the historic city of Rome, do what the locals do: eat and drink! And if you’re hoping to take home a piece of Rome, just make sure that you buy food that is prepackaged and sealed to bring back to the ship.