One of the many reasons I feel lucky to live in Testaccio is that when it comes to food, I’m really spoilt for choice. Whether I want a cappuccino and cornetto in the morning, a panino or a piadina for lunch, a slice of pizza as a snack, or cacio e pepe for dinner, there are several places within a mile radius, all serving fresh food at reasonable prices. Sometimes it’s hard to force myself to cook, knowing that I can pop down the road to a get a delicious margherita pizza piled high with rocket, and some fried fiori di zucca (courgette flowers)…
This is not an exhaustive guide to eating out in Testaccio. It’s missing places that I associate more with aperitivo (like L’Oasi della Birra), the stalls in the market, and snacky, takeaway places such as Trapizzino and Alice. These are just the proper, sit-down restaurants that I’ve been to in Testaccio. If a restaurant’s missing, it’s because I haven’t been there yet, but with the exception of the steakhouse on Via Galvani (I’m a pescatarian), they’re all on my “to try” list.
For an average dinner at one of these restaurants (starter, main, side, house wine, water) I would usually pay around 18-25 euros. A pizza costs 6-8 euros.
Da Felice (Via Mastro Giorgio 29)
Not only the most famous restaurant in Testaccio, Da Felice is also regarded as one of the best restaurants in Rome, popular with locals and tourists alike. If you haven’t booked, forget it. But at least it’s easier to get a table than it used to be, when the notoriously grumpy owner would put “reserved” signs on all the tables and turn away potential customers if he didn’t like the look of them. Da Felice is great for traditional Roman cuisine, and is particularly famous for its cacio e pepe, which the waiters mix up in a big bowl at your table.
Flavio al Velavevodetto (Via di Monti Testaccio 29)
The location alone would make it special – it’s at the base of Monte Testaccio, so you can see the shards of Roman pottery piled up against the window – but the food is also very good. The menu is similar to Da Felice, and they also do an excellent cacio e pepe. It’s quite smart inside, and I always think it’s more expensive than it actually is. Somehow it just feels a bit posher. There’s also a nice terrace upstairs.
Il Cantinone (Piazza Testaccio 31)
An unpretentious trattoria with a good choice of pizza and pasta. It’s not famous, and in a way, it’s probably nothing special, but I’ve always eaten well here.
Da Bucatino (Via Luca della Robbia 84)
Classic Roman trattoria, which sticks to the Roman tradition of offering some dishes only on a particular day of the week. For example, if you want gnocchi with tomato sauce, you’ll have to go on Thursday. Go there in the winter and order puntarelle (a chicory salad with anchovy and garlic sauce), fettuccine with truffle and mushrooms, and tiramisu. You won’t be disappointed. Alternatively, more carnivorous diners will find all the typical meaty Roman dishes here (tripe, oxtail stew etc).
La Fraschetta (Via Alessandro Volta 36)
If Da Felice is all booked up, go round the corner to La Fraschetta, where you’re guaranteed to get a table. The yellow walls make it particularly cosy in the winter, and I love the Caravaggio theme. From what I remember, it’s pretty cheap, and does really good fresh pasta. They also give you warm focaccia in a brown paper bag.
Assuntina (Via Luca della Robbia 15)
Great for fish and seafood, but I wonder how long they’ll last. The restaurant was half-empty, the waiters were excessively welcoming and attentive (by Roman standards), and they knocked a couple of euros off the cover charge. They seemed a bit desperate. But I hope Assuntina doesn’t close, because the food is fantastic. Octopus and potato salad, gnochetti with shrimp and pecorino, chocolate cake…mmm.
La Torricella (Via Torricelli 2/12)
Without Rachel‘s recommendation, I might never have tried La Torricella, a restaurant on a sleepy backstreet in the west of Testaccio. In her book Five Quarters Rachel summarises the menu: “there are some fixtures: for antipasti, the moscardini, for example, or bocconcini di merluzzo (bites of battered cod) and – my favourite – alici fritti (fried anchovies). Pasta is always a safe bet at Torricella, particularly the gnocchi or spaghetti alle vongole, and linguine with astice (male lobster)”. The food is very good, the service friendly and relaxed, and the “off the beaten path” location means it’s less touristy than some of the more famous restaurants in Testaccio.
Osteria degli Amici (Via Zabaglia 25)
A small, cosy restaurant where all the pasta is delicious, but – be warned – incredibly rich and creamy. The last time I went here for lunch, dessert was unthinkable. I mainly like it for the atmosphere – modern yet old school, in the words of An American in Rome.
Rec 23 (Piazza dell’Emporio 1-2)
I wasn’t sure whether to include this or not, as Rec 23 is really more of a bar than a restaurant. At least, I generally only go there for aperitivo or cocktails. But they have a proper food menu – mainly burgers – and waiters, so I might as well mention it. I haven’t had dinner here for ages, but I think the burgers are pretty good.
La Creperie (Via Galvani 11)
Nice if you want a change from the usual pizza and pasta. Even the decor feels un-Italian – you could be anywhere in Europe. Although I wouldn’t call myself a crepe expert, I enjoyed my meal.
Il Rubino (Via Marmorata 179)
A weird Chinese/Japanese/Thai hybrid. I don’t really trust restaurants that claim to do everything, but I have vague memories of having a decent meal here a couple of years ago. Although there are quite a few Asian restaurants in Rome, I’ve never met an Italian who’s enthusiastic about Chinese food. An Italian friend recently went to another Chinese restaurant (not Il Rubino) and complained about the “horrible spaghetti and ravioli”. Noodles and dumplings, Luca. Noodles and dumplings…
Da Remo (Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice 44)
“The pizza was good,” said Valeriano. “But my father would come here once, and never again.” Valeriano could not believe how rude the waiters were, but then Valeriano is not from Rome. I think most born-and-bred Romans are willing to put up with indifferent (or downright rude) waiters. I’ve heard from some people that they’re nicer to you if you’re a regular, and although I go to Da Remo pretty regularly, perhaps I’m not regular enough to be considered a regular, because I never get a warm welcome. But if you’re not fussy about the service and you don’t mind bright lights and a chaotic atmosphere (a lot of noise, and getting elbowed by the person at the table next to you), Da Remo is worth a visit. The pizza is very thin, very crispy, and very good.
Il Grottino (Via Marmorata 165)
This is my pizzeria of choice. It’s like Da Remo but without the chaos, and with friendlier waiters. They do classic Roman-style pizza to perfection, but you can request a thicker base if you prefer Neapolitan pizza. They also make mega-pizzas with a variety of different toppings, designed to be shared. I usually go to Il Grottino for a takeaway pizza when I can’t be bothered to cook, but I often bring friends, family and guests here for a sit-down meal.
Nuovo Mondo (Via Amerigo Vespucci 15)
The atmosphere (and bright lighting) reminds me of Neapolitan pizzerias, but the pizza is all Roman. I’ve only come here once, and although my pizza was good, it wasn’t that memorable. Not memorable enough to stop me from going to Il Grottino all the time, anyway. But it’s definitely authentic, and popular with the locals – not a tourist in sight.
So, that’s it so far. Restaurants on my “to-try” list include Lo Scopettaro on the Lungotevere, Agustarello, and Acquasalata Ristopescheria. Divinare looks nice, but I’m suspicious of the fact that it’s survived for so long with an average of 0.5 customers per night.