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When I see innocent tourists in Rome fawning over frozen pizza and generic gelato, I just want to take them by their t-shirts, scrub their sticky, tiramisu-covered fingertips, and finally feed them food that tastes like, well, Italy. Here's where to find some of the best restaurants in Rome.
While Osteria Bonelli is not far from the chic Pignetto, the restaurant’s specific location in Torpignattara is on the side of seedy. And that nice-to-rough ratio—superb food on cheap paper tablecloths—is exactly what you’ll find inside this always-bustling osteria, where the dishes are truly exceptional and the waitresses, in their thick black eyeliner, know exactly what you want before you say a word (which is good, because the chalkboard menu is in Italian). I lick my plate every time I eat here, inhaling the ricotta e spinaci ravioli and pasta alla gricia , guzzling the wonderful house red wine, before looking at the bill and guffawing out loud about how cheap it is. Of course, no one can understand me. The closest thing to English is a crooked, black-and-white framed photograph of Steve Jobs with the quote, “Siate affamati! Siate folli!” Translation? “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
The husband and wife team behind this pizzeria trained at Italy’s National School of Pizza, and with seven selections of Roman-style pizza per night with substitutions, no exceptions, and no decisions—other than pie size and “beer or wine?”—this place is no joke. On the menu, you will find more traditional options (Margarita, Mediterranean, Napoli, Marinara) along with mozzarella and anchovies, potato with romano and pecorino, and chicory with asiago and hot peppers. Seasonal weekly specials are thrown in for good measure, too, which the wife cooks, and husband serves. The pizza is quickly sliced, and then unceremoniously delivered on a sheet of paper (no plate). Yes, Farinè is a peculiar, ultra-simple place, with a slightly hostile attitude, but none of that matters because the pizza is just so perfect . Why? The dough has a long, 72-hour rise, resulting in a strong, fluffy crust, and the ingredients are hyper-fresh bought daily from nearby markets. This locals-only pizzeria takes minimalism to another level (albeit unintentionally): There are few tables (there’s outdoor seating in the summer), no forks, and zero staff. Strange and splendido!
Word has gotten out about La Carbonara in Monti, but it's still worth a visit. With generous portions of traditional homemade pastas like (my favorite) Ravioli alle Noci, classic dishes like fritto vegatale and bollito dressed with olive oil and lemon, and impassioned Italian graffiti on the walls, the experience here is never dull. Order the spicy pasta zi Tere made with fresh tomato, chile, basil, and pecorino if you're looking for a little zing . For more than 30 years, the owner, chef and lady of the house, Donna Teresa, has run a tight ship—insisting that the food is consistently magnifico , and that her son, the manager, doesn’t misbehave.
Just because you’re eating like a local doesn’t mean it can’t be elegant. Capo Boi is a fish-centric, Sardinian-kitchen restaurant where dignified Romans go for special occasions. The precious neighborhood itself (Coppide, in-between Parioli and Trieste) might as well be one of the secret ingredients on the restaurant’s no-miss menu, with its glamorous, high-status streets reminiscent of 1920s Rome . The fish appetizers, like the sautéed mussels and clams and the sea-bass carpaccio, are some of the best in town, as are the oysters, but try to save room for the entrees, which are massive and sublime (I dream about the mixed grilled fish). The addictive Pane Carassua bread, otherwise known as “Italian music sheets” because they’re so crispy, noisy, and delicious, will challenge your room-saving resolve—be strong! While dinner won’t come cheap, the white-linen experience is first class all the way.