Eat Like a Local: Rome

In a city where the recipes often predate the buildings, Rome's best meals are marvelously simple. We unearth five quintessential trattorias where the cucina romana is home-cooked, the company is homegrown, and the owners are happy (enough) to have you.

Da Tonino al Governo Vecchio
Piazza Navona

It's hard to find this place. For one thing, it has a couple of monikers: Da Tonino, Trattoria di Antonio Bassetti. Also working against you is that if it's not lunchtime, you're likely to walk right by its nondescript glass doorway. Plan to arrive in the early afternoon, when a small, smartly dressed crowd queues up outside, and be prepared to wait a little while. The restaurant isn't much bigger than a dorm room, and after half a dozen trips, we've still never seen an empty table. Businessmen, politicians, and local merchants pour in for a bowl of pasta and a carafe of the house red wine. The tables are packed together; the owner, Antonio Bassetti, barks orders to his waiters; and the whole place hums with a steady flow of hungry Romans, most with napkins tucked into their dress shirts. Then, suddenly, by 3 p.m., only a few stragglers remain, one or two tables of non-Italians. If Antonio starts to look at you funny, that's why: Lunch is over, and he's ready to go home. Best dish: Rigatoni all'Amatriciana. Done al dente, the rigatoni here is as good as any in the city. All'Amatriciana is a mildly spicy tomato sauce with pancetta, a classic Roman dish. The other specialty of the house is rigatoni alle melanzane, pasta tossed with eggplant, tomato, garlic, and olive oil. Via del Governo Vecchio 1819, 011-39/333-587-0779, rigatoni all'Amatriciana $9.50, closed Sundays, cash only.


Several years ago, Trastevere was considered off the beaten path by Roman standards. But the remove had its own appeal, and the neighborhood became a destination unto itself. Still, Trastevere maintains its characteristic charm: late-night bars, yapping dogs, and old-school Italian mamas chatting to each other from their windows.
Get there: Tram 8 from Largo di Torre Argentina to Piazza Mastai.

Piazza Navona
While Piazza Navona proper is dominated by tourist shops and caricature artists, things are far more authentic just a few blocks away. For example, via del Governo Vecchio, the street Da Tonino is on, has vintage clothing stores, jewelry boutiques, and tiny wine bars—and not a caricature artist in sight.
Get there: Bus 40 or 64 from Roma Termini to Largo di Torre Argentina.

Yes, that's a McDonald's over there, but don't let it get to you. This neighborhood, smack in the heart of the city, revolves around an undeniably stunning 2,000-year-old church, and even the tour groups passing through can't detract from the sheer beauty of it all.
Get there: Bus 40 or 64 from Roma Termini to Largo di Torre Argentina.

Just behind the Colosseum, Monti is characterized by tranquil, ivy-covered palazzi and quiet, hilly streets. In the warm-weather months, the sidewalks fill up with well-dressed Italian families out for an evening stroll and young children playing soccer in the piazza.
Get there: Metro Linea B from Roma Termini to Cavour or walk the seven minutes.

Originally home to railroad workers who lived here while building the tracks that now run into the middle of the city, Pigneto later inspired Italy's finest filmmakers, like Pier Paolo Pasolini and Roberto Rosselini, who filmed here. Today, it's probably the least touristy pocket of Rome—full of art students, documentary filmmakers, and the cafés they frequent.
Get there: Bus 105 from Roma Termini to Via Casilina.


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