In Rome, the Eternal(ly culinarily conservative) City, simple yet traditional cuisine reigns supreme. Most chefs prefer to follow the mantra of freshness over fuss, and simplicity of flavor and preparation over complex cooking methods.

Rome has been known since ancient times for its grand feasts and banquets, and though the days of Saturnalia feasts are long past, dining out is still a favorite Roman pastime. But even the city's buongustaii (gourmands) will be the first to tell you Rome is distinguished more by its good attitude toward eating out than by a multitude of world-class restaurants. Romans like Roman food, and that’s what you’ll find in the majority of the city’s trattorias and osterie (wine bars). For the most part, today’s chefs cling to the traditional and excel at what has taken hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to perfect. This is why the basic trattoria menu is more or less the same wherever you go. And it's why even the top Roman chefs feature their versions of simple trattoria classics like pasta all'amatriciana with a tomato, Roman bacon, chili pepper, and pecorino cheese sauce—sometimes with onion, although for some that's an issue of debate. To a great extent, Rome is still a town where the Italian equivalent of "what are you in the mood to eat?" translates to "pizza or pasta?"

Nevertheless, Rome is the capital of Italy, and because people move here from every corner of the Italian peninsula, there are more variations on the Italian theme in Rome than you'd find elsewhere in Italy: Sicilian, Tuscan, Pugliese, Bolognese, Marchegiano, Sardinian, and northern Italian regional cuisines are all represented. And reflecting the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of the city, you'll find a growing number of good-quality international food here as well—particularly Japanese, Indian, and Ethiopian.

Oddly enough, though, for a nation that prides itself on la bella figura ("looking good"), most Romans don't care about background music, other people's personal space, the lighting, or the fanfare of decor. But who needs interior design when so much of Roman life takes place outdoors, and dining alfresco in Rome can take place in the middle of a glorious ancient site or centuries-old palazzo?


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