Rome coffee and tea bars

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 Rome Restaurants and Eating Out

Coffee bars and tea in Rome One of the high points of the city is undoubtedly its extremely wide range of food and drink which is ubiquitous through the many coffee bars and restaurants. The primary objective for the traveller might perhaps be finding what is most "authentic" rather than the first plate of boiled spaghetti.

The objective of Italian food lovers has been wrapped in a phrase of its own: "Slow Food - Good Food" in obvious counterpoise to the increasingly endemic "Fast Food".

Another great love of the Italians is good Coffee, so we have included a particular section all of its own where we select our favourite coffee bars in town, tastefully described and decorated with some art work.

On the less authentic side you might look for drinks bars and pubs. Beer isn’t a typical drink and as such the beer culture is largely imported from northern cultures. Having said that the younger generations have come to regard Pubs part of the trendy side of life and the word "Pub" has made its way into the Italian language. There are a number of them around the city. To my eyes even the most basic and simple of them can't avoid feeling like a "theme pub" given the great effort to dress them up just like their older cousins in the UK.

As you might expect of any capital city there are a wide range of restaurants to satisfy almost any taste. A little inquisitiveness will quickly show that the

I have witnessed this distrust over and over watching a good number of cookery competitions on the local telly where the spectators vote for the dish they prefer. The overwhelming preference is almost exclusively for a good plate of nutritious food rather than an alternative of refined cuisine made to look good but potentially insubstantial and expensive.

Within the Cucina Romana/Italiana category there are different types of restaurants and food to be had. By and large we can say that

Street food: Coffee bars will often offer a variety of foods and sandwiches. Pizza Romana is a sort of white pizza base with ham and cheese, best served slightly toasted. Then there are Arancini or Suppli’: variations on a rice ball with tomato sauce and cheese fried in bread crumbs. Yum yum. Tramezzini are a good option for elevenses: triangular sandwiches to be had with a coffee or other drink. The fillings can be quite varied. A favourite of mine is made with Rughetta salad, Parmesan and Bresaola ham. See the coffee bars section for our favourites.

How meals work in Rome

With regards to meals, and layout of menus, it is customary to have a starter Antipasto followed by a pasta, rice or soup dish Primo and a meat or fish Secondo. The meat or fish secondo will generally require a vegetable side dish Contorno. Dolci deserts follow up with Caffe’ and possibly an Amaro digestive (alcoholic). You won’t ever ever ever catch an Italian having a Cappuccino after 11am and certainly not as part of a meal.

A grown adult will feel pretty full up with the whole shebang. Something to watch out for is that unless you otherwise specify you are quite likely to have the Secondi brought only after the Primi have been finished. This means that if some people round the table have opted to jump the Primi they might find themselves watching everyone else eat before they get a bite.

Half portions: Also it is not unusual to ask for half a plate or portion of something, especially when children are concerned, so don’t be afraid to ask. This might be one way of getting through the whole routine without requiring assistance to roll you out of the restaurant afterwards. Don’t expect to pay exactly half price for the half dish. An alternative is to ask for a full portion and then, discretely, for an extra plate.

Vegetarian food: "Vegetarianism" is a relatively recent concept in Italy. Luckily Italian and Roman cucina includes a great variety of non meat dishes (thanks to the plentiful supply of fresh vegetables and fruit I guess).

Drinks: Water can be still, fizzy or naturally fizzy (ie a touch of the sparkle). This translates to Liscia, Gassata or Gassata Naturale. As regards wine it is also possible to ask for a half or quarter litre (not always available). A Quartino della Casa wouldn’t be out of order at the Trattoria and sufficient to provide three or four glasses of drink. As for good wine: It seems the Italian wine trade is overtaking that of France certainly by volume and neck-and-neck in terms of quality. If you’re a wine buff there’s no lack of choice a little gemming up on the more popular choice of quality might be worth your wile (eg Brunello di Montalcino…). There are also a number of wines from the Lazio region and Rome. The Alban hills and Castelli Romani have produced wine since the earliest of times, particularly whites.

Booking ahead and closing times: Many restaurants are shut on Mondays, some on Sunday evenings. Booking ahead isn’t essential but advisable, particularly on Saturday evenings and Sunday lunch times.

Disabled access: Rome wasn’t exactly designed with the disabled in mind although things are getting better by the day. Ditto the situation with access to restaurants although street-side in good weather tends to pose few problems. A call ahead might be a good idea.

Common meal time surprises: Beware that what you are used to abroad as Italian food is not the same as you will find in Italy itself. Some simple examples: Pasta will tend to be just a little hard rather than soft, Carbonara is not creamy and Peperoni are Peppers rather than a spicy sausage. Parmesan is not usual on pasta with fish sauces. Don't expect a waiter with a huge pepper mill to be just around the corner either.

Feeling hungry? Go to our short list of favourite restaurants in Rome.

Fast food

I start with this least typical of solutions in order to get it out of the way. In fact "Fast food" was an ancient Roman invention but coming back to reality home-from-home might be a good way of feeling back in control of the situation. A number of McDonald’s restaurants managed to break into the city centre a handful of years ago although their signs have to be in keeping with the area’s good appearance. Try the one near Piazza di Spagna.

A further solution can be from the smaller food shops called Alimentari where you can generally ask them to make you sandwiches there on the spot out of the breads, cheeses and hams on display. It’s a good way of trying something new. Once you've found your personal spot you're sure to come back regularly and feel part of the city.

Coffee bars

Rome coffee bars go hand in hand with art.Coffee, be it Espresso, Caffè Moca, Caffè Corretto, Cappuccino or Latte Macchiato is ubiquitous in Rome. In fact it is almost impossible to be in Rome and not be involved with a quick stop at one of the many "Bar" - even if it is for a bite of a savoury "Tramezzino" sandwich or a refreshing Soda sitting by the road side. Don't leave Rome without having tasted a "Granita di Caffe'" from Tazza d'Oro (see our list of suggested coffee bars in Rome).

Beware, sitting at a table and waiter service often carry a noticeable surcharge. But it is well worthwhile every so often, especially if you enjoy the people watching and street culture at bars like Ciampini on the pedestrian and extremely historic Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina.

Last but not least, there is also such a thing as Croissant Bars: generally open (very) late at night to sell you freshly baked Cornetti - the very same Croissants that you have a few hours later with your Cappuccino for breakfast. A popular one is "Dolce di Notte" at Via San Francesco a Ripa, 1 in the Trastevere area. Open all night. There's an ice-cream parlour next door.

A quick tip: If you'd like to mimic the Roman style of living then you'll keep your Cappuccino for the mornings only, eg breakfast with a cornetto, crostata (jam tart) ciambella ("chambella" - doughnut) or other such pastry. Cappuccino after 11am screams out "I'm a tourist!!!" but then again being noticed is also very Romano....

 | Eating Out in Rome | How Meals Work | Fast Food | About Coffee Bars | Coffee Bar Suggestions | Rome Restaurants List |

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Please note, all information is provided to the best of our knowledge and is intended as a guide only. It is not to be used for any purpose other than satisfying personal interest. We do not provide any warranty as to the absolute factual correctness of the contents of this document and we withhold the right to correct and amend the contents at any time. Should you feel there is any imprecision in the document's contents which requires correction you are invited to inform us by email.

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This page about Rome restaurants was written by Giovanni Milani-Santarpia for - Rome apartments