If you’re looking for a dining experience that is steeped in history read further for a guide to the best, oldest eateries in the Eternal City. One of the greatest joys of visiting Italy is sampling the amazing food Italians have been perfecting for hundreds of years. Even if you don’t know your tagliatelle from your tortellini, you are sure to come away with a new appreciation for the combination of semolina, egg, tomatoes, and cheese. However, it seems great Italian food also needs one more ingredient – history, and the best place to get a good dose of this is in some of Rome’s oldest restaurants.
For 500 years this restaurant in Vicolo della Campana between Via della Scrofa and Piazza Nicosia has been pleasing customers with their traditional Roman food. A man named Pietro de la Campana first opened the restaurant in 1518 and his family ran it until the 1800’s. Now managed by a man by the name of Paolo Transcassini and his sister, Marina. With so many traditional dishes to choose from, you are sure to find just the plate to satisfy your pasta preferences. Dig into the taglioline alici and pecorino or handmade ravioli and take yourself back to old-time Rome. Reviewers rave about the tiramisu, so make sure you save room for dessert.
Found on Monte de Cenci, this eatery began its life as a tavern in the 1700’s and has been known as The King of the Artichoke. Now you can find cuisines from all around Italy on their menu, including Romana, Lazio, Mediterranean, and Central-Italian. Pull up a chair and honor this history by ordering an appetizer of Carciofi alla Giudia, or deep-fried artichoke. Then dig into a hot plate of tomato and basil gnocchi, or delicious Roman tripe to find old school bliss.
Checchino Dal 1887
Owned by the same family for six generations and serving Rome residents since 1887, this restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. You can order from a series of tasting menus that the chef has put together in a theme. Perhaps you’d like to reach back to the old and order off their Historical Tasting Menu that features classic favorites. Most raved about is their coda alla vaccinara, a beef tail cooked for five hours in tomato sauce with celery, pine nuts, raisins, and just a hint of bitter chocolate.
Alfredo alla Scrofa
If you are a lover of fettuccine alfredo, then you mustn’t miss an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to its founding restaurant. Alfredo alla Scrofa is famed for creating what we now know today as fettuccine alfredo in 1914. The dish came about when Alfredo’s pregnant wife lost her appetite from morning sickness. Trying to make something light and plain that would settle her stomach he concocted a dish of fresh made pasta with butter and parmesan. He eventually added it to the restaurant menu and diners fell in love with it. Close to Piazza Spagnu, this famed spot offers an entire menu dedicated to fresh ingredients and Italian favorites. If fettuccine alfredo is not your thing, you can order up Rigatoni all’ Amatriciana with thick tomato sauce for exquisite flavors.
Run by the Rossi family, this 113-year-old establishment not far from the Colosseum has been taking simple dishes and serving them with an elegant flair for generations.Whether you opt for its namesake and order a plate of Carbonara, or their homemade gnocchi served on Thursday nights, you can count on amazing old-world flavors dancing across your taste buds. Its warm old-school atmosphere adds to the experience. The walls are covered in framed historic prints and the graffitied signatures of all those who have dined there through the years. If you can find a spot- leave your mark! Everyone is encouraged to add their signature.
So, when dinnertime comes along on your Italian vacation, adhere to the adage: when in Rome, do as the historic Romans did.