I know what you’re thinking: but is it actually good? Will it fill me, and can I have a little sit down because I’ve been on my feet all morning? Don’t fear, dear reader. The Roma Experience guide to ten reasonably priced restaurants is in – and it’s a corker, even if we say so ourselves. Our intrepid guides have had to take a lot of lunch breaks to put this list together (so we hope you’ll appreciate the sacrifice!). We’ve looked for places all over town, some with seats, and others without; some offering cold snacks and others hot meals. The main criteria were honest prices, good food and friendly service. So, in no particular order, here we go… got your ten euros ready?
1. Pastificio (via della Croce 8)
We’re starting with a real unicorn of a lunch spot: bang in the historical centre, minutes from the Spanish Steps, you can have a hot plate of pasta and a drink here for just €4. The only drawback is: you have to turn up at 1pm (or shortly after) and you might have a bit of a queue. Essentially a dry pasta store, Pastificio transforms into a food kitchen at 1 on the dot, ladling out plates of pasta (there’s usually two or three choices of sauce) with a cup of water thrown in and, if they like you (that’s what the sign says) a drop of wine to boot. Early birds can also perch on benches and tables. What more could you want? Open Monday-Sunday, 13.00-15.00.
2. Trapizzino (Via Giovanni Branca 88)
Make a short trip to Testaccio to try out this now iconic fast-food joint, selling pizza by the slice, golden deep-fried rice balls, and the house signature snack, the Trapizzino. Triangular pockets of pizza dough are filled with the kind of sauces you’d usually expect in a pasta dish, from oxtail to refried beef, chicken stew to aubergine bake. A few benches are available but expect to eat, standing up, in the street. Prices start at €3.50 and soft drinks and craft beer are available (the latter may push you over the €10 budget). Open noon until 1am, closed Mondays.
3. Prati Urbani (Via Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, 41)
This smart café and lunch spot opened about a year ago in Prati and is already a hit with the local work crowd. Offering sit-down set menus which are all clearly marked for allergens, €8 will get you a salad or a first course of pasta or risotto, with water, bread and a coffee all included. For €10 you can try a second course of the day with the sundries still thrown in. Look out too for their house speciality, entrées served in a glass. Starting at €4, these are delicious light bites – ranging from meatballs with lemon to raw prawns – which can also be combined with other courses in a €12 set menu.
4. Tricolore (Via Urbana 126)
Tricolore in trendy Monti has got the gourmet sandwich down pat. They’re not the cheapest in town but you’ll leave here with the impression of having eaten something truly unique. From the fragrant, home-baked breads, designed to complement each gourmet filling, to the stuffings themselves, you won’t be disappointed. Try a floury roll filled with crispy whitebait and tartar sauce, or a crab burger in a seaweed bap. Sandwiches start at around €8 and stools are available, otherwise expect to eat in the streets. Craft beers and organic wines, as well as handcooked vegetable chips, complete the menu. Not far away from the Roman Forum, this is a great choice if you are looking for a place to have lunch after your Colosseum Tour.
5. Ciao Checca (Piazza di Firenze 25/26)
This smart eatery promoting slow food principles offers some of the best fast food in town. Stop by for a steaming plate of pasta and vine tomatoes, warm lentils stirred through with creamy burrata, a gourmet cheeseburger or organic bean soup prepared in the all-day kitchen. Prices from €5 with cut-price refills if you’re really hungry. Eat in in cosy modern surroundings, take-away or call for home delivery (minimum delivery order €15). Open 10.30-20.30 Mon-Tues, 10.30-22.30 Weds-Sunday.
6. Delicious Fries (Via di Porta Cavalleggeri 19 | Vicolo Del Cinque, 22)
This relatively new all-Italian chipshop chain with locations in Trastevere and near St. Peter’s Square is dead set on conquering the Eternal City with the humble potato. Fat-cut chips are served in a paper cone with 30 different types of sauces inspired by Italian, Belgian and American cuisine, with 8 gluten-free sauces and a handful of vegan ones. Prices start at €3.50; try with their own-brand craft beer but don’t bank on getting a seat. Open daily 11.00-23.00.
7. Zia Rosetta (Via Urbana 54)
This trendy lunch spot in Monti sells gourmet paninis and salads characterised by zingy combinations as well as fresh smoothies to go. Inspired by Rome’s classic bread roll, the rosetta – crunchy yet soft and airy on the inside, resembling a rose – sandwiches include ‘brown velvet’ with air-dried beef, rocket and citronette or ‘cerise’, with chicken, green apple, curly lettuce and herby yoghurt. Prices start at €2 for mini sandwiches and you’ll probably end up taking-away to eat perched on the fountain in the nearby piazza. Don’t forget to check out their craft beer, wine and artisan soft drinks too. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-10pm.
8. Pinsere (Via Flavia 98)
Not far from Termini, this popular takeaway serves an ancient Roman version of the pizza – the pinsa. Baked from heritage grains including spelt and emmer wheat and topped with gorgonzola, fig and honey, pistachio-mortadella and basil or other mouthwatering ingredients, it’s fast food at its finest. From €3.50, lunchtimes only and expect to stand up.
9. Mordi e Vai (12E New Testaccio Market, Via B. Franklin)
Sergio Esposito’s award winning sandwiches are stuffed with stews and sauces that you’d usually associate with a sit-down pasta lunch. Try a roll filled with amatriciana sauce or picchiapò (traditional Roman boiled beef, stewed with tomatoes). Prices start from €3.50. Available at midday only, and while they are a few benches in the nearby neighbourhood, you’ll probably be eating on your feet.
10. So Good (Viale Aventino 87)
To describe this little bar as a mecca of craft beer and good sandwiches doesn’t quite do it justice, but that’s exactly what it is. Open from mid-morning to catch the lunch crowd, a great tap list of artisan beers mostly from Italy and Germany is counterpointed with decadent paninis, currywurst and slabs of cold cuts, although lots of people just come for the beer. Sandwiches start at around €4 and there are a few tables with stools. Open until midnight.