Full Disclosure: The author is Italian-American from a generation that still knew how to cook ‘from scratch,’ so she ‘knows what good is’ without needing to spend a fortune to prove it.
First, you can get good food almost anywhere in Rome EXCEPT near the Termini (train station). Second, the same rules apply as in any major city – the joints that accept a bunch of credit cards on their windows will CHARGE you for that privilege. Third, the pizzerias are mostly ALL good.
Finally, any place that is self-consciously hip is to be avoided like the plague, because while the waiter is robbing you legitimately, his cousin will be waiting outside to rob you in other ways. But if you want something special – or near the Vatican—check these out!
Expensive, Drop-Dead View
Hotel Hassler’s rooftop is achingly beautiful and justly famous for decades for its appeal to the Hollywood, fashion design and diplomatic corps.
Cheap, Drop-Dead View
SHHH! This is a bigger secret than the cardinals’ vote. Calmly walk into the Hotel Pace Helvetia, and tell the front desk that you would like to take a photo from their rooftop. They will ask you if there is anything you would like to bring up from the bar. Say ‘YES” and climb into their tiny elevator, walk up another flight of stairs and emerge into a magical world of your very own, with the voluptuous beauty of Rome at your feet.
View from the Borghese Gardens
Casina Valadier, on the lip of the Borghese Gardens is a romantic place to linger over coffee or drinks. The food is nothing special – but the VIEW is. Near the Villa Medici.
La Rampa, tucked around the side of the Spanish Steps, features a legendary buffet that will tempt just about anyone’s palate. Family-owned, an old favorite of designer Valentino, La Rampa is reasonably priced, too, for the tony neighborhood – right across from the American Express office, in case you’re short a few euro.
Ratzinger’s Refuge: Cantina Tirolese, Via Giovanni Vitelleschi 23
Atmospheric, tiny place with booths, sassy Italian waitresses, and excellent Tyrolean food. There is even a booth downstairs with a plaque on it in honor of Benedict XVI – when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, of course. Very reasonable prices, and a five minute walk from the Vatican in the Borgo.
A decent family place with nice food. Blue checked tablecloths, no reservations needed. This is a neighborhood full of clergy, convents who take in visitors and the San Pietrini – the Roman families who work at St Peter’s. Very reasonable prices and a three minute walk from Vatican City.