Nothing is more tragic than a bad meal in Rome. But believe it or not, it can happen. Bland pizza. Overpriced cappuccino. Chicken cutlet sandwiches with… fries.
“A lot of restaurant owners, they treat tourists badly, make them eat garbage [and] charge exorbitant prices,” 44-year-old Francesco Cutrupi said in a phone interview. “They do a huge injustice to the whole Italian economy, and to themselves.” Cutrupi’s business, a dessert cafe in Piazza Navona specializing in homemade tiramisu and Sicilian cannoli, is ranked second out of over 6,000 restaurants on TripAdvisor.
Unfortunately, for every Cutrupi, there are plenty of restaurateurs with far fewer scruples. From midday snacking to ordering piatti tipici, which translates to “traditional dishes,” here’s how to master the art of eating in Rome — according to locals who know the Eternal City better than anyone.
1. Never pay more than a euro for coffee
Almost every Italian starts the day at a café, called “bars” by locals. Bars are relaxed places to catch up on gossip with the barista while lingering over a cornetto (similar to a croissant, either plain or filled with chocolate). While they come in all shapes and sizes, a bar is easy to spot because you’ll see a huddle of locals lining up at the counter and you’ll hear the noisy clatter of spoons and saucers as the barista hustles to keep up with demand.
To not stick out like a sore thumb when ordering coffee, follow this protocol: Walk up to the register first, and order your espresso or cappuccino — neither should cost more than one euro. Then, bring that receipt over to the counter where the barista will whip up the smoothest, frothiest cappuccino in under 30 seconds.
2. Skip restaurants and order a bite to-go for lunch
The concept of eating on the go is typical among Romans, who are used to life in a busy tourist mecca.
“The best thing for a tourist traveling around Rome would be to have a fast lunch like a panino or a slice of…