When dining in Rome, you’re sure to eat some epic pasta. One culinary constant in the Eternal City, whether you’re at a table in Trastevere or at a ristorante by Vatican, is carbonara. You haven’t relished the real deal until you’ve tried carbonara in a Rome. So, where can you find the best carbonara when you eat in restaurants in Rome?
Cooks in Rome have raised this comfort-food to a marvel that rivals the Colosseum – combining humble ingredients —salted pork, fresh eggs, cracked black pepper and grated cheese—into a creamy classic of Italian cuisine. This addictive blend of pan-crisped guanciale, nutty pecorino and rich yolks make carbonara what to order in Rome.
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF CARBONARA?
Funnily enough, the roots of this “typical” Roman dish are relatively recent. Carbonara doesn’t appear on menus in Italy until the late 1950s and early 1960s. It’s a decidedly post-war “classic.” Some legends claim the dish was invented to satisfy American soldiers’ hankering for bacon and eggs. Others claim that coal miners –carbonari in Italian— would prepare it over a wood fire. Whatever its origins, carbonara somehow became ubiquitous in Rome.
WHAT DEFINES ROMAN-STYLE CARBONARA?
For Roman cooks, the ingredients are as simple as they are non-negotiable – crisped guanciale (cured pork cheek—tasting close to pancetta), grated pecorino romano (a salty sheep’s milk cheese) and raw eggs. While pancetta is often used in this dish in other areas of Italy, cooks in Rome and Lazio scoff at this—relying solely on guanciale for the pasta’s piggy goodness.
The creaminess of this sauce comes entirely from the silky eggs, melted cheese and rendered pork – no heavy cream allowed. In Rome, the most common pastas crowned in carbonara are rigatoni, tonnarelli, bucatini and spaghetti. Although carbonara’s components don’t change in Rome, the ratio of ingredients will vary widely from cook to cook, trattoria to trattoria. Some chefs prefer a dish studded with lot’s of fresh-cracked pepper. Others favor a velvety sauce made with yolks instead of whole eggs. Is your mouth watering yet?
WHERE CAN I FIND THE BEST CARBONARA IN ROME?
Below are our 8 top carbonara-crafting establishments in Rome:
Hostaria Romana is an authentic eatery beloved by locals – serving up old-school Roman dishes, cooked with care, since the 1950s. Diners in-the-know head here at lunchtime for the “l’antipasto” – a buffet of Roman-style artichokes (carciofi alla romana), crispy fried bites (fritto misto), savory grilled veggies and mountains of cured meat (salumi). The house spaghetti alla carbonara is divine, featuring handmade egg noodles. Be sure to order your pasta “originale”-style—served in the bowl it's tossed in.
Located on a cobblestone street in Rome’s scenic Trastevere quarter, Checcho Er Carettiere has been run by the same family for three generations. Checcho Er Carettiere prides itself on crafting classic fare – dishes like abbacchio (slow-roasted lamb), ossobuco (braised beef shank) and fried fiori di zucca (squash blossoms). On a warm night, you can dine al fresco in the quiet ivy-clad courtyard here. Checcho’s addictive carbonara shines a brilliant orange hue--studded generously with pan-crisped guanciale d’Amatrice.
The area by the Colosseum isn’t your best friend when it comes to finding authentic eats—filled with some seriously skippable tourist traps. Food-loving travelers near the Roman Forum and Colosseo should head instead to the adjacent Monti neighborhood—filled with neighborhood wine bars and local-beloved trattorias. One such eatery is Taverna Romana—tucked on the corner of a cobblestone street. This restaurant in Rome crafts thick egg noodles by hand—including classics like cacio e pepe, gricia and —of course— carbonara.
While countless tourists flock to Trastevere at dinner time each day, few foreigners know that Romans actually prefer the neighboring Monteverdi or Testaccio districts—equally as delicious but lacking Trastevere’s big tourist crowds. Open since 1968, Tavernaccia Da Bruno is housed in an exposed-brick cellar just south of Trastevere. House specialties here span handmade egg pastas — including epic lasagne baked in a wood-fired oven and pecorino-dusted tonnarelli alla carbonara.
Kosher carbonara sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, right? Well, in Rome, it’s not! Rome has been home to an active Jewish community since ancient times. Instead of pork, Jewish cooks in Rome, at restaurants like Renato al Ghetto, use cured beef cheek. To this day, you’ll find numerous kosher-style eateries in Rome’s Ghetto Ebraico (historic Jewish quarter)—dishing out Roman-Jewish classics like carciofi alla giudia and, yes, even kosher carbonara.
Despite having the word “carbonara” in its name, La Carbonara’s origins predate the creation of our beloved piggy pasta. Since 1906, Roman diners have been noshing –with abandon—at this neighborhood trattoria; coincidentally, its name comes from the fact that the first owner was married to a coal seller—or carbonaro. Must-try dishes include the namesake spaghetti and creamy tiramisù. You can even leave a review here by scribbling on the walls (it’s encouraged!).
Run by the Gargioli family since 1961, Armando al Pantheon invites diners on a journey through the time-honored flavors of Roman cooking. Whether you’re seated in a comfy booth or sipping a glass of wine at a tiny table, the management here treats you always like one of their famiglia. Each bite has been honed to perfection by Armando himself—the chef-founder of this typical trattoria. You should order drool-worthy delights here—like coda alla vaccinara (wine-braised oxtail), puntarelle (sautéed chicory greens), and classic Roman pastas.
You’ll find Ristorante Roscioli tucked inconspicuously behind a street-facing deli counter and wine shop. Part restaurant and part food store, Roscioli is famed throughout Rome for its vast wine list (2,800 labels!), hand-carved salumi, oven-fresh focaccia and classic Roman pastas—shaped, with amore, by hand. You can opt to dine at the informal bar or a table in the convivial back room. Either way, Roscioli gives you a real taste of cucina romana. The chef’s take on carbonara even relies on three varieties of cracked pepper for its piquant punch.