Far from the Colosseum’s gladiators, on the other side of Rome in the shadow of the Aventine Hill, you’ll find the real Roman cooking. It’s where you can tuck into the creamiest carbonaras, hearty stews like coda alla vacinara and the best pizza in town, all washed down with a carafe of local frascati or a full-bodied red wine.
Testaccio is a grid of streets, bookended by the busy Via Marmota on one side and the ancient city wall on the other. It’s notably flat, with the exception of its namesake ‘Monte Testaccio’, an artificial hill made up of ancient pots dumped by the Romans. In the nineteenth century, the entire neighbourhood became Rome’s slaughterhouse and for over a century the working-class district was best known for its ‘Quinto Quarto’ or ‘Fifth Quarter’ dishes – offal. Today, it encapsulates the city’s culinary spirit and is beloved by both hungry Romans and tourists. We’ve rounded up some of the best restaurants in Testaccio.
Checchino dal 1887
Checchino dal 1887 has been serving locals for well over a century, run by the same family, the Marianis, for six generations. Renowned for its offal-dominated menu, you’ll find all the Quinto Quarto classics here, like beef tripe cooked in pecorino and Rome’s famed stewed oxtail, which Checcino invented. It’s a little more upmarket than most restaurants in Testaccio, with white-jacketed waiters and starched tablecloths, but it’s not overly intimidating either – the sort of place where locals congregate to mark an occasion.
Via di Monte Testaccio
If you haven’t quite got the stomach for animal innards just yet, Da Felice offers an excellent compromise. The strictly Cucina Romana kitchen serves up some of the best Roman dishes in the city, including classics like bucatini all’amatriciana and the best tonnarelli cacio e pepe in the city. Inside you’ll find a jovial, welcoming atmosphere whether you’re a local or tourist, but it hasn’t always been like that. The original owner, Felice Trivelloni would put ‘reserved’ signs on all the tables so he could turn away anyone he didn’t like the look of.
Via Mastro Giorgio, 29
Rome isn’t short of good pizza, but this 75-year-old pizzeria is widely considered to be one of the best in the city. Inside, it’s a loud, lively and no-lingering sort of establishment, so it’s best to save quiet conversations for elsewhere. Pizzas at Pizzeria Remo are served Romana style – scrocchiarella – thin and crispy, topped with molten hot mozzarella. Crowd pleasers include the Diavola made with spicy salami and the Pizza Bianca, served without tomato and topped with local cheeses and ingredients like courgette flowers and anchovies. Wash it all down with a happily affordable carafe of local red.
Piazza di S Maria Liberatrice, 44
It may be a deli, but cheap and cheerful this is not. Picnickers should prepare to live out their wild fantasies with shelves packed full of the finest wines, pasta and fresh bread, and tables buckling under the weight of fresh olives, locally cured meats and gourmet cheeses. For a serious showstopper, you can even pick up an entire leg of Prosciutto di Parma. If it’s a light lunch you’re after, you can build your own sandwich. Order anything from behind the glass counter, have it weighed and then stuffed into a big, beautiful panini.
Via Marmorata, 47
This old fashioned trattoria has been serving up Roman staples since 1911. Their carbonara, made with crispy guanciale and shards of fresh pecorino, is widely considered one of the best in the city. There’s more to this old-world restaurant than pasta though and a cursory look at the laminated menu will tell you so. It’s a place to eat happily and heartily while tucking into lightly fried sweetbreads, classic Coda alla Vaccinara and Puntarelle, a bitter salad dressed in anchovies. Finish it all off with a couple of glasses of grappa and you’re in for a blockbuster evening. Perilli has a loyal clientele, so make sure you book a table at least a couple of days in advance.
Via Marmorata, 39
The time will come, possibly around four days into your Roman holiday, when you realise you may have overdone it a little on the carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe and that maybe you fancy something a little different tonight. Hotfoot to Il Trapizzino, a relative newcomer to Testaccio’s foodie scene. A trapizzino is the love child of two delicious things: Pizza Bianca and a hot sandwich. Large triangular pockets of pizza are stuffed with classic Roman flavours, as well as more creative combinations like pumpkin almonds and pecorino cheese. It’s also one of the best places in the city to sample suppli, a hot pocket of rice and ragu, similar to Sicily’s arancini.
Via Giovanni Branca, 88
Mordi e Verdi
Once upon a time, Sergio Esposito worked with his father in one of Testaccio’s slaughterhouses. Now, you’ll find him busily building sandwiches in Testaccio Market at his brilliant and busy stall, Mordi e Verdi, which means ‘bite and go’. Esposito is dedicated to preserving some of Rome’s oldest recipes, many of which you can’t find anywhere else. Hundreds of people queue up for his sandwiches, like the allesso, a house speciality made with tender simmered brisket.
Nuovo Mercato Comunale di Testaccio