Having spent the morning climbing up and down the 135 steps and exploring the piazzas and cobbled streets surrounding the Spanish Steps, there will come a moment, – let’s call it the ‘best moment’– when the sweet smell of Italian cuisine permeates the air and your belly rumbles. Rome, especially the area around the Spanish Steps, has numerous trattorias and cafés to choose from but as is often the case in popular quarters, many places are over-priced, over-hyped and difficult to fathom out. With this in mind, we’ve selected a few affordable restaurants; where the fundamentals of Cucina Romana are upheld and where you’re as likely to bump into an Italian as a camera-swinging tourist, a bit like yourself.…
For people on really tight budgets, there are few better options than this perennially busy takeaway tucked in at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. With just a few main courses available, options are limited, but the quality and size of the portions more than compensate. Italian classics like Pasta alla Gricia and Amatriciana form the backbone of the menu, add to any of these main dishes a glass of red and you’ll head home, happily-full and only five euros the poorer.
Via della Croce, 8
Named after the Dean Martin classic, tables at this quaint and noisy restaurant need to be booked in advance to ensure a seat. Forget the flowery wallpaper and predictable shots of the old crooner, you’re here for the seafood and truffle pasta, the affable waiters and more than anything else, value for money. In a city with so many places to eat pizza and pasta, this is as authentic and fun as any.
Via in Arcione, 115
What makes this pea-sized restaurant so interesting is that its success has been born out of its lack of a licence. To eschew local laws, punters are offered bar stools and wooden bread boards to dine off. Specialising in cured hams and cheeses, your only real concern is which platter to choose (the medium sized platter is enough for 2); the rest is taken care of by the staff. With mouth-watering Porcetta, salted bread and an exquisite house red at €12, it’s hard to go wrong.
Via della Panetteria, 34/A
After a few days of chowing down on Roman classics in brightly-lit trattorias, you might be craving a lighter and more elegant dinner. Sofia provides just that, and at half the price of restaurants of a similar category. Regular specials include a Mediterranean tuna coated in pistachios, a filet mignon, a seared red mullet, and Orecchiete with clams, cherry tomatoes and jalapeños. Or, you can simply opt for more pasta.
Via di Capo le Case, 51
Antico Caffè Vitti
Perhaps not the cheapest spot in the area, but this 120-year-old family run café with its large terrace on the Piazza di San Lorenzo is perfect for resting tired feet. Order a coffee and a cream-filled pastry or a freshly-made pizza to share, or one of their trademark platters of coldcuts. Come sunset, the tables fill with an evenly-balanced mix of residents and foreigners sipping on vermouths and tall cocktails.
Piazza di S. Lorenzo in Lucina, 33
For Italians, stepping out for an ice cream is as common as a pint down the local for the Brits and as a result, standards are very high. Since its inauguration in 1878, Gelateria Venchi has remained at the top of the pecking order, drawing inspiration from authentic Italian recipes based on hazelnut and almond pastes. Rich dark chocolate, nougat, caramel and the fruity mango are among the most popular flavours.
Via della Croce, 25/26
Out of all the trattorias around the Spanish Steps, Fiaschetteria Beltramme is often the busiest, and deservedly so. Almost every inch of the walls is adorned with quirky sketches while the salon is full of wooden tables filled with hungry regulars. The menu is peppered with Italian staples like the roasted sauces, pasta with mussels, and the particularly popular, Parmagiana.
Via della Croce, 39