Where to eat when Rome shuts down
For years, Rome has shut down in August. During Italy’s traditional summer holiday of ferragosto, it is normally near impossible to find an open restaurant or shop.
But thanks to the economic crisis, the number of Romans leaving for ferragosto has diminished, with Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reporting that only one in three Romans will leave for a week or more this year, down 10% from last summer.
That might be bad news for Italians, but it’s good news for Rome-bound tourists, especially for those coming for the food. Visitors will still need to plan and book their meals in advance — especially for the two weeks in the middle of August ― but an incredible amount of restaurants will remain open this year, including some top-quality, authentic spots.
Trattorias were usually the first restaurants to shut in summer – after all, if the menu stayed faithful to Roman tradition, the calendar probably did too. Luckily, Flavio al Velavevodetto will open for both lunch and dinner every day in August, including the national holiday of 15 August. The restaurant’s classic Roman dishes – such as bucatini all’amatriciana (pasta with tomato and pork cheek) and coda alla vaccinara (stew made with oxtail) – are favourites of Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini. The restaurant’s location makes it an even better summer choice: built into Monte Testaccio (a hill created by the ancient Romans, who dumped their used amphorae here), its upstairs terrace gets a cool breeze on hot days. On the ground floor, a glass wall shows off the broken pottery.
More upscale than a trattoria but still cosy, Roman institution Roscioli dishes out both Roman classics and Italian cuisine with a twist. Try the cacio e pepe (traditional Roman pasta with Pecorino Romana and black pepper) and linguina alla siciliana (pasta with wild fennel, red prawn and cumin). Roscioli will be open daily through August, except for Sundays and on 15 August.
In the mood for fish? Osteria La Gensola, one of Rome’s tastiest seafood restaurants, is open every day this month, except for 15 August. Head to this top-notch Trastevere spot for super-fresh fish dishes such as spaghetti with sea urchin or grilled calamari.
Some of the city’s top spots for contemporary cuisine are open through August too ― including Rome’s newest Michelin-starred restaurants. Two-year-old Pipero al Rex offers specialties such as goose carpaccio with apple and mustard, while Metamorfosi features twists on the classics, such as gnocchi with cuttlefish and peas. Both restaurants are serving dinner Monday through Saturday.
Need an upmarket spot for Sunday? At Michelin-starred Glass Hostaria, Cordon Bleu-trained chef Cristina Bowerman whips up a creative menu that changes frequently. Past dishes have included items such as tagliolini with oysters, leeks and vanilla. In August, Glass is open Tuesday through Sunday.
Ristorante Antico Arco, meanwhile, is open seven days a week during ferragosto. Located just out of Rome’s centre on the beautiful Janiculum hill, its menu includes specialties such as raw yellowtail with lime, ginger and fennel, or carbonara with black truffle. Open from noon to midnight, this is also a good option for a late lunch, as many of Rome’s restaurants close between 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm.
The new Splendor Parthenopes is also open every day, from 7 am until 2 am. It is a great option for families, since the menu has something for everyone, including pastries, cheeses, meat, fish, pasta and pizza.
Finally, the area near the Vatican museums and St Peter’s Basilica is a tough one for food, even at the best of times. Luckily, one local favourite is remaining open through August. Pizzarium (Via della Meloria 43; 063-974-5416) offers some of Rome’s tastiest pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice). There’s no table service – and it’s pricy – but the slices, sold by weight, are made with the day’s freshest ingredients. Chef Gabriele Bonci uses 200-year-old starters for his sourdough, making for a deliciously fluffy crust.
Amanda Ruggeri is the Rome Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes revealedrome.com.