Sure, you can eat cheaply, and even eat well, by having those things.
I've been known to make a meal out of fried street food, with a gelato chaser. Ahem.
But what if you want a fabulous, tasty, Roman, inexpensive meal at an authentic trattoria?
Well of course, I've got you covered!
After nearly 15 years of living in Rome (and eating out more than my share, both in the historic center and in quieter Roman neighborhoods), I really do know where the good affordable restaurants are.
On this page, I am not even going to discuss the places serving tourist-meals, with worse than banal food, typically made from something frozen.
Sometimes you can spot these by the large easel out front, with pictures of pasta and a can of Coke next to it, in English, accompanied by bold-lettered low low prices.
Instead, let's talk about restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy a freshly prepared, delicious Roman meal, but not spend a lot.
These are not going to be upscale, romantic restaurants, with table-cloths and waiters in half-tux jackets.
The reason these Rome restaurants are good cheap eats, is that they have a steady, loyal clientele, they don't invest too much in decor or upgrades, and they just make the same simple foods all the time.
Simple is good. And it does not have to cost a lot.
I consider a restaurant in Rome inexpensive if I can have a sit-down meal for 30€ per person or less.
Not if you know where to go!
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The way I usually eat dinner (or sometimes lunch) out in Rome is to have two courses: either an antipasto and a primo (pasta or soup); or no antipasto, but maybe a half primo and then a secondo, or an antipasto and a secondo.
I can’t have all three courses (antipasto, primo and secondo) - I just don’t have space in my tummy!
Wine is almost always involved (unless we are eating pizza, in which case, it’s beer).
So for pricing purposes, I’ll tell you more or less what I spend at the following restaurants in Rome when I have two courses, half a bottle of wine, water and coffee.
I am not including dessert either, since I don’t normally get it (too full), and also, I love a nice stroll and a gelato afterwards, so that is another story!
The bill you see here is from one of my favorite Rome trattorias that, unfortunately does not exist any more. But there are plenty more like it.
This was a meal for two, with two bottles water, one pasta that we shared, two shared second courses and coffee.
There was no wine at this meal, but even if we'd had a couples of glasses each, it would still have been pretty cheap, as good (or pretty good) wine is not expensive in Rome.
Let’s start with cheap Rome Restaurants for dinner.
I've broken this down into two categories: Really Roman trattorias, and excellent cheap pizzerias in Rome.
You’d think a restaurant right in the Monti neighbourhood near the Colosseum would be touristy and expensive. But Suburra is neither.
First of all, it’s been around for decades, and has a loyal local clientele. The decor is pretty out of date, but who cares. I go for the food. It’s nice that they have tables outside. But beware, it can get crowded and also busy out there when we have nice weather, and service can be slow. (Also people are smoking.)
You will find excellent pasta dishes like carbonara and gricia, superb artichokes when in season, and a great selection of meats, fish and vegetables.
They have many traditional Roman dishes, including the offal specialties such as rigatoni alla pajata, and trippa alla romana, but also some particular ones, based on their old-time clients’ tastes and requests (lambs' brains, or "Roman style" snails.) About 25-30€ pp.
Romolo e Remo is where I eat more than any other cheap Rome restaurants on this list because it’s near where I live. So I know it very well. And it’s a winner every time.
This is a “0km” restaurant, meaning they serve a lot of locally sourced foods (this is a sub-category of the Slow Food movement. Kind of like Farm-to-Table.)
At Romolo e Remo you can get all the traditional Roman pastas, plus a lot of other varieties. The menu is huge and offers fried appetisers, wood-burning oven pizza, steaks, chicken, eggplant parmesan, and typical Roman specialties like tripe, osso buco, coda all vaccinara, and on occasion, pajata.
They have excellent fresh fish (I often get their tonnerelli all scoglio, which is with a mix of shellfish, or perhaps their fried fish platter, or just a fresh grilled fish with potatoes.)
Typically, we spend around 20€ pp for full-on dinner here. Yes you read that right.
This restaurant right behind Parliament has been a go-to place for Romans in the know for decades. It’s especially difficult to get in for lunch, when all the politicians are eating there.
The decor is a bit kitschy and bright but it’s fun and convivial and the waiters are usually friendly and even funny.
Gino is the kind of place you come if you want home cooking, without having to cook it. You will find all the typical Roman dishes there, like pasta carbonara, amatriciana, gricia and more. You will also find some particular local dishes such as hare in tomato sauce, and cuttlefish with peas. Very Roman.
They do not take credit cards (which probably helps explain the low prices), and reservations are a must. About 27-30€ pp.
This super-local Roman dive is reputed among locals to have the best cacio e pepe pasta in Rome.
It’s definitely up there in the top 10, in my opinion.
The menu is really limited, and the waiters will just come tell you what there is that day. But try the pasta, especially, of course, the cacio e pepe.
Their carbonara is also excellent.
It's also pretty cool that even though a regular pasta dish is already affordable, they also list a menu option for an even cheaper "mezza-porzione" - half portion.
It can be very difficult to get a reservation here, especially in nice weather.
Expect to eat at rickety wooden tables close to other diners, but just enjoy. Around 20€ for dinner.
Sora Lucia is surprisingly local, homey and very Roman, despite its proximity to the Trevi Fountain. When you come inside Sora Lucia and are greeted by the owners, it almost feels like you've gone into someone's home.
I almost always start with a big plate of veggies. You can pick out what you want by going to look at them at the counter, or, even better, just tell them to bring a mix of them. It's all good.
They have a pretty vast menu, considering they serve pretty much local Roman dishes only. Pastas, fish and meat are all good here. Check the daily specials written on the chalkboard, and if they have homemade dessert, I strongly recommend saving room for it!
The name of this restaurant in English translates to “Flying Saucer.” Not sure why it’s called that.
But it’s one of the go-to restaurants in my group of friends when we want to meet out for dinner and enjoy a good, casual Roman meal and not spend too much.
There is a varied antipasto bar with lots of marinated grilled veggies and some fish appetisers, and they have good pizza, pasta, fish and meat options.
Another simple little no-frills Roman trattoria, serving good basic Roman food, at very fair prices...and once again just around the corner from the Coliseum. About 30€ pp including drinks.
If you are looking for a very simple, casual, no-frills cheap meal in Trastevere, this is the place.
The menu is limited to what is available that day, although you can usually count on the typical Roman pastas like cacio e pepe or amatriciana.
They don't take reservations, and the wooden tables are not that comfortable and pretty squished near each other.
It's very homey, the food is good and the prices are really really low.
About 20€ per person.
Typically a basic Roman pizza should cost around 6-9 Euros (one whole pizza for one person). It will cost a bit more if you get special toppings like buffalo mozzarella, porcini mushrooms or truffles.
Romans usually have some fried appetizers before their pizza: supplì (tomatoey rice balls stuffed with mozzarella, then breaded and fried; fried zucchini flowers; olive ascolane (green olives stuffed with minced pork, then breaded and fried); fried baccalà (codfish); or fried veggies.
Add a beer and you have a full meal, usually for under 20€ a person anyway. So you can go to just about any pizzeria in Rome and spend less for dinner than you would at a trattoria for a full meal. But there are a couple of places where the Romans go, where the pizza is seriously cheap, and seriously good.
Pizzeria alle Carrette is one of my all-round pizzeria's in Rome. I love it for the pizza and fried apps, but it also happens to be inexpensive.
This is a true pizzeria, with wood-burning oven, and a limited menu of only calzone's bruschetta, fried apps, salads and of course pizza. The simplest pizzas start at 4€ but even if you get toppings like zucchini flowers and anchovies, it's still under 10€. When we go as a group and get a bunch of fried apps, pizza, beer (or wine), we always spend around 15-18€ per person.
This place can probably be classified as a bit touristic, being right behind Piazza Navona but also on the most touristy street in that area.
However, it is also where the young local Romans go to have a casual cheap pizza. The pizza is very good, classic Roman style: thin, simple and crispy. And super cheap. (You can also get other food too, but I suggest sticking with the pizza.) You are likely to spend under 20€ for dinner here.
Sometimes you want a nice sit down lunch, but without spending a lot.
Yes, you can eat lunch cheaply in Rome if you just go to a bar and grab a panino or tramezzino to eat standing up or to go. Or, if you have pizza by the slice, standing up, which is a traditional Roman way of eating a quick lunch.
If you want to have a nice lunch, sitting down, and want to eat well but don’t want to spend too much (under 25€), here are my picks:
Enotecas (wine bars) can often be an excellent source for a yummy, inexpensive lunch. I am not talking about having cheese, olives and salami (which is certainly fine, also!)
A lot of enotecas in Rome make and serve simple food as a kind of "by the way." Oh yeah, we sell wine but here's some nice food too if you want.
This is one of my fave cheap Rome restaurants for lunch.
It's not far from the via Veneto, but it's still in a pretty business-y area of Rome, and at lunchtime, it's packed with Italians who work in the area, and who love a good, simple homemade lunch.
They make everything fresh daily, and the pasta is made to order.
The menu you see at left is one of their typical lunch menus.
(At the bottom of the menu is torta al papavero which is poppyseed cake. I tried it once and now I am ruined for any other poppyseed cake.)
Enoteca Buccone looks mostly like a wine emporium, but they have tables in the back, and serve some simple dishes each day (for dinner as well.) Check what's written on the chalkboard outside, but also just ask when you get inside.
Enoteca Corsi has it all: a lively, bustling dining room; friendly staff; a great selection of wines by the bottle or glass; and delicious Roman food at very good prices.
Location, location location: It's smack in the center of Rome, so it's very easy to get to from Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, or even the Coliseum.
You can find lunch buffets around Rome quite easily. But they are not always that great. I do have one I must recommend, because their buffet is amazing, and the price is right!
The food at Alla Rampa is quite good. And the place is not as touristy as you'd think, given its location right near the Spanish Steps.
On this page, we are talking about cheap Rome restaurants, so the only way I can recommend Alla Rampa as a cheap restaurant in Rome is for the buffet lunch.
If you order from the normal menu, you will get very good, well prepared food, but for normal restaurant prices...and you'll wind up spending 30-40 Euros per person, even for lunch. So let's stick with the buffet shall we?
It's not an all-you-can-eat-buffet. For 10€, you can go once to the buffet. But they don't care how much you heap on there. Consider there is also bread on the table, for which you will be charged about 2€ per person.
To keep costs low, order tap water instead of bottled, or house wine. And get your coffee elsewhere because that's another thing that will make the bill start edging up (about 3€ per person.)
I suppose I should not call a farmers' market a restaurant, but you can eat really well for very little money here, and you can sit down, so I am including it on this page.
You want to visit a real farmers' market in Rome?
I am not talking Campo dei Fiori, now pretty much over-run by tourists and non-food vendors.
I mean, a market where the farmers bring their produce and food products directly to the consumer? Where you can try things before you buy? And, where you can eat a homemade, simple lunch, made by the farmers themselves?
The Campagna Amica market in Circo Massimo (site only in Italian) is part of a bigger project that sets up markets, usually on weekends and holidays, in strategic areas in towns all over Italy. (See the website for Campagna Amica for more info.)
There are almost 10 of them all over Rome, but the one I go to the most is near the Circus Maximus.
Actually I usually go there to just get food for myself, but, sometimes I like to go around and taste some of the yummy things for sale, like porcini mushroom spread or sharp olive oil with little pieces of bread. And sometimes I go with friends to the little wine section in the back, and have a little wine tasting with snacks (another cheap lunch alert!)
But one of the best ways to have a really cheap, simple, local lunch in Rome is to stand in line and get one of their hot dishes on offer, and take it in the back to eat in the garden (in nice weather of course.)
Tavola calda literally means "hot table." But what the phrase means is a kind of bar/caffe, where they make the food in advance, and then have it on display for you to select, cafeteria-style. Usually there are daily specials.
You pick up a tray, utensils, and bread, and then go down the line and pick out what you want. Depending on what you order, they will heat it up for you. Step to the cash register and pay. It's a good idea to order your coffee at this point, to avoid waiting in another cash register line again later. (So save your receipt to show them when you go order your coffee.)
There will be spartan tables and chairs, and no waiter service. You should try to bring your tray to an appropriate place when you are done.
This is one of the best ways to eat lunch in Rome when you want something quick and cheap, but homemade and satisfying.
There are not so many great tavola calda in the touristic center. You find tavola calda more easily in business-y areas in Rome.
Here are a few spots where you can find really good tavola calda in the center of Rome:
Other than eating at cheap Rome restaurants, here are just a few more tips to save money eating in Rome. For more tips, visit my page about visiting Rome on a Budget.
Click here to visit my interactive Google map showing all the cheap Rome restaurants listed on this page. It will open in a new window.
You can click each category to see only places in that section.
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