Rome wine bars, or enotecas, have begun to spring up only in the past 15-20 years or so.
For a long time, wine for Italians was simply something you had with the meal, out of a jug on the table. In the late 1970’s the Italian wine industry started improving, making wines better for export to the US.
Soon, restaurants in Italy began taking more care about the wines they served. Now, many of these restaurants with good wine lists call themselves enoteche (the Italian plural of enoteca), possibly because their wine list is even better than their food.
Very often, you will find a Rome bar/café that advertises “tasting wine” (yes I know it’s ‘wine tasting’ but I see it written this way a lot.) But they don’t really have a good selection of wines by the glass. I think they are just jumping on the "Rome Wine Bar" bandwagon.
My favorite kind of enoteca is where it really is all about the wine. The kind of place with a great selection of wines even by the glass, and where you can pop in, just for a glass or two, with some nice appetizers to go along with it.
This is one of those things I do make it a point to know about, so here is my list of my favorite wine bars in Rome.
Hands down my favorite Rome wine bar. Their wine cellar is superb and the atmosphere relaxing and warm.
I Colori del Vino has that rare combination of a fantastic wine selection, friendly, knowledgeable staff, a cozy ambiance with soft colors and good jazzy background music, and delicious snacks to accompany the wine.
The owner is the father of the owner of a well-known restaurant (that I also love) called Al Bric, which is known for its wine selection. The wine-by-the-glass list, printed daily on one sheet of paper, has a perfectly varied selection across wine types, geographic regions (including outside of Italy), and price ranges.
Each glass of wine comes with a little snack, usually some olives and small bruschetta.
But they also have wonderful appetizer dishes you can order, such as crostino with camembert slightly melted. (Crostino is a small thick toasty bread, topped with something.)
Below is a crostino I recently ate with mozzarella, zucchini flower and anchovy (heaven!)
And if you want, you can have a wonderful dinner here too.
How to get there: Via Aureliana 17. Near via Veneto and XX Settembre.
OK I have two favorite Rome wine bars. I really love Spiriti enoteca for a few reasons. First of all, it’s the only place I know smack behind the Pantheon where you can sit down and have a good glass of wine and not pay for the location. Second of all, the ambiance is perfect: just elegant enough but also really warm and welcoming.
Umberto, the owner, was originally an architect, so when he took over the license, he lovingly reformed it into a chic, understated little spot, with a very warm and welcoming layout. There are few tables, inside and out. The wine list is quite good and they are friendly and easy-going, letting you try a wine first (before you order it) if you ask.
Spiriti is not a restaurant but they always serve some bruschetta with the wine, and if you like, you can order some simple but delicious dishes from the daily menu.
How to get there: The original location is on a little street to the right of the Pantheon when you are facing it. Via di S. Eustachio, 5.
They have also just opened another location (photo above) on Piazza di Pietra, another fabulous spot between the via del Corso and the Pantheon, with a view of the columns of Hadrian’s temple.
Cul de Sac is a wine bar but it's also a restaurant. It does not have that wine-bar feel. In fact there is not a bar, only simple wooden tables, inside and outside. So why am I listing them under my 3 favorite wine bars in Rome? They were the first (or one of the first) of the Rome wine bars to open, in the late 1970’s.
Their main wine list is encyclopedic and even their menu of wines by the glass offers an excellent variety. But part of what makes this wine bar so special is the food.
So, you can come and sit and have a glass of wine. With superb choices of wines by the glass, as it should be in a real Rome wine bar. And, if you want, you can get some fabulous appetisers. Or, turn your visit into a gourmet meal. I’ve also mentioned Cul de Sac, in my list of places I’d eat if I had five nights in Rome.
How to get there: Just behind Piazza Navona on piazza di Pasquino.
The above are really my top 3 Rome wine bars, even though I do try new ones all the time. But there are plenty of other excellent enoteche in Rome, so if you are in the neighbourhood, try these:
Il Goccetto is a great, low-key neighbourhood wine bar, with a cozy feel and un-pretentious staff. This is a true wine bar: You will find a fantastic selection of wines by the glass (as well as by the bottle), wine bottles lining the walls as decor, and good appetisers to go with.
Il Goccetto is located in a historic (1500's) palazzo in Rome, built by Antonio Sangallo, one of the main architects of Saint Peter's. They've been there since the early 80's, so are definitely another fixture on the original wine bar scene in Rome.
How to get there: Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 14, near Campo dei Fiori
One of the oldest and largest of the Rome wine bars, Trimani has an amazing assortment of wines. Their wine shop (a different entrance) has a mind-boggling selection of Tuscan reds alone. They also have an enoteca where they do wine tastings and serve lovely food. The ambiance is nice but it can get pretty crowded at times, and then the service will be slow.
How to get there: Via Cernaia 37/b, sort of near Termini and piazza Repubblica
Uve e Forme is a well-stocked wine bar in the residential/student area of Rome and not as centrally located as the others I list here. But Piazza Bologna area has a lot to offer in terms of ambiance and restaurants so if you find yourself in this area, this is a great little enoteca to enjoy a happy hour or even evening meal. Their wine selection is superb, their happy hour snacks are varied and abundant, and they have a fantastic cheese menu.
How to get there: Via Padova, 6/8, close to piazza Bologna
A relatively new fixture on the Rome wine bar scene, Palatium is an enoteca serving exclusively wines from the Lazio region (hence the play on words: Lazio is the region where Rome is. Lazio in Latin is Latium, and Palatium is the Latin word for Palace, but it could also be seen as a pun, a play on “palate” and “Latium.” – just my take anyway.)
One nice thing about this wine bar is the location, right on via Frattina near the Spanish Steps. So it’s a great stopping point when you need a break from all that shopping! They have a nice little happy hour with minimal snacks, and have a pretty good selection of wines by the glass from Lazio. Some of these wines are so regional that they use grapes that you cannot get anywhere else. I’ve tried some interesting wines this way. I find the staff to be knowledgeable and friendly, and the ambiance mellow and relaxed.
How to get there: Via Frattina, 94. Another street that branches down from the Piazza di Spagna, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
These are restaurants where wine is the focus but where you can eat an excellent meal with your excellent wine. In fact, some of the wine bars I mention above also fall into this category.
There are many of these Rome wine bars/restaurants now, but these are some I’ve tried and some I love:
I mention Enoteca Ferrara restaurant because they do have an incredible wine list. They have two entrances, one is for the restaurant and the other for their small wine bar. I love the wine bar and think it’s a great option for an aperitivo if you are in Trastevere and want a pre-dinner drink. They have a nice little happy hour with snacks, a cozy ambiance and a very interesting and modern way to store and serve the wine.
As for the restaurant, I am sorry to say, I find it over-priced for what it is, and just not that special. Go for drinks and happy hour at the wine bar, and head over to Glass restaurant for a really special dinner.
How to get there: Piazza Trilussa, 41, in the heart of Trastevere.
Casa Bleve is another one of the original Rome wine bars. They started out as a modest enoteca in the Jewish Chetto (it’s sadly not there now.) They later opened another location near the Pantheon, which is worth a visit just to see the interior.
When you first walk in, you will gaze at their walls and walls of wines, and their gourmet food selection. Past this, into the restaurant itself, you will love the giant open-space room with it’s softly light stained glass and giant marble columns.
But of course, this is not enough to make a wine bar special.
The food is divine (a little on the expensive side), and of course their selection of wines is impressive. Definitely a spot for a special dinner with special wine.
How to get there: Via del Teatro Valle, 48, just behind the Pantheon.