The closest fishing towns (Anzio, Fiumicino) are only about 40km/25 miles away, so fresh fish arrives in Rome daily at the markets and hence, the restaurants.
These fish vendors at Anzio are selling to the public right along the pier after their morning's catch. It doesn't get any fresher than this!
What dishes will you find if you eat seafood in Rome?
Fish in Roman Cuisine
The term "Roman Cuisine" actually has many meanings. There is Roman Cuisine from 2000 years ago, which looks almost nothing like the Roman Cuisine from 50-60 years ago, which frankly, looks quite different from what we are seeing in Rome today.
In keeping of the theme of this page, Seafood in Rome, let's talk about fish as part of Roman Cuisine.
Fish was a very important part of the diet in ancient Rome. The Romans ate a LOT of anchovies (and a stinky anchovy paste called garum.) The ancient Romans also had large-scale oyster farms. These fish came from the Mediterranean sea, which is close to Rome.
Until around the 1500's, the Romans also used to fish skate (sort of like a stingray but without the stinger), out of the Tiber. They don't anymore because those fish are long gone. (We do however, still eat skate from the sea.)
This delicious, light soup of broccoli and skate at Armando al Pantheon is a part of traditional Roman cuisine
Much of current traditional Roman cuisine involves (but is not limited to) pork, olives, pecorino cheese, and/or anchovies (not necessarily together.)
Baccalà, another typical Roman dish, especially on Fridays, is cod, and is similar to the fish you'd get in British Fish n Chips. It's thick, white and flaky, and not overly fishy tasting, which is why it's usually either battered and fried, or cooked with tomato sauce, capers, olives and other ingredients.
So, three of the simplest fishy foods in Roman Cuisine today are anchovies (used to salt foods like pizza and zucchini flowers), cod, and sometimes, skate and broccoli soup (unbelievably delicious in its simplicity!)
In a classic Rome trattoria like Dal Cavaliere Gino, you will find this simple dish of cod in tomato sauce, usually on Fridays
However, I think that is not what people mean when they ask where to eat seafood in Rome.
Typical seafood dishes you will find in Rome
Seafood you know back home is probably different from seafood in Rome. First of all, Mediterranean fish stocks are different from fish you might know. We have lots of anchovies and sardines, but no mahi-mahi or tilapia. We have lots of cod, which is important to current Roman traditional cuisine as it's one of the typical day-of-the-week foods (fish on Friday.)
In Rome, we do have a lot of white, bony flaky fish: seabass (spigola), bream (orata), and grouper(cernia.)
The main thing to know about how seafood in Rome is served is that it is simple. Seafood in Rome is usually lightly sauteed, grilled, baked, eaten raw, or added almost by itself to pasta. The idea is to taste the full flavor of the fish. So in Rome, you will not easily find fish that's been stuffed or covered with sauce.
Here are some typical dishes you will find when eating seafood in Rome:
Anchovies, lightly fried or marinated, plain or served with butter + bread
Sautéed clams and/or mussels, usually with a bit of garlic and hot pepper
Cold marinated seafood "salad" (there is no lettuce involved!)
Fried baccalà (cod) as precursor to eating pizza
Fried or marinated tiny squids called moscardini
Carpaccio (raw or smoked thin slices) of tuna or swordfish
One of my favorite specialties to order at Cesare al Casaletto is this portion of fried totani, or moscardini - little squids. They melt in your mouth!
Primi (pasta, rice, soup)
Spaghetti with large clams (vongole veraci) or small clams (telline.)
Risotto alla pescatora (not easy to find, and definitely not easy to find made well.)
Spaghetti with anchovies
Broth with skate and broccoli (you won't actually see the fish, it's been dissolved into the broth and then any parts are later removed.)
At Arancia d'Oro, the spaghetti and clams comes with bottarga - fish roe. This makes the flavor pop even more!
Secondi (main course)
Grilled fish either as a mix of seafood, just calamari, or shellfish
A whole fish, grilled or baked. You will often see it whole before it's cooked, and you often have the option of it being served to you whole, so you can clean it yourself, or they will offer to clean it for you. Many Mediterranean people like to clean their own fish, and the part about seeing it before it's cooked is to show you how fresh it is.
Fried calamari e gamberi, or squid and shrimp. This can also be served as an appetizer
Paranza, which is a platter of mixed, very lightly fried fishes
This paranza, or mixed lightly fried fish, at Roberto e Loretta, is one of my favorite dishes to order when they have it on the menu.
Seafood you won't easily find in Rome
We do have sea bass in Rome, but not Chilean sea bass.
Are you wondering where to get shrimp scampi in Rome? To my knowledge, you won't find this anywhere in Italy, as it's a foreign invention. In Italian, scampi ARE a kind of shrimp. The word "scampi" evolved in English speaking cultures to mean a style of preparation (usually with garlic, wine and butter, with or without pasta.)
You won't find this dish of Shrimp Scampi in Rome. Photo courtesy Jon Sullivan on Wikimedia Commons.
We have many kinds of crustaceans in Rome, including shrimp, langoustines, lobster and what are called scampi, a kind of large pink shrimp with long pincers, sort of like a crayfish. They usually comes raw or grilled.
The dish we call Shrimp Scampi in other parts of the world just doesn't exist here.
If you order Scampi in Rome, you may get this beautiful dish of raw crustaceans. These were delicious at Massimo Riccioli's bistrot at the Hotel Majestic.
Do you want some parmesan cheese with your spaghetti and clams? Go for it! Just ask. No Roman would ever do this. But it's your trip, and you should eat what you want, and enjoy yourself. So ask for the parmesan. On rare occasions, they won't give it to you because "it's just not done", but most restauranteurs are aware that tourists like this and will be happy to oblige.
This being said, there is one dish we eat in Rome that involves seafood and cheese: pasta with mussels and pecorino (and when in season, fava beans.)
Fettucine with mussels and pecorino cheese at Il Falchetto. A very tasty combo!
Want to know more about Rome Cuisine Myths and misnomers?
At the restaurants below, it is all about the seafood...don't come if anyone in your party does not eat seafood! (That is a slight exaggeration. They usually have one or two non-seafood dishes, or otherwise are happy to oblige someone who doesn't want fish, but it's probably going to be something pretty basic.)
You should expect to pay well for excellent seafood. You will likely spend a minimum of 45 Euros per person, not including wine.
Capo Boi is one of those old-fashioned, classic restaurants for seafood in Rome.
This raw seafood platter is one of the specialties at Capo Boi
It also happens to be in a posh neighborhood in Rome (Parioli), and is one of those restaurants where the Romans like to see and be seen. But of course, the reason to go is the food.
This is what a seafood "salad" looks like - in this case it's made with octopus and potatoes, another classic seafood dish in Rome
Everything at Capo Boi is fresh, and served simply, so you can taste the full fish flavors.
This grilled spigola, or seabass at Capo Boi, came out whole but then the waiter (mostly) cleaned it for me. When it's grilled like this, the skin is the best part!
Details and how to get there: Open Mon - Sat lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday. Via Arno, 80. (Parioli neighborhood, on several bus lines including 80, 83, 92.) Tel: 06 841 5535. Reservations strongly recommended. Outdoor seating available.
Pierluigi is another one of those classic restaurants for seafood in Rome. They have built a name for themselves over the years, with good reason. And not that this is a reason to eat there by itself, but it's one of the rare places to eat outside in Rome where you will enjoy a spacious plaza, and almost no traffic whizzing by you.
One of the best places to get seared scallops in Rome is at Pierluigi in Campo dei Fiori
Because of its location in the Campo dei Fiori area, and because of their long-standing reputation as one of the best seafood restaurants in Rome, it has become a pretty big tourist magnet. As with many restaurants in Rome, if you want to eat "where the locals eat", you should come here when the locals eat, after 9pm or on Sunday at lunch.
This dish of spaghetti with shrimp, mint and lemon at Pierluigi was delicious and full of flavor despite, or maybe because of its simplicity
Details and how to get there: Open daily for lunch and dinner. Piazza de' Ricci, 144. (Campo dei Fiori neighborhood). Tel: 06 686 8717. Reservations required. Outdoor seating available. 60-90 Euros pp.
The service is professional and very efficient. As soon as you sit down, you will be asked what you want to drink, immediately followed by a waiter asking what you'd like to eat. They will simply tell you what there is that day…they don't have a menu because the "catch" might vary daily.
On our last visit, we loved the shrimp and artichoke appetizer, and shared a simple but delicious fish fillet with roasted thin potato slices after. The desserts are home-made and wonderful. Excellent wine choices.
How to get there: Open Mon - Sat dinner only. Closed Sunday.Via Santa Croce in Gerusalemme 9. (Take the Metro Line A to San Giovanni.) No outdoor dining. Reservations required. 60-90 Euros pp.
The place is kinda kitsch, with bright blue walls and garish lighting, but come for the food, not the décor.
We would highly recommend the fried moscardini (tiny squids), saute of clams and mussels (spicy and garlicky) for appetizers. Their risotto alla pescatora is creamy and chock full of seafood (creamy from the risotto and ingredients - there is no cream or milk product here.) The spaghetti alle vongole verace (spaghetti with large clams in their shells) is divine. We also love the fried shrimp/calamari/fish platter, or just ask what is recommended that night, and get it grilled (whole).
The house white wine is crisp and a perfect accompaniment. Here, they have some of the best panna cotta in Rome, and it comes with a home-made blackberry liquor (called “mirto") or limoncello in icy bottles. This is a great option for fresh, affordable seafood in Rome.
Details and how to get there: Open Mon - Sat for lunch and dinner.Closed Sunday. Via Castelfidardo 12. (Termini area) Tel: 06 487 4165. Outdoor dining available. About 35-50 Euros pp.
There are quite a lot of these "classic" seafood restaurants in Rome. Some I have heard of and are on my list of places to try, and when I do, I'll update this page. In the meantime, you may want to check these out (I just can't give you my own opinion about them yet!) They are also on my Seafood in Rome map.
il San Lorenzo (Via dei Chiavari, 4/5, Campo dei Fiori)
Mater Matuta (Via Milano, 48, just off via Nazionale)
Tempio di Iside (Via Pietro Verri, 11, Metro A Manzoni near Colosseum)
Le Tamerici (Vicolo Scavolino, 79, a block from Trevi Fountain)
Assunta Madre (Via Giulia, 14, Campo dei Fiori)
Seafood in Rome - innovation at its finest
You know when a chef gets creative, and something interesting comes out on a plate, and you think, huh, that should be good. But then you try it and it's just strange, like the chef was either trying too hard or just didn't think it through well enough?
At the other end of the spectrum are chefs who just have this gift. The gift of knowing what goes well with what, and how to present it. You will find these chefs at the below restaurants. These are my go-to spots, my very favorite places to eat seafood in Rome:
Chef Fabio Mancuso at Crispi 19 is a culinary genius. He has a way of not just combining unusual ingredients, but even re-inventing them to new heights of seafood flavor and texture. And it all comes together beautifully in each and every plate, presented as if it were a work of art, which frankly, I think it is:
Seabass terrine with fennel and orange salad, served with herring and pumpkin seeds at Crispi 19
Do you see that leaf above? It's a deconstructed potato, that has been re-worked to look like a fine underwater leaf of sorts. And of course it's edible.
And this dish, below? I now almost always get this when I come, even if a lot of the menu changes. I crave these ravioli filled with seabream, in a shellfish broth. And those light and crispy tempura vegetables on top bring the whole thing to yet another dimension of flavor and texture:
Almost the entire menu is seafood-based although there are one or two vegetarian items and a meat dish or so. But come for the seafood. It’s divine: quality, flavor, presentation, inventiveness, are all winners here.
This flan of Roman broccoli with spelt, artichoke and gorgonzola sauce is one of the rare vegetarian platters at Crispi 19, and it's superb
All their dishes are plated and presented so beautifully that your taste buds get a head start and by the time you taste it all, you are already in seafood heaven!
Warm lobster and salmon salad with asparagus, served on a cream of potato and leeks, at Crispi 19
This unusual dish of parmesan-encrusted cod, served with fettucine made with squid ink, and scallops and mussels is heaven on a plate!
The pistachio-encrusted tuna is delectable, and perfectly seared. I've been through most of the menu and every dish is wonderful, beautifully prepared and presented.
Pistacchio-encrusted tuna, served with wild rice and seasonal vegetables, at Crispi 19
Details and how to get there: open daily lunch and dinner (including August and Christmas holidays.) Via Crispi 19 (Metro A Barberini, not far from Spanish Steps). Tel: 06 678 5904. Reservations suggested. Outdoor dining available. About 50-80 pp.
Wow. This may be my new favorite seafood restaurant in Rome.
Raw platter with amberjack carpaccio, Tyrrhenian crayfish and marinated red shrimp; bluefin tuna with capers and potatoes; and fresh salmon marinated with sesame, Pernod and sour cream
I know I've said this about a few other places on this page. But I recently had the pleasure of a long lunch here, and after an 8-course tasting menu, with each dish more delectable than the last, I can tell you, this is one amazing place for seafood in Rome.
The menu at il Molo 10 has a lot to choose from. Or you could just tell them to bring you what's fresh that day!
Chef Vincenzo Ciano really knows how to combine flavors, in particular traditional Roman dishes with just the right seafood choices, to create gorgeous and amazingly delicious, unique dishes.
Our first "primo" was this linguine cacio e pepe (very Roman), with seared scallops, and served on a puree of chicory and buffalo mozzarella. The whole dish was an amazing combination of fresh seafood and earthy Roman flavors that makes the whole dish just pop!
Linguine cacio e pepe with seared scallops - love this mix of seafood with traditional earthy Roman flavors!
Here is Il Molo's take on the famous Nobu-inspired black cod: it's miso marinated, then served on a cream of cannellini beans and wilted escarole, and topped with tobiko roe. A spectacular combination of flavors and textures. I could eat this every day!
Black cod on bean and escarole cream, and topped with tobiko, at Il Molo 10
This unusual combo of tuna and the herbs normally used to roast "porchetta" (a Roman pork delicacy) really worked. Oddly enough, the "porchetta" herbs brought out the super-fresh tuna flavor even more!
Tuna "porchettata" at Il Molo 10 - a superb combination!
We also had the chocolate cake for dessert which, if you have room for it, I highly recommend!
Details and how to get there: Open daily for lunch and dinner. Via dei Prati della Farnesina, 10 (Ponte Milvio area. Various public transport options including 301 but and 2 tram.) Tel: 06 333 6166. Reservations suggested. Outdoor dining available.
Disclosure - I was treated to lunch by the restaurant, but there was no specific expectation for me to write anything, and all photos, writing and opinions are my own.
Suriso is sort of a sushi/ramen restaurant. And I need to write a page all about where to get great sushi in Rome. But in the meantime, I will tell you, I almost don't consider going anywhere else for sushi now that I know Suriso. And sushi is fish, so it belongs on this page:
Gunkan special at Me Geisha - a feast for the senses!
Chef Rodelio Aglibot is a gifted magician when it comes to food. Using inspiration from his cultural backgrounds of the Philippines, Hawaii and all the places he's worked professionally in the US, from San Francisco to LA to Chicago, he has created a fascinating, joyful menu at Suriso. He made "poke" famous in the US, and now it's come to Rome.
Tuna poké at Me Geisha
This version of the now-famous miso-marinate black cod at Me Geisha is so delicious I have to get it every time I eat here.
This miso-marinated black cod at Me Geisha is one of the yummiest things I have ever eaten. Period.
Details and how to get there: Open daily for lunch and dinner. Via dei Filippini, 4/7. (Behind Piazza Navona). Tel: 06 8376 3800. Reservations recommended. No outdoor seating.
Sardegna is one of our all-time favourite restaurants for seafood in Rome. The menu consists entirely of seafood and offers a veritable feast of choices. There are many raw appetizers, highly recommended, and many cooked ones also. My favorite so far is the sampler plate of cooked Sardinian appetizers (about 30 Euros.)
I also love the homemade tagliolini with langoustines in lemon sauce.
On our most recent visit we tried tagliata mista, consisting of a mix of flaky white fish, very lightly breaded and sautéed, and served with sautéed eggplant on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes. We also had cernia alla cacciatora, a delicious preparation of bass slow cooked in wine and olives, also served on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes. About 60-90 pp.
Details and how to get there: Open Mon - Sat lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday. Via Sardegna, 34. (off via Veneto) Tel:06 4201 6296. Reservations suggested. No outdoor dining.
Seafood in Rome - where to find it in typical Rome restaurants
If everyone in your party wants something different, these restaurants have great food overall, meat, pasta and veg included, but are also an excellent choice for seafood lovers:
Settimio is one of those old-fashioned Rome restaurants where politicians and businesspeople go for long lunches. They are known for their seafood, but have plenty of other food to choose from as well.
The first thing you see when you walk into Settimio is the seafood display
The menu can change depending on what's fresh. I almost always get a pasta because they do it so well.
Paccheri pasta with red-fish (scorfano) and tomatoes at Settimio all'Arancio
Their fried seafood platter (paranza) is perfectly light and offers a lovely mix of different fish and shellfish (but you can ask for specific fish if you like.)
Fried seafood platter (paranza) at Settimio all'Arancio
Details and how to get there: Open Mon - Sat for lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday. Via dell'Arancio, 50. (Spanish Steps area) Tel: 06 687 6119. Reservations recommended. Outdoor dining available. About 40-60 Euros pp
Settimio's siblings have two other restaurants in Rome, both also serving fish, and among my favorite all around places to eat:
The marinated red shrimp at Massimo Riccioli's restaurant melt like butter in your mouth
If you are looking for upscale seafood in Rome, this is it. Chef Massimo Riccioli is famous for his superb, uber-fresh seafood delicacies.
Grouper ceviche at Chef Massimo Riccioli's restaurant in the Hotel Majestic
The dining room is elegant, understated and romantic. But you can also eat outside, overlooking Rome's famous via Veneto.
Outside dining at Massimo Riccioli's restaurant at the Hotel Majestic on via Veneto
Details and how to get there: Open Mon - Fri for lunch; Tue - Sat for dinner. Via Vittorio Veneto, 50. (Metro A Barberini.) Tel: +39 331 7858542. Reservations required. Outdoor dining available. Expect to pay over 100€ per person.
Who would have thought that right around the corner from Santa Maria in Trastevere you'd find one of the most authentic restaurants in Rome? A fellow Rome foodie friend (Maria Pasquale of HeartRome) who lives in the area told me about this restaurant and we went together.
Seabass carpaccio served simply with olive oil and lemon at Osteria der Belli - oh so good!
I loved everything we ate, and can't wait to go back and try the rest of the menu. This is the kind of place the locals from the neighborhood come all the time, and the owners know them all. This is the kind of place you can sit and linger and savor for ages if you want. This is the kind of place where you should just ask them to bring you what they recommend, it will all be good.
Very basic and just what we wanted spaghetti with large clams at Osteria der Belli
I am a big fan of grilled calamari in general. It's one of those dishes that you can easily find at restaurants serving seafood in Rome, and it's so simple, it's what I feel like getting when I want to keep it light.
But the grilled calamari at Osteria der Belli is on a whole other dimension. This is a must-try dish and will become one of my new favorites all around.
Grilled calamari at Osteria der Belli - absolutely outstanding!
Details and how to get there: Open Tue - Sun for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays. Piazza di Sant'Apollonia, 11. (Right near piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere.) Tel: 06 580 3782. Reservations suggested especially for dinner. Outside dining available. About 30 - 50€ pp.
Of course there are plenty of restaurants in Rome that serve a mix of foods, including seafood. I am just letting you know which ones stand out the most, and where I've had consistently amazing seafood.
If you want seafood in Rome, and your dining companions don't, you cannot go wrong at these restaurants.
Seafood in Rome - a map
I'd love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment below.
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