Wondering where to eat fresh, delicious seafood in Rome? I've got you covered!
Seafood is one of my favourite things to eat. So believe me, I do a lot of taste-testing where this is concerned.
Here's what you need to know about eating seafood in Rome, and finding the best spots:
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.
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.)
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!)
However, I think that is not what people mean when they ask where to eat seafood 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:
Primi (pasta, rice, soup)
Secondi (main course)
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.)
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.
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.)
There are basically three types of places to eat seafood in Rome:
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.
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.
Everything at Capo Boi is fresh, and served simply, so you can taste the full fish flavors.
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 piazza, and almost no traffic whizzing by you.
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.
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.
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.
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, perfect for a romantic meal. 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:
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.
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!
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.
Wow. This may be my new favorite seafood restaurant in Rome.
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.
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!
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!
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!
We also had the chocolate cake for dessert which, if you have room for it, I highly recommend!
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.
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.
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 business people go for long lunches. They are known for their seafood, but have plenty of other food to choose from as well.
The menu can change depending on what's fresh. I almost always get a pasta because they do it so well.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Click here to visit my interactive Google map showing all the places listed on this page. It will open in a new window.