Roman cuisine already offers lots of vegetarian (and vegan) options
Much of Roman cuisine is or can be vegetarian all by itself, so you don't need to feel too restricted about where to eat in Rome.
Vegetables are a huge staple of contemporary Roman cuisine. These grilled veggies au gratin were topped with a dab of Greek yoghurt, and were super delicious at Osteria dell'Ingegno.
I was vegetarian for several years recently, and found myself always able to find plenty to eat when going out with others (who were not vegetarian), to just about any Rome restaurant, bar or pizzeria.
We didn't need to look for specific vegetarian restaurants in Rome. There was never an occasion when my friends or husband would say, oh, we can't go THERE because Elyssa doesn't eat meat.
Meaty Rome restaurants
It can be tricky when you go out with serious carnivores, such as to one of Rome's oldest restaurants, Checchino, which is famous for their use of offal pretty much throughout their menu. And yet, I was able to eat there! Vegetables, and cheese.
For vegans, this place would have been a bit stickier to navigate.
Another difficult place for vegetarians, especially vegans, is Santo Palato, a recently-opened, much-lauded Roman trattoria serving up traditional Roman food that's mostly focused on pork and offal. I had a Roman artichoke, and cacio e pepe pasta (a typical Roman dish that has cheese but no meat).
Even in situations like that, if you don't like cheese or are vegan, you could simply order a few of the contorni, or side dishes, which are usually vegetable based.
How to Eat Vegetarian Food in Rome Restaurants and Bars
If you visit a Roman trattoria, take a look at the vegetable bar, or the contorni(side dish) option on the menu, and you'll find that it is often comprised almost entirely of vegetarian, if not vegan dishes, like cooked vegetables, beans, and potatoes.
At Sora Lucia, a typical Roman trattoria, I often just ask them to bring a huge selection from their vegetable bar for the table. But I could eat this by itself as a meal.
There is almost always a vegan or vegetarian pasta choice. Of the four traditional Roman pastas, one has only cheese (cacio e pepe, which is sheep's milk cheese and black pepper).
For vegan pasta, you'll often find fettuccine with funghi porcini (porcini mushrooms), penne arrabbiata (short pasta with a spicy tomato sauce), or some version of a simple basil-tomato sauce.
And at most (but not all) Roman restaurants, you can usually just ask them to make you a simple dish with just tomato and basil, or as my dad loves, with aglio, olio epeperoncino (garlic, olive oil and hot peppers. Simple is good!)
Penne arrabbiata is a lovely vegan dish you can easily find in Rome. This one is from Sora Lucia, a Roman trattoria near the Trevi Fountain.
Some common vegetarian items you will often find on the menu in Roman trattorias include:
Scamorza (a kind of grilled, melty cheese)
Caprese (tomato and buffalo-milk mozzarella, in season, i.e. summer)
Eggs (not that common but you can also ask for them)
Vegan dishes you will often find on Rome menus include:
Bruschetta with olive oil or tomatoes
Grilled funghi porcini (in season)
Grilled vegetables (eggplant, zucchine, peppers)
Spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce
A simple bruschetta with fresh tomatoes (in season), drizzled with olive oil, is a delicious option for vegans, and available at almost any Rome trattoria.
I would not expect to start seeing a flurry of "Vegetarian" menu headings anytime soon at traditional Rome trattorias.
Which is not to say you cannot eat there as you would at dedicated vegetarian restaurants in Rome. You will just have to be selective.
Foods to be careful of in Rome if you are vegan/vegetarian
This means that to flavor food and give it saltiness, one of two common ingredients are often used (never together): anchovies and pork. These are often incorporated into Roman dishes in small amounts and chopped up.
So you will have to either know it's there, or ask to make sure it's NOT there.
It's important not to ask if something "has meat", but rather to ask if it's vegetarian. For many Italians, the word carne, or meat, implies beef or lamb. I've been told by many a barman that a ham-and-cheese tramezzino (little half-sandwich on white bread that you will find at bars/cafe's all over Rome) does not have meat.
"Tramezzini" are a great little mid-day snack (or even a good option for a quick lunch). You can usually see the ingredients clearly. Almost all of them contain mayonnaise, and while there is usually a pretty good selection for vegetarians, it may be difficult to find a vegan option of these.
Likewise, I've been told by many Italian restaurant waiters that something does not have meat only to find out there are small bits of anchovy in there. When confronted, the response from the not-understanding waiter: "Well, just a little, you know, for flavor."
Which is fine if you are like me and love anchovies. But not fine if you hate fish or are vegetarian. So the correct question to ask is "is it completely vegetarian?" You can ask in English. If you want to ask in Italian, say this: "Il piatto è completamente vegetariano?"
Here are some places meat or fish is "slipped" into the food in Roman restaurants:
Supplì - Classic Roman breaded-and-fried rice balls. Supplì are mostly made with rice, tomato sauce and cheese. But many places also serve a "classic" version that has some form of meat (beef, or chicken innards).
Fiori di zucca - Fried zucchini flowers. They are nearly always filled with mozzarella (more rarely with ricotta) and 1-2 anchovies "for salt". One place I know of that offers this dish on the menu specifically without anchovies is Pizzeria Emma.
Mixed fried things as appetizer - You often find a fritto misto on a menu where fried things are served, especially at pizzerias. It should be clear if the dish is JUST mixed vegetables or if there are meaty things involved (like fried zucchini flowers, fried cod, and stuffed olives). But if you are not sure, you should ask because once a platter of fried things arrives, it's not easy to tell what's inside.
Vignarola - this seasonal spring dish of sautéed artichokes, fava beans and peas can be served vegetarian, but is often "flavored" with guanciale (pork jowls), so always ask.
Many minestre (soups), especially if beans are involved - just as with split pea soup or chili, people add meat/pork for flavor, so too do Italians often flavor soups and stews, either with pork or shellfish.
Pastries - For a long time I thought I was "safe" having my morning cappucino e cornetto (like a croissant). But it turns out the pastries are often made with lard (strutto). By law, bars have to place a list of ingredients used in their food, someplace visible. So I checked one day and saw strutto all over the place. You will need to check the ingredients list, or go someplace that serves vegan pastries.
Bottom line with the above: Ask if it's not clear or you are not sure.
This gorgeous "Fritto Romano" at Secondo Tradizione, was made up of mostly vegetables. But there were other things in here too: veal parts you probably don't want me to describe here. But they did tell us in advance.
Rome's Vegan and Vegetarian Bloggers Recommend their favorite Vegetarian Restaurants in Rome
The second piece of good news I have for you is that many of my wonderful Rome blogging/vlogging friends are vegan or vegetarian, and have added to this page by sharing their favorite vegetarian restaurants in Rome.
"Being vegetarian in Rome is a little different than being vegetarian in the US - you won't find tofu, tempeh or seitan on the menus here, or even big bowls of chopped salads dressed with interesting vinaigrettes.
On first impact, it can be difficult to navigate past all the pastas, bruschetta and pizza but my favorite trick is to flip to the back of the menu where the contorni lie."
Fa-bio offers excellent options for organic, fresh, made-to-order sandwiches, not far from the Vatican. Plenty of choices for vegetarians and vegans too. Photo - Livia Hengel
"Italians are so good at preparing flavorful vegetables that I often feel like I'm indulging in something as delicious as dessert: between broccoli rabe sautéed with olive oil, garlic and red chili flakes, braised Roman artichokes flavored with lemon and mint, grilled radicchio with melted taleggio cheese and crispy roasted potatoes served with fresh rosemary, it's hard to pick my favorite side dish. I also have to admit I eat a lot of cacio e pepe and pizza margherita. I love carbohydrates!
I can always find vegetarian options on the menu but if I'm eating out with veggie friends, I like to go to Fa-Bio near the Vatican for the best salads and juices in Rome or Il Margutta near Piazza del Popolo for dinner with a chic atmosphere."
Details - Fa-Bio. Via Germanico, 43. Open Monday - Friday 10:30 am- 5:30pm. Saturday 10:30am - 4pm. Closed Sundays. Not sit-down, so no reservations required. Phone: 06 6452 5810
Livia Hengel is a writer, photographer and digital strategist who helps Italian businesses share their stories online. Follow her travels on her website, Instagram, or other social media (Twitter/Pinterest: @liviahengel, Facebook page: @liviainitaly).
"Romeow Cat Bistrot is a must-visit for all of the animal lovers out there on a trip to Rome. Located in the Ostiense/Piramide area of the city, your journey there will bring inspiration through the lively streets, Rome's piramid and famous street art.
Romeow itself has a very charming vibe and this includes the furry friends you can see sleeping in unique beds throughout the restaurant. The food is all vegan and tasteful."
We loved this sweet potato dressed with vegan sour cream, seed, nuts and herbs. Romeow Cat Bistrot is definitely one of the most creative vegetarian restaurants in Rome.
"The menu changes with the season, however always contains vegan versions of famous Italian cuisine (and of course delicious deserts!). For an afternoon treat or a delicious meal Romeow is an excellent choice!"
There are plenty of kitties to adore while you enjoy your vegan meal at Romeow Cat Bistrot.
Details - Via Francesco Negri, 15 (Ostiense). Closed Monday and Tuesday. Open Wednesday - Sunday 11am - 11:30pm. Reservations strongly suggested, it's always full. Tel - 06 5728 9203
Zoey Arielle Poulsen, better known by her wildly popular YouTube channel: Zoey Arielle is a 20-something Canadian girl living life the way it was meant to be lived. Currently working remotely from Rome, Italy, Zoey was born and raised on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. She moved to Toronto to continue her post-graduate degree in Sport & Event Marketing when it happened. She fell in love with life, traveling and sharing her positive message. From Toronto, she followed her heart all the way to Italy to become the digital nomad of sorts we’ve all come to love. Follow her adventures on her YouTube channel, on her blog, and on her beautiful Instagram profile.
"I find I can eat well almost anywhere so I'm not one to go to specifically vegetarian restaurants in Rome.
However, when I do one of my favorites is Bibliothè.
Bibliothè is a hidden gem - an Indian restaurant run by an American & Italian couple Trina & Enzo on a little side street near Largo Torre Argentina. Everything is homemade with organic ingredients and Trina makes amazing American-style decadent cakes and pies for dessert."
Bibliothè is one of the best ethnic-food vegetarian restaurants in Rome, and has a lovely, calming atmosphere. Photo - Livia Hengel
"Their Ayurvedic tea is a delicious way to end the meal or just stop by for tea and some cake in the afternoon. For lunch, they have their "curry in a hurry" which is a fast track sampler of different menu items of the day on one platter."
Details - Via Celsa, 5. Open Monday - Saturday noon - midnight. Closed Sundays. Starting September 2018 open for dinner only on Saturdays.
Linda Martinez runs the Beehive hostel along with her husband Steve Brenner. The Beehive hostel is one of my favorite places to recommend in Rome.
The Beehive is a hostel with a small cafe which serves vegetarian breakfast daily from 07:30-10:30. The café is open to guests and non-guests alike.
Everything is à la carte, made to order. There's everything from in-house homemade bread, cakes, and pastries to omelets, French toast, porridge, and more. Ingredients are organic and coffees & teas are fair trade. In addition, there are family-style vegetarian & vegan set menu dinners starting 19:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday that are based on donation. For the dinners, reservation is required before 17:00 on the day of the dinner.
Details - Via Marghera, 8 (near Termini). Tel - 06 4470 4553
"As a seafood-eating vegetarian for over 20 years, the thing I miss most is burgers.
My favorite local place for a veggie burger is Eat Street Food in the heart of Trastevere just off Piazza Trilussa. Best of all, you can order your veggie burger on a traditional bun or on a big salad with grilled vegetables for €9. Yum!"
Details - Piazza Trilussa, 40. Open daily. Tel: 06 5809456
Australian-born writer and public relations expert Joanne Bergamin has been living and working in Rome for the last ten years, most of them inside the Vatican, where she has had the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of institutions from the Pope’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, to the Pontifical Swiss Guard where she found her husband (or rather he found her)! You can follow her on her blog, Travel Angel, and on Instagram.
"I love the aperitivo at Freni e Frizioni because not only is it super affordable, but it's 100% vegetarian (and vegan friendly!) With the purchase of one drink, you can choose as much food as you'd like at the buffet station. It's a perfect option for vegetarians and vegans who are visiting Rome because they can experience the Italian "aperitivo," without having to ask, "Is there any meat?"
The buffet has a huge selection of salads, pastas, legumes, dips and so much more."
Freni e Frizioni offers a superb vegetarian aperitivo spread, and is a favorite with many Rome vegetarians and carnivores alike! Photo - Livia Hengel
"My favorite time to come here is during the summer, where you can take your drink and plate of food and sit outside in a very casual and laid back environment. I never leave Freni e Frizioni hungry!"
Details - Via del Politeama, 4/6 (Trastevere). Open daily from 6:30pm - 2am. Tel - 06 4549 7499
An American girl transported to an Italian world. Sofie left the corporate world and moved to Rome for love in 2016. She started documenting her travels and experiences as a bilingual expat on YouTube to share the love of Italian culture and stepping outside comfort zones with like-minded individuals.
Follow Sofie on her YouTube channel and on her Instagram page.
Gian Pietro Gentilucci Leonardi
"Rome is increasingly becoming the capital of plant based cuisine. More and more new and trendy restaurants are opening and the older ones are changing their menus to include vegan options.
But there is a place that manages to perfectly combine traditional Roman cuisine and delicious vegan food: I'm talking about Rifugio Romano, a few steps from Termini Station.
A very friendly place where you can taste Roman food in its vegan version and new specialties created specifically by the chef.
The wine list is also vegan friendly and well-priced. A special mention to the staff, very welcoming and with the typical Roman liveliness. It is better to book in advance. Highly recommended."
Details - Via Volturno, 39/41. Open Wednesday - Monday 11am - 11pm. Closed Tuesdays. Phone: 06 488 0945.
Gian Pietro Leonardi combines a passion for art (he's content curator of Rome's Civic Museums Social Networks), literature (he publishes the blog Queerographies), and travelling. Follow his wanderings on Instagram.
"I can definitely recommend Flower Burger. Gosh, I love this place! It is a little out of the centre, but the vegan ceci (chickpea) burgers are so delicious."
Flower Burger offers a large variety of veggie and vegan burgers, and a bright, welcoming atmosphere. Photo - Sian Lloyd
"The atmosphere of this tiny place is very cute, brightly coloured and with adorable quotes on the walls. Apart from their amazing fresh burgers, the staff are friendly and it just has such a welcoming, easy going atmosphere."
Details - Via Dei Gracchi 87 (Vatican). Open daily for lunch and dinner. Tel - 06.456 66 538
Sian is a Lifestyle Blogger, Content Creator & Eternal Explorer. Having moved to Rome over 2 years ago from South Africa, she is constantly out and about exploring the endless eternal city, especially when it comes to food! Follow Sian on her healthy lifestyle blogLive The Wonderful Life and on Instagram.
Rome is now overflowing with options for vegans and vegetarians
The third piece of good news I have about eating vegan and vegetarian in Rome is that the city is now bursting with restaurants catering to you!
Besides new (specifically) vegetarian restaurants in Rome popping up right and left, many more traditional Rome restaurants are now offering some form of vegetarian and vegan options on their menus.
When it comes to recommending specific vegan or vegetarian restaurants in Rome, I am going to have to actually NARROW down the list here, and include the places I know best, and in the most central or at least accessible parts of Rome.
This all vegetarian "burger" spot can be found in the "Veg&Veg" stand in the Mercato Centrale food hall in Termini train station.
Vegetarian Food tours in Rome
The best way to enjoy a food tour in Rome as a vegetarian is to book the general food tour you want, and just let them know your restrictions.
Roman food tours have become so popular that there are now many different options, from pizza-specific, to kid-friendly, to market-exploring, and much more.
Many Rome food tours can be modified to accommodate vegetarians and vegans, so make sure to inform the company when you book.
The below are all sit-down restaurants, where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, brunch, and/or dinner. Some are regular restaurants with a good vegetarian selection, and others are all vegan or all vegetarian restaurants in Rome.
We love the varied, fresh and delicious vegetarian buffet at Ops!, which is one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants in Rome for brunch.
Ops! is a 100% vegetarian (and almost totally vegan) casual restaurant not far from Via Veneto or Termini.
I go here often with Roman friends for brunch. And none of these friends is vegetarian. We just love the atmosphere, the brunch special, and the fantastic food. Try some of their vegan desserts too!
Details - Via Bergamo, 56. Open Monday 9:30am-3:30pm, Tuesday-Sunday 9:30am-11pm. Tel - 06 841 1769
Most of my vegetarian blogging friends mentioned this as one of their favorite vegetarian restaurants in Rome, and I love it too.
Il Margutta is one of the best-known and loved vegetarian restaurants in Rome. I agree, it's great!
Il Margutta Vegetarian Food & Art is probably the most famous of the specifically vegetarian restaurants in Rome. I love it at lunchtime, but it's also a great option for a slightly upscale, even romantic dinner. Bonus - the whole place doubles as a modern art gallery, so you have the pleasure of being immersed in a beautiful setting while you eat.
Details - Via Margutta, 118 (near Piazza del Popolo and Spanish Steps). Open daily for lunch/brunch and dinner. Reservations recommended, especially for Sunday brunch and weekend dinner. Tel . 06.32650577
Ever since Ginger came upon the Rome dining scene, hip Romans have been flocking here for the healthy-food menu, the bright, cheery atmosphere, and the "something new and different" factor.
I loved this steamed basket of peas with quinoa balls, cauliflower and carrots. A little salt, and some EEVO drizzled on top made it just perfect.
It's also pretty nice to know you are eating at a restaurant that adheres to a strong sustainability philosophy.
Ginger has something for everyone, including those avoiding gluten.
Romans love the cheery, modern vibe at health-food restaurant Ginger.
Two locations in Rome.
Via Borgognona 43-46 (Spanish Steps). Open daily 10 am to midnight.
Piazza Sant'Eustachio, 54-55 (Pantheon). Open daily 8 am to midnight.
This Syrian/Lebanese spot is an excellent choice for lunch or dinner.
At La Via della Seta, you'll enjoy dishes made with vegetables, pomegranate seeds, falafel, grape leaves, rice, tahini, spices and fabulous olive oil. It's a feast for the senses!
They do have meat dishes but I just love their veggie dishes even more (I'm pretty sure the vegetarian dishes are 100% vegan. I couldn't spot any dairy in there.) Try their 15€ veggie platter for a sumptuous, healthy, vegetarian lunch.
Middle-eastern cuisine with tons of options for vegetarians and vegans, with this lovely view of via dei Coronari.
Details - Via dei Coronari, 143. Open daily 12:30pm - 10:30pm, except Fridays when they open at 6pm. Tel: 06 6830 7438
Fiore Flexitarian Cuisine
I have not yet tried Fiore, but Roman friends of mine love it and eat here often.
The menu has options for meat and seafood eaters, but also vegans and vegetarians. Chef Matteo Cavolioffers some "experimental" dishes (steamed and raw foods) on the menu, but you can find typical Italian dishes as well. Bonus! There is a rooftop terrace with a bit of a view.
Details - Via Boncompagni 31/33. Rome. Tel.06 42020400. Open daily 12.30pm – 12am
Orto is a relative newcomer in the vegetarian restaurants in Rome scene. There's a casual, warm, cozy atmosphere with a creative menu full of fresh vegetarian, vegan and bio ingredients. It's one of the nicest vegetarian restaurants in Rome to enjoy an inexpensive vegetarian lunch, brunch or dinner. Even my Roman carnivore friends love it. Check out the all-you-can-eat lunch during the week (9€) and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays (15€).
Details - Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, 142 (Prati). Open daily, 12:30pm-3pm; 7pm-Midnight. Reservations recommended. Tel - 06.45678050
So What?! is acompletely vegan restaurant in Pigneto area, an off-the-beaten-tourist track neighborhood.
The owners, Paolo Petralia and his wife Alessandra Pezzuolo, have long published a vegan recipe website (Italian), Vegan Riot. In 2013, they opened their vegan restaurant, and it became an instant hit.
Details - Via Ettore Giovenale, 56/58 (Pigneto). Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 7.30pm, and Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesdays. Tel. + 39 329 82 65 250 or 06.64 80 15 11
Not far from the Vatican, Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Navona,Ecru Raw is perfectly located to enjoy raw, biological, vegetarian food in a lovely, serene setting.
Look for smoothies, vegan cheeses, soups, natural wines and much more.
Details - Via Acciaioli 9. Open daily 10am - 8pm, Friday and Saturday until 10pm. Tel - 06 6880 4282
Duecento Gradi is a small sandwich shop with a huge menu offering choices for everyone, including specific vegetarian and vegan menus.
Details - Piazza del Risorgimento 3 (Vatican). Open daily 10am - 2am, Friday and Saturday nights open until 5am.
La Zazie is an Italian franchise of health-food juice bars. Everything is vegetarian or vegan.
Details - Several locations around Rome. Visit their map for details. Open Monday - Friday 9:30am - 8:30pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
Dessert Vegetarian Restaurants in Rome
I think it goes without saying most desserts are vegetarian. If you're looking for vegan desserts, start with those at some of the dedicated vegetarian restaurants in Rome. One of my favorites is Romeow Cat Bistrot (above). Here are a couple of other excellent spots:
For vegan dessert at its best, head to Grezzo, a chocolatier in Monti neighborhood offering raw, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free (yes you read that right!) desserts, gelato, truffles, cookies, and more.
It's not inexpensive, but you get quality for the price. Bonus - my friend Zoey (above) made a video about a recent cooking class she took at Grezzo.
Details - Via Urbana 30, Rome. Open daily 11am – 11pm.
There's a huge selection of flavors at Il Gelatone, and this includes a large section of vegan flavors too!
Il Gelatone is one of the best gelaterias in Rome to find vegan gelato flavors. Let your taste buds go crazy!
Details - Via dei Serpenti, 130. Open daily 10am - 10pm
The Happy Cow
The Happy Cow is a great resource for finding vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Rome, but also around the world. They also list shops, hotels, and anyplace you could buy food, so you have a complete resource for vegetarian eating wherever you travel.
Map of Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants in Rome
There are even more vegetarian restaurants in Rome than those I've listed on this page. This should be a great start though:
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