Eating in Italy? You’re in for a treat! After eating our way through the country, I am here for you with tips for dining in Italy with kids, plus our picks for the best restaurants in Rome. Note: for Florence dining recommendations, read our Three Days in Florence with Kids article.
Best restaurants in Rome (by category):
Pizza Forum: This restaurant has a boring name, and looks and sounds touristy, but was recommended to us by our Italian tour guide. She was not wrong. In fact, while it’s located in a very touristy zone near the Forum, it was filling up with locals when we got there at 2 pm.
Panettoni: Located in the Trastevere area, we thought Panettoni served the best of the traditional Roman variety of pizza: it was light, thin, and flavorful.
Honestly, every other pizzeria in Rome calls itself the best. (Not unlike New York City pizza joints, actually.) Just about anywhere, you’ll find good pizza, especially if you stick to the basics. Really. Enjoy.
Armando al Pantheon: this little place is big on ambiance, in a perfect location for dining after an evening of souvenir shopping around the Pantheon. You can even visit Piazza Navona first, then dip out of that expensive dining area to pay much less for better food here.
Ristorante Pizzeria Imperiale (Largo Corrado Ricci, 37, by Coloseum): Another spot along the busy Colosseum and Forum area, this place as a nice outdoor patio (heated in winter), great seafood dishes, and above average pizza.
Cuccagna 14 (Via della Cuccagna): This bright and cheery trattoria just outside of Piazza Navona won us over with it’s twinkling lights and warm ambiance. Their bruschetta and antipasto was sourced completely by a local farm, and their lasagna was to die for.
Il Bacaro: A super-friendly place near the Pantheon, we had great antipasto here and inventive second courses.
Ad Hoc: this cozy little hole-in-the-wall wine bar off Piazza Populo isn’t great for big families, but they can easily accommodate a group of four or less. (I’m sure they can accommodate more, but it would be a squeeze for you and the other diners.)
Faciolaro Ristorante Pizzeria (via dei Pastini by Pantheon): We ate one of our favorite meals here on New Year’s Eve. The grilled steak was a group favorite, and I loved the homemade pasta and excellent artichokes. Their open kitchen is fun, too…ask to sit in the dining area near it.
Gelato, coffee, and dessert:
There’s a little cafe right on the corner of the Jewish Ghetto by Piazza Venicia that serves excellent pastry and macchiato. Ask for the puff pastry with whipped cream. They’ll slice it for you on the spot, fill it with cream, and drizzle it with chocolate.
Cremeria Monteforte: I first found this gelato hot-spot ten years ago on my first trip to Rome. It was so good, I came back for more (Rick Steves swears by it, too). It’s located directly on the piazza of the Pantheon. Sit outside and eat with a view!
Come il Latte (Via Silvio Spaventa, 24): this place by Repubblica has some of the most authentic and homemade gelato in Rome. Plus, you can get flavored whipped cream on top.
Venchi: There are actually many Venchi shops across Italy, and the brand is a solid pick. Look for flowing chocolat calda (hot chocolate) and chocolate candies as well. We found one by the Spanish Steps, but youll see them elsewhere, too.
Note: Right off Piazza Navona, there’s a very average gelato shop with a very extraordinary server. I wish I could remember the name of the place, but it’s located on the far end of the piazza. We assume the server was the owner, because he was very animated, enthusiastic, and welcoming. He joked with the kids, added extra scoops to cones, and smiled at everyone who came in. This older gentleman made our night!
Rome dining tips:
Finding exact restaurant recommendations can be frustrating, since the streets are not in a grid pattern and you’ll likely be meandering until you’re hungry. Our rule of thumb: once you’ve found any major attraction or piazza, enjoy it, then walk one block down any connecting street for the best dining options. The restaurants directly on the piazzas will be higher priced and probably touristy, but just a matter of yards away, smaller, tucked away establishments beckon. This is your sweet spot.
Don’t overlook specialty stores and groceries. Look for meat and cheese counters where you can put together your own antipasto plate to eat at home, or make a picnic out of foods at pasta shops and wine bars.
Florence and the great Tuscany region is known for their beef and spinach as well as their wine. If you order something in the ‘Florentine style’, it’s likely with spinach. And this is not the canned PopEye variety…you’re in for a treat. If ordering steak, as my teens love to do, be sure to ask how big it actually is. In Florence, it’s often sold (even in restaurants) by the kilogram. It’s not unusual for the steak to be the size of the dinner plate. Enjoy!
Florence can get very touristy, but head over the Ponte Vecchio and you’ll be in fewer crowds and find better prices. Enjoy afternoon gelato, and you may get away with simple antipasto in your room for a the kids’ dinner hour. There’s an upscale grocery store with an excellent cheese and meat counter located right over the bridge. Turn left at the second street and look for the blue sign.
General tips for eating in Italy:
During our trip through Florence, Pisa, Rome, and Naples, we found the following to be true nearly everywhere:
- Almost all restaurants around tourist areas will provide menus or menu boards out front. Look through prices before you’re pressured to go in. Primi or pasta courses in good trattorias will be in the 8-12 euro per person range. Secondi courses can reach 20-30 euros per person. There’s no need to order both a first and second course. We liked to order one antipasto plate for the table (see appetizer tip below) and one plate (primi, secondi, or pizza) per person.
- Head to trattorias (cafes, casual) but don’t be afraid to venture into osterias (wine bars, pubs). Both are kid-friendly. In fact, just about everything is kid-friendly when it comes to the Italian food scene.
- When ordering, beware of saying yes to suggested appetizers ‘for the table’. In Italy, this often means one per every person at the table (with the price multiplied accordingly). We made this mistake at a adorable trattoria near Piazza Navona when we ordered the suggested bruccetta. It was a happy mistake, as the plate was delicious, but still cost us an extra 25 euros.
- Buy water for the table by the liter. Ditto for wine, if you’re on a budget. Water doesn’t come to the table automatically or complimentarily. Ordering it per person can be up to 2,50 euro a glass. Alternatively, a liter of water (size of an extra large water bottle) is usually around 3,50. We usually buy a few of these for the table, since we’re used to drinking a lot of water with our meals.
- Wine is cheap and plentiful. Enjoy. We like to get a half liter or liter for the table, depending on how many adults will be drinking. Note for parents of teens: the legal drinking age is 16 (and younger kids will not be frowned upon for drinking wine either, FYI).
- Soda, on the other hand, is often just as expensive as wine, and sometimes as expensive as water. When we want soda, which isn’t too often, we buy it by the liter in the grocery store, and let the kids drink it during pre-dinner ‘aperitif’.
- So what IS aperitif? This is the Italian version of happy hour, but more refined. It’s usually between 6 pm and 8 pm, and involves wine or a cocktail intended to open the digestive track for the later dinner meal. It often comes with antipasto-type dishes. We found that with kids in tow, we didn’t bother going out for aperitif, but we did enjoy our own version in our rental apartment. We bought cheese, crackers, and salami in the grocery store, and paired them with wine for mom and dad and soda or juice for the kids. This tided us over until 8 pm or later for dinner out.
- In and around the tourist hot spots in Rome and Florence, you’ll be hard-pressed to find restaurant staff who do not speak enough English to get you by. Even the less touristy establishments can help you pick out what you want to eat, and without exception, we found all restaurants to be friendly to us as Americans bumbling with our Italian.
What are your top tips for dining in Italy? I’d love to hear them!