Cristina Bowerman’s guide to Rome

Cristina Bowerman’s guide to Rome

by Amy Gulick 03 May 2018

The Italian capital is a must-visit for anyone who loves Italian food – but knowing which restaurants to visit is key to avoiding the tourist traps. Take a look at where chef Cristina Bowerman likes to eat, drink and shop in Rome.

Amy Gulick is a freelance writer and translator from California who has lived in Tuscany since 2002.

Amy Gulick is a freelance writer and translator from California who has lived in Tuscany since 2002.

Roman cuisine is as fascinating as the city itself. Characterised by the marriage of simple ingredients and richness of flavour in classics like saltimbocca; pasta sauces alla carbonara, all’amatriciana and cacio e pepe; and the offal-based specialties Roman-style tripe and oxtail stew, Roman food is influenced geographically by surrounding fertile farmlands and cultural factors such as the frugality-driven customs of la cucina povera and the longstanding Jewish-Roman community.

Choosing an eatery amidst such an extraordinary culinary legacy, one well represented throughout Rome’s many quartieri and neighbourhoods, can prove an overwhelming task to visitors. But not to worry. We recently chatted with chef Cristina Bowerman of Glass Hostaria, whose recommendations reflect both her vast professional experience and deep knowledge of the variety and breadth of Roman food culture. Join us on a tour of Cristina’s selected favourite foodie places in the Eternal City, including pizzerias, bakeries, gelato shops and restaurants ranging from once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences to quaint and unassuming osterias and delicatessens.

Flavio al Velavevodetto

Good for: traditional Roman food


For Roman dining at its most authentic, those in the know head to Testaccio, the gritty and somewhat shabby district formerly home to the city’s large slaughterhouse and meat-packing industry. Today, it’s a culinary mecca brimming with restaurants, bars and a large and lively historic food market. Carved into the massive Monte Testaccio – a man-made hill formed by centuries of discarding clay amphorae at the site as olive oil and other imported products entered the ancient city – is Flavio al Velavevodetto, headed by the award-winning ‘King of Carbonara’ and offering all the traditional specialties you’d expect from a Roman osteria.

Cristina says: ‘Definitely try the pasta alla Gricia, a superstar of Roman cuisine made with three simple ingredients: guanciale, pecorino cheese and black pepper.’

97 Via di Monte Testaccio, Rome, 00153

Pizzeria Giulietta

Good for: unique interior design and top-quality pizza


Also in the Testaccio district is Cristina’s own Pizzeria Giulietta, launched with Fabio Spada and counterpart to Cristina’s additional enterprise, Romeo Chef and Baker. Here contemporary design vies for customers’ attention with a modular ceiling, sharp lines and mobile blocks as tables (adjustable electronically as needed). But the real scene-stealer at Giulietta is the pizza, made in accordance with not one but two distinct traditions. Try the crunchy and thin Roman-style crust, or a classic Neapolitan style with its trademark thick edge (or cornicione), crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Whichever you choose, count on seasonal, traditional ingredients and pizza dough rendered delicious and authentic through slow proving.

28 Piazza dell'Emporio, 00153

In Fucina

Good for: traditional pizza topped with quality, unique ingredients


A self-styled ‘restaurant that loves pizza’ located in Rome’s Portuense quarter, In Fucina uses ingredients sourced by local, organic producers, along with their own signature ‘cloud-like’ pizza dough made with organic, stone-milled flour. ‘At In Fucina, guests taste topping combinations completely unique in Rome,’ says Cristina, including courgette flowers, cured pork fat, Sicilian pistachios, and organic apple and pear mustard. ‘Moreover, they offer an impressive wine list featuring labels from Italy, France, Spain, and other parts of Europe.’

25 Via Giuseppe Lunati, 00149


Good for: a breathtaking view of the Spanish Steps

Words like tandoori and teriyaki don’t often appear on Roman menus. At Imàgo, chef Francesco Apreda’s Michelin-starred cuisine reflects his professional experience across the East and the West; from his two-year stint in London alongside chef Michel Roux to the Cicerone restaurant in Tokyo where he refined his appreciation of ingredients while rediscovering the cooking of his native land. Try one of the alluring tasting menus to enjoy a representative selection of Francesco’s creations over his career, or the regionally-based ‘Cheese Tour’. Other specialties include the nori seaweed and escarole steamed ravioli with mackerel and peppers.

Hotel Hassler Roma, 6 Piazza Trinità dei Monti 6, 00187

Il Pagliaccio

Good for: contemporary cuisine in an elegant, colourful setting


Anthony Genovese’s multiple-award-winning establishment brings together the Calabrian chef’s extensive experience in some of Europe’s top restaurants and the Far East. In the early 1990s, Anthony worked at Pinchiorri in Florence as well as the Pinchiorri Tokyo establishment, before opening Il Pagliaccio in central Rome alongside pastry chef Marion Lichtle. A popular locale for both business lunches and romantic dinners, Il Pagliaccio is culinary art at its finest, and with its wine list boasting a whopping 1,300 labels, is certainly a dining experience of a lifetime.

129 Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 00186

La Pergola

Good for: fine dining and (more) gorgeous views


With almost too many accolades to list, Heinz Beck is an unstoppable creative force in the world of haute cuisine. His meticulous and explosive talent earned him three Michelin stars after opening La Pergola at Rome’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1994, where guests dine in absolute elegance on masterpieces like lobster with radicchio and crunchy lentils, with a gorgeous panorama of Rome as backdrop.

Cristina says: ‘The view is stunning, as is the food, and they offer a fabulous wine selection and impeccable service.’

101 Via Alberto Cadlolo, 00136

Osteria Fernanda

Good for: classic Roman dishes with an innovative twist


Osteria Fernanda is the result of chef Davide Del Duca’s extensive experience in the kitchens of various Michelin-starred restaurants combined with his dream of opening a bistro offering accessible haute cuisine. Here the traditional and contemporary come together in Davide’s innovative creations, while the ‘youthful and lively vibe at Osteria makes it a great choice’, according to Cristina. Try the reasonably priced tasting menu to experience a selection of the chef’s creations, or order a plate of his incomparable bucatini all’Amatriciana.

18 Via Crescenzo del Monte, 00153

Salumeria Volpetti

Good for: gourmet, top-quality Italian deli items


Salumeria Volpetti is not your average deli. Upon entering, guests are met with a virtual explosion of Italian gourmet speciality items. From the seemingly infinite wine selection to the large buffalo mozzarella balls, row upon row of prosciutto crudo, homemade breads, rustic-style pizzas, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and more.

Cristina says: ‘Everything here is of the highest quality. Be sure to sample the Bitto cheese, a PDO-status cheese named for the Bitto river and produced in Lombardy’s alpine pastures.’

47 Via Marmorata, 00153

Pastificio Gatti

Good for: fresh pasta to go


If you’re fortunate enough to live in Rome or have access to a kitchen during your stay, you will certainly want to pick up some fresh pasta at one of these two top picks of Cristina’s. Pastificio Gatti is a historic pasta shop located in Rome’s Trieste Quarter, where a range of homemade pasta is prepared daily, including egg pastas and stuffed pastas such as ravioli, agnolotti and tortellini.

Cristina says: ‘At Gatti, tradition and quality combine to create the best stuffed pastas in town. Definitely try the ricotta-filled ravioli.’

211 Via Nemorense, 00199

Pastificio Secondi

Good for: even more fresh stuffed pasta


Another shop where the pasta craft reigns, Pastificio Secondi uses only the highest quality, locally-sourced raw materials to produce traditional stuffed pastas, from well-known favourites like ricotta and spinach ravioli and tortelli to the more unusual tagliatelle made with cocoa powder and lasagne filled with broccolini, speck and smoked provolone. The seafood tortelli are a favourite of Cristina’s: ‘Pick some up for a perfect lunch at home.’

47 Via delle Alzavole, 00169

Panella L'Arte del Pane

Good for: a very Roman breakfast


With its impressive selection of cakes and tarts and exceptional coffee and cappuccinos, Panella is one of Cristina’s top choices for breakfast in Rome. In warmer months, grab a table outside in the shade of the tree-lined Largo Leopardi and enjoy a breakfast of delicious pastries, or stop by for lunch to try Cristina’s recommended tramezzini: soft bread sandwiches cut into triangles with the crusts removed.

54 Via Merulana, 00185

La Baia di Fregene

Good for: spaghetti with clams and cocktails on the beach


Located about an hour east of central Rome in the seaside town Fregene (Fregenae in English), La Baia is more than a restaurant serving fresh, locally-sourced fish and seafood with an impressive selection of wines. It’s also a traditional Italian bathing establishment, fully equipped with lounge chairs, umbrellas, showers, games, and even canoe rentals. At 6pm La Baia kicks off the aperitivo hour at its kiosk bar on the beach, serving excellent sparkling wines, organic craft beers, cocktails and a buffet of intriguing international finger foods with plenty of vegetarian and vegan choices. Drinks on the deck, complete with sand underfoot and a view of the sea at sunset? It’s no wonder Cristina considers a visit to La Baia the most relaxed moment of the week. ‘Definitely try La Baia’s spaghetti with clams,’ she says.

1 Via Silvi Marina, Fregene, 00054

Per Me

Good for: a new take on traditional carbonara


In the heart of Rome not far from Campo dei Fiori, chef Giulio Terrinoni’s Per Me is a sober and elegant space that exudes charm without compromising comfort. Enjoy exquisite dishes such as scampi carpaccio with marinated foie gras on their quaint outdoor terrace, or, as Cristina suggests, the carbonara di mare – the chef’s sea-inspired tribute to Rome, made with his own special blend of fish roe in place of hen eggs and crisp bottarga instead of the traditional guanciale.

9 Vicolo del Malpasso, 00186

Fior di Luna

Good for: delicious organic chocolate gelato


Located in Trastevere, Aldo and Fabio’s Fior di Luna gelateria combines artisanal craft and ethical sourcing of pure ingredients to create delicious, organic gelato. Some specialities to try include the Roman classic maritozzo, a sweet, soft homemade bun (filled with the gelato of your choice) that Fior di Luna sources from a local historic pastry shop, or the gelato affogato, ‘drowned’ in coffee grown in the Chiapas as part of a Fairtrade project the gelato makers have been involved in for many years.

Cristina says: ‘These folks are doing a beautiful job with their gelato, standing by their philosophy to make a truly authentic, quality organic product. Definitely try the chocolate gelato, made with grand cru chocolate from the Peruvian Amazon.’

96 Via della Lungaretta, 00153


Good for: cocktails with a stunning view of Rome


This sleek and elegant Japanese restaurant located inside Palazzo Fendi features a gorgeous rooftop terrace with stunning views of Rome. Among their bespoke cocktails is the black fig Manhattan, made with Nikka Black whisky, fig liqueur, Chinato sweet vermouth and chocolate bitters. A treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Palazzo Fendi, 48 Via della Fontanella di Borghese, 00186


Good for: exceptional coffee


The coffee at Coromandel near Piazza Navona is truly ‘a cut above the rest’, says Cristina, adding that this vibrant and inviting restaurant is ‘easily the best place for breakfast or brunch in Rome,’ with a menu featuring eggs Benedict, French toast, crepes, omelettes, smoothies, an interesting selection of teas and of course, great coffee.

60 Via di Monte Giordano, 00186