Rome – the Pantheon for foodies
Usually I am wary of eating around historical monuments but this is not necessarily true for Rome. We have found some incredible food near places like the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and even Piazza Navona.
Today was a take it easy day as we are wrapping up our 6 weeks stay in Rome. I can’t say that I “know” Rome like a local but I do feel that I got a good sense of the place and beginning to know my way around.
We have been averaging 10km of walking each day and love just getting out and walking to our daily destination, stopping for coffee here, lunch there, gelato elsewhere and for shopping (yes, the shops in Rome are hard to resist).
Today on the agenda was revisiting the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, with lunch at a restaurant near the Pantheon. If you find yourself in the area, here are my food finds.
One of the best coffees in town is at La Casa del Cafe Taza d’Oro, on the corner of Via dei Pastini and Piazza della Rotonda (the piazza in front of the Pantheon). This is not a “hidden” gem, tourists know about it, but locals love it too. There is always a lineup but it goes very quickly. At Tazza d’Oro they buy and roast their own beans and make their own blends resulting in cappuccini among the best we have tasted. There is no place to sit here apart from a couple of wooden benches, this is a stand up at the bar experience but worth it. Don’t forget the Italian coffee system: you pay for the coffee at the cash register, get a receipt and take it to the counter where the barista is working. They will make your coffee once you paid for it.
There is another famous cafe, San Eustachio il Caffe, between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon but not right at the Pantheon. It is a historical cafe in continuous operation since the 1930’s and is considered one of the best coffees in town. San Eustachio has a stand up bar with a few tables outside but you have to pay more to sit at the table. They are known for making a coffee in a special way, mixing the first drips of espresso with sugar to create a foamy texture that they use to top the espresso with. Like most things in Rome it is no longer a secret reserved for locals. Everyone knows about it and they line up for the coffee but it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss if you are in Rome.
After you have had your coffee and walked around for a couple of hours you can then go back to the Pantheon to have lunch at Armando al Pantheon. When you face the Pantheon, it’s on the street to your right at Salita dei Crescenzi 31. Armando is a family run trattoria in operation since 1961 serving traditional Roman cuisine to both locals and tourists (don’t forget, we are tourists too). The food is seasonal and simply delicious. We have had many “best meals we have ever had” on this trip and the food at Armando definitely made the list. The artichoke alla Romana was served with fresh buffalo mozzarella, their gnocchi was served with tomato sauce or with gorgonzola (Thursday is gnocchi day) and the simple spaghetti al’ olio e pepperoncini was perfectly prepared. Check out their specials, my husband had the special (chicken) and fell in love with their cooking. It’s a busy trattoria so you may want to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
If you haven’t filled you legally required daily quota for gelato yet then you have several options around the Pantheon and I will mention two. For insiders sanctioned gelato try Gelateria del Teatro on Via dei Coronari, 65 near the Pantheon. Their gelato is pure, made without stabilizers, food colouring or additives and is nicely packed into the metal containers, to be scraped out into cups (preferably not cones, as to not compromise the taste). They have interesting flavours such as garden sage and raspberries or rosemary-honey-lemon gelato. Or you can have one of their special ice cream bars, you can’t go wrong there.
If you love chocolate head over to Venchi, a modern, beautiful shop in front of Taza d’Oro serving pure ingredients gelato with a smooth and velvety texture, No food colouring here, pistachio gelato is not bright green and strawberry gelato not bright red. You can get your chocolate addiction satisfied there in the form of chocolate gelato or the various chocolate products they carry.
For an aperitivo (in season only) you can go up to the rooftop of the Grand hotel della Minerva behind the Pantheon and enjoy a drink with spectacular views of Rome. The roof garden is open for breakfast as well and can be a beautiful way to start you day exploring the area.
The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Trevi fountain are all within a comfortable walking distance from each other so don’t hesitate to combine them on your walk. I’ll write about my finds in each of these areas in upcoming posts.