Eating: Cafés and restaurants
Although Rome is undeniably a major-league cultural and historic city, it just doesn't compare to London or Paris for cutting-edge sophistication and trendiness. In many ways it's like an overgrown village. This can be bad news for nightlife, but it's great news for food . Romans, as a group, are still very much in touch with the land - many even have small farms of their own in the countryside nearby, or they return to their home villages regularly. So the city's denizens know a good deal about freshness and authenticity, and can be very demanding when it comes to the quality of the dishes they are served.
Opening hours have been given for all restaurants and cafés; note, however, that many places are closed during August.
Consequently, eating out is a major, often hours-long, activity in Rome, and the meals you'll enjoy generally range from good to truly remarkable. You'll find that most city-centre restaurants offer standard Italian dishes, although a few more adventurous restaurants have been popping up of late. At the geographical centre of the country, Italy's capital city also has numerous establishments dedicated to a variety of regional cuisines , and a reasonable number of excellent ethnic restaurants , though many of these are in outlying areas. Rome is also blessed with an abundance of good, honest pizzerias , churning out thin, crispy-baked pizza from wood-fired ovens. House wine is usually drinkable, but rarely memorable, but there are also any number of enoteche - wine bars - who really know their business. We've also listed a range of places serving snacks - though most bars serve panini and tramezzini - and, at the end of the chapter, the best of the city's gelaterie and pasticcerie .
Vegetarians will find plenty of options in virtually all Italian eateries. Many pastas and pizzas, of course, are made entirely without meat; lentils and other beans and pulses are a part of traditional cookery; and wonderful fresh vegetables and cheeses are always available. Even so, there are a number of restaurants that specialize in vegetarian cuisine, and some of them are among the most appealing places in Rome.
One final caveat : generally speaking it's hard to find truly bad food and rip-off prices in Rome. However, it may be wise to avoid places that are adjacent to some major monuments, such as the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, or the Vatican. The food in these places can be poor, and the prices truly outlandish, sometimes as much as three times the going rate.
Drinking is not something Romans do a lot of, at least not in public. Despite that, you'll find plenty of bars in Rome, and, although, as with the rest of Italy, most are functional daytime haunts and not at all the kinds of places you'd want to spend an evening, due to the considerable presence of Anglo-Americans, there are plenty of more conducive bars and pubs - there's now an Irish pub practically on every corner in central Rome. Many drinking spots are slick and expensive excuses for people to sit and pose, but most have the advantage of having late opening hours - sometimes until 4am in summer, and almost always until around 1am. Prices start from about L6000 for a medium (40cl) beer (ask for a media, pronounced "maydia"), but anywhere really fancy won't charge any less than L10,000; sitting at a table will usually cost more, often as much as twice the price. The only slightly cheaper places you'll find are the odd birreria.
Opening hours have been given for all bars and cafés; note, however, that many places are closed during August.
A recent phenomenon is the upsurge of wine bars ( enoteche or vinerie). The old ones have gained new cachet and newer ones, with wine lists the size of unabridged dictionaries, are weighing in too, often with gourmet menus to go with the superb wines they offer. There's also been a recent proliferation of wine-tastings ( degustazioni), a chance to sample some interesting vintages, often at no cost. Those that still concentrate on the fruit of the vine, however, are many in number and we've listed the best here.
Bear in mind also that there is sometimes considerable crossover between Rome's bars, restaurants and clubs. For the most part, the places listed in this chapter are drinking spots, but you can eat, sometimes quite substantially, at many of them, and several could be classed just as easily as nightclubs, with loud music and occasionally even an entrance charge.
Although we've, again, divided these listings into the usual neighbourhoods , the truth is that there are plenty of drinking establishments all over Rome. However, the areas around Campo de' Fiori and the Pantheon, plus, of course, Trastevere and Testaccio, are the densest and most happening.
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