The four Roman classics build one on the other in a layering of ingredients and in my opinion, all must be tried on a trip to Rome. My favourite will always be the Amatriciana followed by the Carbonara (in case you were wondering). But Cacio e Pepe and Gricia are also essential classics to the Roman pasta quadrangle of glory. My suggestions of where to get each are based on my own preferences after living in Rome for many years.
I love fancy but for Roman pastas, I like down home and not too done up. My taste is also for the homey, casual, down to earth places.
Cacio e Pepe
This means “cheese and pepper” Cacio being an old Roman word for cheese which is otherwise known as “formaggio.” The cheese must be Pecorino Romano – sheep’s milk cheese (Pechora means sheep) from Rome (not anywhere else) because it’s saltier and sharper than other sheep cheeses. Freshly ground black pepper. That’s the end. Two ingredients. Deceptively simple and so delicious.
My favourite places for Cacio e Pepe in Rome:
- Ristoranti degli Angeli in Garbatella. This restaurant is a gem. All the food is wonderful, the owners are wonderful, the place is wonderful. Not on the tourist track. It’s one of my tops in Rome.
- Roma Sparita, Trastevere. They serve it in a crisped bowl made of Parmeggiano cheese. Omg. Anthony Bourdain featured this place in wine of his videos in Rome so many locals get snobby about it but I don’t care about them. It’s my favourite and that’s the end of it.
- Ferrara wine bar in Trastevere. Maybe I just had it a million times leading wine and food tours in Rome but this one is wonderful when it’s on the menu.
Now take the same ingredients of Cacio e Pepe and add crispy bits of guanciale. The only translation for guanciale is “bacon” but that just doesn’t do justice to these crispy, savoury nuggets of goodness. The Guancia is the cheek of the pig where this cut comes from, not to be confused with “pancetta” – another cut. If you find one Roman that prefers Guanciale and one that prefers Pancetta, just step back and watch them fight to the death. I don’t have. ton of favourite Gricia places because I usually go for the other three pastas but I’ve often been tempted to stray from my usual favourites by this location:
My favourite places for Gricia in Rome:
- Taverna dei Fori Imperiali in Monti (they also do one with truffle)
Now take the same ingredients of Gricia and add egg. The egg becomes creamy and cheesy and forms a sauce in which you will find small guanciale treasures. It’s heaven. It doesn’t taste “eggy.” You must have this.
The name origin has many different stories meaning people don’t totally know for sure. One theory is it comes from the Carbonari who were workers in Rome in the 20th century. Ok.
My favorite places for Carbonara in Rome:
- A restaurant ironically called “Cacio e Pepe” in Prati. This is one of my favourite Carbonara places EVER.
- Flavio al Valevavodetto… portion sizes are gigantic so be warned.
- Da Teo in Trastevere. Also just a wonderful restaurant and great Amatriciana too.
And the grand finale, my favourite Roman pasta and possibly favourite Italian food… Same ingredients of Carbonara but remove the egg and add tomato sauce and you have the sensational glory that is Amatriciana pasta. The name comes from the town of Amatrice in central Italy where it originates from.
Where to Get it:
- Trattoria Vecchia Roma near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Omg.
- Trattoria Da Cesare a Casaletto. At the very end of the tram line that passes through all of Trastevere. Far far away but so so good.
- Antica Trattoria Angelina in the Jewish Ghetto.
- Osteria Costanza has a nice Amatriciana (and an amazing suckling pig) right off Campo dei Fiori, underground in the first century ruins of the theatre of Pompi which is where Julius Caesar was assassinated (so very Rome).
Let me know your favourites in the comments below! Buon appetito!