One rule of coming to Rome: Bring an extra suitcase, because you’ll be coming back with lots of stuff.
Rome is a food shopping paradise for both locals and visitors. At public markets like San Giovanni di Dio, Testaccio and Circo Massimo, greengrocers trim artichokes, fishmongers lovingly scale fish, and butchers boast whole lambs and pig heads.
If you’re in Rome for a long time, we’d highly recommend making yourself a market dinner one night. But if you’re only here for a short while, you can still take advantage of Rome’s bounty of traditional products. At any of the markets mentioned above, you’ll find stalls selling cheese, pasta, oil and dozens of other delights. Here, we’ve also made you a list of the best food shops in Rome where you can stock up.
Perishable stuff like vegetables, mozzarella and steak isn’t worth it—customs is too tricky, and they won’t survive the journey. Pecorino, dried chilies and wine, though? Those are the Italian foods to buy at these fantastic shops.
1. Antica Caciara
The name tells you everything you need to know. At this Trastevere institution, you can find wonderful cured meats, dried pasta and even baccala (salt cod). But this is Rome, where cacio refers to the king of cheeses: Pecorino Romano DOP.
Walking into Antica Caciara, you are almost knocked over by the aroma of wheels of sharp, sheepy pecorino. This is the real stuff, produced on small farms outside of Rome as it has been for thousands of years. Roberto, the proprietor, has dedicated his life to procuring, storing and selling Rome’s most beloved cheese. He’ll gladly shrink-wrap a big hunk of it for you to take home, and maybe throw in a wild-boar salame in.
SEE ALSO: A Crash Course in Italian Cheeses
Pecorino needs wine, and right across the Viale Trastevere from Antica Caciara is Bernabei. One of the most prominent wine merchants and best food shops in Rome, Bernabei has several locations around Rome (most notably Testaccio) as well as an extensive online store.
Bernabei combines quality, variety and affordability. The store is divided by region of Italy. Want to try an Emilian Lambrusco? A real Venetian Prosecco? Or maybe a classic Roman Frascati? It’s all there, and can even be shipped.
No one who walks by Volpetti can resist going in. The window is like a Renaissance still life, where hanging prosciutti cast a shadow on piles of peppercorn-studded cheeses the color of hay.
Volpetti, located in Testaccio, is perhaps the city’s most famous food store, and easily one of the best food shops in Rome. Its shelves and fridges are vast, full of everything from made-that-morning burrata to dried pasta in a dozen shapes. We’d recommend getting the thing which was designed to survive a long voyage: cured meat. In particular, the individual salami made of cinta senese pork, an ancient Tuscan breed prized for the incredible flavor of its fat. One of those, shrink-wrapped by the helpful staff, will be a hit for the dinner party you throw when you get home.
4. Albero del Pane
Cheese, wine and cured meat are the obvious choices of stuff to bring home, and for good reason. But what about beans?
Legumes are fundamental to Italian cuisine, and the peninsula produces some of the world’s best. At this little store (Via di S. Maria del Pianto, 19/20) near the Ghetto, you’ll find package after package of chickpeas, lentils, white beans, cranberry beans and other varieties you’ve probably never heard of. They’ll keep almost indefinitely in your pantry, and we assure you, they’re of much higher quality than what you’ll find in an American supermarket. Another can’t-miss: local marmalades and honey.
Most of the Roman pastry shop is non-portable. A warm cornetto or boozy rum baba has to be enjoyed in-situ.
Cookies are different. At Innocenti, in the picturesque Via della Luce in Trastevere, you can and should get a box of cookies to bring home. These are not the giant, gooey disks of an American bakery. Here, the cookies are small and refined. Buttery shortbreads are dotted with jam or dipped in chocolate. Classic biscotti are rich with almonds and grains of sugar. Kept in a jar, these treats will last for weeks. That is, unless you eat them all the day you get back.
A kosher butcher doesn’t seem like an obvious place to go food shopping in Rome, but we’re not sending you to this south Trastevere spot to pick up a shabbat chicken. Over the last millennium, Rome’s historic Jewish population has developed an Italian cuisine of its own, which means kosher cured meat.
At Pascarella, they make two traditional products that you can easily bring home: salame kasher and carne secca. The former is salami, made with kosher beef rather than pork, which gives it a stronger, leaner flavor. The latter is air-dried beef, with a texture that recalls prosciutto, which Roman Jews mix with pasta and vegetables. Either way, these will be something uniquely Roman that guests at home will surely never have tasted.
7. Sapor D’Olio
You didn’t think we’d forgotten oil, right?
In Italy, oil is as regional as cheese or wine. Someone from Puglia might love their own spicy, throat-tickling olio, and think that the buttery, mild stuff produced outside Rome is inedible.
At Sapor D’Olio, Italy is united in one store. They have every olive oil you can imagine. Varieties from Sicily, Tuscany and Liguria, small bottles and huge cans, stuff harvested a week ago or a year ago, oil to cook with and oil that should only ever be used raw. And, of course, you can taste it all before deciding. A bottle of the really good stuff will not only be cheaper than what you buy back home, but is undoubtedly from a producer you may never have heard of.
Now that you know where to find the best food shops in Rome, it’s time for your next challenge: shopping like a Roman. Luckily, we can help you out with that. Join us on our Testaccio Neighborhood Food & Market Tour to step inside one of our favorite gourmet shops in town (hint: it’s one of these), where you’ll get a crash course in what to buy and how to buy it. As a bonus, there will be food involved. Come hungry.
Despite the name, Giancarlo was actually born and raised in Boston. He now lives in Rome, where he works as a freelance journalist. Passionate about Rome’s food, history and culture, he can usually be found with a good book and, depending on the time of day, an espresso or an Aperol Spritz. Never Campari.