The best Roman nights are the simple ones: A few friends, something to eat, and a deep glass of vino at a wine bar
First, we’ve got to clear up what “wine bar” actually means. In Rome, a “bar” is what in America or France we might call a “cafè,” with coffee, alcohol and basic food. You can have a little tumbler of wine at a normal bar, but “wine bar” specifically means a space devoted to drinking wine, by the glass or bottle, usually with a deep selection of labels, as well as snacks like cured meat and cheese. These spots are are often called enoteca, which literally means “wine store,” and many Roman wine bars also double as shops. The wine bar is a relatively recent addition to the Roman food world (it’s rare to find one older than 50 years), which makes them one of the most diverse types of drinking spots. Some have just a few available glasses a night and olives to eat; others have thick menus and big aperitivi buffets. Either way, here are the 6 best wine bars in Rome, because every night of the week needs some brindisi
1. Il Goccetto
Small, simple and perfect. Run by Sergio and Anna, Il Goccetto occupies the bottom of a Renaissance apartment building, the age of which is apparent when you gaze up at the wood-raftered ceiling. Bottles—many of them old and dusty – line the walls, and there are just a few tables and some seats at the bar. Il Goccetto serves one of the best selections of wine by the glass in Rome. Every night, the blackboard will contain around 25 options, from a nice € 5 glass of local Frascati to a big, bold Barbaresco. The food is also fabulous, especially the oil-preserved vegetables and the salumi plate for two, which gives you capocollo, salami and truffled mortadella, along with dark, chewy bread, for €8. The pours are generous, the staff warm and welcoming, and the spirit uncontainable as the night goes on and customers spill out into the quiet street with their glasses.
Most Roman wine bars are nighttime-spots. And while Litro, located near the top of the Gianicolo hill, is a mighty fine place to have an after-work drink, it’s equally nice at lunchtime. The daily list leans heavily Italian and alternative. In particular, Litro gives you a chance to try some natural white wines, whose organic, handcrafted production means you’ll rarely find them outside a dedicated wine bar. Grab a table outside, order a bottle, and get some of the expertly-prepared salads and cheeses for a light-ish lunch.
3. Il Vinaietto
You’ve got to love a place that still has posters from the Italian Communist Party on the wall. Located right across from the Campo de’ Fiori, Il Vinaietto feels like it shouldn’t still exist. There are just a few tables, a makeshift bar with a bunch of half-empty wine bottles, and maybe a little plate of cold pizza to snack on. And yet, in one of the most touristy areas of Rome, eccentric locals pack this place every night. Most stand outside, balancing their glasses on parked cars while rolling endless cigarettes. They wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither should you.
4. Sogno Autarchico
Sogno Autarchico literally means “the autocratic dream,” but don’t worry, the dream here is one of wine, conversation and good food. Located in a former bakery (they still use the oven), this small Prati spot is the culminating project of Gianni Ruggiero, a longtime veteran of Rome’s wine scene. Something of a salon, frequented by lawyers and judges (Prati is Rome’s legal district), Sogno Autarchico serves a variety of Italian wines by the glass, especially high-quality, yet affordable, prosecco. To pair with that, get a plate of farinata genovese, a classic chickpea-flour crepe from Ruggieri’s native Genoa
5. Il Sorì
Most of the bars in San Lorenzo (Rome’s main student hangout) tend to be loud, cheap and not overly food-focused. Il Sorì is a bit different. A beautiful, wine-filled space, here the wine is meant to be appreciated rather than gulped down. There’s a carefully-selected blackboard of glasses each night, specializing in vintages from small producers around Italy. But Il Sorì is the opposite of stuffy—it exudes a quiet warmth. Almost as good as the wine is the food. Drawing influence from French and Spanish cuisine, here you can get some buffalo mozzarella to eat with your wine, but also a classic tortilla de patatas, or delicious homemade pork rillettes.
Insider Tip: Even on weeknights, best to make a reservation
6. Il Piccolo
Maybe the only wine bar in Rome we’d describe as “divey,” which is the highest compliment for this funky little locale right near Piazza Navona. Piccolo is a fabulously odd mix of styles and people. The interior is Renaissance-era and lined with bottles, but the bartender’s electro-reggae mix is often blasting. You’ll see a group of old me downing a bottle of Chianti outside, and young group nursing Aperol spritzes inside. Piccolo specializes in sparkling wine, like Franciacorta and Rosé, so this is a great pre-dinner stop. There is a menu of bruschetta and cured meats, but as the barman to fix you a little plate of pizza bianca with mortadella to snack on. Big plus: open on Sunday night!
7. Al Vino Al Vino
As the name might suggest, this place is serious about wine. One does not come to this bare-bones Monti tavern for cocktails, coffee or anything to eat other than some hand-sliced salami and marinated eggplant. In a neighborhood which is usually all about fashionable and elegant, Al Vino Al Vino is as simple as can be. The bottle list is vast, drawing from all around Italy, but much of it reasonably priced. The glass selection rotates daily, always with a local white and red, as well as something sparkling. Quiet, local and unassuming, this is a fine place to meet a friend for a drink, but also to sit at by yourself with a glass of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo and a book.
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.