Whether eating in one of the specialist vegetarian restaurants in Rome or a mainstream one, you’ll be sure to eat well.
Only a few years ago, it was hard to find vegetarian food in Italy. However, with 7–10% of the population estimated to live meat-free lifestyles, vegetarians are a demographic that Italian restaurants can no longer afford to ignore. And there are some very fine specifically vegetarian restaurants in Rome.
Traditional vegetarian food
You don’t have to find specialist vegetarian restaurants in Rome to eat vegetarian food. Many traditional Italian dishes, which you will find on the menus of a large number of restaurants, are vegetarian. Apart from the obvious, pasta con sugo di pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce); spaghetti aglio, olio peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, oil and chile pepper); minestrone; carciofi alla romana (Roman-style artichokes); caponata (sweet and sour stewed vegetables); penne all’arrabbiata (pasta quills with spicy sauce); carciofi alla giudia (Jewish-style fried artichokes); pasta alla norma (pasta with aubergine, tomato and basil).
For dishes made with cheese, you have to be careful. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for example, is never vegetarian, so no cheese on your pasta. Mozzarella, can be, but it’s better to check first. Ricotta is always vegetarian, which is great news if you like cannelloni or ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach. Most restaurants will mark vegetarian dishes on the menu or you can just ask. Many of them are happy to adapt dishes which are easily adaptable too.
There are also some wonderful specialist vegetarian restaurants in Rome to suit all occasions. Here are five of our favourites.
1. Il Margutta
Il Margutta has been a Roman institution since 1979, making it one if the oldest vegetarian restaurants in Rome. It’s famous for its fashionable and artsy atmosphere, containing, as it does, an art gallery as well as the restaurant. Located centrally, a stone’s through from the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo, it’s also a great location for Rome’s recent fashions: brunch and apericena. The menu changes according to the season but features both classic dishes such as cavatelli a cima di rapa (pasta with turnip greens) and cappellacci farciti di ricotta e castagne (pasta stuffed with ricotta and chestnuts).
2. Mater Terrae
Situated on the top floor of the five-star Hotel Raphael near Piazza Navona, Mater Terrae has a terrace with views to rival any in Rome. The space was designed by American architect Richard Meier and speaks of luxury, and wins the prize for the poshest vegetarian restaurant in Rome.
The cuisine, using only organic ingredients, is modern and innovative, With prices to match it’s perfect for a special romantic dinner. And did we mention the views? The dishes, conceived by Swiss chef Pietro Leeman, all have romantic names such as “Il cielo di Bramante” (Bramante’s sky: a potato millefeuille with tomatoes, stracciatella, mayonnaise and olive oil crackers.)
3. La Sciuscella
Situated in Trastevere, La Sciuscella brings you down to earth again. A café-style, no-nonsense restaurant, it’s popular with a local crowd. With prices averaging 22 per-head, it’s also friendly on your pocket. Open for both lunch and dinner you can try such dishes as their signature sciuscelle (bread balls with a tomato and mint broth) and ristotto ai Carciofi (artichoke risotto). Their honey and cinnamon tiramisù is an interesting dessert choice.
4. Flower Burger
Part of an Italian chain of veggie burger restaurants, Flower Burger has a wide range of chickpea, seitan or tofu patties in a bun. The restaurant has a modern, trendy interior with green as its dominant color. The Rome branch is situated conveniently near the Vatican. Their signature Flower Burger consists of a black bun, with a bean and seitan patty, salad, bean sprouts, tomato relish, vegetarian cheddar, and proprietary magik sauce.
5. Da Michele
Da Michele is not specifically vegetarian but is one of the best places to eat pizza in Rome and so should not be missed. Their pizza marinara is the vegetarian choice: tomato sauce and garlic on the thinnest pizza base with a thick, cloud-like crust. Already established as one of the premier pizzerias in Naples, Da Michele now has two branches in Rome, one close to the Trevi fountain. Be warned, you may have to queue as they don’t take bookings, but the fact that many locals happily stand in line for up to an hour tells you something about their pizza.
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Luca is pazzo about Italian food and culture and shares his passion on his blog Luca’s Italy. He particularly enjoys collecting, translating and developing authentic recipes allowing you to experience the real taste of Italy at home. And when he’s not writing about Italian food, he’s out and about eating it. Find out more about him on his website.