Rome changes in August.
The center of the city is still swollen with tourists, eager to get in a trip before summer ends. But step out into the residential neighborhoods and you’ll see scores of empty parking spots and shuttered businesses.
Because Rome is mercilessly hot and humid in August, and many Romans escape the city and head for the seaside. The only problem for those sticking around is that many restaurants also close during this period.
Ferragosto is a national holiday on August 15th, and many spots close for the weeks before and after. While some places will close the whole month, others will take off just a week or 10 days. Long story short, if you have your heart set on a place, it’s best to call ahead and ask which weeks they’ll be closed.
The good news? There are some select spots which are open the whole month. If you’re looking for where to eat in Rome in August, we’ve got you covered for breakfast, lunch, dinner—and pizza, of course!
1. Da Cesare al Casaletto
Not that we’d deny the Vignoli family a much-deserved vacation, but we’re kinda glad they keep Da Cesare open in August.
Easily accessible via the 8 tram (catch it in Piazza Venezia or in Trastevere), this is a modern trattoria with its heart in the past. Start with superlative fried foods—in summer, for example, a cone of tiny shrimp, or plump “meatballs” of eggplant on cool pesto. Move on to one of the classic Roman pastas like amatriciana or cacio e pepe, or one of the daily specials (in August, very often a pasta with seafood). On a hot August day, you’ll want a cold bottle of local white wine, and Da Cesare has a long list of just that.
2. Trapizzino Trastevere
Even if the rest of Rome seems empty, on a hot August night Trastevere will still be filled with bustling bars. After a few spritzes, tourists and young locals alike will all head to Trapizzino.
A recent, literally-trademarked invention, the trapizzino has nonetheless become a Roman institution. Trapizzini are triangles of pizza-dough bread, crisp and spongy, filled with a variety of delectable stews. There’s pollo alla cacciatora (chicken in vinegar sauce), eggplant alla parmigiana, and even Ethiopian-spiced braised beef.
Grab one with a craft beer and hang out in the cavernous dining space. Or, do like many young Romans and eat it out on the street, bent over to avoid dripping tomato sauce on your shoes.
3. Nonna Betta
Rome is home to Europe’s oldest Jewish community. The Ghetto, a tiny strip on the banks of the Tiber, is where they were once shut in, and is now the center of Roman Jewish life. There are many restaurants there, but Nonna Betta is a cut-above.
It’s owned and operated by Umberto Pavoncello, a Roman Jew who grew up in the apartment above the restaurant, which is named after his grandmother. The food is classic cucina giudaico romanesca, kosher-style but not rigorously so.
Here, you can taste delicacies like concia (fried zucchini in vinegar), polpette con sedano (meatballs with celery) and casola (ricotta cheesecake with cinnamon).
A word on those famous fried artichokes: Nonna Betta’s are superb, but August isn’t artichoke season (that’s spring and early summer).
4. Emma Pizzeria
It’d be insulting to call Emma “reliable.” No that it isn’t—it’s open every day, lunch and dinner, even in August, and it’s right in the center of town.
But the pizzas at this sleek spot near the Pantheon are truly special. Part of the Roscioli food empire (the famous caffè, restaurant and bakery are around the corner), Emma is a sit-down pizzeria with a wide, impeccably-sourced menu.
August is tomato season, so you have to start with a flawless bruschetta, made with their own bread and bright, spicy olive oil. Emma’s pizzas are Roman-style (thin and crunchy), and a healthy appetite can easily knock down a whole one as a main course. There are dozens of options, all of which are good.
If we had to recommend just one? The pizza with sliced culatello di zibello (an extra-rich prosciutto) and raw buffalo mozzarella. The warm crust and cool cheese are just what you need on a sweltering August night.
If they ever decide to set another James Bond film in Rome, 007 would probably meet his contacts at Vitti.
Over 100 years old, this caffè is situated in the beautiful Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina, which echoes hourly with the sounds of church bells from the titular basilica. Vitti has that classic look: a long bar, elegantly-dressed waiters and outside tables with umbrellas.
Not that it’s all show, though—far from it. They make their own pastries here, like buttery cornetti and bombe (thick doughnuts stuffed with nutella or pastry cream). Open early until late, this is also the place to go after a long, hot day of exploring to relax with an Aperol Spritz and a little plate of homemade aperitivi.
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.