“I love this city. Middle of tourist season and you can still walk right back in time.” So says Anthony Bourdain during his first visit to Rome; unlike some destinations that he only visited once during his television career, Rome kept calling out to him – and he kept returning to discover more of the true Rome, with all its beauty and despair, each subsequent visit.
Anthony Bourdain visited Rome three times during his television career: first during season 6 (episode 20) of No Reservations, then again in season 1 (episode 3) of The Layover, and a final time in season 8 (episode 9) of Parts Unknown.
There are perhaps no episodes less similar portraying the same destination in the rest of his body of work. From unique aspect ratios to shooting in black and white, Rome clearly inspired Tony and helped him push his creative boundaries – while introducing him to new culinary delights too.
If you’re planning a trip to the Italian capital and want to eat at some of the same places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Rome, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a breakdown of all of the places Tony ate, the vast majority of which are still open and serving patrons today. From iconic Italian dishes to progressive plates of ingredients most of us have never tried, Rome is both a place that Anthony Bourdain loved and one you can discover and perhaps love too.
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Rome?
The No Reservations episode is available on Hulu and Apple TV; The Layover episode is available on Discovery+ (via Amazon); and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.
No Reservations (2009)
It’s hard to believe that, by 2009 and six seasons into No Reservations – almost a decade into his television career –, Anthony Bourdain had never visited Rome before. He admits this in the opening monologue of this episode, which is filmed entirely in black and white as an homage to the Italian films he’s a fan of.
I say entirely in black and white, but it’s not quite; the editors made the choice to occasionally lightly color the food, bringing even more attention to the amazing meals that blow Tony away and make Rome one of his favorite cities in the world.
Ristorante Roma Sparita
Anthony Bourdain’s first on-screen meal in Rome is filmed at what he states is an “undisclosed location.” A little bit of research reveals it as Ristorante Roma Sparita, and they still serve the now world-famous cacio e pepe that Tony dives into with gusto. I’m not kidding – it’s literally the main photo on their food menu and is literally the only thing I can imagine eating here.
Next, Bourdain heads to Roscioli (full name according to Google maps is Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina), which he describes as a bit like a gourmet meat, cheese, and bread market. There, he sits in the back with chefs Cesare Casella (who joins him in Rome from New York) and Pierre Luigi (who runs this Roscioli) for a feast of fresh buffalo mozzarella, crusty bread, and prosciutto. The grand finale is cutting into a new wheel of parmesan cheese and getting the first taste.
Ristorante Paris (CLOSED)
While the name might be deceiving, Ristorante Paris is one of the traditional Roman restaurants that Anthony Bourdain recommends, and he visits with Casella during his Rome dining escapades. Unfortunately, this restaurant is now closed, likely as the result of pressures of gentrification in the Trastevere neighborhood (damn hipsters!, as Tony would say).
Nevertheless, I’ll share what they ate, in case you see it on other menus and want to try it. Their meal consists of fried artichoke (fritti or fried foods is what Paris was famous for), Carciofi coi Piselli (braised artichoke, sweet peas, and pancetta), lamb chops, and salad with anchovies.
Trattoria Il Timoniere
Next up? Quite possibly one of the most awkward scenes in any of Tony’s shows: the unforgettable Italian yelling scene where the locals pick a fight with the proprietor about slow service due to Bourdain and his dining companions filming the episode. Yikes!
Don’t worry, a few customers lost that night have been more than made up by the visitors inspired by Tony since, and Trattoria Il Timoniere is still open.
With his local fixer Sarah and one of her friends, Bourdain sits down for another meal of incredible Roman-style Italian food: carbonara with zucchini flower, bucatini all’Amatricana, braised oxtail, and baby lamb chops. All look delicious – all still on the menu (seasonally).
Hotel Majestic (?)
Next up, a gourmet meal while Bourdain experiences an existential crisis over having not been born Italian. He’s joined by Cesare Casella again, and they’re fed by Chef Filippo La Mantia, who was at the time head chef at the Hotel Majestic. (I think – if you can confirm or correct where La Mantia was cooking in 2009, please let me know in the comments.)
They dine on Sicilian dishes, where La Mantia is originally from, including caponata (eggplant with olive oil, tomato sauce, celery, olives, and capers), sardine bucatini, and cernia alla ghiotta (local cernia fish, potatoes, fava beans, Pachino tomatoes, and pistachio).
Trattoria a Casa di Rita
Joined by his wife, Ottavia, Tony finishes eating his weight in Italian food (on this trip anyway) at Trattoria a Casa di Rita. This is another off-the-beaten-path restaurant where you’ll find virtually no tourists – except us Bourdain enthusiasts following his path.
There, they dive into a multi-course meal of classics: antipasti and jug wine; tagliolini with garlic, chilis, and what I think Ottavia calls “Roman meat” (???); gnocchi with pork ragu; braised oxtail; tripe; coratella (lamb intestines), and Roman chicory.
The Layover (2011)
Anthony Bourdain’s second trip to Rome was filmed for The Layover; this show has a totally different “vibe” as No Reservations and Parts Unknown, and doesn’t have the same artistic style as either of his other on-screen visits. This time, he’s joined by fixer-turned-friend Sarah to see and sample as much of Rome as possible in a short time.
The pair start out at Cafe Faggiani to try the traditional Roman breakfast: a cappuccino and cornetto (not croissant) while standing at the counter elbow-to-elbow with fellow locals. This is a pretty light breakfast, leaving plenty of room for later meals – of which Tony has many during the course of his “layover.”
Trattoria Pigneto (Formerly I Porchettoni)
Next, Tony and Sarah head out of central Roma for a mid-morning snack. They go to I Porchettoni, a spot famous for its porchetta; today, a number of TripAdvisor reviews suggest the restaurant closed and moved to reopen as Trattori Pigneto closer to the Pigneto metro station. Those reviews are mixed, but you can still try the porchetta with an Italian beer if you make your way out to this neighborhood spot.
Next up, Anthony strikes out on his own to have lunch on Isola Tiberina, the island within the Tiber River in Central Rome. He meets up with pizza chef Gabriel Bonci for a traditional lunch at Trattoria Sora Lella, named for the famous Italian actress Elena Fabrizi.
The two have a number of dishes, some of which might be adventurous for most of us when we think about Italian food. They try suppli (rice balls stuffed with mozzarella, meat, and tomato sauce), veal polpette (meatballs), coratella (lamb’s heart, liver and lungs sauteed with onions and white wine), and scarpetta (the “little shoe” of bread that sops up the delicious sauce left on the plate. They also have Caprese salad and Roman lamb stew, abbacchio alla cacciatore.
Next up – and rightly so, Tony needs a break from the food for a bit. He pops over to Cafe Vitti dal 1898 for a quick espresso – a very Roman afternoon activity.
I’m not sure how he does it, but Bourdain has at least two dinners in Rome during this episode of The Layover. First, he visits Pizzarium, the restaurant owned by Gabriel Bonci from his earlier meal, to try some creative Roman-style pizza.
Tony tries slices with a number of different toppings combos – cherries and foie gras; raspberries, roasted potatoes, and goat cheese; and mozzarella and zucchini flowers with anchovies – and accepts the challenge to try a “Hawaiian” style pizza that he actually enjoys, topped with pineapple, ham, fresh mint, fried onions, and peppers.
Freni e Frizoni
Between his two dinners, Anthony Bourdain takes a break… to have a drink and also to help his appetite for the next meal. You can probably guess what he has – hint: it’s his favorite cocktail!
At Freni e Frizoni, Tony sips a negroni while people watching; the bar is popular with college students and budget travelers as they have a free buffet to have while drinking. But as you might guess, Bourdain does not partake in the buffet since he has other (second) dinner plans.
Betto E Mary
For his gran finale dinner, Bourdain heads to Betto E Mary with Sarah and one of her Roman friends for a feast of unique Roman dishes. Unlike his last dinner with Sarah which ended with a bunch of angry Italians, this meal goes much better – and shows off a wider variety of dishes to try.
The trio enjoy several courses, starting with antipasti of fried broccoli and mushrooms; eggplant will olives and peppers; roasted red peppers with pignoli nuts, and nervetti (tender veal tendon). Next, they try several entrees, including sfilacci (shaved horse meat) with arugula and parmesan, rigatoni with oxtail ragu, fettuccini with artichoke and sweetbreads, as well as oxtail, tripe, heart, liver, and lungs, lamb intestine, sweetbread with thyme, and veal tail in wine sauce.
Paninoteca da Giorgione
After all that, I’m really not sure how it’s humanly possible to eat more, but one can always count on Bourdain to have room and seek out those late night street meats. (Honestly, that phrase gives me the heebie-jeebies!)
In any event, Tony and Sarah’s friend head out to a food stall Paninoteca da Giorgione – which I can find no record of on the internet, so if you can confirm whether this place did/does exist, please let me know in the comments below. There, they try sheep kebab and some other dodgy snacks before calling it a night.
Cacio e Pepe
Before heading to the airport the next day, it’s time for one more meal! Tony heads to Cacio e Pepe for their namesake dish, cacio e pepe. This is his second time having the dish in two trips, which I think makes it among his favorite foods – certainly one of his favorite Italian dishes! What better way to leave Rome than with a belly full of pasta and cheese?
Parts Unknown (2016)
Watching Bourdain’s final visit to Rome during Parts Unknown, you might feel a little out of place. It’s a very different episode: the aspect ratio, the story, the style, and the entire visual experience are a dramatic departure from the usual PU episode; in some ways, it’s quite like the black and white Rome episode from No Reservations. This episode also features Asia Argento on-screen, which makes for an interesting comparison to Tony’s first visit with Ottavia.
In any case, if you’re curious, Tony shared his thoughts on that episode at the time in this dispatch. I highly recommend reading this before diving into the restaurant list below; the dispatch also explains why there are so few restaurants featured in the episode.
Osteria dal 1931
First up, Tony starts out with a meal on his own at Osteria dal 1931. By Bourdain standards, it’s a light meal, of antipasti including prosciutto, artichoke, and more, followed by an entree of cheese and basil ravioli. After so many other, heavier, and indulgent meals in Rome, it’s nice to see that there are more conservative and lighter fares available for those of us who aren’t up for sweetbreads and street meats.
Next, he visits Trattoria Morgana with filmmaker Abel Ferrara and his family. They discuss the differences between Italian and American dining, raising families, and getting older; simultaneously, they enjoy Roman snails and artichokes, ragu fettucini, and other pasta dishes too.
The final place worth mentioning on the list of places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Rome was secret for a time – it’s the local place Asia and her family eat which Tony doesn’t want to ruin with the notoriety of his visit. However, several people have researched and confirmed it is Trattoria Settimio, and it has so far retained its charm despite an undoubted increase in popularity.
There, Tony has the Fettuccine al Ragù if you want to order the same thing he did.
Other Places to Try in Rome
In addition to the places named above, there are a number of other restaurants in Rome that Anthony Bourdain recommends, particularly as part of filming The Layover. Here’s a list of the ones still available today if you want additional options while planning your own meals in Rome.
- Pascucci for smoothies for another breakfast option
- E Volpetti for picnic lunch fixings
- Filetti di Baccala for fried fish or zucchini
- Gelateria dei Gracchi for gelato on a hot day
- Sora Maria for shave ice Fresca with fruit
- Angelina for cocktails near the pool and river
- Ristoro Degli Angeli for another authentic Roman restaurant, especially for fettucini with butter, parmesan, and toasted sesame seeds
- Elephunk for late-night cocktails near the Colisseum
Where to Stay in Rome
As part of filming The Layover, Tony also always provided hotel suggestions – this is handy if you’re planning a trip and want to go full Bourdain. The main place he recommends is the Hotel de Russie, a five-star luxury hotel near the Piazza del Popolo in Central Rome. This property comes in over $1,500 per night, so I recommend just browsing all hotels in Rome instead.
Rome Food Tours to Try
Last, but certainly not least, you might want a more manageable way to sample the flavors that Rome has to offer without visiting – checks list – almost 20 spots like Anthony Bourdain did. To that end, food tours can be a great way to pack a lot in without stuffing yourself to the point of bursting. I’ve taken a look and these three tours are both popular and not cheesy.
Have any other questions about visiting the same places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Rome? Let me know in the comments!