Best restaurants in Rome, according to chef Cristina Bowerman
Even her seemingly effortless style and famous fuchsia pink hair scream boldness, uniqueness and understated confidence.
The Bowerman experience is cosmopolitan, innovative and – above all – mouthwatering. Cristina was clearly born to live this life, but it didn’t start out that way. Born in Cerignola, Puglia in Italy’s south, she always dreamt of bigger experiences and travel.
Bowerman at work at Romeo Chef & Baker — Photo courtesy of Maria Pasquale
Her parents sent her to an international school and she went on to become a lawyer. But an American holiday at age 26 would change the course of her life forever. After just a few days in the U.S., she phoned her Italian parents to tell them she wasn’t coming home.
She enrolled in forensic studies at the University of San Francisco and, enamored with American culture, she fully immersed herself in local life. Moving slowly into the restaurant sector with a detour in graphic design, she began working in restaurants and gained a Culinary Arts degree at the University of Austin (a program of the famed Parisian Le Cordon Bleu).
She eventually returned to Italy, aiming to bring some Italian experience back to the U.S. and open a restaurant there. But it would seem destiny had other plans for her.
When she was awarded her first Michelin star for Glass in 2009, she was the only woman that year, a true trailblazer.
With her restaurant ventures in Rome (including the 2017 opening of the biggest restaurant space the city has ever seen in Romeo Chef & Baker, Giulietta Pizzeria and Frigo Gelateria), she continues to be cutting edge and push culinary boundaries in a country that is steeped in tradition.
She says she admires Roman cuisine because it is much richer and more complex than what most people think, making use of ingredients commonly known as scraps or even low-end, including innards, tendons and even sheep’s milk pecorino cheese – things she loves using in her kitchen.
Bowerman says, “Rome always surprises me. Within the last 10 years, the city has seen great evolution in the culinary field. Besides what we know as tourist traps, the Italian capital boasts many excellent, quality restaurants.”
Here are her tips for where to eat and drink in Rome.
Flavio al Velavevodetto
Roman cuisine at Flavio al Velavevodetto — Photo courtesy of Maria Pasquale
For Roman dining at its most authentic, those ‘in the know’ head to Testaccio. Carved into the historic Monte Testaccio – a man-made hill formed by centuries of discarding clay amphorae at the site – is Flavio al Velavevodetto, offering all the traditional specialties you’d expect from a Roman trattoria.
Try the pasta alla Gricia, a superstar of Roman cuisine made with three simple ingredients: guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino cheese and black pepper.
More than a pizzeria, Bowerman says In Fucina could be defined as a “restaurant that loves pizza.” Located in Rome’s Portuense district, they top their fluffy, cloud-like pizza dough (made with organic stone-milled flour) with ingredients sourced from local artisans and producers.
With combinations completely unique to Rome, including courgette flowers, cured pork fat, Sicilian pistachios and organic fruit jams, they also have an impressive international and local wine list.
Salumeria Volpetti is not your average deli. As soon as you walk in, you are welcomed by an explosion of Italian gourmet specialty items. They have a seemingly infinite wine selection, large buffalo mozzarella balls, row upon row of hanging prosciutto, homemade breads and much more.
Do your grocery shopping or grab a quick bite from their deli counter. Volpetti also runs Taverna Volpetti, the casual eatery next door with a high-quality Roman-inspired menu.
Osteria Fernanda — Photo courtesy of Maria Pasquale
Osteria Fernanda is the product of chef Davide Del Duca’s extensive experience in the kitchens of various Michelin-starred restaurants. It was his dream to run a bistro offering accessible haute cuisine. Here, the traditional and contemporary combine in Davide’s innovative creations.
Try the reasonably priced tasting menu or order his incomparable bucatini all’Amatriciana.
La Baia, Fregene
About an hour east of central Rome in the seaside town of Fregene, La Baia is more than a restaurant serving fresh, locally-sourced fish with an impressive selection of wines. It’s also a traditional Italian beach club, and from 6 pm, enjoy an aperitivo at its kiosk bar on the beach, with excellent sparkling wines, craft beers, cocktails and a buffet of intriguing international finger foods (including vegetarian and vegan options).
Then, move to the restaurant’s beautiful patio to taste their special spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams).
La Ciambella Bar à Vin
This restaurant offers a variety of genuine, high-quality and tasty Roman cuisine and an excellent beverage selection. Its lively vibe makes La Ciambella a great place to enjoy a pleasant evening at a really reasonable price.
Coromandel near Piazza Navona is a great place for breakfast or brunch, with a menu featuring eggs Benedict, French toast, crepes, omelettes, smoothies, an interesting selection of teas and, of course, great coffee.
Casa Manco at Mercato Testaccio
Also in Testaccio, the Casa Manco corner stand sells freshly baked pizza al taglio with various toppings and tasty flavor combinations. Great for a quick lunch or a snack while strolling through one of Rome’s most colorful and popular markets in one of the most classic quarters of the city.