Roman Dining: A Child’s Paradise

With pasta, pizza and gelato on the menu, your kids may think Rome is food heaven.


When in Rome, begin with the food. There are three things Rome has in spades: pizza, pasta and gelato. So what kid won’t love it at first bite? Add a bichiere of vino and a cappuccino for yourself, and it’s easy for the whole family to love this pulsing capital.

How and where do you find family-friendly dining that makes everybody happy? Know the players. Sorting out the various names for places to eat is the first step. While many well-traveled foodies will no doubt know their trattorias from their enotecas, here's a guide to help the rest of us keep the different types of Italian eateries in order.

  • Trattoria: Casual, unpretentious place serving a changing seasonal menu of local and universal favorites. In Rome, however, this term may mean a slightly more upscale place than in the countryside.
  • Osteria: Usually a casual restaurant/tavern serving local wine and food, but again, in Rome this may be a rustic name for a trendy wine bar—a look at the menu with tell you.
  • Restaurant: Fancier and more upscale than a trattoria or osteria, a restauant will have a more complex menu and often higher prices. Not the best choice for small children.
  • Locanda: Originally an inn, but especially in Rome it can be more like an osteria or trattoria.
  • Pizzeria: Pizza is made here and sold for take-out, although many now have a few tables.
  • Paninoteca: Sandwiches only.
  • Bar: More like American cafes, serving drinks, coffee, and often sandwiches or bruschetti (open-faced toast with a topping).
  • Café: Similar to a bar, but perhaps a bit fancier and serving cakes and sweets, often sandwiches as well.
  • Tavola calda: Hot foods served cafeteria style, a good place for finicky eaters because they can see each dish before ordering.
  • Rosticceria: Roast meats and chicken may be sold for take-out or, if there are tables, for eating in.
  • Enoteca: A wine bar, which may serve light food. Not the best choice for kids.
  • Gelateria: Sometimes a shop, sometimes with tables, sometimes just a window opening to the street, this is where you buy the incomparable Italian version of ice cream. If you can’t pronounce the name, just point to the flavor.
  • Pasticceria: Sells pastries, cakes and sweets, often a café as well.

Places to eat near major sights


It may be a chain, but it’s a good one, with gloriously fresh ingredients prepared to order as you watch, and served cafeteria style. Largo di Torre Argentina 1, Tel. +06-682-10353. Open 8 a.m.—midnight; near the Spanish Steps.

Bruschetteria degli Angeli

Large bruschetti with all kinds of toppings (picture pizza made on slices of bread). Open weekdays for lunch and dinner. Piazza Benedetto Cairoli 2/a, Tel. +06-6880-5789; not far from the Forum.

Il Forno di Campo de Fiori

Pizza and breads baked in giant brick ovens are handed over to crowds of regulars and tourists alike, so you may have to wait for a table in the lively piazza. Campo de Fiori 22, Tel. +06-6880-1594, Open Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m-2 a.m. Located a few blocks from the Pantheon, in the piazza with one of Rome’s oldest street markets. The market is a good place to purchase provisions if you’re renting an apartment.

Antico Forno Marco Roscioli

Although it doubles as a salumeria—a deli—there is a restaurant/wine bar, too, where you can order light dishes, delicious pizza and made-to-order sandwiches, if you can choose from the mind-boggling array of cheeses, hams and cured sausages. It draws a smart crowd at night, but this is still suitable for kids at lunch, and the breads are superb. Via dei Guibbonari 21/22, Tel. +06-687-5287. Just off Campo dei Fiori.

Ristorante Il Matriciano

This laid-back family restaurant near St. Peter’s serves regional dishes, outdoors in nice weather. Via dei Gracchi 55, Tel. +06-321-2327. Open 12.30-3 p.m. and 8-11:30 p.m.; you’ll need reservations, because it’s no secret to locals. You can take the Metro to Ottaviano.


Typical Roman dishes and plenty of pasta choices in an historic family-run trattoria opposite the Capitoline Steps. Piazza Aracoeli 5, Tel. +06-679-2491. Open Tue.–Sun. for lunch and dinner. No credit cards.

La Sagrestia

Casual and friendly trattoria within steps of the Pantheon serves both pizza and heartier dishes, with good pasta choices. Via del Seminario 89, Tel. +06-679-7581. Open Thur.–Tue. for lunch and dinner.

What to order

If your children, like ours, have grown up on a diet of new foods and flavors, they will be receptive to a bit more variety when traveling. But by nature kids are conservative eaters, and they will likely be happier spending their mealtime in the company of Rome’s kid-friendly holy trinity: pasta, pizza and gelato. Here are some forms of these favorites, as well as a few other non-threatening choices that kids like.

  • Pasta al Burro: Simple pasta with butter, something that any restaurant can serve, although it may not be listed on the menu.
  • Risotto: Creamy rice cooked in broth, with other ingredients that range from vegetables to shrimp.
  • Pasta Marinara: Served with tomato sauce, although not nearly as much as in America
  • Pasta Bolognese or Ragú: The same, but with meat in the sauce.
  • Gnocchi: Potato dumplings, served with tomato sauce, cheese sauce or butter and sage. 
  • Supplí di Riso: Balls of risotto with cheese in the center, coated in crumbs and  deep-fried. Look for these in bars and on a tavola calda.
  • Saltimboca: Little roll-ups of veal with ham. The name means “jumps into the mouth” and plenty of these jumped into my daughter’s when we were in Rome.
  • Veal Marsalla: Veal scallops cooked in a sweet wine. When she couldn’t find saltimboca she ordered this.

Destinations: Italy, Rome

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Eat

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