Testaccio Roma: A guide to the gastronomic scene

31 October 2023
Written by
Teresa Cremona

Discover the culinary delicacies of the neighbourhood

Testaccio, the 20th district of Rome, nestled between Via Marmorata, the Aurelian Walls, and the Tiber River, owes its name to Monte Testaccio, the small hill formed from the accumulation of clay amphorae. This hill was once the grand dumpsite of ancient Rome’s port, as “testae” in Latin means clay fragments.

Originally an industrial neighbourhood, Testaccio has retained a strong culinary identity tied to the presence of the Mattatoio (slaughterhouse) area, active from 1890 to 1975. Within Testaccio, you can still find ancient and authentic trattorias, small shops, and “pizzicaroli” (local food vendors). Influential and cultured figures have lived in these streets, including Elsa Morante, who spent her first ten years of life here – a commemorative plaque at Via Amerigo Vespucci 41 stands as a testament. It’s also where part of her most famous book, “La Storia,” is set.

At the beginning of the neighbourhood, coming from the Sublicio Bridge, you’ll find Lo Scopettaro, a restaurant that has been here since 1930. Legend has it that before it was a trattoria, it used to be a broom shop. Returning to the main street, Via Marmorata, you’ll encounter one of the locations of Il Gianfornaio, offering excellent baked goods from croissants to thin and crispy Roman pizza, including lighter lunch options.

Lo Scopettaro Rome

During breakfast time, make a stop at Bar Pasticceria Linari in Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice, where locals often enjoy a fried donut before heading to work. On the same sidewalk, you’ll find Passi Bakery right across the street, offering artisanal bread and biscuits.

On the opposite side of this historic bakery, at number 44, you’ll discover Remo, a pizzeria that celebrated its first 40 years in 2016. They serve Roman-style pizza, thin and crispy. Reservations are not possible here, so waiting in line from 7 PM onwards is customary and considered a good omen. Orders are noted independently on a copy of the menu, and you’ll set your own table – it’s a quintessential Roman atmosphere that rewards you with the taste of their pizzas.

Completing the tour of the square, you’ll find the original location of Trapizzino, where Stefano Callegari started his innovative pizza concept, which has since spread worldwide. It’s a corner where pizza is made with soft wheat flour dough and yeast. The “Trapizzino with chicken cacciatore” is particularly celebrated.

Just a few minutes’ walk away is the Testaccio Covered Market, a haven for food enthusiasts and street food lovers. Butchers, bakeries, and artisans abound, offering a variety of options depending on the stall you choose. Be sure to visit Marco Morello at his FoodBox: 25 square meters filled with delicious treats, from supplì to fried cream to Venezuelan arepas.

For seafood, visit Simona at box 95. Simona not only sells seafood but also advises you on how to best cook it. You can purchase seafood or request home delivery, and at the counter, you can choose ready-to-cook items like meatballs, skewers, or calamari.

For one of the best Carbonara dishes in Rome, head to Via di Monte Testaccio, where you’ll find Flavio al Velavevodetto on the right-hand side. Open since 2009, the restaurant was born from Flavio De Maio’s experience, and his dishes reflect a passion for tradition. Another exceptional pasta outlet is Felice a Testaccio, in business since 1936. However, getting a table here is very challenging without a reservation, as the long wait is mainly due to the unmissable “cacio e pepe.”

Nearby, there’s La Fraschetta di Mastro Giorgio, offering goat cheeses and Slow Food certified cold cuts in a trattoria that evokes the spirit of the Castelli Romani. Just around the corner is the historic Osteria Perilli, known for serving Carbonara in a “cuccuma” pot. Don’t forget to do “la scarpetta” (sop up the sauce with bread); the flavors here are as traditional as they come.

On Via di Monte Testaccio, situated between the Mattatoio and the Macro (Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome), you’ll find Checchino, originally a wine shop. In 1890, the three founders obtained a restaurant license when the Mattatoio was inaugurated. This led to the popularization of “quinto quarto” dishes (edible parts of the cow not considered prime cuts), such as Coda alla Vaccinara and Rigatoni with Pajata.

La Carbonara at Felice a Testaccio

Today, the Mattatoio is being revived as a meeting and gathering place, thanks to the Testaccio Gastronomic Collective. Comprising four prominent figures in Roman gastronomy (Marco Morello of FoodBox, Daniele Camponeschi of Menabò Vino e Cucina, Pasquale Livieri, and Edoardo Iervolino, with the support of Letizia Cardinale and Chiara Valzania), they aim to create networks with industry professionals and local producers, who are the lifeblood of the market and the neighbourhood.

Inside the Campo Boario of the former Mattatoio, a space has been created to promote the idea of requalification and the use of non-profit spaces for conscious and eco-sustainable commerce. This is the Città dell’Altra Economia, covering 500 square meters with exhibitions, events, and book presentations. There is always an ongoing initiative or exhibition, so it’s worth checking out no matter when you visit the neighbourhood.

Very close to the former Mattatoio, you’ll find another culinary gem, Angelina a Testaccio, a bright and airy restaurant with large fireplaces and a splendid rooftop terrace for excellent breakfasts and brunches. As you pass through Piazza Testaccio, the heart of the neighborhood, stop for a glass of white wine or bubbly at Oasi della Birra (Enoteca Palombi), then sit on one of the benches in the square and soak in its tranquility. At the center of the square stands the “Fontana delle Anfore,” designed by architect Pietro Lombardi in 1927.

Angelina a Testaccio

But you can also discover the sea on your plate at Acquasanta: they offer branzino, octopus, and mackerel in a softly lit setting with an industrial-inspired interior design. The chef brings exceptional value and flavour to his dishes, especially the main courses.

From here, by taking Via Luca della Robbia, you’ll arrive at Enoteca Bernabei, their second store established after the pioneering success of their Trastevere location opened in 1933. The fourth generation of the family has embraced the digital age with ‘ECommerce in bottiglia,’ allowing the company to offer same-day delivery in Rome and Milan and 24/48-hour delivery throughout the rest of Italy. The wine shop boasts an extensive selection, ranging from sparkling wines to distilled spirits.

Next to this wine shop, you’ll find the Spice Emporium, where you can discover ingredients for an ethnic dinner, including dried fruits, various teas, and recipes suggested by loyal customers, all conveniently available on their well-maintained website.

Before reaching Via Marmorata, make a stop at Volpetti, the neighbourhood’s grocery store, for a glass of wine, a meal, or to purchase high-quality and genuine products like cured meats, cheeses, baked goods, and a wide array of wines.

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