Imago Artis tour guide Chiara Marciano reveals her favorite restaurants in Rome. 
View of sunset in Rome
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you’re traveling to Rome for the first time and would prefer to have a more structured experience, under the guidance of an expert in the history, customs and culture of Rome, you might consider taking a tour of the city with Imago Artis Travel. Imago Artis calls its team the “artisans of tourism,” and can plan your entire honeymoon or simply take you on a walking tour of Rome’s historical sites. Either way, you’re in the hands of a true insider to the city. One of its incomparable guides, Chiara Marciano—a wellspring of knowledge on everything from where to find the best pizza in the city, to the history of Bernini’s fountains and Caravaggio’s paintings—led a three-hour walking tour of Rome, with stops at some of her must-try restaurants and cafés around the city.

To get the day started, Marciano took the group to Tazza D'oro for a cappuccino. The popular café is usually busy with both locals and tourists but the coffee is worth it: smooth, rich, without a single hint of bitterness, plus it’s served in the Roman way—right at the counter where it’s prepared.

For a quick snack, Marciano led us to Piazza Campo de Fiori, a public square that plays host to an outdoor produce market, where we grabbed to-go square slices of pizza at Forno Campo de' Fiori. A bite of this pizza is the paragon of what well-made food should taste like: the ratios of olive oil, cheese and tomato sauce are perfect, and the texture of the crunchy bread is unparalleled. Forno is not to be overlooked.

restaurant exterior
Credit: Elisabeth Sherman

Pizza bianca—a slab of crispy bread sprinkled with chunks of sea salt and slathered with olive oil—is another must-try item from Forno. You can take your pizza in a bag and eat it will you walk around the square. Marciano led us to a cheese vendor in the market, and we enjoyed chunks of Pecorino on slices of pizza bianca while people-watching underneath the statue at the center of the square.

bread and butter
Credit: Elisabeth Sherman

After leaving Campo de Fiori, we tried another classic Italian snack at Supplizio, which makes gooey, cheesy, fried rice balls (arancini) about the size of my palm, before heading back toward the hotel.

As an aside, at the foot of the Spanish Steps, you’ll find the Babington Tea Rooms. When I asked if Romans were as dedicated tea drinkers as some of their Europeans compatriots, the answer was a firm "no," so the sight of a shop specializing in tea stands out. Still, this Technicolor paradise—the menus are pink, the napkins are purple, the teacups are mint green—is an oasis in an area of the city awash with tourists. Stop for afternoon tea and you’ll be treated to a platter of scones with jam and clotted cream, as well as a personal pot of tea.

babingtons tea room
Credit: Elisabeth Sherman

If you’re looking for a sit-down pizza experience, Marciano recommends Emma. The pizzas at Emma are round, layered with gobs of melting cheese, and epitomize simple, classic, Roman pizza. The bruschetta isn’t to be missed, either: The crunchy, olive oil soaked bread is topped with bright red, juicy cherry tomatoes. Emma might not be fancy, but it is satisfying.

where to eat in rome according to an insider
Credit: Elisabeth Sherman
pizza overhead
Credit: Elisabeth Sherman

However, if you are looking for an upscale dining experience, Marciano has two recommendations: The first is Il Moro, in Fiumicino, which specializes in seafood. When someone in the group asked her where she would eat if she could have one meal in Rome “right now,” she picked Il Moro. Her second recommendation is the Michelin-starred Glass, located in the trendy neighborhood of Trastevere, which offers a more contemporary take on Italian cuisine.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re in Rome. The food is legendary, but the pressure to find the right place to try it has the potential to suck all the fun out of your vacation. Starting with the basic, but much-loved spots, like Marciano’s suggestions, will give you a solid foundation to start on. Don’t be afraid to take risks, order what doesn’t look familiar as well as the classic dishes, walk into restaurants you’ve never heard of, and embrace your adventurous side when it comes to sampling cuisine you’re unfamiliar with. The city will likely reward you with a culinary adventure you can’t imagine until you try it for yourself.