/Where (And Where Not) to Eat Non-Roman Food in Rome

Where (And Where Not) to Eat Non-Roman Food in Rome

Snacks at Ali Baba in Arco di Travertino.

For a city with such a large and varied immigrant population, Rome has relatively few restaurants that serve ethic cuisines, and even fewer that serve authentic food, which hasn’t been watered down for the provincial Roman palate. Thankfully, there are a few venues in Rome that serve excellent food from around the globe. There are many more that serve passable food, and others that are offensive to mouths everywhere. Here are some places I like, and a few I avoid:

Ethiopian food is one of my favorite cuisines, right up there with Italian and Turkish. Nearly a dozen restaurants in Rome serve Ethiopian and Eritrean fare but, in general, I find them bland and disappointing (I’m talking ’bout you Africa). Enqutatash (Viale della Stazione Prenestina, 55; 06-273-767; closed Monday), an Ethiopian restaurant near Stazione Prenestina, is another story. I used to live two blocks from this place when it was a hole in the wall that felt more like a garage than a restaurant and the cook would bring in tupperware containers full of food from home. Now it is a proper restaurant with tablecloths and other modern conveniences. They still serve the same amazing, home cooked, liberally spiced Ethiopian food as before. And they serve Tej, a wine flavored with honey and spices.

Mesob, one of the best restaurants in Rome, sits on the cusp of Pigneto. Owner and chef Kuki Tadese prepares family recipes that are richly spiced and full of flavor. She excels at vegetarian dishes and serves braised vegetables, lentils, split peas and bitter greens that are simmered and stewed to perfection. Among the meat dishes, doro wat (chicken with onions, ginger and spices) and kay tibs (beef with spicy peppers) are standouts. Diners share dishes, which are distributed atop sheets of spongy injera. The service can be slow because Kuki is in the kitchen doing almost everything alone. Everyone that has ever joined me for a meal at Mesob has agreed, it was well worth the wait.

Would you believe me if I told you some of Rome’s tastiest snacks are sold from a shopping bag in front of the Filipino Embassy? There, at Viale delle Medaglie d’Oro 112, a woman sells carefully prepared and neatly packaged Filipino snacks like hopia and ube cake. You can also find hopia at the Mercato Esquilino, but they aren’t quite as satisfying as the Embassy-based version.

In general the doner kebabs in Rome are gross. The mystery meat comes in pre-formed frozen cones manufactured in Germany. Beyond vile. There are very few places, however, that do it right. Ali Babà on Via Carroceto near the Arco di Travertino metro stop is one of them. In a pinch, I’ll grab a doner from the Turkish guys at Istanbul Kebab (Via Giulio Cesare, 126) in Prati. It won’t blow your mind, but if you need a quick fix it will hit the spot.

Il Bananito serves Colombian and Peruvian fast food and juices in a small storefront near Porta Maggiore (at on via di Porta Maggiore 39 to be precise). The tamales aren’t bad, nor are the papas rellenas (potatoes stuffed with meat and olives).

There are a good half-dozen Korean places around Termini. I love Korean food, though concede that I don’t have a very highly developed palate for the cuisine. I’m still at the stage where almost everything tastes good. Therefore, feel free to take this particular paragraph’s advice with a grain of salt. Biwon specializes in gogi gui in which you cook marinated meat at grills on the table. Korean friends have told me it isn’t actually that good. I can say for sure the meat quality isn’t amazing. You be the judge. The bulgogi at Hana is good but outragously expensive. I once had a bulgogi and a beer for €35 and almost fainted when I got the check. It was a big beer, but still. Probably the best place is Gainn north of Termini. If you want to cook Korean at home, there is a well stocked Korean grocery store on Via Cavour 84.

99.9% of Chinese restaurants in Rome are awful. Even the uber famous ones like Sonia Hang Zhou serves food that tastes and reeks of rancid oil. I just gagged thinking about it. Food & Beverage (aka Hong Kong Food & Beverage) near Termini is an exception. If you order from the Italian menu it will be a huge disappointment. Chinese diners are served different dishes. Just look around the dining room for proof. To get the good stuff, point to what crowded tables of families and friends are eating and ask to see the case in the back, which displays daily specials. You will be treated to a pretty good meal…not the best on earth, but probably the best in Rome. And if you order 48 hours in advance, they will make Peking duck.

There are a few decent Indian restaurants in Rome. Majarajah in Monti is one of the best. Guru around the corner is ok, if pricey. Sitar (unfortunately my downstairs neighbor) is still one of the worst restaurants in Rome. Kabir Fast Food on Via Mamiani near Piazza Vittorio is tasty, cheap, and satisfying.

I am sorry to report that most Mexican and Thai in Rome is inedible. Also burgers are universally terrible.

You can find ingredients from around the globe for sale in the Mercato Esquilino. Whether you are preparing a Mexican feast, a Polish free-for-all, or a Thanksgiving dinner, Mercato Esquilino’s got what you are looking for.

For more info on international dining venues, check out my app Katie Parla’s Rome for Foodies.

2017-02-17T15:17:27+00:00 September 6th, 2012|Categories: Culture, Food & Wine, Gastronomic Traditions, Meat, Restaurants, Rome & Lazio|27 Comments


  1. Mitch Weinstein September 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Hey Katie,

    Alison and I had a pretty decent meal at that joint across the way from Santa Maria dei Monti – no worse than I get in NYC’s Chinatown, that’s for sure. Also, I name drop you in this blog post!


  2. Lorenzo Casaccia September 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    On Indian food, even Marajah is just ok – not that great. These are all North Indian, though. Do you or anyone else know about South Indian joints in Rome?

    As an extra input to your nice article, we also have become fans of Doozo for sushi & a few other Japanese dishes (consistently good throughout the menu). The setting is nice, too. Most of the other sushi places in Rome are disappointing or too expensive (or both).

    • Katie September 7, 2012 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      Maharajah wins by default

      Doozo also good not outstanding. The other places in Monti are hideous.

      Sushi Ko and Take are quite good, not too expensive. Right. Fish should not be cheap.

  3. Danielle September 8, 2012 at 10:11 am - Reply

    I love Ali Baba at arco di travertino, was happy to see it here!

    Katie have you tried the Peruvian Pollo a la brasa at Mr. Chicken 2 on Via Prenestina? Check it out if you get a chance 🙂

  4. Avec Double Cordage September 9, 2012 at 11:53 am - Reply

    great service as usual, any places for japanese or vietnamese food?

  5. Myra September 10, 2012 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I don’t think Maharajah nor Guru can be considered authentic. Instead, I would go to either Khrisna13 or Rajdhani. For Thai, definitely go to Sukhothai at Monteverde and you must order their som tum off menu. It’s run by the same people who do the Thai picnic first Sunday of every month at EUR. Korean I would go to Yi Gio @ piazza San Cosimato in Trastevere and order their NaengMyeon before they take it off from their menu with the arrival of colder months. Now tell me where I should go for Japanese, because I haven’t found one, not even Rokko or Sushi-Ko hit the right note. I second Mesob for being the best Ethiopian in Rome.

  6. Sarah May (@AntiquaTours) September 10, 2012 at 10:31 am - Reply

    My problem with a lot of the Chinese places in Rome is that the majority of them serve shark fin soup. Without Apex predators in the ocean all other sea life will collapse not to mention that fact that it is unbearably cruel. As for Mexican food, I consider it my local cuisine as I grew up 20 minutes from Mexico and it is about 70% Hispanic in my hometown. Vile stuff to be had in Rome. If you want a taste of the Mexican magic, Katie, you’ll have to come to my house. I make a mean mole and really good tamales. Just thinking about the taco shells they sell in Rome makes me want to gag!!

  7. Sarah May (@AntiquaTours) September 10, 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

    P.s. Kuki per sempre.

  8. Nathalie (@spacedlaw) September 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    You can get Thai food cooked for Thai people at the monthly Thai picnic/food fair at Parco Centrale del Lago, Viale Oceania, in EUR. It is usually the second Sunday of the month.

    What about Turkish restaurants?

  9. Hande September 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    @ nathalie: forget about it! (Turkish)

  10. Avec September 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    very detailed info as always, are there any Japanese places in Rome worth to go to?

  11. Liz September 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    About Mesob: the food is great, but the service is kind of a downer. I am aware now that it takes a long time for everything to be served. But if you make your order a bit too complicated, it goes wrong. Last time I asked for some falafel with a little serving of veggies on the side. Falafel came, all fine. The serving of veggies turned out a complete vegetarian meal. They didn’t understand my complaints (I was alone and not so hungry, no way I could finish this and I hate to throw away food). I ended up paying for it all and making my roommate happy with a doggy bag…

  12. Dario September 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    There are some very good burgers in Rome: Tricolore, Urbana 47, Open Baladin
    Our favorite Chinese is Green T … Nice decor and good service there too

  13. francesco September 14, 2012 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    news from The perfect bun??????
    is the burger great???
    and what about the bruch???

  14. Katie September 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    @dario @francesco sorry tricolore, urbana, open and the prefect bun do not serve proper burgers. they serve tasteless meat patties, which are offensive to meat and fat loving burger devotees everywhere. there is still no real burger in rome.

  15. Katie September 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    @avec above in the comments you will see a few recommendations: Doozo is good not outstanding. The other places in Monti are hideous.

    Sushi Ko and Take are quite good, not too expensive

  16. Katie September 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    i should qualify that: quite good for rome.

  17. Hounddogman September 17, 2012 at 1:06 am - Reply

    Just be sure when you go to Ali Baba you get the right one, there’s also a restaurant with the same name on Via dell’Arco next to the supermarket. I went there by mistake the first time (it was Sunday afternoon, I was hungover, it was the middle of that heatwave in early June, just how many restaurants called Ali Baba can there be in suburban Rome etc etc) Definitely to be avoided (crap food, small servings, ripoff prices for stranieri).

    As to Indian food the Fast Food place near Pza Vittorio is the only one I bother with. Good samosas, fair curries, cheap. I apply the same rule I use in London: the microwave places with Formica tables are always better than the white table cloth ones with fanciful decorations and waiters outside trying to drag you in.

    Being a Brit, and therefore addicted to our Hong Kong based Chinese food, what I really miss when in Rome are the places where you can get barbecue: crispy belly pork, roast duck, soy sauce chicken etc on rice with a plate of stir-fried greens on the side. Rtasher that than the pancakes etc palaver. Where do the Chinese eat in Rome?

    You will not be surprised to learn that Sitar gets high ratings on TripAdvisor.

  18. Dario September 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Your palate must be more advanced than mine … I think all 3 burgers taste delicious! Where in the states do you like the burgers (and please don’t say Shake Shack, where you wait in line for something you can get in a drive-thru)

  19. El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing man) September 17, 2012 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    In-and-Out burgers. They’re good burgers, dude.

  20. Amanda September 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    No need to get down about the quality of the burgers at Tricolore anymore, at least—they’re no longer selling/serving food!

  21. Beatrice September 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    I just wanted to say I love your blog– from the fonts to the descriptions. It’s just simple yet it provides everything. Maybe one day I’ll visit one of these when I go to Rome.

  22. francesco September 24, 2012 at 11:24 am - Reply

    Hey Katie,
    I’m Francesco of 14th sep. message. About “proper burgers” do you know Quarto Burgers in Via Crescenzio???? What do you think????
    Thanks a lot!!!

  23. Maria September 30, 2012 at 3:40 am - Reply

    Great post. Have you tried Riad Nour – Morroccan in Prati.. I love their B’stillas and the tagines are great also… Oh and many of my friends here in rome were shocked that I eat Peking duck from Ci Lin in Trastevere – dine in or take away – without having to preorder!

  24. e October 3, 2012 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    coming in late to this discussion. . . friday at the mosque there is pretty good street food/pastries (only for lunch). for chinese, ‘hua quiao’ on via giollitti was
    interesting; almost all chinese clients (i went with a friend who spoke mandarin). i like ‘himalaya’s kashmir’ on via princepe amedeo, down the street from the esquilino market. don’t necessarily order off the menu but ask for the day’s specials, awhile back there was a 4euro menu (thus all the southeast asian workers at lunchtime), 6euro menu, etc.

  25. Jason February 23, 2013 at 11:46 am - Reply

    I am from London now living in Roma. When it comes to Indian food I have eaten at quite a few in Roma. For Northern Indian food I like Sitar (contrary to other posts) and agree that Maharaja is pretty good. (Still not as good what you get in UK of course!)If you want a restaurant that offers Northern and Southern Indian food in one restaurant and this is uncommon then I suggest you check out Tiger Tandoori in Pigento at Via Del Pigneto 193. You could feel like you are in Notting Hill in this place. It’s very different than the usual Indian places. The food is eclectic with a focus on fragrance versus spicy food alone. I happen to prefer Southern Indian food so is a nice change from the predominance of Northern Indian Restaurants. They also have some excellent hand crafted Italian beers as well. The best onion bhaji’s I have had so far.

  26. Ana November 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    What a great find! Thanks for the insightful article.
    We used to live in London and are missing the cuisine diversity here in Rome, especially Asian food and Turkish.

    In terms of Indian restaurants, we have tried a few and so far Marharajah and Mother of India were the closest to what one could consider good Indian food.


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