Who needs fancy restaurants, when the picnic views are this good? Take a date to Gianicolo Hill, says chef Cristina Bowerman. Photo: Alamy

CHEF CONCIERGE • February 2019

Cristina Bowerman’s foodie guide to Rome

Cristina Bowerman
Cristina Bowerman


She’s the pink-haired statement maker who took Rome’s kitchens by storm, now claiming the top spot as the city’s only female Michelin-starred chef. In time for your next Roman holiday, we ask powerhouse chef, Cristina Bowerman for her guide to the eternally delicious city

Breakfast worth waking up early for
A favourite among locals but rarely touched by tourists, Panella is my number one place to enjoy a classic savoury breakfast of toast, prosciutto and mozzarella, or a sweet croissant filled with melted chocolate. They also have one of the best coffee machines in town, so you can fill up on your first caffè of the day before hitting the sights.

The gelato experience with a difference
Not to sound biased, but my own range of gelato – Frigo – is something special. All our ice creams are artisanal, with gourmet flavour combinations whipped up from scratch. You have to try our peach and pink pepper combination – it’s divine. My other favourite is inspired by the flavours of a caffè leccese, an almond-milk iced coffee popular where I’m from, in Puglia.

Quirkiest bar for a post-dinner drink
Right now, Drink Kong (pictured below), founded by master mixologist and my long-time friend Patrick Pistolesi, is the talk of the town. It’s this tiny, almost tropical, environment, with four interconnecting rooms lit by neon lights and joined by live music every night. Patrick is one of Italy’s best mixologists, with a passion for gin, so you’ll see lots of it on the menu. As he’s well travelled the food is an eclectic mix of cultures, from East African-inspired zighini (a kind of stew) to Asian dumplings.

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Where to impress on a date
You could head somewhere classic and elegant like Imàgo at Hotel Hassler, but if I really wanted to impress I wouldn’t go to a restaurant at all. I’d find a deli, grab some bread, prosciutto and cheese, a good bottle of Pinot Noir, and head to Gianicolo Hill (pictured top of page). Here, in front of the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, are a couple of benches overlooking Rome’s breathtaking skyline – the perfect picnic spot come sunset.

The classic foodie souvenir
On Via dei Giubbonari, fabulous restaurant-deli Roscioli sells fantastically well-prepared pasta kits you can take home (you can also find them at Volpetti specialty food store and my deli in Testaccio). The beauty of them is, weeks after you’ve returned from your holiday, you get to relive the Roman experience all over again. It starts off as empty boxes, and they compile the ingredients in front of you to create your meal of choice, including a truly authentic carbonara.

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Best restaurant near a star attraction
Armando Al Pantheon (pictured above) in the shadow of – you guessed it – the Pantheon, is an unmissable family-run restaurant for anyone visiting Rome. Here, chef Claudio has his brother, daughter and son-in-law working with him to create a trattoria-style restaurant that specialises in refined Roman cuisine. Claudio’s daughter, Fabiana, is the sommelier, and the wine list is outstanding. You must try his mouthwatering artichoke dish, but honestly, I’d eat anything here.

The best grab-and-go eatery
For food on the move, there’s nowhere better than the markets. The Mercato Centrale Roma (pictured below) is like the Roman version of an American food court, except out in the open and bursting with artisanal produce. Or, for fewer tourists and more locals, try the Testaccio Markets instead. Once there, head straight for CasaManco. The owners were English teachers who quit their jobs to learn how to make pizza and now serve the best you’ve ever tasted. The menu changes daily, but if you spot the pumpkin pizza, make sure to try it!

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Dining experience worth leaving town for
A 40-minute drive from the city centre, Ristorante La Baia is a beautiful restaurant on the beach where you’ll find all the Roman locals looking for a break from the city. It gets fabulously fresh seafood, has an amazing wine list with really good Champagnes, and the spaghetti with clams is to die for.

Cristina Bowerman is the chef behind Michelin-starred restaurant Glass Hosteria, serving contemporary Italian cuisine in the bohemian Trastevere neighbourhood. To book your reservation at Glass Hosteria, click here

This article has been tagged Food + Drink, Destination