Testaccio: The Real Rome
Testaccio may not be Rome’s prettiest neighborhood, but its rich history more than makes up for it. In antiquity, the district was home to the Emporium port, where the bulk of the Romans’ food supply funneled into the city. Olive oil, grains, and other essential foodstuffs arrived in terracotta vessels called amphorae, and once emptied were disposed of in an outdoor dumpsite. The ancient Monte dei Cocci, or Monte Testaccio hill, composed of around 53 million broken amphorae, still looms today. Centuries later, Testaccio housed Europe’s biggest abattoir, giving rise to rustic, Roman dishes like trippa alla romana and oxtail stew. It was in this neighborhood that the city’s beloved team, AS Roma, had their first football pitch, and where rowdy locals still gather to take in a match. Nowadays, Testaccio is hailed as a bastion of Roman culinary excellence, home to some of the Capital’s best eateries. We’ll take that over charming piazzas and cobblestoned streets any day.
RESTAURANTS / EATING IN TESTACCIO
Via Marmorata, 47
Open Mon-Sat, 8:30am-2pm, 5pm-8pm
Opened over four decades ago, Volpetti is hands down the reigning king of Rome’s gourmet food scene. Red wine infused salami, black and white truffles, whole legs of prosciutto, a cheese collection so beautiful that it’ll make any decent foodie well up with happy tears, fresh pasta, extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, and international favourites like pata negra, Roquefort, and Scottish salmon crowd the counters.
Piazza Santa Maria della Liberatrice, 44
Open Mon-Sat, 7pm-1am
Unlike its more voluptuous cousin in Naples, Roman-style pizza has a super thin, crispy crust, a vestige of WWII, when ingredients were sparse and dough was rolled as flat as possible to produce more than one pie. The pizzas at Da Remo – wood oven fired and scrocchiarella (extra crunchy) – make that long, inevitable wait in line worth it. Outside seating is available in the warmer months.
Flavio al Velavevodetto
Via di Monte Testaccio, 47
Open daily: 12:30pm-3:30pm, 7:30pm-11:30pm
This popular osteria is carved inside the neighborhood’s man made mound of ancient amphoras. Just as spectacular as its location is Flavio’s authentic, no-frills Roman cuisine: try their tonnarelli cacio e pepe (square cut noodles with pecorino cheese and black pepper), coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew), polpette di bollito (fried meatballs), and award-winning rigatoni alla carbonara (pasta in a sauce of egg yolk, pecorino, pork cheek, and black pepper).
Via Giovanni Branca, 88
Open Tues-Sun, 12pm-1am
Experience the city’s latest street food craze with a visit to Trapizzino. The eatery gets its name from its signature dish, the trapizzino, a triangular pocket of fluffy pizza dough stuffed with the fillings of your choice. Permanent offerings on the menu include classics like eggplant parmesan, chicken cacciatore, and meatballs in tomato sauce. Others, such as burrata with anchovies, octopus, oxtail, marinated artichokes and alternate weekly.
Fraschetta di Mastrogiorgio
Via Alessandro Volta, 36
Open daily, 12:30pm-3pm, 8pm-1am
Inspired by the fraschette, or traditional taverns of the Roman countryside, Mastrogiorgio serves up rustic, laziale fare. Go with a group and split some of the menu’s appetizers, like pecorino aged in fig leaves, crispy rosemary roasted pork, called porchetta, and marinated artichoke hearts, before moving on to your main course.
Via Galvani, 24a
Open daily, 7:30pm-11:30pm. Sunday brunch from 12am-3pm
Carnivores should check out the Testaccio branch (there’s one near the Trevi fountain, too) of this cozy restaurant whose niche is meat dishes. Diners typically come here for the bistecca fiorentina, Chianina steak, Angus beef, Kobe beef, or lamb chops, but plenty of pasta, fish, and pizzas round out the menu for those seeking an alternative option.
Entrances on Via Manuzio, Via B. Franklin, and Via Ghiberti
Mon-Thu 7am-2pm; Fri 7am-6.30pm; Sat 7am-3pm. Sunday closed.
Opened for over a century, the neighborhood’s beloved Testaccio Market has undergone some significant changes in the past six years. The mercato was first moved from its original, outdoor location in Piazza Testaccio to a contemporary, covered facility, and has recently seen a surge in new vendors. Chef Cristina Bowerman of upscale restaurant Romeo set up shop last month with Cups, which offers gourmet, take-away dishes. Close by is chef Marco Morello’s Italian and international street food venture Foodbox. The heart and soul of the market, however, lies in its old school stands: the cult following of Sergio Esposito’s Mordi e Vai (Box 15), sisters Paola and Francesca’s fruit and produce stand (Box 33), and married couple Lina and Enzo’s deli (Box 89) give a glimpse into the pure simplicity of Italy’s food culture.
BARS / DRINKING IN TESTACCIO
Via Galvani, 24
Open daily, 12pm-12midnight
Tucked inside Monte Testaccio, this minimalist risto-bar is a great spot for aperitivo, an Italian ritual composed of a drink and finger food to stave off pre-dinner hunger. All dishes served are made with organic ingredients and are waistline friendly (think bulgur, couscous, and roasted veggies), but locals come here for Ketumbar’s vast drink selection, including wine, artisanal beers, and a slew of creative cocktails. Aperitivo begins at 6:30.
Via di Monte Testaccio, 33
Open daily, 7am-2am
While this lounge bar is surprisingly open at breakfast time, its busiest hours are after sunset, when locals unwind with a fresh, fruit-based cocktail (try their strawberry mojito). If you’re planning a night out on a Friday or Saturday, be sure to book a table in advance. Live bands and music are also a common occurrence here – head to 33’s website to learn who’s playing when.
On the Rox
Via Galvani, 54
Open daily, 7:30pm-5am
A popular destination for late-night partiers (last call is at 5am), On the Rox’s signature features include beer barrels that serve as tables, and a 35 foot long bar, which means you won’t have to wait very long for a refill. If you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere, come here earlier in the evening for a cocktail on their outdoor patio.
Oasi della Birra
Piazza Testaccio, 40
Open 10am-1pm, 4:30pm-12:30am
During the day this family-run store operates as a delicatessen, but from 4:30pm on it transforms into a chill, laid-back spot for drinks. An impressive selection of wines are available, but Oasis della Birra (Beer Oasis) specializes in, you guessed it, beer. Italian and international brands (including six pages dedicated to Belgian names) as well as around a dozen on tap options make ordering here a delightfully dizzying task.
NIGHTLIFE IN TESTACCIO
Via di Monte Testaccio
Testaccio is easily the city’s nightclub district, with many hot spots carved inside the ancient Monte dei Cocci hill. Locales are also conveniently found on the same via, or street, which makes club hopping a breeze.If you’re looking to hit the dance floor, check out Akab (Via di Monte Testaccio 69), or Villaggio Globale (Via di Monte Testaccio, 22). Caffe Latino (Via di Monte Testaccio, 96) spins Latin beats, L’Alibi (Via di Monte Testaccio, 40/44) attracts a mixed straight and LGBT crowd, and Caruso Caffe (Via di Monte Testaccio, 36) is known for its late-night salsa and merengue. Most clubs open at 11pm and many are closed Sunday. Check their websites for details!
MUST SEE IN TESTACCIO
Open Tues-Sun, 2pm-8pm
Once the biggest abattoir in all of Europe, Rome’s former mattatoio, or slaughterhouse, officially shut its doors in the 1970s. Happily, the grounds are still utilized today: a music school and a university architecture faculty call the space home, as does the second branch of the MACRO, Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Officially opened in 2002, the museum still retains vestiges of its past (meat hooks hang at its entrance) and features a constant rotation of contemporary art exhibits with an emphasis on up-and-coming artists.
Città Dell’Altra Economia
Largo Dino Frisullo
Open Tues-Sun, 7:30am-12midnight
Also found on the grounds of the former abattoir is Citta dell’Altra Economia, a sprawling complex dedicated exclusively to organic and fair-trade products. There’s a little bit of everything here: a coffee bar, restaurant, market, shops, exhibition spaces, and occasional cultural events like this year’s street food festival all make for a lively atmosphere. While the space is open until midnight, hours of its locales vary – check their website for more information.