I’ve been to Rome three different times now, and it’s always a different experience. With so much to do and a type of vibrancy unique to Rome, it has become my favorite city. When I step onto the stairs of the subway and hear the thrumming trains, I feel at home. It’s a place where you can find something new to explore every day, but when I was first there a couple years ago, my food options were limited. There was only one vegan restaurant and one vegetarian restaurant I was able to get to try (there were a few more vegetarian ones, but I don’t remember seeing any more vegan ones.) There were, of course, the markets, but eating at the same place over and over again can get dull and with limited access to a kitchen, the markets weren’t always viable. Just two years later, everything has changed.
Not only were there plenty of vegan restaurants in the city, there were quite a few restaurants that weren’t vegan or vegetarian, but quite willing to provide great vegan food and were knowledgeable about it. I noticed this the most at the gelato shops. At nearly each one I visited (and that was, ahem, a lot), the servers knew what I meant when I said “vegano.” There were even a number around the city that served soy gelato, or gelato di soia. A big difference from my first visit, where I generally avoided the gelato shops! I could write several pages on vegan Rome, but I’m going to stick with the highlights. If you are visiting Rome, these are the places you don’t want to miss!
Rewild – Vegan Restaurant
Rewild is a cool restaurant. It has a very punk vegan vibe with wine and a classy, outstanding vegan menu. The first time I went there, I had a vegan cheese platter (before they became the new “thing”), wine, a sandwich, tiramisu, and a delicious orange fennel salad followed by a smoothly brewed espresso. I absolutely loved the food and was able to enjoy it in a quiet atmosphere. My experience this time was a bit different, but it encapsulates one of the things I love about Rewild. When I got to the restaurant this time, which is off a side street near an auto repair facility and the front of which looks nothing like a restaurant, I was assaulted by a panoply of laughing and shouting and clinking glasses. Not the relaxed atmosphere I was expecting at all, nor was the quick plate of pasta and bread (both of which were still excellent) that was slung in front of me when I sat down. Wine came quickly, followed by a ginger cake drowning in soy whip cream (yum!). It was crazy and intense and it was all for a good cause. That’s because Rewild was hosting a fundraiser for a famous cat shelter in Rome and everyone was there to celebrate the shelter. Rewild donated all the profits to the shelter and everyone, including me, the unexpected interloper, had a great time. The people at Rewild have good food and good hearts and because of that, I will always recommend this restaurant when visiting Rome.
Ops! – Vegan Restaurant
This is one of the new vegan restaurants that have popped up in the last two years and it has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the best. Named after the fertility goddess Ops (which basically means “plenty”), this restaurant lives up to its name. Each night, they put out a buffet line of dishes from which people can choose, and by buffet line, I mean they put out at least twenty different vegan platters of food, all of which are nicely arranged and well-done. Even better? The menu rotates every night. I could have loaded up two plates of food, piled high, and still not have tried everything they put out both nights I went there. The food itself ranged from good to great and much of it was organic. It had a fresh, lively taste, and a lot of care was taken in preparing each dish. The downside is that you pay by the weight of your plate, so I ended up spending quite a bit of money each time I went because that price does not include drinks, bread, or dessert. If you eat light, you might get out of there at €20, but if you eat like me, it might be closer to €35. Still, considering how much money food can cost in Rome, it’s worth going there at least once.
Il Margutta – Vegetarian Restaurant
The opposite of Ops! cost-wise, Il Margutta also puts out a buffet, albeit with significantly fewer choices, but at a significantly lower cost. Located in the area around the Spanish steps, this vegetarian restaurant is mostly restaurant and part art gallery. The food is good and about half the dishes in the buffet are vegan. The rest are vegetarian, so be aware that not everything there is free of dairy. You can tell which dishes are vegan by the green card they put next to them in the buffet line. Best of all, they are open for lunch, unlike the other restaurants I have mentioned, so if you’re looking for good vegan food at a reasonable price, head down to Il Margutta during the day. At night, they have a regular menu, and while I haven’t tried the food at night, I have heard from others that it is excellent.
Gelateria ai Cerchi – Gelato shop along the Circus Maximus
Soy gelato! Open late! Just off a major metro stop! Indulge your vegan need for soy gelato and head to Gelateria ai Cerchi, which is located at the corner of the Circus Maximus. This place was always crowded (a good sign) and they had a big selection of vegan gelato. My late night treat was a gelato and a walk around the Circus Maximus. It was the perfect way to end a day of walking on cobblestones and concrete in the heat. A fun place, a cool walk, and a sweet treat.
This farmer’s market is only open on the weekends, but it’s the best one in Rome. Located in a large warehouse-like building near the Circus Maximus, you’ll find plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, buckets of olives, fresh bread, lentils, beans, herbs, and spices. Basically, everything you need to create a great meal if you happen to have a kitchen (which I did.) Even if you don’t plan on making your own meals, the outrageous amount of produce available makes the market a must-see site. Even better, you don’t have to pay the tourist prices that you find at some of the other markets. It’s also not far from a metro stop, making it a convenient place to shop. Also, many of the vendors speak enough English to answer questions you may have about the goods. Even if you aren’t shopping for lots of food, it’s still worth stopping by to get fresh bread and a few olives for an afternoon treat.
The Gateway to Your Roman Vegan Experience
Those are my must-see foodie sites for Rome. If you happen to be in Rome in the middle of June, there is also a brand-new vegan festival. I missed it by a day, but I plan on making a point of going next time I have the opportunity. All the vegan restaurants are there and it’s a great way to sample vegan Rome in one excursion.
Until next time, ciao.