To get a glimpse of how life in Rome would be if there were no tourists, visit Testaccio. Generations of the same families have been living in this small district in southern Rome longer than my ancestors have lived in Canada. Wandering around the quiet streets may be intimidating at first as the neighbourhood is relatively light on tourists, but once you tuck into some of the shops and restaurants you will find some of the most genuinely friendly people in all of Rome. This former industrial working class neighbourhood is gentrifying quickly and is not as ‘off the beaten path’ as it once was for travelers.

Testaccio lies along the Tiber River and is south of many of the central sights like the Forum and Circus Maximus. The northern border of the district ends at the Ponte Sublicio, a bridge that connects to southern Trastevere. Testaccio was once the site of an ancient landfill filled with millions of fragments of terracotta pottery, which eventually grew into Monte Testaccio, a mound that is still evident today.

Where to Eat In Testaccio Rome: Slaughterhouse Ex-Mattatoio

Testaccio has a solid food history. Mattatoio, Rome’s predominant slaughterhouse during the 20th century, was an institution in the neighbourhood, employing many locals who were often compensated with difficult to sell animal parts like organs, intestines, and tail. Referred to as quinto quarto, these less appetizing meats were transformed in local kitchens into tasty dishes unique to Testaccio. Even today, offal dishes are still prevalent and popular at many traditional restaurants.

Regardless of how adventurous of an eater you are, there couldn’t be a better neighbourhood for food lovers than Testaccio – with authentic restaurants, multi-generational shops, and fresh markets on nearly every corner. To help you find your bearings, here are some of my favourite spots to eat in Testaccio.

Locally adored trattoria Flavio al Velavevodetto is located on the western perimeter of Testaccio on an unassuming street that runs along the Tiber. It’s praised for its flawless execution of Roman classics like pastas cacio e pepe and amatriciana as well as hearty meat dishes such as trippa alla romana (tripe Roman style) and roast suckling pig. Save room for dessert though – their tiramisu is pretty spectacular. While pleasant weather means you can enjoy your meal on Flavio’s lovely patio, don’t be discouraged if you’re seated inside as the interior of the restaurant is pretty epic as well, incorporating the mountain of terracotta on which Testaccio was built.

Agustarello is the real deal in Testaccio. If you want to be coddled, go somewhere else. If instead you are looking for local, traditional, ‘eat what the people eat’ fare, then run to Agustarello. The menu reads like a tribute to quinto quarto, offering up those quintessential ‘tastes better than it sounds’ dishes that have made this district famous in the culinary world: coda alla vaccinara (braised oxtail stew), rigatoni con pajata (pasta with baby lamb intestines), and animelle fritte (fried sweetbreads). The menu and service is solo Italiano so if there’s a food that’s a deal breaker for you, you’re best to learn the Italian word for it so that you can avoid it. Otherwise, just close your eyes and point to anything on the menu and you will be satisfied.

Where to Eat In Testaccio: Meats at Volpetti by

If you’re looking to craft the ultimate charcuterie board or picnic spread, Volpetti is the only spot you need to visit. Akin to a museum for foodies, this small store is packed to the rafters with all sorts of typical and unique Italian delicacies like fresh olive oil from Umbria, artisanal nougat from Sardinia, more than a dozen kinds of pecorino romano, a vast array of salumi, and hundreds of local and regional wines. While at first you may feel out of place at Volpetti amongst all of the locals, that feeling will soon dissipate as the owners and staff are some of the most lovely people we encountered in Rome, armed with a stack of toothpicks eager to offer scrumptious samples to all visitors. One of the very best things about Volpetti is their readiness to vacuum pack any purchase for safe travel so that you can continue your Roman diet long after leaving the city. Check out Volpetti Più around the corner for an array of prepared foods such as pizza, pasta, and your typical fried Roman goodies.

Where to Eat In Testaccio: 00100 Pizza Adam Groffman

If you’re craving pizza, check out 00100 Pizza (aka Trapizzino), consistently ranked one of the top spots for pizza in Rome. While you can buy some delicious pizza al taglio (by the slice), I would recommend a trapizzino, which is basically an elevated Pizza Pocket, but with gourmet fillings like pollo alla cacciatora (chicken cacciatore), pulpo al sugo (octopus in tomato sauce), and coda alla vaccinara (I’ve already translated that for you – stop skimming the article). And wash it all down with one of their local craft beers.

If you’re more in the mood for a traditional Roman thin crust pizza, head over to Da Remo. This pizzeria, popular with locals and tourists alike, serves up some of the most delicious pizza in the city, an epic balance of crispiness and cheesiness. Choose a classic like margherita, capricciosa, or diavola, all of which highlight the fresh ingredients on show at this lively restaurant.

By now you’ve eaten enough to warrant purchasing an extra seat on your flight home. But don’t bail on Testaccio quite yet. Make your way to Bar Giolitti, a cafe housed inside an epic building that has been serving handmade gelato to Romans for 100 years. While not the most innovative flavours in the city, the gelatos at Giolitti’s are classics executed in extraordinary fashion such as pistachio and dark chocolate, topped with a dollop of real whipped cream.

If you are in the mood for a drink after your culinary adventures, head over to Oasi della Birra where you’ll have the difficult responsibility of choosing from hundreds of beer and wine options. Grab a seat on the outdoor terrace if the weather is pleasant or find one inside in the cellar like room if you’re craving a cozier vibe. Oasi also serves arguably Testaccio’s best pre dinner aperitivo – pay 10E for a drink and an all you can eat buffet serving up pastas, meats and cheeses. What a bargain.

Where to Eat In Testaccio: Seafood-Store - Eric Parker

If you’re in the area earlier in the day, meander through the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio (7:30am to 2pm daily except Sundays), which recently moved from its outdoor setting in the piazza to an ambitious new building near the old slaughterhouse. Although this move was a long time in the making, not all locals were thrilled with it, but it has luckily maintained its energy. The Testaccio market is food mecca, offering up goods from specialty butchers, local famers, and cheese mongers.

Testaccio Protestant Cemetery
For a little sight seeing while in the neighbourhood, take a peaceful stroll through the Protestant Cemetery, just by the Pyramid of Cestius (located at Piramide on the metro). A final resting spot for all non-Catholics (not just Protestants) in Rome, this cemetery is eerily beautiful and unexpectedly serene. While largely recognized for its most famous inhabitants, English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the graveyard boasts some of the most impressive and unique graves, packed together in a relatively limited space.

An important element of Testaccio’s history, the slaughterhouse Mattatoio been completely transformed since being abandoned decades ago. Now the iconic industrial building houses an outpost of MACRO, Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, featuring several important pieces and exhibitions by Italian and international artists. Open late, it’s a great spot to check out post-aperitivo and pre-dinner – you can even grab a drink while you’re there.

Well that’s it on this neighbourhood instalment of our Rome Bites series. Have you been to Testaccio and visited any of the places I’ve mentioned? Or perhaps you have your own must-eats and have-to-dos when in Testaccio. If so, let us know in the comment section.

Rome Food Guide, Where to eat in Testaccio photos courtesy of Flickr; Andrea (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Eric Parker (CC BY-NC 2.0); Adam Groffman (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0); Paolo Fusco (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0); (CC BY 2.0); and Departful, JP Bervoets.