Updated: Oct 15
For us, Italy is not just a bucket-list destination, it is a second home.
With a large family residing in the central regions, I have spent many a summer exploring the sights, sounds and especially the tastes of Italy. After a long hiatus, a family wedding in 2019 provided the perfect excuse to return to my roots, introduce my husband to my Italian family and watch as he tasted all the deliciousness the country has to offer.
On our first night in Rome, we dined with family who introduced us to the traditional dish of Cacio e Pepe pasta. Simple, yet decadent, the creamy Pecorino Romano and pepper sauce is one of Rome’s most ancient recipes, dating back centuries. It quickly became our go-to selection at every Roman restaurant thereafter.
The homemade spaghetti is thick but soft, and coated in a spicy cream sauce that is to die for. As we ate, buskers appeared, singing opera and playing accordion music, it was pure magic.
Dining at Ristorante da Pancrazio was born out of convenience, but quickly became our favourite "hidden" location in Rome. While staying at the boutique hotel, the Pantheon Caesar Relais that overlooked the Largo di Torre Argentina, we researched restaurants in the area and stumbled upon Pancrazio. It’s rustic exterior and simple patio was not uncommon for the Campo dei Fiori area, but what intrigued us was its history.
Pancrazio Restaurant was built atop the ancient Roman ruins. First opened as a tavern in 1922 by Pancrazio Macchioni, an attempt to expand the premises in the 1950s revealed several rooms from the first century Theatre of Pompeii, where Julius Caesar was murdered.
What to Eat at Pancrazio Restaurant:
The history may pull you to visit the first time, but you will return for the romantic atmosphere and especially the food. The restaurant is tucked away from the chaos of the piazza, which makes sitting outside on the patio very pleasant and relaxing. That first visit, we enjoyed a chilled bottle of rosé, a starter with Cacio e Pepe Potato Croquettes then feasted on the best Cacio e Pepe pasta we’ve ever had. The homemade spaghetti is thick but soft, and coated in a spicy cream sauce that is to die for. As we ate, buskers appeared, singing opera and playing accordion music, it was pure magic.
On our second visit, we sat at the same patio table, had the same waiter, made the same selections and it was just as delicious. While paying the bill inside, the owner invited us to see the ruins downstairs. Happily, we marvelled over the stone arched rooms, partial columns, and ancient paintings still visible on the walls. It was truly an experience that delighted all the senses.
On our third visit, we had the same again but added the delicately fried Zucchini Flowers with Anchovies. Not a huge anchovy fan in general, but the taste is subtle and the flour coating light and delicate.
Upon returning to Rome in 2022, we made sure we stayed in the same area so we could easily return to Pancrazio and the most delicious Cacio e Pepe pasta.
The prices are very reasonable for the quality, a meal for two with a starter and a bottle of wine often totaled 50 Euro. One night, we invited friends and family to join us on the patio, ordered many bottles of wine, many plates of food and were lucky to taste the seasonal fried artichokes. Everyone walked away stuffed and happy, and the bill for 8 people totaled 250 Euro.
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The next night, we returned just the two of us and while my husband ordered the Cacio e Pepe again, I opted for the Parmigiana. Rivaling my Italian mother's homemade version, it was fantastic. I savoured every melt in your mouth bite. We intend to return and review every dish at Pancrazio.
Pancrazio is family run, with the owner often found sitting behind the main desk inside, directing patrons and chatting while they pay their bill. His wife is often seen either helping the waiters or sitting off in a corner, enjoying a plate of pasta and a glass of red. On all of our visits, we have only ever seen two different waiters who serve all the tables. Traditionally dressed, and often tight-lipped, they speak to an old world charm that is oddly inviting.
Now in 2023, it appears they have made some changes to the website and their menu. Some of the favourites, like Cacio e Pepe are still listed on the now smaller menu, with new selections available. We have no doubt they will be just as delicious and will need to return soon to taste them first hand.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and indulge!
Ristorante Pancrazio, Rome, Italy
Overall Ranking - 4.5/5
The food, the amazing history, the out-of-the way location, the romantic atmosphere, but most of all the food. If you're looking for authentic, delicious Italian dishes, without the high price tag or pretense of a tourist trap, this is the place for you.