At first glance, Rome’s cuisine looks like all meat and carbs. And to a certain extent, it is. However, restaurants in Rome also serve an array of hearty vegetable dishes. In fact, travelers who don’t eat meat or just want a light meal will find plenty of vegetarian options in Rome. Chefs here specialize in braised, grilled and sautéed veggies. But you have to know where to look.
How to Find Veggies on Roman Menus
Once you get a Roman menu in your hands, you should first look at the “contorni” section. Here you’ll find a delicious assortment of cooked and raw veggie dishes. Assemble a healthy meal by ordering at least two of these smaller plates. Remember to remind your waiter to bring them out together with the main meal.
Just be careful there aren’t “hidden” meats in your veggie dish. For instance, many soups have a base of chicken or beef broth and chefs often use pork with cooked vegetables. If you have questions, ask your waiter “E senza carne?” (“There’s no meat, right?”).
Popular Veggie Dishes in Rome
Rome is the epicenter of artichoke awesomeness. During peak season in April, you’ll find this superfood in loads of recipes including soups, pies and pastas. First, try them Roman-style, “carciofi alla Romana.” This beloved braised dish incorporates fresh herbs like parsley and mint. They burst with distinctive Italian flavors like garlic, white wine and lemon.
Next, hunt down some Jewish-style artichokes. Another delicious way to sate your artichoke fix, deep-fried “carciofi alla guida” hail from Rome’s historic Jewish Ghetto. These crispy snacks come with a refreshing spritz of lemon.
Come autumn, be on the lookout for pumpkin specialties like pumpkin carpaccio, pumpkin risotto and pumpkin ravioli, “tortelli di zucca.”
Another famous veggie is “broccoletti,” found on menus between autumn and spring. English speakers know it as “broccoli rabe.” Usually Roman chefs cook it in salted water and transfer them to a pan with olive oil, sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes. You might also find broccoletti mixed in with various pasta dishes.
Beware of Salads
Salads haven’t caught on with Romans, especially exotic salads and salads-as-meals. Unless you’re talking about a few crafty, profit-driven restaurateurs. If you’re in a Roman restaurant and see an extensive salad selection, then you’re most likely in a tourist trap. Authentic Italian restaurants offer one or two simple green side salads. That’s it. Nothing more. But remember: Jump to the contorni section for your veggie fix.