Best Carbonara in Rome (+ Easy Carbonara Recipe) (2024)

One of the most delicious, legendary, and traditional dishes you can try in Rome is Spaghetti alla Carbonara, and although this dish has been copied and repurposed in every corner of the world, the original version of the dish uses just a few high quality ingredients and the right knowledge to make the perfect Carbonara.

According to some versions, the word Carbonara comes from the Roman Dialect term cacio e ova, which literally means cheese and egg.

And even when we cannot confirm this version, the dish might have been a logical evolution of this first Carbonara version.

According to another version and despite the Roman dialect terms, it is in fact disputed which part of Rome and even the Lazio region is really home to the Carbonara.

However and surprisingly enough, several sources seem to place the real birthplace of the dish out of Rome, in the nearby region of Campania, in Naples!

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In This Article:

The Legend behind the First Dish of Carbonara

Different sources agree on the fact that Carbonara was created by accident.

It is believed that this dish first saw the light in the twentieth century, around 1944 when the American troops stationed in Italy during the last months of WWII were often served basic foods, including white pizza, and spaghetti seasoned with poor ingredients such as pepper and cheese (the legendary Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe was a very popular meal in those times of famine).

Some say that tomatoes were not easily available during war times (most men had abandoned working on the fields to fight in the front), while others claim that tomatoes were not allowed as they usually stained aprons and military clothes (shortage of soap would not come as a surprise either during war times).

No matter the real reason behind white pizza and white pasta, the fact is that a soldier might want something tastier.

The legend goes that an American soldier received his spaghetti dish but he was so hungry that he added his soldier ration of food to the dish.

The so-called K ration was made of powdered eggs, bacon, and liquid cream. The result was the first delicious dish of Carbonara.

Is There Cream in Carbonara?

The successful and tasty (and mostly different from boring white pasta dish) meal attracted the attention of soldiers and Naples citizens alike, who refined and balanced the dish leaving out the heavy cream and incorporating fresh (and creamy) fresh yolks to the recipe.

Maybe, this is the real reason why many versions of the recipe do add heavy cream to the dish, but keep it in mind, always and especially when in Italy:

Carbonara is never made with cream. Never, it’s kind of a local sin!

How Did Carbonara Get So Popular?

By the end of the war, news about the mouthwatering dish had reached Rome, where it was first served in a small trattoria located in the center of Rome, on the small alley known as Vicolo della Scrofa.

It was from here that this traditional dish spread around the rest of the country and later on, the rest of the world.

Cacio e Ova

According to other versions, the word Carbonara comes from the Roman Dialect term cacio e ova, which literally means cheese and egg.

And even when we cannot confirm this version, the dish might have been a logical evolution of this first Carbonara version.

Best Places for Carbonara in Rome?

These are some of my favorite restaurants in Rome when it comes to an authentic dish of Carbonara, in no particular order…

  • Grappolo D’Oro: Traditional restaurant specializing in slow food and authentic Roman dishes, their Carbonara is among the best in town. It is highly suggested to book a table before the visit because it tends to be full. The restaurant is at 80, Piazza della Cancelleria Square near the Campo dei Fiori area, you can book a table at +39 066897080.
  • Da Danilo: Another typical trattoria in Rome, this is one of the most perfect Carbonara dishes that you will find in Rome. The place is not as popular, but I still suggest booking in advance. The restaurant is at 13 Petrarca Street, and you can book calling +39 06 77200111.
  • Pipero Roma: Another great place for Carbonara, although a bit high end, the dish here is the real deal. Booking in advance is also suggested. Pipero Roma is at 250, Vittorio Emanuele II Avenue and booking is made through phone call to +39 0668139022.
  • Armando al Pantheon: Here they cook one of the best Carbonara dishes you could imagine… since 1966! And always respecting every detail of the most authentic Roman tradition. The beautiful restaurant is located in the heart of the historic center, at 31, Salita de’ Crescenzi Street. You can book your table at this phone number: +39 06 68803034.
  • La Carbonara: How could you miss a restaurant boasting such a clear reference to the dish through their name. The osteria encourages customers to graffiti its walls and offers a menu of classic Roman dishes. The place is in name is at 214 Panisperna Street in the Monti District, you can check out if there are tables available calling at +39 06 4825176.
  • In Roma since 1917: One of the most traditional eateries in Rome, the place has been serving delicious Carbonara and stunning tiramisù for decades and the reviews have always been great. The place is a nostalgic corner in the city, with black-&-white film star photos decorating the walls. It’s located at 56, De Fienili Street and it’s possible to book a table calling at +30 06 69191024.
  • Trattoria Vecchia Roma: Another classic trattoria in town where Carbonara is one of the many highlights on the menu. The restaurant is situated at 12, Ferruccio Street and the phone number is +39 06 4467143.

The list could really go on for pages and pages, such is the popularity of this dish in the capital of the Bel Paese.

If you are heading to Rome, do try to eat the local Carbonara at least once, and if not, try to recreate it at home, you will certainly enjoy it!

LEARN MORE: What to Eat in Rome (Best Foods to Try)

Ingredients in Carbonara

Carbonara is a delicious, yellow creamy sauce that uses only a few ingredients contrary to what you might have been told. I’ve seen carbonara made with mushrooms, milk, cream, full eggs, bacon, and even minced meat.


Carbonara is made only with guanciale (pork jowl or cheeks), egg yolks, and Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Although ingredients vary in Italy according to prices and availability (guanciale is much more expensive than plain bacon or pancetta, while Pecorino Romano is common in Rome but Grana Padano is used in Milan), however, these small variations might look acceptable out of Rome, a real Roman will never consider a Carbonara made with bacon a real Carbonara.

There has been a vegetarian version of Carbonara going around for quite some time now which uses zucchini instead of guanciale. It might be healthier and even quite tasty, but it really does not compare to the original stuff.

How to Make Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Although most people prefer spaghetti, Carbonara is a very creamy sauce, therefore all kinds of short pasta with a whole in the middle (penne, rigatoni, ziti, cavatappi and even fusilli) can be a good alternative as the hole or even the shape of the pasta will catch enough creamy sauce making the dish even more delicious).

In any case, always pick good quality pasta, in Italy you can easily find pasta trafilata abronzo, a special way to prepare the pasta that gives texture. This texture is really important as it allows the pasta to hold the sauce much better.

Drop that Barilla pasta and try De Cecco or La Molisana if you can find them!

One of the most important things that you need to know about Carbonara is that this is a very easy dish to make and it is ready in really just a few minutes.

It is perfect if you don’t enjoy spending long hours in the kitchen and if you use the right ingredients you will easily impress even the most picky Roman eater, no matter how good you are in the kitchen.

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Easy Carbonara Recipe


(yields four servings)

  • 1 lb (half a kilo) spaghetti
  • 5 oz (150 grams) guanciale (replace with bacon if guanciale not available in your region)
  • 7 oz (200 grams) grated Pecorino Romano cheese (if unavailable in your region, replace with a quality Parmesan cheese or Grana Padano cheese)
  • 4 egg yolks (usually one per person, but you can add one extra for a more soft-textured result)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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  1. Remove any rind from your guanciale (or bacon) and then cut it in cubes or in long strips about one centimeter (1/3 to ½ inch) thick. Fry on a hot pan until they are cooked (about 5 minutes) and the fat of the meat has melted. Some people add a small quantity of extra virgin olive oil to enhance the flavor, although not really necessary as guanciale should be fatty enough. Stir with a wooden spoon and keep an eye on it so it does not burn.
  2. Season with a little salt and enough fresh ground black pepper and set aside.
  3. In the meantime, you’ve already put a large saucepan with water to boil, add salt only when the waters starts boiling and only after that add the spaghetti to cook.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese with the yolks, adding one at a time and mixing continuously, add some more fresh pepper to the mix.
  5. When the spaghetti is ready, set aside at least a cup of boiling water, add the spaghetti to the pan with the guanciale and heat a little bit and mix with a wooden spoon.
  6. Remove the pan from the fire and add the yolks and egg mixture. Do not heat! No matter what they’ve said to you the REAL SECRET of Carbonara is that the eggs will cook with the heat of the pasta. And that should be enough for the dish to be safe and creamy and for the yolk not to solidify. Solid yolks would mean scrambled eggs, another sin when speaking Carbonara with a Roman!
  7. Add the extra pasta boiling water and sprinkle with more pepper and more grated cheese.

Serve with a glass of red Chianti.

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About the Author

Best Carbonara in Rome (+ Easy Carbonara Recipe) (6)

Gabi Ancarola is a translator and travel journalist living in Crete. She regularly writes about Europe for several magazines about travel, gastronomy, and hospitality. She has published several travel guides about Greece and plans customized trips to the Greek islands. She loves cooking local dishes, taking photos, and driving on the mountain roads of Crete.

Best Carbonara in Rome (+ Easy Carbonara Recipe) (2024)


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