Do you need to book restaurants in Rome?

Eating in Rome: Why you need a reservation & How to make one

Restaurant entrance at Trastevere area
Rome Restaurant entrance at Trastevere area

You can’t think of Italy without instantly thinking of the tantalizing cuisine. Seriously, how can you not have visions of thin crispy authentic pizza, fresh handmade pasta, and decadent desserts dancing through your head? One of the reasons people love to travel is to experience different culture and foods. Rome provides visitors a culinary experience and is home to some of the most incredible restaurants to fulfill your Italian cravings. However if you’re visiting from places like Canada and the United States, the culture of restaurants and reservations is a little different than what you’re used to. If you’re a foodie and looking for a taste of some of the best offerings in Rome, then you’ll want to do your research ahead of time in order to make the most of your visit.

Why you need a reservation & How to make one

People eating at Urbana 47 restaurant in Rome
People eating at Urbana 47 restaurant in Rome

In North America it’s pretty common to be able to walk into a restaurant, wait a minimal amount of time, and then be seated for a meal. It’s also not out of the ordinary to call the day of or night before to book a table for 5+ people and get in to most local spots. Most restaurants are able to seat multiple parties at one table throughout the night because the average meal only takes between one to two hours depending on the party size. A waiter will check in periodically to see how things are going, probably finish by asking if you’d like dessert, and then leaving the check. Dinner in Rome is a whole different story.

In Rome, when you reserve a table it’s essentially your table for the remainder of the evening. The wait staff will not rush you out or make you feel guilty for staying at chatting with your friends. Service is slower, not in a bad way, but in a laissez-faire, come and enjoy and live in the moment type of pace.

Italian food in outdoor restaurant in Trastevere district in Rome
Italian food in outdoor restaurant in Trastevere district in Rome

You need to make a reservation in order to claim your spot for the evening. If you make the reservation ahead of time, the restaurant will hold your table until you show up and therefore turn away walk ups who are looking for a spot to eat. It is therefore very important not only to make a reservation, but to be courteous and call and cancel reservations if you’ve changed your mind.

Important reminders of Rome Dinning Habits

  • In North America dinner usually begins anywhere between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., whereas in Rome dinner will usually start any time after 8:00 p.m. If you show up to a restaurant before 8:00 p.m. and it looks empty and they turn you away, it’s more than likely that someone has made a reservation and will show up within another hour. So eat like a local and set your dinner clock to 8:30 p.m.
  • Often restaurants are not open from breakfast to late night. Commonly restaurants will be open for the lunch meal from approximately Noon to 2:00 p.m., will close for the afternoon, and then re-open around 8:00 p.m. or later.
  • The table is yours for the evening. There is not a push to get you out of the restaurant, so relax and enjoy the Italian experience.

When & How to make a Reservation in Rome

If you are a foodie and want to eat at a particular restaurant, especially a well-known spot like Roscioli, Trattoria Monti, or Armando al Pantheon, then it’s best to make a reservation 1-3 weeks in advance (unless it’s a holiday such as Easter, Christmas etc., then it’s recommended to make a reservation at least a few months prior). If you don’t care particularly what restaurant you go to, then you can wing it when you get to town if you prefer.

Making reservations can be a little trickier because of the time change and not all restaurants in Rome have websites or online booking. One great resource for booking online is Quandoo which allows you to pick the restaurant, type of food and town for a reservation. Another option to book a reservation is to find an email address, phone number or Facebook page and connect with the restaurant that way. Make sure to include in your communication:

  • Date of requested reservation (it’s suggested to type it in the European format where it’s Date/Month)
  • Requested reservation time (remember, Italians eat later than North Americans typically)
  • If you have any special requests like a highchair or if children will be included
  • The number of people in your party

If you do opt to call and make a phone reservation, you can use an online phone service such as Skype to make free calls. Though a lot of people speak English in Rome, it may be worth learning to say (or type out) your reservation request in Italian.

Wherever you decide to eat in Rome, you’re likely going to have a wonderful culinary experience that is sure to leave your taste buds satisfied and happy. Buon appetito foodies and enjoy your Roman holiday!