A Guide to Caffeinating Like a Roman
Words + Photos by Ryan Neeven
Coffee in Italy is an art form that is taken very, very seriously. You would never stroll into a coffee bar and order a Pumpkin Spice, or any flavored latte for that matter, without quickly becoming a laughing stock. In Italy coffee is treated as it should be, with respect, and kept simple. Not only do they stick to the classics, such as a frothy cappuccino for breakfast and then an espresso to finish dinner, they have strict rules to go along with how and when you drink that coffee. For example, should you order a cappuccino after 11:00 AM, you will instantly be hit with a disapproving glance from the barista because coffee with that much milk is not to be had after lunch and never, ever after a meal (read: you are labeled a tourist at that point). Another thing to know is that coffee is most often served and sipped at the bar. You will rarely find places with an abundance of seating to sit and drink your coffee because it’s supposed to be a quick exchange: get the coffee, drink it and then a quick, “Ciao, grazie,” and you’re out of there.
As in most cities with an overflow of tourists crowding the narrow streets, in Rome you can find both the quintessential Italian coffee bars and the ones who have taken a more modern approach. Sometimes you just want that Ethiopian pour over instead of an espresso, so this list of my favorite Roman coffee shops has you covered on all fronts.
Marigold Roma - Via Giovanni da Empoli, 37
A relative newcomer to the coffee scene in Italy, Marigold Roma has quickly become a favorite in the Eternal City. Featuring an amazing selection of pastries, such as to-die-for cinnamon rolls and carrot cake that put my grandma's recipe to shame (sorry Grandma!), owners Sofie and Domenico each bring their own unique twist to the restaurant/bar. Sofie is the baker and pastry chef while Domenico is in the kitchen serving up masterpieces that feature local ingredients found right here in Rome. One thing I love about the cafe is the interior design, with everything being made in Italy but with a Scandinavian minimalist flair. This is my favorite breakfast place in Rome because the coffee is amazing and the food is equally as good.
Faro Caffè Specialty - Via Piave, 55
Regarded as Rome’s first specialty coffee shop, Faro Caffe does not disappoint in any way. They serve some of the best beans from top roasters around Italy and Europe, and getting a great coffee here is easy. The hard part is deciding how you want that coffee brewed, either in an espresso, cappuccino, or V60 pour over. My advice is to get a V60 of any of the Gardelli Coffees that they have in rotation and order an espresso of the same coffee to see how the different brew methods bring out different flavors in the coffee.
Pergamino - Piazza del Risorgimento, 7
Just steps away from St. Peter’s, this little gem of a coffee shop has one of the biggest offerings of coffee from around the world and the largest array of brew methods that I’ve found in Rome. If you can’t decide what you want, just ask the ultra knowledgeable baristas and they will work with you to create a coffee that you will remember. Also, this is one of the only places in Rome that I have ever seen have a Nitro coffee on tap so if that’s what your craving, it’s worth a visit.
Barnum Cafe - Via dei Pellegrino, 87
An expat hotspot, Barnum Cafe is as close as you’ll get to the vibe of a quaint little coffee shop in Brooklyn. They are also one of the only bars in Rome that allow you to sit and work on your laptop, for certain hours of the day only, and sip a cappuccino poured by the awesome baristas behind the bar. They are currently expanding their caffeinated offerings by introducing new varietals from Livorno based Le Piantagioni into the rotation, and trust me they are good.
Roscioli Caffè - Piazza Benedetto Cairoli, 16
A household name in Rome best known for their baked goods and fantastic restaurant, the Roscioli brand has recently added a great little cafe to their collection. Just steps from their flagship restaurant, the cafe is very small but has a great selection of Italian coffees and a very tempting selection of pastries and cakes from the bakery (get the Maritozzo!!). The usual suspects are available here like Cortado, Macchiato, Cappuccino, and of course Espresso but you can get a V60 pour over here as well.
Tram Depot - Via Marmorata, 13
Finding cold brew anywhere in Italy is nearly impossible. Of the handful of places I have come across it, one is Tram Depot located in Testaccio. Taking inspiration from its name and location, the renovated 1903 tram car sits right on the tram line in Testaccio and serves up some of the best coffee in Rome. As mentioned before, they have a great cold brew that is served as more of a cocktail with a garnish of orange. It’s mighty tasty. Featuring a vast selection of coffee and brew methods, this might be my favorite outdoor cafe in Rome because of the ability to sit in a charming garden setting. That said, as it is completely outdoors, Tram Depot is not open in the colder months.
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè - Piazza di Sant’Eustachio, 82
Through a secret process known only to the baristas at Sant’Eustachio, when you order a coffee “con zucchero”, you’ll receive an espresso with a creamy, smooth sweetness. It’s not the same as if you ordered an espresso and just dumped a packet of sugar in and stirred it around. Trust me: it’s an experience you have to try for yourself. Famed as one of the best cups of coffee in Rome, be ready to wait in line to get into this small cafe, but it’s worth the wait. Sant’Eustachio roasts their own beans in house, so you can share the passion of great Roman coffee with your friends and family back home by picking up a bag or some chocolate covered espresso beans.