The vegan Rome dining scene is a bit of a paradox.
On the one hand, there are more than 20 vegan restaurants in Rome, which sounds like it would be a vegan paradise.
The trouble is, almost all of those vegan Rome restaurants are way out in the suburbs – which is not where you want to be. In addition to being devoid of places of interest to tourists, those suburbs can also be difficult to reach, thanks to the inadequacies of Rome’s subway system.
Take a look at this map of vegan restaurants in Rome, courtesy of HappyCow.
See that red circle in the middle? That’s where you’re going to be when you visit Rome, because that’s where all the good stuff is.
The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps … you get the idea. All those iconic places that you’ve come to see, plus many more that you’ve never heard of, are right there in the city center, or what’s known in Italian as the centro storico.
As you can see on the map, there’s not a single green leaf symbol inside that circle.
So, does eating vegan in Rome mean trekking out to the suburbs for every meal? Absolutely not!
I’ve been to Rome countless times, and I’ve never even visited most of the city’s vegan restaurants. That’s because I’m usually hanging out with non-vegan friends who live in the city center.
And even when I let my friends choose the restaurant, no mattere where we go I can always find something vegan.
Want to see what I ate the first time I returned to Rome after becoming vegan? Check out this embarrassing early blog post and marvel at the world’s worst food photography.
Hey, at least I can laugh at myself. The Nomadic Vegan has come a long way since then!
Vegan food in Italy is actually really easy to come by, because Italian cuisine is by its very nature quite vegan-friendly.
Eating vegan in Italy doesn’t mean going to specialty restaurants that serve quinoa and goji berries.
You can find vegan dishes on the menu in pretty much any restaurant in Rome. And these are not token vegan dishes that restaurant owners have added just to draw in vegan customers.
Instead, they are authentic, local specialties that Romans themselves eat every day. So that’s what I’m going to focus on in this guide – real vegan Italian food.
No raw cuisine, no vegan burger joints. Just authentic vegan Italian food done right – the Italian way.
Vegan Rome: Guide to Eating in The City Center
Normally, I divide my vegan city guides into three sections: vegan restaurants, vegetarian restaurants and vegan-friendly restaurants.
This time, there will be no “Vegan Restaurants Rome” section, because, as we’ve seen, there are no vegan restaurants in Rome’s city center. So let’s jump straight into the vegetarian restaurants in Rome.
Vegetarian Restaurants Rome
Actually, there aren’t many vegetarian restaurants in the city center either, but there is one that's worth mentioning.
Established in 1979, this is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Rome, and it’s a bit of an institution. On weekdays, they have a brunch buffet for 15 euros that includes water and a dessert. It’s not all you can eat, but you’re allowed to fill one soup bowl and one large plate.
The vegan options are clearly marked, and there are plenty of them. You can check the daily menu on the website to see exactly which dishes will be included in the buffet.
Il Margutta is located near Piazza del Popolo and has a classy atmosphere. It’s good value for a weekday lunch, but the weekend menu is much more expensive.
Vegan-Friendly Restaurants Rome
This has become my favorite restaurant in Rome, and I try to eat there at least once every time I visit the city. It’s in an unlikely location, near Termini train station. This area is certainly not known for its high culinary standards, but Rifugio Romano is the exception.
Rifugio Romano is a fantastic traditional Roman trattoria with an extensive vegan menu that includes lots of veganized traditional Roman dishes, such as supplì, spaghetti alla carbonara, pennette alla vodka, and even tiramisu.
They also have several types of pizza and calzone with vegan cheese and vegan meats. There are so many vegan options to choose from, you could eat every meal here for a week and you still wouldn’t make it through the whole vegan menu.
Another traditional restaurant and pizzeria, this one doesn’t have quite as many vegan options, but the quality of the food is good and the location is very central, in between Campo de’ Fiori and Largo di Torre Argentina.
The vegan options are clearly marked and include focaccia with grilled vegetables, bruschetta with sun-dried tomatoes and a traditional Sicilian caponata. There’s even a vegan option in the secondo piatto section of the menu, which is traditionally reserved for meat and fish dishes.
This very successful local restaurant chain has about 10 different locations all over Rome. The most conveniently located ones for tourists are the two in Piazza Pasquino and Largo dei Chiavari. I prefer Piazza Pasquino, as it’s tucked down a side street near Piazza Navona and is very atmospheric at night.
Start your meal with a mix of vegan bruschetta, with toppings such as tomato, artichoke cream and olive tapenade. They also have a vegan antipasto mixed plate.
Insalata Ricca is famous for its large, meal-sized salads, several of which are vegan. Just ask for oil and vinegar instead of the regular house dressing, which contains honey and anchovies. They also serve a number of traditional Roman pasta dishes that happen to be vegan, like arrabbiata and aglio, olio e peperoncino.
Want to Taste These Italian Delicacies for Yourself?
In May 2019, I'll be leading two small groups of vegan and vegcurious travelers around Italy. Together we'll experience all the country's sights, sounds, smells and tastes. I'd love for you to join us!
The first tour will cover the iconic sights of Rome, Florence and Venice. The second tour is to the Puglia region -- an undiscovered gem in the south of Italy where the local cuisine is mostly plant-based.
Want to know more?
This is a great place to go for dinner, when you’ll be able to try the full menu, which includes vegan options for all four courses of a traditional Italian menu (antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce). Buddy is also the perfect place to try pinsa romana – a local tradition that actually pre-dates the pizza invented in Naples.
Pinsa has become a growing food trend in recent years. It’s considered to be healthier than pizza, because the dough is made from a mix of wheat, soy and rice flours. Buddy offers a couple of vegan pinsa with some unusual toppings.
At lunch time, a buffet is served, but if you want to be sure of having plenty of vegan options then it’s best to come for dinner instead.
This is one of my favorite places to eat in Rome’s centro storico. The vegan options are clearly marked and include dishes in all four courses. Don’t leave without trying the caponata. It’s among the best I’ve ever tasted, and that includes all the caponata I’ve eaten in Sicily, where the dish originated!
There are actually two locations of Origano. Both are in the city center – one is near Campo de’ Fiori and the other is near the Trevi Fountain. Just be aware that the menu varies slightly between the two locations, though both have vegan options.
Rome’s Jewish ghetto has a reputation as being one of the best areas of the city to go for a nice meal. As the heart of the Jewish community, it’s also the place to go if you’re looking for a kosher restaurant.
While Giggetto is not kosher, it has an unbeatable location right next to the ancient Roman ruin of the Portico d’Ottavia. It’s also a third-generation, family-run business that’s been operating since 1923, so they must be doing something right.
Don’t miss the carciofi alla giudia, a local delicacy of fried artichokes. The artichoke is deep-fried in its entirety, turning its otherwise inedible outer leaves into a crispy treat.
The menu changes with the seasons, but other vegan options usually include penne all’arrabbiata and some type of soup. You may also come across a chef’s special such as fave al tegame (fava beans cooked in a saucepan).
Like most restaurants in the ghetto, Giggetto is a bit pricier than what you’ll find elsewhere, but you’re paying for the atmosphere.
Trastevere is the trendy neighborhood on the far side of the Tiber River, and in fact the name means “across the Tiber” in Italian. It’s known as a place that’s full of great restaurants where locals go to taste traditional favorites.
Taverna della Scala is one of the more vegan-friendly of Trastevere’s many restaurants, and the staff are welcoming and willing to accommodate. I recommend the bruschetta with tomatoes and arugula as a starter. Or, if you don't plan to eat in the Jewish ghetto (see Giggetto above), this is also a good place to try carciofi alla giudia.
Other vegan options include a penne all’arrabbiata that’s spicier than most, as well as pasta e ceci and pasta e fagioli (just ask the staff to use egg-free pasta in these dishes).
This relative newcomer on the Roman food scene is one of few places that offers healthy, high-quality food near the Roman Forum – an area dominated by overpriced tourist traps.
While the prices at Humus are still a bit higher than usual, the cuisine is inventive, and the ambience is refreshingly unique. One look at the peacock mural on the wall, and you’ll know this is not your typical Roman trattoria.
The food is actually a fusion of Sardinian cuisine and international flavors. And, as you've probably guessed, hummus is a main feature on the menu.
There are not quite as many vegan options as you might expect from a place called Humus, but several dishes can be adapted on request. I loved the fregola, which is a Sardinian specialty of semolina dough rolled into small ball shapes a bit larger than couscous. Here, the fregola is toasted and served with cherry tomatoes and a citrus pesto (just ask for no cheese).
Also on the menu is a lasagna made from the typical Sicilian bread pane carasau, and this can also be made vegan upon request. I’ll definitely be trying it on my next visit!
Vegan Gelato Rome
In case you haven’t heard, most ice cream shops in Italy serve vegan gelato. At the very least, the fruit flavors will usually be sorbets, which are made without any milk.
And it’s increasingly common for gelaterie to offer other flavors (like chocolate or hazelnut) made with plant-based milk. Here are some of my favorite gelaterie in Rome if you’re looking for more than just fruit-flavored gelato.
This local chain has several locations throughout the city and has long been a favorite of mine. The portions are huge, and the gelato is delicious. It’s still best for its fruit flavors, but it does usually have one or two other vegan flavors too, such as chocolate or almond.
They now also serve cones that are marked as vegan and gluten free.
If you want a wide range of vegan gelato flavors, Olive Dolci is the place to go. This gelateria is 100% vegan! Their gelato is made from olive oil, which sounds weird, I know.
To be perfectly honest, it’s probably not my favorite gelato in town, but I love the fact that they have lots of funky flavors to choose from. And of course, it’s great to support a fully vegan company.
This place gets my vote for the best vegan gelato in Rome. They may not have a ginormous variety, but what they do, they do right. In addition to the usual fruit flavors, you’ll also find a mind-blowing dark chocolate flavor and a bounty flavor.
Bounty, as in the chocolate-covered coconut bar. It’s a coconut-milk-based gelato that is out of this world. Best of all, they have three different kinds of vegan cones! You can choose from a regular sugar cone, a sugar cone with chocolate dipping around the rim, or a large waffle cone.
Just be aware that, while CamBio Vita used to be a vegetarian restaurant, they now do only gelato and other desserts, so don’t be confused by the old reviews on HappyCow talking about savory dishes.
Grezzo specializes in raw chocolate desserts, all of which are vegan and free of gluten and refined sugar. The high quality of their ingredients is matched by their high prices, so I don’t go there that often.
The gelato is by far the best-value item on the menu though, starting at three euros for a cone with two scoops. They make the gelato from cashew milk, which gives it a rich if slightly grainy texture.
Grezzo has a nice range of flavors, including almond and gianduia. And it’s conveniently located on Via Urbana, just down the street from Trieste Pizza (see below).
Vegan Pizza Rome – Pizza Vegana Roma
I’ll be honest – I’m not a huge fan of Roman pizza. The crust is much too thin and breaks apart too easily. It almost feels like eating a cracker rather than a pizza.
If that sounds like your thing, then you’re in luck. You’ll find this thin-style pizza at almost any pizzeria in Rome, including several of the restaurants listed above (Emma, Rifugio Romano and Origano).
But if you’d like to try some other types of pizza in Italy, keep reading.
For me, nothing beats the thick, doughy crust of a Neapolitan pizza, which is exactly what you’ll get at Pizza Forum.
From the outside it might look like all the other tourist traps behind the Colosseum, but it’s run by a Neapolitan family and has been in business for more than 40 years. The pizza here is highly regarded by the locals, or at least by those who prefer a thicker crust than what’s typically found in Rome.
And Pizza Forum has been certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which means that you can be sure their dough is made according to the traditional recipe with just flour, water, yeast and salt -- no extra ingredients like milk or lard.
To taste pizza as it was originally invented in Naples, go for the pizza marinara. This pizza is normally vegan, but for some reason Pizza Forum adds anchovies to theirs, so ask for it without those. The vegetarian pizzas are marked on the menu and can be made without cheese on request.
There are a few pasta dishes on the menu that are already vegan or can be made so on request, but you should really try the pizza when you’re here.
Trieste-Style Pizza (umm, sort of)
Trieste is a lovely city in the far northeastern corner of Italy. But that's not where this pizza comes from.
These small, round, individual-size pizzas were invented in the 1950s in the popular seaside holiday town of Pescara, at a beach resort named ... wait for it ... Trieste.
At their Rome branch on Via Urbana, there are three vegan options, plus lots of vegetarian options that can be made with no cheese on request.
The pizzas are made to order while you wait. It's mostly a takeaway joint, but there is a bit of seating in a pleasant, casual atmosphere.
The crust is quite crispy and is different form both the Roman and Neapolitan styles of pizza.
Pizza al Taglio
Pizza al taglio is a tradition that began in Rome and later spread throughout the rest of the country. And yet, despite being Roman in origin, it’s very different from the round Roman-style pizzas that you get in a pizzeria.
While the round ones are for eating with a knife and fork while sitting down at a proper restaurant, pizza al taglio is for eating on the go. You can think of it as the original Italian fast food.
It’s more of a street food snack than a full meal, though of course you can always make a cheap meal out of it just by ordering more.
The pizzas are baked in large rectangular tins and then cut to be whatever size slice you want. You pay by weight, so keep that in mind when deciding how large you want the server to cut your slice.
You’ll typically find at least one or two vegan options at a pizza al taglio place, such as a pizza marinara or a white pizza (without tomato sauce) with potatoes and rosemary.
Pizza al taglio joints come and go, and there are dozens of them around Rome, but these are the current ones recommended by my friends who live in the city.
Want to Taste These Italian Delicacies for Yourself?
In September 2018, I'll be leading a small group of vegan and vegcurious travelers around Italy. Together we'll experience all the country's sights, sounds, smells and tastes. I'd love for you to join us!
Click here to find out more.