The Eternal City’s best spots for morning cravings
I love to great food, and more importantly, I love great food moments from early morning until late evening. For years, breakfast in Rome has always been stereotyped as a quick counter stop for caffe and cornetto, and yes, that is colazione, by definition. But Romans do love a long savoury Sunday, mixed with a little bit of sweet.
I’ve chosen five brunch spots that highlight the overlap of Rome’s culinary artistry and cultural heritage. Join me for my top five location for a great Roman brunch.
In poll position is Casa Manfredi. I will get up early just to be the first for a croissant by pastry chef Giorgia Proia, but lucky for me, I don’t have to. Giorgia’s Casa Manfredi is a hybrid of typical Roman counter bar and street side caffe, where you can sit for a few hours enjoying breakfast and lunch.
Giorgia’s most delicious and prettiest Italian- and French-inspired pastries populate Casa Manfredi, and the café boasts a delectable lunch menu of savory panini and salads. For those who love pastries as much as me, Casa Manfredi has two other location: Teatro Manfredi, a post-mod pastry lab in the Ostiense neighborhood where most of the company’s treats are made, and a more Parisian-styled pastry boutique in Anantara Palazzo Naidi hotel. Personally, I suggest the viale Aventino location for the atmosphere.
San Baylon at Palazzo Ripetta
Neighborhood: Piazza del Popolo
If I am hankering for something more traditional Roman, in other words, an afternoon of savory treats more akin to lunch, I head to San Baylon, a retro-style trattoria and garden sits on the ground floor of Palazzo Ripetta. The stunning setting is complemented by its buffet of Roman favorites (prosciutto, mozzarella, quiches and savory pies) and international bites (macarons, cheese cake and cookies).
Babingtons has been Rome’s coveted English tea house for 130 years. The historic tea space with a decidedly British bent serves the standard English breakfast daily — bacon and eggs (poached, scrambled or fried), housemade toast and freshly squeezed juice. The menu also features eggs Benedict served atop an English muffin, fluffy buttermilk pancakes and streaky Irish bacon. Pair any of these dishes with one of Babington’s custom teas for a full British submersion. On sunny days, reserve an outdoor table for an unforgettable brunch in the center of Piazza di Spagna.
Neighborhood: Piazza di Spagna
Usually, I make it a point to avoid spots that crowd with tourists until I discovered few secrets about Babingtons. First, the English teahouse is a landmark and has held its corner in Piazza di Spagna for 130 years, catering to the Anglo community. Second reason is its post-Covid incarnation. Babingtons has prime outdoor seating which means afternoons through aperitivi hour the tea house has a coveted front row to the Piazza di Spagna scene. There is nothing like it.
The decidedly British bent is a Rome anomaly. For more than a century it serves the standard English breakfast daily paired with their custom teams — bacon and eggs (poached, scrambled or fried), as well as Eggs Benedict and pancakes.
Vivi Bistrot may appear only once this list, but it definitely gets double billing. The all-natural, locally-sourced, all-about-organic products caffe is a cult favorite among Romans for its park location in Villa Pamphili– yes, Rome’s version of a Tavern on the Green, complete with a picnic offering. Personally, I love Vivi’s Piazza Navona outpost on the ground floor of the historic Palazzo Braschi which means it has a window view of Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain.
Menu is filled with American favorites, such as avocado toast, scrambled eggs, quiches, bagels and brownies, as well as beloved Roman pasta dishes like amatriciana and polpette (meatballs).
Neighborhood: Campo de’ Fiori
Barnum makes it on my list for one reason only- the new lineup of French pastries such as pistachio-covered croissants, kouign-amann (a buttery Breton cake) and pain au chocolate by Nadia Spiliotacopoulous. The Australian pastry chef has only been in Rome for less than a year, exclusively brought to the Eternal City to upgrade the croissant scene. Why her? Well, she spent a few years under the tutelage of master croissant maker Kate Reid. (Listen to Good Food to hear Kate’s story).
The downside to Barnum is that there is always a line outside (usually Anglos) waiting for a breakfast spot, and with good reason. Along with Nadia’s pastries, Barnum does offer the most extensive morning menu in the city. Expect all of the American-style morning favorites: scrambled eggs, omelets, pancakes and avocado toast, served with specialty coffees.
A version of this article appeared in Forbes Travel Guide, November 2023.