By Nicole Arriraga in Rome—
When it comes to eating lunch in Rome, there are several cheap options, the most common of which are grabbing some pizza al taglio and panini. Back in the States, everyone is crazed over the panini “concept.” However to Italians, panini are just plain old sandwiches!
Whatever you think, panini make a very affordable lunch. There are several great places around town where you can grab one while walking between the sights.
First, let’s address some basic concerns–how to order?
Which kind of bread?
When ordering a panino, lots of places, especially if they let you create your ownsandwich (these are truly the best and freshest!) will ask you which type of bread you’d like. Italian bars and cafès often serve different types of breads; here are the most common:
Ciabatta: Literally means “slipper,” it’s long and flat.
Rosetta: Puffy on the outside and shaped like a rosebud, it’s mostly hollow and airy on the inside.
Tartaruga: Gets its name from the word “turtle” because of its hard shell-like form.
Pizza bianca: This is essentially plain pizza bread without any sauce or toppings and tastes a bit saltier than the others.
How much should you expect to pay for a panino? Typically, a sandwich costs between €2.50-€4.00, depending on the neighborhood. Anything more than that is just a rip off.
Here are a couple of my favorite spots to hit up for a tasty panino:
Via dei Banchi Nuovi, 41
00186 Rome (Piazza Navona)
Bar Amore has been around since the 1940’s and is a hub for many locals, office workers and students in the area. The place gets crowded in the mornings for breakfast and is also a hot spot for a quick lunch. Unfortunately, there are only a few tables, so many people simply grab their sandwiches to go.
Marco, who I call the “panino man,” is quick at taking your order and whipping your sandwich into lunch art. He’s also handy at making suggestions (in charming, if broken, English) on what would work well for your sandwich. He offers goodies like scamorza cheese, tuna, prosciutto crudo, turkey breast, breaded chicken, hamburger patties, salame and all sorts of mixed grilled and boiled veggies.
If you’re nearby on a Tuesday, you must try the famous porchetta (pork) from Ariccia. It’s spettacolare!
La Sanwicheria al Nazareno
Largo Nazareno, 16/17
00187 Rome (Piazza di Spagna)
This little sandwich shop just off Via del Tritone between Piazza di Spagnaand the Trevi Fountain opened in 2011 and definitely serves some interesting panini! They charge a bit more than the rest, but the quality of their ingredients definitely justify it. Everything is made fresh to order (as opposed to some bars where nobody knows how long things have been sitting there!).
You can put practically anything on your panino, including arugola, fennel, tartufo, prosciutto crudo, mortadella, and lots of other interesting and yummy ingredients.
Making your own panini from the supermarket
Instead of buying apanino from the bar, you can always buy the ingredients from the supermarket and make one yourself! Almost any supermarket will sell you a few slices of prosciutto crudo, turkey (tacchino) or salame. All you have to ask is for “due o tre fette di _____” and specify which meat you want. This typically won’t run you more than a euro, especially since you’re not buying 100 grams of cold cuts.
Most supermarkets have a bakery where you can pick out your bread. Ordering just one rosetta, ciabatta or a tartaruga will probably set you back between €0.30 and €0.60. If you get a piece of pizza bianca, it could cost you about a euro. They will even slice the bread for you, if you ask.
Lastly, you’ll need to grab some mozzarella. A portion of mozzarella will cost you between €1-€1.50 for the cheapest brand. And voilà! You have your own delicious homemadepanino for about €3! (Also read our article about shopping in a grocery store in Rome.)
Also in our guide: Looking for an affordable place to stay in central Rome? In our guide to Rome you’ll find our editors’ reviews of the city’s best affordable hotels, all located in the city center, near Piazza Navona, Termini Station, the Vatican and other central neighborhoods.