By Sarah Tighe in Rome—
It’s no secret that Italians love meat. The most famous Italian dishes (lasagne, tortellini) are as carnivorous as they are delicious. But Italy is far more vegetarian-friendly than you’d expect.
According to the European Union of Vegetarians, around 10% of Italians are vegetarian – the highest percentage in Europe. In Rome, you’ll find meat-free meals almost everywhere. Most pizza-by-the-slice places serve vegetarian-friendly combinations (such as potato and rosemary) for €5 – €10. Rome also has an array of Kebab shops where you can pick up felafels and a quick salad for under €10.
There are a number of vegetarian restaurants located in the city center. Note that the lunch menus are a particularly good value and that not all serve alcohol.
Here are five of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in central Rome:
Via Celsa 5, Rome. Ph: 0667 814 27, Open: Mon-Sat 12:30 – 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Nestled in a chic cobbled alley off Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Bibliothè is conveniently located near most of Rome’s key tourist attractions (a 5-10 minute walk from the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and the Foro Romano). Bibliothè serves Ayurvedic food, whole grain and organic pasta in a cozy library-inspired environment. Many of the dishes are vegan, and the daily lunch special is popular and inexpensive (cost varies, but it’s usually around €13).
The service can be slow at times (so I’ve been told – but I’ve never had this problem myself) but the atmosphere is chilled-out and fairly unpretentious.
Via di Sardegna, 55. Ph: 0668 891 540. Open Tue-Sat 12 – 2 p.m., Fri – Sat 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Govindas is a popular Hare Krishna spot known for low-fuss vegetarian nosh. They are currently in the process of moving to a new location near Via Veneto and will be closed until the start of April 2012 (the restaurant on Via Santa Maria del Pianto is gone). The new spot will be about a ten-minute walk from metro stop Spagna (Line A) or a 15-20 minute walk from Termini.
You can choose between different menus ranging in prices and the food is presented buffet-style. Choose from rice with vegetables and spices, grilled vegetables, bread and desserts. Second helpings are available. Govindas does not serve alcohol.
REWILD Cruelty-Free Club
Via Giovannipoli, Garbatella. 18. Ph: 0697 613 910. Open: from 8 p.m.
You’ll need to take the metro out of the center to find this place (Line B – Garbatella), but it’s an interesting spot. Rewild is a vegan pub – so to speak. It serves burgers, hotdogs and beer, but all dishes are vegan. They also put on concerts, films and exhibitions (check their website for information). It’s really cheap and not at all touristy.
To eat here, you need to become a card-carrying member – but don’t worry, it’s free and you can sign up on the spot. They also have menus in English – you just need to ask.
Il Margutta RistorArte
Via Margutta, 118. Ph: 0632 650 577, Open: 12:30 – 3:30 p.m., Dinner from 7 p.m.
Il Margutta is a Roman institution – more than 32 years and counting. Located north of Piazza di Spagna and minutes from Piazza del Popolo, art lovers will appreciate the trendy art-gallery vibe. The nearest metro stop is Flamino. Dishes get pricey at dinner, but they do a pretty good value brunch menu.
Arancia Blu Cucina Vegetariana con Enoteca
Via Prenestina 396e, Tel: 064454105, Bistrot open from 5 p.m.
If you ask a Roman to recommend a vegetarian restaurant, they’ll probably mention Arancia Blu. It’s not cheap, but the food is delicious and for a light dinner, they do a fixed degustation menu for about €20 (including beer). No list of vegetarian restaurants in Rome would be complete without it. Save it for a night when you’re feeling particularly extravagant.
Also in our guide: Hungry for a great affordable hotel? We’re here to help. Our editors have visited, inspected and reviewed the best inexpensive hotels in Rome, all central, clean and affordable. Read more in our Rome guide.