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Eight of Rome’s most tantalizing foreign food gems

Delicious and modestly priced though it may be, the traditional Italian fare served up at thousands of Rome's restaurants is not always what you're after.

Eight of Rome's most tantalizing foreign food gems
There are plenty of tacos to be found in Rome. Photo: Sacofat/Flickr

If you're craving ethnic flavours, here are eight of the best foreign eateries in the capital, all of which cost no more than the average Italian restaurant.

Eat Ethiopian – Mesob

Via Prenestina, 118

Located at the edge of Rome's Pigneto district, visitors to this cosy and atmospheric restaurant can smell the spices wafting out of the premises a good five metres before stepping inside.

The restaurant serves highly spiced and aromatic Ethiopian stews with meat and vegetables. The stews are served on top of large platters of injera, a flat fermented bread made from the traditional Ethiopian grain, teff.

It's an authentic experience. No cutlery is provided; instead, each platter is designed to be shared between three or four people, who tear off hunks of bread and use them to tuck into the food.

Make it Mexican – Tacos & Beer

Via del Boschetto, 130

At the heart of Rome's trendy Monti district, the colourful and informal Tacos & Beer is a new addition to Rome's restaurant scene, offering excellent Mexican fare.

The eatery serves up a limited, but traditional, menu of Mexican tacos and burritos and nachos, which are packed with fresh flavours. The dishes all include authentic Mexican ingredients like cactus pads, jalapenos, black-beans and lashings of fresh guacamole.

Eating at Tacos and Beer is a rapid affair –  you will probably be in and out within half an hour – having washed your chow down with a glass of beer or a Margarita.

Chow on Chinese – Hang Zhou

Via Principe Eugenio, 82

A stone's throw from Vittorio Emmanuele metro stop in Rome's Chinatown, Hang Zhou offers some of the best Chinese food the city has to offer.

The menu is typical for a western Chinese restaurant but the quality of the cooking and ingredients used sets Hang Zhou apart from its numerous competitors in the city.

The low-key restaurant is ever popular among locals, so book in advance if you plan on eating at peak times, or you might find yourself queuing up outside while you wait for a table.

Craving Curry – Sitar

Via Cavour, 256/A – Closed Mondays

A short walk from the Colosseum, Sitar offers traditional north Indian dishes which are sure to hit the spot if you're craving a curry.

The restaurant's flavourful and authentic dishes have made it a mainstay among Rome's Indian community.

It is located below street level and the informal atmosphere and friendly staff ensure dining is always a laid-back affair.

After Arabic – Zenobia

Piazza Dante, 23

Zenobia's menu serves up the classics of Syrian and Lebanese cuisine.

If you're after a fix of tabbouleh, stuffed aubergines, falafel or hummus, there's no better place in Rome. But the menu also includes some lesser known dishes with tastes that might just give you a new culinary experience.

Between the excellent nosh, Arabic style decor and steaming shisha pipes that fill the restaurant, its easy to forget that you are dining in the centre of Italy's capital.

Eritrean eats – Africa

Via Gaeta, 26. Closed Mondays.

Smack bang in the city centre,  not far from Termini, Africa is a hidden gem serving up Eritrean and Ethiopian food at very modest prices.

As with the Ethiopian restaurant Mesob, mentioned above, there is no cutlery here. Instead meals are eaten by picking up food with hunks of torn injera bread.

Africa distinguishes itself from Mesob in its slightly wider menu, including more vegetable and fish dishes, which make it a better fit for vegetarians.

Savour South Tyrol and Austria – Cantina Tirolese di Macher Manuela

Via Giovanni Vitelleschi, 23

Okay, so this entry is questionable as South Tyrol lies on Italy's northernmost border.

However, its Austrian-style cuisine is a world away from the saltimbocca and fiori di zucca which characterize Roman cuisine.

The Cantina's menu offers things like fondue, Viennese goulash, schnitzle and South Tyrol's traditional pasta variety – spatzle.

Located between Castel Sant'Angelo and St Peter's Basilica, the restaurant is decorated in typical Alpine style, with waiters and waitresses serving tables dressed in traditional South Tyrolean garb.

More Mexican – La Taqueria

Via Giacomo Boni, 26

La Taqueria, located near Piazza Bologna, serves up freshly made Mexican street food, much like Tacos & Beer, mentioned above.

The menu revolves around tortillas, burritos and nachos and the place is a good shout if you're after vegetarian or a vegan-friendly option. The menu is low on meat and even offers a soy chilli.

La Taqueria also offers desserts like churros and dulce de leche, but be warned, the place is popular and small, so can get very crowded at peak times during the weekend. 

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LA BELLA VITA

La Bella Vita: Pasta, coffee, and the signs you’re becoming Italian

From how your eating habits become more Italian (without you even realising it) to the best ways to prepare and drink coffee, our new weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: Pasta, coffee, and the signs you're becoming Italian

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

The longer you spend in Italy, the more you might find yourself adapting to Italian culture in ways you didn’t expect. For Brits like me, that might mean swapping your tea with milk for black espresso. For Americans it could be that your tastebuds have slowly become less accustomed to spicy foods (good tacos are, sadly, hard to find in Italy). And you’ve heard all about the tomatoes, but are you eating more lentils yet?

Once you find yourself eating pasta on an almost daily basis and reacting to the idea of fast food with a heartfelt ‘che schifo!’ you’ll know there’s really no going back. These are just some of the eating and drinking habits you might see change over time:

17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

With all that pasta in mind, if you want to make sure your favourite recipe is executed in truly flawless Italian style we’ve got some expert advice on nailing the technique for saucing all of your pasta dishes correctly every time – and there’s more to it than you might expect.

Ask an Italian: How do you sauce pasta properly?

And then there’s the coffee. Whether you prefer yours from an espresso machine or the iconic stovetop moka coffee pot – personally I find it hard to pick a favourite – everyone who’s spent even a short time in Italy knows there’s an art to preparing and drinking coffee all’italiana

This rich tradition comes with a set of rules and norms that can be hard to navigate if you weren’t born in the country, so here’s our complete guide to where, when and how to drink coffee like a true Italian.

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A shot of dark, velvety coffee is more than just a quick caffeine hit: Italy’s espresso is a prized social and cultural ritual the country considers a part of its national heritage. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

The weather has taken a turn for the worse this week and many parts of northern Italy are experiencing freezing temperatures and snow. It sounds obvious now, but before I moved to Italy I didn’t realise just how bitterly cold it gets, and my first winter in Tuscany was a bit of a shock. Luckily, Italians from around the peninsula share a love of talking – or complaining – about cold and wet weather so there were plenty of people ready to commiserate.

Here are ten Italian phrases you can throw into your weather-related conversations during these chilly days:

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And have you noticed how some Italian translations of English-language film titles bear very little resemblance to the original? I first realised this when an Italian friend told me how they always watched something called ‘Mamma ho perso l’aereo’ at Christmas, and described the plot, which sounded identical to that of Home Alone…

From the very literal to the improbable, here’s a non-exhaustive list of our favourite Italian movie title translations.

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Remember if you’d like to have this weekly newsletter sent straight to your inbox you can sign up for it via Newsletter preferences in “My Account”.

Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected]

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