A Mobile Roman Holiday: Use your iPhone to Find the Best Food in Rome

Mobile apps have quickly become standard gear for travelers from Paris to Bangkok, allowing adventurers handheld access to phrasebooks, train timetables, hotel info, and more. An increasing number of foodie-oriented apps, like Katie Parla’s Rome for Foodies are helping curious culinary travelers find out where the locals eat.

If you’re traveling to Rome this summer, Rome for Foodies is a excellent app ($3.99 for iPhone and iPad) to have with you. It’s beautifully designed, wide-ranging and easy to navigate. Its creator, Katie Parla, is an American who has lived in Rome since 2003, where she gives culinary and art historical tours, and writes about Rome on her blog, Parla Food, as well as the New York Times and other publications. Her app covers all the hot topics that a discerning foodie in Rome needs to know, including Rome’s pizza scene, wine bars and pubs, outdoor and indoor markets, interactive maps, and of course, her favorite restaurant picks. The app also includes Katie’s updated blog posts on all things having to do with la cucina Romana.

I caught up with Parla this week to get the real scoop on eating out in Rome. She gave me some good info that might surprise you.

Louisa: What’s the story with tipping in Rome?

Katie: If visitors wish to follow local customs, I would recommend leaving a euro or two per person at most restaurants. Observe locals and see how they tip (or don’t!) depending on the quality of the service or just whether they have pocket change handy or not. At pubs, there is no need to tip at all. And at a caffe, don’t tip if you have table service, but if you stand up for a coffee, it is customary to tip 10 cents per prepared beverage.

What neighborhoods are good for culinary exploration?

I think the Trionfale neighborhood is great for culinary exploration. It is fairly residential and there are some excellent shopping venues like Mercato Trionfale for produce and Johnny’s Off License for beer, wines and spirits. Fatamorgana serves exceptional gelato, while Pizzarium has pizza by the slice that is unrivaled in Rome.

What can you eat in Rome that you can’t find anywhere else?

The one thing I have never found anywhere else is rigatoni alla pajata, pasta served with milk fed lamb (or veal) intestines, which have been cooked in tomato sauce.

Sometimes European cities shut down in August. Do travelers to Rome need to plan around this?

Rome doesn’t shut down anymore. The financial crisis has led many establishments to remain open in the past few years, closing for a very short time or not at all during August. I wrote this post last year on the topic. My app also has suggestions for August and holiday dining under the new tours section.

How does your app help someone who’s exploring Rome?

Parla Food is a collection of the best pizzerias, wine bars, restaurants, food shops and gelaterias Rome has to offer. It is a carefully curated list of places I endorse for their dedication to quality. Visitors can use it to plan their trips from afar or while they are on the ground. Using filtering, search, itineraries, and maps, gastronomic travelers can be led to the best Rome has to offer. And the app works offline so no need to spend money on roaming charges!

Why are you so passionate about Roman food?

I love food, Roman and otherwise. I have been here for 9 years now and, while I must admit the overall quality of food in the city has declined, there are still exceptional places out there that won’t compromise the quality of their ingredients or service for profit. My desire to showcase these places is what led to the app.

What are a few standby restaurants that are always a good bet?

The pizza at Sforno never disappoints, Pizzarium‘s pizza by the slice can’t be beat. Roscioli is always a good bet for carbonara and L’Arcangelo’s suppli’ and gnocchi alla matriciana are consistently top. You will never have a bad gelato at Il Gelato di Claudio Torce, Fatamorgana, Gori, or Neve di Latte.

Louisa Shafia is a cook with a passion for healthy eating. She recently penned Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, a collection of seasonal recipes and eco-friendly advice on food. To watch her cooking videos, see her recipes, and find out about her cooking classes, go to

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