If you’ve ever planned a day at the Vatican, I’m sure you are very familiar with the mediocre food options in the area. Why the mediocre food? The Vatican is full of tourists, not locals returning for meals in the area, so, similar to Venice, there is not much incentive to produce excellent food. In other words, quantity over quality, and high prices to boot. I paid 5 euro for a Coke Light in 2008 … In any case, when for my family’s lunch break between visiting Vatican City and the Colosseum (yes, HUGE day, read about it here), I was determined to find a good, sit down restaurant for a break.
In search of the perfect restaurant, I spent far too many hours reading reviews online. I found a few fast food type places, but they were more of the to-go variety and I needed a sit down spot. I eventually landed on La Zanzara. La Zanzara is a swanky, upscale restaurant about an 8 minute walk from St. Peter’s. While technically outside of the Vatican in Rome’s untouristy Prati neighborhood, its super easy to reach from St. Peter’s on flat ground. I made a reservation online in advance and on arrival, the restaurant was beautifully decked out in winter decor! We were seated outside in a covered area, per our preference.
Menus were quickly brought out and we began perusing. La Zanzara has a full menu (of which I forgot to take a picture!) and a Tapas menu, allegedly only served from 18:00. In any case, they served both on our Saturday lunch. As you can see from the Tapas and drink menu, prices are high for Rome, but nothing like New York or London.
For drinks, Dan, me and his sister ordered the Enzoni cocktail. We were told that these are only available during dinner, but then the bar tender was actually able to make them just for us. The Enzoni was very well made and quite strong. The grapes – no, not olives – were a nice touch! My parents ordered Spritzes and seemed to really enjoy them.
Since we had two menus of sorts, food options were pretty diverse at La Zanzara, offering everything from sandwiches to salads to full meat meals. Dan went with the latter, ordering a beef steak. He seemed to really enjoy it and it was huge. Michelle also went similar, yet with a more salad style dish – thinly cut beef topped with a type of mayonaise-based salad dressing. She was also a big fan! My parents and I all ordered the pastrami sandwich, which was a beef brisket pastrami rather than the typical pastrami that I see in the US. The sandwiches were delicious and unexpected for Rome! The table also ordered a couple orders of French fries.
All in, the food at La Zanzara was excellent. A great find near the Vatican, despite being a bit pricey. If you are visiting, I recommend making a reservation and keeping in mind that they are well known for the Aperitivo. You should also note that La Zanzara is not your traditional tourist haunt, so you may feel out of place in shorts and flip flops.
STEAL OUR TRIP
La Zanzara: Via Crescenzio, 84, 00195 Roma RM, Italy. Closed Tuesday. Open Wednesday – Monday 12:00 – 1:00.
ON A BUDGET
La Zanzara is a bit pricey for Rome. As mentioned above, however, there are many mediocre over-priced restaurants in the Vatican, the majority with bad food. As such, La Zanzara is not too bad if you are eating in the area. If you are on a budget, there are a few McDonalds around (its always fun to try foreign McDonalds specials!) and Bonci’s Pizzarium is highly recommended for take away pizza. Bonci’s was a little far for our group to walk and take away was not an option.
Bonci’s Pizzarium: Via della Meloria, 43, Roma. Open 11:00 – 22:00, closed Monday.
McDonald’s (closest to St. Peter’s): Via del Mascherino, 8, Borgo Pio, 93/96, 00193 Roma RM, Italy. Open daily 8:00 – 23:00. There is an order online option here.