All you need to know about breakfast in Rome. What to expect from a Rome breakfast, what to order and how you can replicate it at home!
I love breakfast in Rome.
Whether I have it at home or al bar, a traditional Italian breakfast is my addiction of choice, complete with a dash of caffeine deliciousness and just the right dose of sugar, in the shape of a cornetto or other sinful baked good.
If you are not familiar with what constitutes the perfect Rome breakfast, don’t worry, you are not alone.
The truth is that Rome is not particularly known for its breakfasts and in many cases what you have here is similar to what you find in other parts of the country a quintessential Rome breakfast being little different from a traditional Italian one
However, if you happen to be in Rome and wonder what to expect for the first meal of the day or if you have been to Rome and would like to replicate that moment of foodie bliss at home, it is handy to understand some of the Italian breakfast basics and also learn specialties that are typical of breakfast in the eternal city.
What is a typical breakfast in Rome?
Breakfast in Rome is usually a quick enough affair, a meal usually consumed at home or at a cafe (al bar).
A typical Italian breakfast at home usually comprises off coffee, milk and some for of carbohydrate-based food: bread, often with jam and butter, breakfast biscuits or fette biscottate (a form of crispy galette).
This is the type of breakfast you will have in the house of a friend and the breakfast staples you will find in all supermarkets.
Breakfast al bar, on the other hand, looks pretty different
This can be an alternative to a home breakfast or more often in addition to it, a sweet break enjoyed before getting into work or in the middle of the morning with a colleague.
At the cafe, usually breakfast comprises of coffee, in whatever guide the person prefers, with the accompaniment of a sweet carb-based treat, usually cornetto (semplice or ripieno), bomba, ciambella or maritozzo, the most iconic of all Rome treats!
Let’s look at each of them in detail.
What do you eat for breakfast in Rome?
Each person has their preferences when it comes to breakfast in Rome however, these are the most traditional Rome breakfast staples.
Coffee, cappuccino, latte macchiato & Co
Coffee is the undisputed protagonist of Rome breakfast and it comes in as many varieties as the people ordering it
All it takes is to walk into a bar and listen to the oroders to see that no two coffees are alike.
You may here people ordering caffe’, caffe’ lungo, caffe’ macchiato, caffe’ macchiato freddo’ caffe’ al vetro and this is before you even start considering cappuccino and variation on the concept of milk and coffee (what aborad is called latte), which seem to be so many, you need a full coffee disctionary for them alone!
Ordering coffee in Rome is such a peculiar experience, it not by chance it was one of the first Rome scenes in Eat Pray Love, the proficiency in placing the perfect order used as a metaphor for the real roman (actually if you are in the mood for a good film set in Rome, have a look here)
Thankfully, despite this plethora of options, you don’t need to be a coffee coinousser to get your order in. The Ain things you need to know about coffee in Rome as these:
Caffe‘: if you want a simple espresso, you simply ask for ‘un caffe’ per favore’. This gets you a small espresso cup, usually with a lot less coffee than you may expect (it is super concentrated) and you can have it black or add sugar and/or milk usually available on the bar itself.
Caffe macchiato: if you want your coffee with a drop of hot milk, you ask for a caffe’ macchiato. Macchiato literally means ‘strained’ and the amount of milk added is usually decided by the barista, although some will our the milk in front of you, waiting for your signal to stop.
Cappuccino: Cappuccino needs no introduction but I want to include it in this list because I hear so much nonsense about cappuccino in Italy I don’t want to skip any opportunity to make things right.
While cappuccino is very popular for breakfast it is not only a breakfast drink and there is absolutely no rule, formal or informal, about not drinking it Ofer 11 am. You can drink cappuccino absolutely whenever you want, the only ‘rule’ being that it should be enjoyed away from your meal and not with it, not to ruin the flavor of one or the other.
Latte Macchiato: Latte macchiato is close to what abroad is called ‘latte’, a large glass of milk with coffee in it (coffee in Italy is always espresso).
Caffe’ lungo: Caffe’ lungo literally means long coffee but must not be confused with an Americano or the standard ‘coffee’ you usually find abroad. Caffe’ lungo is served in a small espresso cup and is an espresso with a little extra hot water, achieved by leaving the cup under the coffee machine for a little longer.
If you want a coffee that is not espresso, the abs way is to order “American in tizzy grande’ which means American style coffee in a large cup.
Cornetto, cornetto semplice, cornetto ripieno, saccottino
The most traditional Italian breakfast is made of cappuccino and cornetto, a sweet baked pastry in the form or a little horn (cornetto= little horn) or as the French would say, a moon crescent
Indeed, cornetto looks similar to its French cousin, the croissant, but it is very different, to such an extent that is very easy to linke one but not the otherl they truly have a lot less in common when it comes to taste than their appearance suggests!
Italian cornetto is sweet, tastes less of butter and comes in several varieties:
Cornetto semplice, meaning empty, is a plain cornetto.
Cornetto ripieno (=full) is a basic cornetto with either cream (custard, not whipped), chocolate or jam pumped inside, respectively called ‘cornetto alla crema‘, cornetto al cioccolato or cornetto alla marmellata.e
Over the course of the years, the choice of cornetti and other pastries has grown exponentially and it is common now to also see many other variations on the theme of the breakfast pastry from saccottini (pain au chocolat), to ventagli and tortine and pretty much anything the creativity of the bar owner puts on offer!
A very special mention goes to Maritozzo, the most Roman of all Rome breakfast pastry and the only one truly original form the city.
Maritozzo is a sweet, soft bread-like pastry opened up lengthwise and fill with whipped cream. It is a caloric bomb and one of the most satisfactory things you can ever start your morning with.
Fun fact: Maritozzi is said to date back to medieval times and to be at the center of a peculiar tradition, now gone. On the 1st of march, suitors would give the gift of a Maritozzo to their beloved, hidden in the cream a jewel or even a ring! The tradition is not alive anymore however maritozzo is so loved by Romans, it has its own celebration: maritozzo day!
Bomba and ciambella
Baked goods are not the only form of sweet treat you can get with your Rome breakfast: if you prefer your carbs friend, Rome delivers with bombe and ciambelle!
Bomba (una bomba, a bomb) is a big dollop of sweet dough, fried and filled with, usually, custard cream or jam. It has a golden crispy outside, usually sprinkled with sugar, and a soft inside, hiding the filling.
Ciambella is similar but it has no filling and a hole in the middle, effetely a form of plain doughnut…. but nicer!
Can you get savoury breakfast in Rome?
if you don’t like sweets at this point you may be despairing about your ability to enjoy breakfast in Tome at all however, it is possible to have a savory start of the day too.
If you go to a normal bar, you usually have a selection of tramezzini (triangular sandwiches with different typed of fillings) and pizza options that can do the trick.
If you instead want a full cooked breakfast American style, then you need to go for brunch places and opt for a sit down meal.
How to recreate an Italian breakfast at home
If you loved your Rome breakfasts and don’t want to do without them now that you are back home, there are several things you can do!
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To recreate my perfect Rome breakfast in my house, I use:
Italian stovetop coffee maker
THE must-have item in all Italian households, Italian coffee makers (also called Moka, or caffettiera, or macchinetta del caffe’), are easy to use and last a lifetime, especially if you periodically change the gasket, the only part of it that tends to get ruined with prolonged use.
I have a lovely Bialetti one that I use extensively a highly recommend.
Italian espresso cups
In the last few years, Italian coffee has risen to unprecedented popularity maiing tasting coffee not just a pleasure but a real ritual for many.
To properly celebrate this caffeinated moment, I love to use good quality coffee cups with beautiful Italian design: perfect to keep your coffee just at the right temperature and super stylish too.
Barista style espresso machine
If you prefer to try and recreate the taste of professional coffee, then you may want to invest in a proper espresso machine. In this case, I recommend you go for a tried and testes brand such as Bialetti to De Longhi, household names in the Italian coffee scene.
Pretty table ware
Breakfast in Rome is fast and on the go but at home, it doesn’t have to be!
To recreate a taste of times in Italy, I like to set the table with a nice cloth, weaved basket for bread and cornetti (if you can find them, they are not easy to get abroad) and Italian radio playing in the background.
Italian foodie treats
It is hard to replicate at home the devious taste of a cornetto bakes in a Rome forno however, should the real thing be out of reach, there are good alternatives:
It is not quite like being in Rome, but it sure bring Rome a little closer to you!
I hope you enjoyed this overview of what to expect for breakfast in Rome and my tips to recreate a Rome breakfast at home. Buon Appetito!