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What & where to eat in Rome: the Jewish Ghetto

Are you in Rome? Have you heard about the Jewish Ghetto, and would you like to visit it? Here you are a selection of things to do when there and a list of the Jewish Ghetto best restaurants.

What to eat

Firstly, you should know that not all the restaurants, pizzerie and shops of the Roman Jewish ghetto are kosher places.

The Kashrut is the list of the rules that Jewish people follow when they prepare their meals. You won’t find a restaurant that uses both milk (or cheeses) and meat in the same place. The kosher foods are the ground of the Roman cuisine and of 80% of the roman recipes and traditions that we have today.
Now, whether you like salty food or sweet food, in this area will satisfy your tastebuds. At the corner of Piazza delle Cinque Scole, there’s one of the most famous pastry shops in Rome. They’re so famous they don’t need names or signs. However every local knows its name is Boccione. If you can reach the shop before they sell out everything, you will taste some terrific Jewish pastries and cakes.

Just few steps from Boccione, there is an amazing forno (bakery) that sells delicious pizza rossa in Piazza Costaguti.  In other words, If you prefer salty food, then, well, you have just to choose.

In the Jewish ghetto you can find Supplì, Carciofi alla Giudia (fried artichokes), Fiori di Zucca (fried zucchini flowers) and many other fry-foods.

If you don’t want to sit in a restaurant and have a former meal, but just eat something as a snack, this is the kingdom of street food.

Fried recipes are a specialty of this area, strictly following Roman and Jewish traditional recipes.

Where to eat: the best restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto

Today the Jewish ghetto of Rome is one of the most famous areas for food and restaurants.

That is why we visit this area as one of the highlights of our Food Crawl Tour .

The best walking food tour of Rome where you can learn everything about Jewish food , traditions and recipes. If you want to have a break and to eat something while you walk around the area, yyou can stop at Milky Ba Ghetto , Renato al Ghetto, La Taverna del Ghetto or La Reginella.

Nonna Betta e il Giardino Romano, a restaurant where Anthony Bourdain had dinner and wrote a review on.

Since 1923, a very typical ristorante (restaurant) is Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia, a lovely family business place.
Two more less touristic restaurants, in other words, are Sora Margherita (Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30) and Al Pompiere (Via di Santa Maria de Calderari 38). For local authentic foodies only.

Please remember that almost all the restaurants and shops in this area will be closed every Friday evening and Saturday because of the Shabbat . This resting time starts from the sunset of Friday till the sunset of Saturday.

The Jewish Ghetto: a little bit of history 

Firstly we have to say something about the name: Ghetto. Generally people are confused about it and skip to visit this area thinking it is a kind of hood. However in Rome is definitely not a slum, but one of the best places where to live in Rome.

So what? It was a bad area, surely, in the Renaissance time. To explain, the Roman Jewish Ghetto started as a result of Papal Bull Cum nimis absurdum. At that time the Pope Paul IV on 14 July 1555, decided all the jewish of Rome to live in a restricted area by the river. The Jewish ghetto was a walled quarter with its gates locked at night.

Initially, there were two gates in the wall, the number increased to three in the 16th century. Pope Sixtus V  increased the number. Finally, during the 19th century, gates were eight. The gates were opened at dawn and closed every night. The area of Rome chosen for the ghetto was one of the most undesirable quarters of the city, subject to constant flooding by the Tiber River.

At the time of its construction, in the Jewish ghetto, there was no fresh water. However, some years later the Popes built several fountains in the district. One fountain, designed by Landini, destinated in the Piazza Giudea, ghetto’s market square, is now in another square. This limited for even more people of the Ghetto to access pure drinkable water. To clarify, Muzio, a powerful Mattei’s scion, pushed to have the fountain.

The Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtle Fountain) located in Piazza Mattei, in front of his residence, is still there and is one of the landmark of the area.

Dismissal of the Ghetto.

The Papal bull ceased to exist on 20 September 1870 when Rome was incorporated in the Kingdom of Italy. With this, the requirement that Jews live in the Ghetto came to an end. The ghetto walls were torn down in 1888. Therefore the new Synagogue of Rome and apartment buildings rises on the resulting area.
The Roman Jewish Ghetto was the last remaining ghetto in Western Europe. This until the Nazi Germany in the 1930s reintroduced them.
Despite its not so happy history, this district is today a bustling and fancy neighborhood. Very famous for food and restaurants. The highlights of this area is, certainly, the synagogue, built-in 1905. At the base it hosts the Jewish museum.

At the end of Portico D’Ottavia, the road that hosts also the Jewish school, there are the ruins of an amazing building of Ancient time: Octavia’s portico. This was the medieval site for the fish market , working place for Jewish people.

When to go

The best period to come to visit the Jewish Ghetto is between March and May and in October and November. The area is not ot too busy, all the restaurants have tables outside. It is then possible to enjoy the evening in this wonderful district, very close to the river.
The best day to come to visit the Jewish Ghetto is during the week. Remember that this is still a Jewish area, so almost all the shops and restaurants rest on Friday evening and all Saturday, because of the Shabbat. If you are not looking for food or shopping, than you should definitely go visit the Jewish ghetto on Saturday. You can admire the typicity of the area and the ruins of the Portico d’Ottavia, in a complete silence. Cars or scooters cannot enter generally, so the atmosphere is magic. During the weekends it becomes, indeed, a pedestrian area.

How to reach it

This central area of Rome, on the east coast of the river Tevere. You can reach the area with the tram bus n.8 or you can easily walk from Largo Argentina, where you can get with a very lot of buses from different areas of Rome.