An Eclectic Guide to Rome’s Best Wine Bars
To be honest, I don’t know if these are the best wine bars in Rome. There are a lot of wine bars (or enoteche) in Rome and I haven’t the time or financial resources to sample all of them. Rather, these are simply the ones I have enjoyed the most during my several trips to Rome in recent years and that best meet my criteria for a really quality wine bar experience.
Rome has long had wine bars, some that go back to the dark ages of wine bars – the 1960’s – where you could get a glass of good wine supplemented by little, wine-friendly plates of food. The success of these early wine bars was followed by the arrival of still more wine bars like Cavour 313, Il Goccetto and Trimani, for example, which were started mostly as adjuncts to established wine shops and restaurants in Rome’s historic center. Here the wines held center stage and were celebrated as much as the food.
But another wave of exciting new wine bars have opened in recent years, often in less-trendy areas and neighborhoods far from the historic center. The net result is that Rome continues to have a vibrant but still evolving wine bar scene. While some of the newer places have taken on the added dimension of “hip” establishments, this doesn’t mean that they’re all glitz and no substance. Based on my experience, you can be assured of a quality wine experience in terms of selection of wines, geographic variety, vintages and wine-savvy wait staff at any number of wine bars scattered throughout Rome.
The number and variety of wines available in Rome is outstanding. It may well be that the best wines in Italy are in Rome, not in the acclaimed Tuscany, Piedmont and other wine-fabled regions of Italy that get prominent play in travel brochures. While they may not be produced anywhere around Rome, quality wines at all price points are available in abundance and consumed and celebrated in Rome.
So here’s the short list of my favorite – and perhaps the best - wine bars in Rome, in alphabetical order:
Antica Enoteca, Via delle Croce, 76B View Map
This enoteca is a throwback to an earlier, more unpretentious and less “hip” time. While located not far from the Via Condotti with its uber-chic shopping emporiums and upscale restaurants, the Antica Enoteca has the unassuming look and feel of a neighborhood bar - which it is. It has rustic wood-beamed ceilings, stone archways separating rooms, a long, curved wood and brass counter and tall shelves filled with wine bottles. It has a great selection of antipasta dishes to accompany wines and, if you’re lucky and can grab a seat at the counter, you can eat and drink while chatting about wines with the friendly and knowledgeable bartender. Additionally, there is a trattoria-style restaurant that serves up traditional Italian favorites. There are also a few tables on the small patio in front that give you a great post for viewing activity on the bustling Via delle Croce.
This is a “hang out” type wine bar but don’t let its low-key, casual demeanor fool you. It has a serious wine list and wine-savvy wait staff. There are about 15 reds and equal number of whites available by the glass listed on a blackboard in addition to wines available by the glass listed in the menu. Wines by the glass cost from 4-10 Euros and there are some serious wines available for your selection including Barolo, Vino di Nobile, super-Tuscan and Amarone.
Camponeschi Wine Bar, Piazza Farnese, 52/53 View Map
Phone: 39-681-35104 www.ristorantecamponeschi.it
The Componeschi Wine Bar, on the elegant Piazza Farnese, is as formal as the Antica Enoteca is low-key and casual. A posh, decorous and old-school Roman wine bar, it is an emporium of good wine and food. The small wood-paneled wine bar offers excellent antipasti, desserts and wines by the glass. A blackboard behind the bar lists about 10 champagnes and sparkling wines, 10 white wines and 20 red wines available by the glass, including a number of top-notch French wines.
Attached to the wine bar is the Camponeschi restaurant that serves classic Italian cuisine and offers a vast array of wines by the glass and bottle in an upscale, formal setting. The restaurant’s fish dishes are renowned. It has an enormous and diverse wine list, including some of the Camponeschi family’s own wines from their estate in Lazio. Next door is the Camponeschi wine shop that with two levels of wine selections by the bottle appears to be the largest selection of wines in Rome.
Cul de Sac, Piazza di Pasquino, 73 (near Piazza Navona) View Map
The Cul de Sac wine bar is located right off the heavily-touristed Piazza Navona. Cul de Sac has been around since forever and qualifies as an old-school wine bar both in terms of age and ambiance. It is a long, galley-type restaurant with tall shelves of wine bottles lining the walls and a postage-stamp-size patio just large enough for a few umbrella-shaded tables outside the front entrance. While the menu in three languages posted by the door is hokey, don’t let that dissuade you – this restaurant is serious about its food and wine. It has a large number of wines by the glass, many going for 3-6 Euros, and a list of wines by the bottle that seems to go on forever.
Mimi and Coco, Via del Governo Vecchio, 72 View Map
This small place has the feel of a café, wine bar and neighborhood hang-out - which it is. Across the alley from the Cul de Sac wine bar and not far from Piazza Navona, this small and intimate café has about 10 small tables and about the same number outside on a postage stamp-size patio. It serves simple but well prepared, café-type food and has an outstanding Torta Ricotta dessert. About 6 white and 10 red wines are available by the glass. It has friendly, courteous service – they’re happy to have you just stop by if only for a glass of wine. They’re open until 2 AM so it’s a great place to have a simple meal and a glass of wine while you view the passing parade of people going to and from the bustling Piazza Navona.
Settembrini: Vino e Cucina, Via L. Settembrini, 25 View Map
Phone : 39-06-686-2617 ristorante settembrini
A counter loaded with cheeses, hams and salami greets guests as they enter the restaurant. The molto-chic, softly-lit dining room has muted polenta-colored walls. The frequently changing wine list has an extensive and well thought out selection of red and white wines from all of Italy’s regions that is especially strong on small, up-and-coming Italian wineries. The wine list also includes some top-tier Bordeaux wines available by the glass. The excellent, imaginatively-prepared food is exemplified by the "five degrees of pork" appetizer I ordered on my last trip. Indulge yourself and order one of their outstanding desserts. This is one of Rome’s best wine and dine experiences.
Trimani, Via Cernaia, 37B View Map
Phone: 39-06-446-9630 www.trimani.com
On any given night there are probably more tourists than locals that are dining and drinking here. But don’t let that dissuade you. Trimani is one of Rome’s oldest and best-stocked wine bars. While the décor is unpretentious, the staff is efficient, courteous and knowledgeable and the menu features a good selection of traditional Italian and international food offerings.
But it is wine that is the star here. There is a vast assortment of wines by the bottle, with an emphasis on Italian and French estates, along with a rotating selection of wines by the glass ranging in price from 3 to 10 Euros. Trimani has a second floor dining area that I try to avoid – the décor is prosaic and colorless and you’re isolated from the downstairs wine vibe. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Around the corner at Via Goita, 20 is the Trimani wine shop where you can purchase wines by the bottle from their huge selection of wines.
Other wine bars worth a visit when in Rome:
These are the wine bars that didn’t quite make the first team. They are my “almost” most favorite wine bars in Rome. They are enjoyable, offer a good selection of wines and are worth seeking out when in Rome.
Caffe Canova-Tadolini, Via del Babuino, 150A View Map
I don’t know if I should even include this café as a wine bar, but it is just so different from anything I’ve experienced and so much fun I have to include it in my list of favorite wine bars. This unusual café is located just a short distance from the Piazza del Popolo in a building that once housed the studio/workshop of the late 18th century, neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova and his student Adamo Tadolini. Today, the workshop has sequed into a chic museum-café where guests are seated at tables arranged around and between the artists’ original sculpture models that are prominently displayed in every nook and cranny of the café.
The café serves light fare as well as full meals. It has a fine Italian wine list with a small but carefully selected list of wines available by glass. We stopped here late one evening after the theatre and had wonderful snacks and glasses of wine while sitting amongst the sculptures. Since Canova appreciated the finer things in life, I’m sure he would be surprised but pleased with what’s happened to his old workshop.
Enoteca Cavour 313, Via Cavour, 313 View Map
Phone: 39-06-678-5496 www.cavour313.it
Enoteca Cavour is a convenient place to stop for a glass of wine after visiting the close-by Colosseum. The long, narrow restaurant has a wine bar in front as you enter that is dominated by a long, dark, wood bar with brass railing behind which there is a blackboard listing the daily specials and wine offerings. The main seating area is further in back. Even though wine bottles are prominently displayed on overhead shelves and rafters, the room’s dark oak features and scenes of India on the walls are evocative of an old English pub.
You can snack on pasta, cheeses and salumi or have a full meal. The door-stop-size wine list is enormous and includes wines from all over Italy as well as some French and other international selections. Prices range from 13 Euros a bottle and up. Or you can choose from a good selection of about 30 wines available by the glass.
Gusto Wine Bar, Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 9 View Map
Phone: 30-06-322-6273 www.gusto.it
The Gusto wine bar is part of a major wine, food and entertainment complex that includes a restaurant, trattoria, pizzeria, kitchen goods store and bookshop. The wine bar appears small but it may be that it only looks that way because its always crowded. With its wood floors, large windows, brick walls, modern art and central location, it is a popular watering spot for young and stylish Romans, a great place to mix and mingle, to see and be seen.
The wine list is impressive with a vast selection of wines from Italy and around the world, including a goodly number from France and even California. The wine bar has a rotating selection of about 15 wines available by the glass that range in price from 8 to 12 Euros. There is an extensive menu of cheese, salami, crostini and bite-size cicchetti appetizers to accompany drinks.
Gusto, despite its obvious charms, is not for everyone, especially those looking for a quiet, intimate place to converse while imbibing. But will appeal to those looking for a wine venue with a lively and young vibe.
Shaki Wine Bar, Via Mario de Fiori, 29/A View Map
Talk about location. This molto chic, cozy and popular café is conveniently located just a few steps from the busy Piazza di Spagna on a very trendy street full of elegant shops and restaurants. The Shaki Wine Bar is a very popular tourist luncheon destination and fairly bustles with activity and terminally hip, beautiful people (think imperial Rome meets Miami Beach). The café/wine bar is small but weather permitting has a few additional tables out front that offer great perches for viewing the passing parade of trendy shoppers and tourists. The menu offers light fare with a small but attentive selection of wines by the glass that includes some Barolos and Brunellos.
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