ust what constitutes breakfast is another one of the many culture chasms that separates Italy — and Rome in particular — from the rest of the world. Where else is it normal to start the day with shot of unsweetened espresso and not much else? Here, plenty of people do just that.
Home-served family breakfasts are a better bet, since they often include mocha-brewed caffellatte (what foreigners erroneously call a “latte”), slices of crusty home-style bread slathered with butter and marmalade, and plenty of fresh seasonal fruit.
But getting a tasty breakfast if you’re not parked by chance in a Rome household can present a daunting challenge. Most hungry visitors eventually end up succumbing to microwave-baked industrial cornetti (croissants packed with margarine and processed sugar) and cappuccini topped with UHT milk. Sadly, that’s what the average Rome cafe has to offer.
Fortunately, the city also has a number prima colazione “safe houses,” where brunch isn’t served at noon and choices that go beyond the flaky and the frothy are ample. Here is a shortlist of my favorite Rome best breakfast spots.
Scrumptious breakfasts are yours for the having at Coromandel, a delightful tea room-meets-boulangerie located in quiet alley a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona. On tap are homemade pastries, pain au chocolat, brioches, grandma cakes and omelets served with crisp guanciale (fat bacon) strips. If that doesn’t get your juices flowing, the awesome pancakes and spectacular French toast will. Made with top choice ingredients, these may be the best I’ve ever had.
Breakfast is served 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but a quick lunch and gourmet dinner are just as nice. Plush sofas, vintage teacups and mismatched flatware complete the scene. ¶ Via di Monte Giordano, 60. Tel. +39.333.268.4683. Closed Monday.
Caffè Propaganda is a little corner of Paris near the Coliseum. White tiles, frosted glass partitions, vintage furniture, and elegant fittings characterize the elegant atmosphere of this bistro, clearly influences by the Seine riverbank literary scene. Savory and sweet meals are available daily from noon to 11 p.m., but it’s the dessert department that wins applause.
I come not so much for the drool-worthy macaroons as for the chocolate soufflé, both of which can be paired with something from the vast list of classic caffeinated beverages. There’s also free Wi-Fi. ¶ Via Claudia, 15. Tel. +39.06.9453.4255.
When I walk into Bakery House, a quaint little coffee shop in the northern suburb of the Trieste neighborhood, I’m comforted by the thought of ordering bagels with cream cheese and lox, as well as the possibility of lounging through lunch, book in hand. But I’m also comforted by the idea of being able to have breakfast for dinner.
The cupcakes are decent, as are other classic overseas breakfast foods such as cinnamon rolls, scones and English muffins. All are well-crafted with no industrial or artificial ingredients. The homemade granola is good too. Available iPads and free Wi-Fi make the stay even sweeter. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Corso Trieste, 157. Tel. +39.06.9437.7841. Closed Monday.
Awash in trendy young intellectuals and hip celebrities, Necci dal 1924 (dal means founded in) is the Pigneto neighborhood’s most famous hangout. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, aperitivo and dinner (until 1 a.m.), Necci provides a relaxing all-year ambiance. There’s a shady tree-lined garden or a funky 1970s retro interior. Breakfast goodies include homemade flaky croissants and pastries, bread and cakes. The deli counter sells all manner of organic specialties, plus wines, cheeses and salumi. ¶ Via Fanfulla da Lodi, 68. Tel. +39.06.9760.1552.
Opened in summer 2012, Baccano immediately promised good things. When I went there recently and dug deeper than the aperitivo (for which this Trevi Fountain bistro is famous), I was pleasantly surprised by the democratic breakfast selection.
Italians can enjoy their frugal cappuccino and cornetto arrangement, while more Anglo Saxon-inclined palates can enjoy a continental breakfast with muffins, juice, caffè Americano and toast (or free range eggs and pork sausages to boot). The salmon, spinach and Parmesan Eggs Benedict are inviting, but at €14 perhaps a little too pricey. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. ¶ Via delle Muratte, 23. Tel. +39.06.6994.1166.
Do well-crafted, homemade croissants and breakfast pastries sound good with your frothy cappuccino? Then please visit artisan baker and chef patissier Andreotti dal 1931 in the up-and-coming Ostiense “foodie-hood.” If you drooled over the cakes and artistic baked goods featured in director Ferzan Ozpetek’s 2009 film “La Finestra di Fronte,” all of them were made fresh in the downstairs pastry workroom by the Andreotti resident staff. My favorite is the seasonal fruit crostata, finished with a dribbly apricot glaze. Gelato is homemade too, and quite good. Open daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. ¶ Via Ostiense, 54/b. Tel. +39.06.575.0773.
For those determined to find something heartier and more savory than a sweet breakfast, I recommend a visit to the newly inaugurated Romeo. The Roscioli brothers — famed bread bakers and delicatessen gurus — have paired with Michelin-star hip chef Cristina Bowerman of Trastevere’s Glass Hostaria in what amounts to a glutton’s paradise. They’ve transformed an ex-Alfa Romeo car dealership into a contemporary food hub that churns gourmet sandwiches, meals and superb aperitivo grub, all of it made only the best regional specialties. This happens all day long, along with proper lunch and dinner meals during designated service hours. ¶ Via Silla, 26/a. Tel. +39.06.3211.0120.
The sign outside may advertise it too loudly, but Gigi Santoro might make the best cappuccino in town. World-famous for his signature beverage — it was entered into international cappuccino championships — Santoro has perfected his milk pitcher technique over the decades and every cup at Bar del Cappuccino comes served with a different decoration.
Flavor, voluptuous texture and caffeinated aroma come in a warm €1 demitasse, and can be paired with anything from artisan croissants, kosher pastries (the Jewish quarter is 1/2 block away), to great pastrami sandwiches served in pizza Bianca — yes! — and fabulous fruit and vegetable juices. ¶ Via Arenula, 50. Tel. +39.06.6880.6042.