Because you can't eat pasta and pizza everyday in Italy, here are some of the best non-Italian food restaurants in Rome by ethnicity and cuisine.
1. Akira Lab (Japanese, Ramen)
One of the most symbolic dishes of Japan, professional athlete turned chef Akira Yoshida has taken this traditional street food to the streets of Rome, expanding from his first spot in Ostiense to this recent new location near Trevi Fountain to honor his culinary traditions while introducing a new type of gastronomy experience to those in Rome. Akira Lab is a laboratory, kitchen and restaurant dedicated to the artisan labor of love that is Ramen.
More than a soup, Ramen touches the soul because it comes from the heart. Akira Lab uses traditional ingredients and a recipe following the school of “Iekei Ramen” which was born in Yokohama in 1974 by the Yoshimura family. Iekei means “homemade type” and Akira takes this definition to the next level with homemade noodles and a broth that takes 10 hours to cook. A soup made of simple ingredients and a delicate balance of flavors is the product of a centuries-old tradition. But the real secret is in the broth. A word that literally translates to “tasty”, Umami is neither sweet, salty, sour or bitter but a completely unique fifth flavor that is separate from all the rest. There are several Ramen you can choose from at Akira Lab: "Ramen Black Shoyu" (pork broth, pork, Shoyu sauce, spinach and seaweed), "Ramen White Shio" (pork broth, pork, Shio sauce, spinach and seaweed), "Ramen Red Spicy" (pork broth, pork, miso, spicy sauce, spinach and seaweed), "Veggy Ramen" (vegetable broth, spicy miso, mixed vegetables, seaweed, olive oil and sesame), and the slightly less spicy "Veg Deluxe" (vegetable broth, soy milk, vegetable tempura, tofu, corn, leek, Shio sauce, seaweed, and olive oil) all containing that unique Umami taste. And for drinks - a selection of Japanese beers, sake and their ‘Sake One Cup Ozeki Mini’ which comes in the coolest packaging ever.
2. Casa Marcelo (Latin American, South American, Spanish)
The 'husband' of Casa Carmen, a fish-focused restaurant in Fregene, Casa Marcelo is connected to the products of the earth, with strong ties to Latin American, South American, and Mexican cuisine with Spanish influences. Opened this summer along Via Veneto, Casa Marcelo Cucina Y Miscele is an exciting new addition to the neighborhood.
The interiors are contemporary chic – classic yet sexy and fun. With black and white tiled floors, red stools, floral chairs, neon lights and hanging plants, it looks like a trendy steakhouse or modern brassiere with a tropical touch. The food and drink menu is of the same vein– from the classic tapas appetizers like croquetas de jamon, chorizo, queso frito and ceviche to their fantastic grilled meats such as the Iberian pork chops with mustard and honey, the Argentinian T-Bone steak, ribs, and the classic “Iberian Secret” grilled with plantains. Largely meat-centric, Casa Marcelo does have some tasty vegetarian-friendly options as well. And their desserts are a beautiful little surprise – in taste and display.
Drinks are also inspired by the same flavors of the food menu and the countries they originate from. Fresh, flavorful cocktails that can be paired perfectly to each plate. Some drinks on the list by bartender Felicita De Stasi include their mezcal and scotch-based signature cocktail "Carmen y Marcelo" and the whisky infused with coffee "Alma Libre", but you can also find the great classic cocktails to accompany your dish. The wines are also worth mentioning as in they have an impressive array spanning from Venezuela to Spain.
3. LUX (Seafood Reinvented)
A taste of the sea with an all-female cast. Celebrity Chef Micaela Di Cola (aka Mikychef) is at the helm of this seafood restaurant in Ostia, alongside her – general manager Silvia Leone and events manager Anna De Fazio. The result of this power trio is a unique food experience amongst the floating yachts and the sounds of the sea. LUX restaurant is a charming space in a picturesque port in Ostia where you will feast on some of the freshest seafood in Rome. Traditional fish dishes mixed with modern techniques result in a surprising mix of flavors. Mikychef’s extensive background in the kitchen and abroad, applying her unique nouvelle cuisine and techniques is evident in each and every dish at LUX. Traditional Italian plates with a twist, Mikychef brings your typical seafood dishes up a few notches, combining old and traditional with contemporary and innovative.
For their appetizers: there’s the "Gran Crudo Lux" of oysters, scampi, gamberi rossi e viola, mazzancolle, tuna tartare, and sashimi, the "Tris di Mare" with three types of fish carpaccio, and their "Rosso di Mazara" antipasto of gambero rosso di Mazara, burrata cheese, tomato soup and lime. A few of their primi: "Cacio, Pepe e Scampi" topped with fresh crudo, spaghettone acqua, farina, vongole e bottarga, and risotto of shrimp and lime. And for mains: "Polpo Lux" (pan roasted octopus with spicy cream), baccala in crosta (sesame crusted cod fish), and their "Frittura Lux" of fried calamari and fried shrimp. Also worth mentioning are their homemade desserts, pastas and breads (with celiac options), award-winning olive oil, and extensive wine list which adds to the overall LUX food experience. And the Extralux Panoramic Terrace just above the restaurant that overlooks the sea, makes for the perfect sunset aperitivo or dinner during the warmer months.
4. Black Market Hall (Burgers & Cocktails)
Hidden in one of the oldest districts of Rome is Black Market Hall in Monti. A unique and versatile location, space and offerings, Black Market has a history of almost ten years and remains an ode to the neighborhood. Their kitchen philosophy is “not the usual Italian cuisine” but instead a “new vision based on the experience of the past”. Keeping that (and tradition) in mind, high quality products and ingredients are applied to every dish and drink.
There are four options during their 'Degustation Aperitivo' between 6pm and 8pm: "Vegetariana", "Monti", "Mare", or a sample of meats and cheeses (between 13 and 15 euro each). On the full food menu are a selection of appetizers like zucchini chips, nachos, tempura shrimp and guacamole bites, an array of bruschetta and tagliere, and an entire section dedicated specifically to Vegans and Vegetarians. But for me, the Black Market Hall Burgers are the real draw. There are a total of ten burgers - from the classic bacon cheeseburger and Bismarck egg burger to the more unique burgers of octopus, salmon carpaccio and beef tartare. They also have a "Mini Burger Trio" of meat or fish burgers.
The cocktails at Black Market Hall are another strong point. Their approach to mixology is the same as in their kitchen - a perfect balance of flavors combining old and new. Cocktails range from classic to signature and an impressive list of wines can be found in the cellar.
Housed on two floors with a total of four rooms and two separate outdoor gardens on either side, this trendy restaurant and bar in Monti is an excellent spot for a date night or a fun evening out with friends any month of the year. But Black Market Hall is not just a place for great food and drinks, they also have music, concerts and live entertainment on select nights - from English indie rock to experimental. Open every day from 6pm to 2am, Sundays open at 5pm.
5. The Gipsy Bar – Sushi & Mixology
The Gipsy Bar – Sushi & Mixology really is one of those unique, hidden gems. Inspired by gipsy culture, The Gipsy Bar in Pigneto, Rome has a special aura of romance, mystery and magic. With interiors reminiscent of those Parisian Café-Chantants and the jazz movement of the early 20’s, The Gipsy Bar spans past and present in both taste and style, mixing old traditions and customs with modern-day innovation in the area of food, hospitality, and mixology.
Gipsy feelings and Bohemian vibes. The Gipsy Bar was born to be free, and at its base is their GIPSY traveling project, formula and brand. From their special delivery experience to pop-up locations, takeovers, and featured menu items to their consulting and catering business, The Gipsy Bar vibes can be found all over Rome. That traveling, nomadic and free-spirited approach is at the core of everything they do. But the real journey begins with some unexpected sushi and cocktails.
Asian Fusion cuisine with a Roman (Gipsy) twist. Plates that combine words (some in dialect), recipes, and flavors typical of Rome and around Italy. On the Gipsy Bar food menu: tartare, uramaki, poke, ‘Gipsy Entrees’ of fish and meat, and their specials ‘Les specialities Gitanes’ that are really one-of-a-kind. Some unique sushi creations include: “Uramaki Gaperino” frittatina alla cabronara with guanciale di Amatrice, pecorino romano cream, guanciale croccante and sesame or their “Uramkai Le Mortaz’” of mortadella, homemade marinated ginger, Japanese mayo and pistachio, and their “Uramaki Rugantino” of chicken cacciatora with roasted pepper mouse and crumbled dried olives on top. Each one is internationally inspired with a Roman twist. And if you want to sample a variety of dishes all at the same time, you have several options. There’s the ‘Gipsy Ensemble’ of 18, 26, or 36 pieces or the ‘Gipsy Balera’ (Chef’s Fantasy) at three levels: 56 mixed pieces (per 4 people), 88 (for 6 people) and 120 pieces (for 8 people). So, all the more reason to come with a group!
The Gipsy Bar cocktails are equally original. Another type of fusion (this time in a glass) with fresh ingredients, homemade mixers, and exotic flavor combinations. Some star signatures include their “Spicy Sakerinha” with sake, lime juice, ginger syrup, green tea and mint, their “Monet’s Garden” of Gipsy homemade cardamom-mint elixir, Strega liqueur, passion fruit, lime and cucumber juice, “Belle Epoque” of bourbon, St. Germain, cherry liquor, ginger syrup, and prosecco, and the “Gipsy Mule” made with their homemade ginger and passion fruit elixir, lychee syrup, red fruit tea and ginger ale. Classic cocktails all done with that Gipsy twist.
Like the gipsy soul and spirit, this Bohemian bar & lounge is not bound by time or space, but seems to transcend boundaries of all sorts. Like something straight out of Woody Allen’s "Midnight in Paris" and at the same time not of this world. The Gipsy Bar is a mythical place to enjoy some amazing cocktails and sushi and on select nights, various shows and live performances ranging from artistic, theatrical and musical - including jazz concerts and burlesque. There’s something incredible waiting to be discovered at The Gipsy Bar every night of the week. Open Wednesday to Sunday.