Where there are students, there are sure to be bars and restaurants. Welcome to San Lorenzo.
Right now, if you asked any Roman about San Lorenzo, they’d probably say “la movida.” A word borrowed from Spanish, it means the young-person culture of bars, aperitivo and late-nights. San Lorenzo, located just behind Termini, is adjacent to La Sapienza, Rome’s biggest university. Every night, its numerous bars, pubs, and restaurants fill with students and young Romans.
San Lorenzo’s history is far more profound than that, though. Originally a working-class neighborhood, San Lorenzo was heavily bombed by the Allies during World War Two, killing over 1,000 residents. You can still see a plaque commemorating this on one of the 3rd-century walls that ring San Lorenzo, for in ancient times this was the first area outside the city. Such a diversity of history and residents gives San Lorenzo a wonderful mixture of spots, from old-school trattorie to student-heavy dives. Here’s where to find the best restaurants, bars and all-around fun in San Lorenzo for your next trip.
Great food, great history. Pommidoro (Piazza dei Sanniti, 44/46), almost 80 years old, is a family-run restaurant with a big grill in the center, where long skewers of pajata (calf intestines) sizzle alongside thick steaks and slices of bread, destined to be brushed with olive oil for bruschetta. A classic Roman trattoria, they serve dishes like carbonara and carciofi alla romana (poached artichokes with wild mint). They’re best known for meat, like grilled abbacchio (suckling lamb) and braised oxtails, but most of all for the game meats like pheasant and wild boar that the family hunts in the Roman countryside. Over the years, countless famous artists, writers and athletes have frequented Pommidoro, most famously Pier Paolo Pasolini, who ate his last meal there before his murder in 1975, and whose check is still on the wall.
2. Bar Marani
Bar Marani is a small, old, unexceptional caffè … which is precisely why it’s so beloved by everyone who’s ever been to it. Open only until 10:00 p.m., Marani is just a register, a long bar and a fenced-in patio with tables. Every day, all day, those tables are filled with all the eccentric types who frequent San Lorenzo. Students, bums, old professors, hustlers, backpackers, they all sit outside, smoke, and enjoy the cheap drinks, perfectly serviceable coffee, and rigorously hands-off attitude. This is a place you can sit for hours, nursing a drink and a chapter of a book, and no one will bother you, except to maybe ask for a lighter.
3. Il Sorì
Right next to Marani is Il Sorì, a very different glass of wine (literally). This little cavern of a wine bar is elegant yet friendly, lined with hundreds of small-vintage bottles. Saddle up to the bar and inspect the daily blackboard of wine by the glass—or if you’re with friends, reserve a table in advance. To go with your wine, you must get some of the exceptional snacks. There are the Italian classics: olives, buffalo mozzarella, rigorously selected prosciutto and salami, but equally likely there could be a whole leg of jamón ibérico or some French-style rillettes.
4. Tram Tram
Rome is a city which has always drawn people from other regions of Italy, all of whom brought their own cuisines. Tram Tram is such a spot. Run by the Di Vittorio family, here you’ll find expected (and delicious) Roman dishes like oxtails and cacio e pepe. What aren’t so expected, and yet equally delicious, are the Pugliese offerings from the family’s native region. Fish and vegetable heavy, the daily preparations might include a baked tiella of rice, potatoes and mussels, or a plate of fried anchovies. Warm and familiar, this is one of those restaurants where you really do feel at home, before and especially after you eat
5. La Taverna di San Lorenzo
Strong spritzes and cold draught beers? Heaping plates of salumi and cheese for € 4? Cigarette-stained walls and dusty floors? Check, check and check for La Taverna di San Lorenzo. One of many locales in the neighborhood, this place stands out for its good food, ridiculously low prices, and atmosphere that recalls one of those colonial taverns people used to stop at during horse-and-buggy journeys. The perfect place to go with a group of friends when money is tight but a good time is a must.
6. Formula 1
As you might have guessed from the name, this pizzeria is decorated with race-car memorabilia. The kitsch adds to the appeal at Formula 1, San Lorenzo’s most popular pizzeria. Open late and cheap, bar-goers and students flock here for thin, crispy Roman-style pizzas and supplì (fried rice balls). There might be a wait on weekends, but a crowded pizzeria on a Friday night is beautiful snapshot of modern Roman life.
There are three things you should know about Pigmalione. One, you can smoke inside (even though it’s technically illegal). Two, all the mismatched tables have chessboards. Three, all the music comes from Youtube on a ’90’s-era PC. Far and away San Lorenzo’s divey-est bar, Pigmalione is idiosyncratic to the extreme. The drink offerings are bottled beer, some basic wine, and strong mixed drinks. The prices, as you might expect, are low, and the clientele diverse to the extreme. Sit at a table, next to some of the teenagers playing foosball, and a drunk poet might plop himself down and challenge you to a game of chess. What’s not to love?
8. Bar dei Brutti
Bar dei Brutti, located right near the main piazza, is your typical Roman bar in some ways. It’s open all day, has coffee and snacks, and you can lounge at one of the tables. At night, though, it transforms into one of Rome’s most popular locales. When there’s a soccer game, it’s full of fans, and when there isn’t, it’s still full of that movida crowd, knocking back cheap craft beers and munching on the complimentary peanuts. And because this is Rome, they inevitably drift outside to smoke and chat, filling the whole street by midnight on a Saturday.
9. C’era una Volta Il Caffè
Rome is full of coffee bars, but most aren’t as good as C’era una Volta. From the outside, it looks to be another bar, with cigarettes at the register. Nope. Here, the coffee is as thick and dark as squid’s ink, perfectly pulled and creamy on top. And did we mention the homemade pastries? Cornetti, hot and buttery from the attached bakery, are the best way to start the day, maybe stuffed with a fresh cream of pistachio, or even just plain. Also a good place to have an evening drink, with a variety of house-made aperitivi.
Rome has a grand tradition of centri sociali, “social centers,” which are non-profit spaces that do everything from offer language lessons, to hosting concerts, to running full taverns. 32 no longer has a kitchen like it used to, which served cheap and tasty cucina romana. But, it remains one of San Lorenzo’s best bars. It’s still non-profit, welcoming of all regardless of social class or country of origin. There are local craft beers on tap, and cold amari in plastic cups. Sit at one of the long communal tables, and rub elbows with friendly souls from around the world.