A Rome Dining Guide From the City’s Only Female Michelin-Starred Chef

Cristina Bowerman is a force to be reckoned with. The renowned chef spends most days commuting between her restaurants, Glass Hostaria in Trastevere and Romeo Chef & Baker and Giulietta Pizzeria in Testaccio. Originally from Puglia, Bowerman found her culinary calling later in life, first studying law and then working as a graphic designer in Austin, Texas, before realizing her true passion was cooking. After living in the U.S. for a few years, she returned to Italy and took over the kitchen at Glass, where she earned a Michelin star for her innovative dishes, such as grilled scallops with apples four ways and ravioli with cream of parmesan aged 60 months. “How that happened, I still don’t know!” she says modestly. “But I do know that they probably perceived the professionality and passion I put into my cooking. The impact the star had on my business has been enormous. It really changed my life.”

The outstanding reputation that comes with a Michelin star has allowed Bowerman to try new things, like moving her trattoria Romeo into a huge abandoned warehouse in Testaccio and adding Giulietta next door. The restaurant duo is more casual and accessible price-wise, but that doesn’t mean the quality is any lower than at Glass. At Romeo and Giulietta, Bowerman played around with the design and menus, putting tacos beside burrata at the former and making a Neapolitan pizza with the unusual combination of blueberries, pine nuts, mozzarella, and anchovies at the latter.

As one of Rome’s most influential chefs, Bowerman has dined everywhere from the city’s gastronomic temples to humble neighborhood trattorias and gelaterias. Here, she shares her favorite places to eat, from Rome’s only three-starred restaurant to a beachside spot just outside the city.

La Pergola

“Great view, great food, great wine and great service,” Bowerman declares. You’d expect no less of Rome’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, helmed by German chef Heinz Beck. An old-school temple to gastronomy inside the luxurious Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria with a suitably rarified ambiance to match, this is the place to splurge on a special occasion dinner.

Il Pagliaccio

Bowerman recommends this two-Michelin-starred restaurant in the historic center for modern Italian cuisine by chef Anthony Genovese, who was born in France to Calabrian parents. Genovese honed his craft in Japan and Thailand, so unusual Asian spices flavor his dishes, adding a new dimension to Italian cuisine that’s very much in line with the way Bowerman cooks. “The service is beyond great and the ambience is truly special,” she says.

Flavio al Velavevodetto

To truly understand Roman cuisine — dubbed cucina povera — you need to go beyond the trendy newcomers, and this cavernous stalwart in Testaccio is one of the best places to go. The menu consists strictly of classics like fried artichokes, carbonara, and cacio e pepe. Bowerman recommends it for a “traditional Roman lunch,” adding, “the rigatoni alla gricia is amazing.”

Fior di Luna

Gelaterias in Rome are a dime a dozen, so it can be hard to separate the good from the best. Bowerman suggests this place for “delicious organic chocolate ice cream in Trastevere,” adding that it does a “beautiful job by a guy who is standing by his art.”

Osteria Fernanda

Bowerman adores award-winning chef Davide del Duca’s sleek bistro for its “youthful mood and cool environment,” adding that it manages to be traditional and contemporary at the same time. That winning combination is clear in the menu, which juxtaposes a classic bucatini all’amatriciana with more studied dishes like “saltimbocca” made with foie gras, sour cherries, and lovage seeds.

Per Me

Tucked away between Via Giulia and Via dei Banchi Vecchi in the historic heart of Rome, award-winning chef Giulio Terrinoni runs this seafood-focused restaurant, which Bowerman describes as “sober but elegant without losing the comfort of home.” Expect artful plating and postmodern dishes like risotto with red cabbage, spicy apple, oysters, and goat cheese. The tapas menu at lunch is a great way to try a few dishes without breaking the bank.

Imàgo

On the top floor of the Hassler Hotel — a grand dame frequented by everyone from Grace Kelly to Leonardo DiCaprio — this Michelin-starred restaurant is a fine dining institution run by acclaimed chef Francesco Apreda. Bowerman loves it for the “amazing view on top of the Spanish Steps.” She recommends ordering the foie gras and scones; risotto with cacio cheese, pepper, and sesame; and traditional Neapolitan sfogliatella pastries.

Metamorfosi

Colombian chef Roy Caceres bestows some South American flair on Italian cuisine at this Michelin-starred restaurant that Bowerman praises as “traditional but creative.” A meal here is reason enough to venture to posh Parioli, an upscale neighborhood north of Villa Borghese park. “Don’t miss the ‘antipasta!’” she exclaims.

La Baia di Fregene

Federico Fellini owned a vacation home in this seaside town about 45 minutes outside of Rome, and chic Romans still flock there today to escape the heat. Bowerman suggests visiting this “amazing place right on the beach in Fregene, with a woman in the kitchen who handles hundreds of covers à la minute.” This no-frills spot is the place to go for super-fresh seafood, which Bowerman recommends you pair with a special off-the-menu wine, calling it “the most relaxing moment of the week.”