What’s a vegan foodie to do in a place where the signature dishes are based on eggs, pecorino cheese, cured pork, veal and organ meats?
Good news: in just a few short years, plant-based cuisine has taken hold of Italy – as of 2022, 8% of the population considers itself vegetarian or vegan – and the country's most adventurous chefs have risen to the call with wildly inventive, wildly delicious vegan offerings.
In that same span, the Eternal City has become one of the boot’s most vegan-friendly cities, thanks to an ever-growing selection of vegan burger joints, smoothie bars, fusion restaurants, bakeries, “New Italian” and classic Roman restaurants. If you can't imagine a Roman food experience without cheese and meat and, above all, adherence to tradition, think again. Ethical, tasty and innovative, with an all-Italian twist – here's our guide to the top vegan restaurants in the Eternal City.
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Romeow Cat Bistrot
Best for four-legged companionship
Tucked away on a stark corner of Ostiense, Romeow Cat Bistrot is a whimsical wonderland. You'll find well-fed kitties roaming the bi-level boho-style dining area as patrons sample quirky dishes like seitan fajitas or Gragnano spaghetti with macadamia nuts, muntok pepper and bergamot zest.
The afternoon bistro hour is a delightful interlude, offering a "mood menu" of drink-and-snack combinations of smoothies, health drinks and desserts, like the addictive white cake.
Best for Mediterranean-inspired cuisine
In posh Prati, just steps away from the Balloon Museum and a short walk from the MAXXI art gallery, Ma Va'? makes an ideal pit stop after hours of museum hopping. Taste the eclectic selection of Mediterranean-inspired antipasti, soups, pasta and entrees in a homey atmosphere.
Best for vegan breakfast
“If we’re not out front, we’re cooking for you,” reads the sign at the register. Lucky you! This teeny, colorful vegan hole-in-the-wall near Villa Borghese can’t be beat when you’re looking for a casual bite.
Col Cavolo serves Italian-style breakfasts with homemade sweets, like crostata or banana nut bread, or soups, or burgers, or the famous lasagne. Full bar service includes coffee, tea, fresh-pressed juices and craft beers.
Best vegan buffet
Just a block away from Col Cavolo, Ops! is ideal when you’re in a rush or simply in the mood for lots of choices in an unfussy yet well-appointed setting. The crowd-pleasing buffet-style restaurant lets you pay for your food by weight and has dozens of Italian and internationally inspired options. The pasta is especially well-loved.
Best for New Italian
Chic Nativa is a bit out of the way in Baldo degli Ubaldi near Vatican City (about 25 mins from Rome), but its crisp white interiors and creative New Italian and fusion cuisine make the trek worth your while. Don't skip the vegetable-and-brown-rice arancini or the spaghetti with pistachio sauce and yellow cherry tomatoes.
Best for Roman-style vegan dishes
A haven for vegan foodies since 1987, this cozy, romantic osteria in Garbatella serves Roman-style dishes and innovative New Italian offerings, like paccheri pasta with lentil ragù, made with strictly local and seasonal ingredients. The menus change weekly, so be sure to check the website before you stop by. Open only for dinner.
Grezzo Raw Chocolate
Best for vegan sweets
Grezzo means raw or unrefined in Italian, but there’s nothing unrefined about this 100% vegan boutique chain, with locations near busy transport hubs like Termini Station and Largo di Torre Argentina.
Pick up hot chocolate and gelato to gobble up on the spot (try the peanut or salted-caramel flavors), or chocolate spreads, biscotti, desserts and chocolate bars to take home…if they make it that far.
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Best for spaghetti alla carbonara
Rifugio Romano is arguably Rome’s quintessential vegan experience, with an extensive vegan menu offering top-notch interpretations of Rome’s most famous dishes, pizza and excellent “fritti” antipasti.
The vegan cacio e pepe and the spaghetti alla carbonara with smoked seitan may not be identical to the real things, but they come delectably close. Rifugio Romano is just a few minutes away from Termini Station and so popular that reservations are a must.
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Il Margutta Veggy Food & Art
Best for upscale a la carte
One of Rome’s oldest vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants, Il Margutta is ideal whenever you want to impress… or be impressed. Find upscale a la carte dinner offerings weekday and Saturday nights; only a brunch buffet is available at lunchtime.
Enjoy art exhibits and musical performances with your meal in this elegant yet inviting space. Close to Piazza del Popolo, Villa Borghese and Piazza di Spagna.
Origano Campo de’Fiori
Best for vegan pizza
Terrific pizzas and pasta await you at this fan-favorite steps away from Largo di Torre Argentina. Choose from chewy Neapolitan, earthy whole wheat, and crispy Roman pinsa crusts as a base for your pizza toppings – including vegan meats and cheeses – or their excellent pasta dishes, both New and traditional Italian.
Buddy Veggy Restaurant Café
Best for vegan American-style brunches
Less than 100m (328ft) away from Origano Campo de' Fiori, Buddy Veggy Restaurant Café hits every culinary itch, from smoothies to American-style brunches to terrific pizzas and pasta dishes and 10-euro aperitivi. Young clientele; vintage-inspired interiors; friendly staff.
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What to order 101
There are a number of Italian dishes that are naturally vegan. Order fearlessly.
Bread – You’re spoiled for choice in Italy when it comes to fresh-baked bread. Specialties like focaccia, bruschetta, taralli (twisted crackers often served with aperitivi platters), or biscotti (without chocolate chips) are on offer. Coffee bars will also often have vegan versions of breakfast pastries like cornetti (Italian-style croissants).
Espresso – not eXpresso. Many coffee bars will also offer soy or nut-milk cappuccinos. But don’t dare ask for a cappuccino after 11am!
Panzanella – An antipasto made from croutons and fresh vegetables.
Pasta al pomodoro e basilico – Every vegan’s failsafe, pasta with tomato sauce and fresh basil.
Pizza rossa – “Red pizza,” so-called because it’s baked without cheese, just tangy tomato sauce and oregano. Check to make sure there aren’t anchovies lurking in the sauce.
Minestrone – Vegetable soup.
Vellutata – Soups made from pureed vegetables like zucca (squash) or ceci (chickpeas).
Pasta e fagioli – Pasta and bean soup.
Pasta e ceci – Pasta and chickpea soup.
Risotto alla zucca – Squash risotto.
Penne all’arrabbiata – Penne pasta with spicy tomato sauce
Polenta ai funghi – Polenta with mushrooms.
Contorni – Vegetable side dishes served alongside the secondo (protein-based) course of your meal. Seasonal contorni include cicoria (chicory greens), patate al forno (roast potatoes), verdure grigliate (grilled vegetables) and insalata mista (salad greens). Italians dress salad greens with just olive oil and vinegar – also naturally vegan!
Carciofi – You can’t visit Rome without trying the signature vegetable. Choose from carciofo alla romana (Roman-style artichoke stewed with olive oil, garlic and mint) or carciofo alla giudia (Roman Jewish–style deep-fried artichoke).
Fagioli all’uccelletto – Cannellini beans stewed in tomato sauce, another typically Roman contorno.
Grattachecca – Better known in English as “Italian ice”.
Wine, beer and spirits – Never forget the wine, beer and spirits.