Enoteca is an Italian word derived from old Greek that literally means, wine repository.
The old tradition of the enoteca was created to give visitors to Italy’s many regions a chance to taste the local wines at cheap prices before buying.
Today, most enotecas are independently owned and operated just like any other bar or restaurant. However, the traveling wine lover will be pleasantly surprised by the prices as wine mark-ups in Italy are typically modest.
There are many enotecas scattered about the city some in the central tourist zone and many more in the surrounding neighborhoods. I have concentrated on a handful of favorites from the central zone. If you are anything like me you will plan to visit these great wine bars just as you would the Colosseum or the Vatican.
When drinking wine in Rome do yourself a favor and stay far off the beaten path when choosing wines. All Italian wine drinkers love Chianti, Barolo, and Super Tuscans but when in Rome – there are far more choices. Venturing into lesser known DOC and DOCG wines will offer you a chance to explore wines seldom if ever seen in your home market. Additionally, the prices cannot be beat.
(A pro tip is to avoid Prosecco – no knock on Prosecco but while in Italy you can drink TrentoDOC sparkling wines in made in the champagne method for a few bucks more. My favorite wine bar in Rome sells a popular vintage TrentoDOC for 22 Euros a bottle. You simply can’t match that in your local restaurant or wine bar. If sparkling wine is really your thing then order Franciacorta – Italy’s answer to Champagne – by the bottle at the bar for well under what you will pay at retail in America.)
Enoteca Cul de Sac
Piazza Pasquino 73 (Piazza Navona)
Enoteca Cul de Sac remains the undisputed wine bar champion among Rome’s magnetic enotecas. Their incredible depth of Italian wines (now over 1500 labels present daily — it’s like a major metropolitan phone book) in every category and their remarkable prices make it a must stop for any wine lover visiting Rome.
Enoteca Cul de Sac on the intimate Piazza Pasquino (steps away from Piazza Navona). Wines and oils have been sold at this address since the early 1900s. In 1977 Enoteca Cul de Sac was born and began offering the city’s best wine selection accompanied traditional Roman dishes, as well as a large variety of cured meats and cheeses.
Do yourself a favor and glance past the wines of Tuscany and Piedmont as you can find most of these wines at home. Instead, stick to the lesser represented regions particularly the regions of central Italy: Abruzzo, Marche, Umbria, and Lazio (Rome’s region). There have been incredible quality strides made in the wines of Lazio with Cesanese del Piglio and Frascati Superiore perhaps leading the way both earning recent elevations to DOCG status. (Confused? Check our Italian Wine Primer.)
Via Dei Banchi Vecchi 14
Il Goccetto is primarily a local hangout so don’t be surprised if you don’t see any tourists in this cozy spot. It is located off the beaten path about too meters northwest of Campo de’ Fiori. This enoteca is rather small so if you go on a popular evening you may have to grab your glass and head to the front steps and street to drink alongside other guests.
Wine is the star of the show here with bottles of wine standing upright on shelves flanking all sides of the room reaching eight shelves tall. They offer roughly 30 selections by the glass on a chalkboard behind the bar and the selections change frequently. If you can’t find what you want by the glass their selection of 800 bottles will certainly meet your needs. Like most Roman wine bars the prices are very fair with bottles ranging from 16 euros to very fancy.
The food offerings are limited to plates of cheese, salami, and bread — it’s not a dinner spot but you won’t go hungry.
Piazza di Pietra 32/33
This is a beautiful and peaceful enoteca on Piazza Pietra (they do have a second location) just steps away from the Pantheon, Piazza Colonna, and Via del Corso, which is to say that it’s very well located.
The wine list is modest but it does represent the wines of Italy from north to south. There is a focus on the wines from Feudi di San Gregorio, a well-respected producer from the Campania region. Feudi di San Gregorio is a partner in this establishment but many other brands and regions are represented as well. If you are feeling temporarily wine-saturated Spiriti offers a good selection of cocktails and a smart food menu that will satisfy your desire to graze or dine.
The service is attentive and friendly without hovering. It’s well worth a special visit while in Rome.
Via della Croce 76
As soon as you step in the door, it’s clear this place has been here for a long time, since 1720 to be more exact. Locals and visitors alike fill the bar stools and seats, close to Piazza di Spagna. Antica Enoteca offers many wines by the bottle and the glass. Daily food specials are often a wise choice and all the menu items pair well with the wine offerings.
You can find everything here from simple to exotic. I love this enoteca and have been coming here for longer than I care to admit. You just can’t beat the atmosphere. While I love nearly everything about this place I have always been troubled by the wine by the glass offerings listed simply by appellation with no vintage or producer name provided. I have no issue with a bar listing Fractal or Pinot Grigio by the glass with no further explanation but serious wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo, or Amarone require more data. Luckily they always happy to show you the bottle before pouring.
To be honest there are better wine bars in the city but this place holds many great memories for me and that is enough to get me through the doors on each and every visit to Rome.
Via Dei Balestrari 12-14
Vicinanze Piazza Farnese
This has been a family-run wineshop since 1946 and evolved into a wine bar by the third generation. Shelves upon shelves of wine surround the tables. Cured meats, regional cheeses, smoked fish, and a selection of homemade dishes are offered to accompany the wine offerings. The wine selections run deep in the most popular regions but I wish that they offered a few more wines from Italy’s lesser known regions.
It’s located right off of Campo de’ Fiori and also near Piazza Farnese.
Via del Moro, 1 Piazza Trilussa, 41
This small and rustic wine bar is located near Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere. The wine bar is connected with the restaurant Ferrara that nearly occupies a block. The wine by the glass section is generous with about 30 in total and there are many more offered by the bottle. The staff is friendly and helpful.
Via del Monte della Farina 38
This quirky wine bar is most often referred to only by its nickname — the communist wine bar. They have earned this moniker with a number of Mao, Castro, and Soviet propaganda posters plastered to the walls.
To further the quirky vibe there is no menu rather a selection of wines that happen to be open offered by the glass and the opportunity to purchase bottles from a large shelf of wine. You can sit down and enjoy your wine for a very modest mark-up of the retail price. There is no food offered but you can bring in a snack from a local deli.
The wines offered are predominately from lesser known appellations making it a fun place to explore.
Il Vinaietto is located between Campo de’ Fiori and Largo de Torre Argentina.
Essenza Wine Bar
Via della Scala 27A (corner of Via Garibaldi)
Essenza is a relatively new wine bar in Trastevere. They offer clever mix of wine styles with nearly 50 bottles in sum. The decor is clean and modern and they are certainly a hit with the fashionable younger crowd in the neighborhood.
The food menu focuses on small plates of charcuterie and a very good selection of local cheeses. The Caprese con Bufala is a very tasty golf ball-sized globe of mozzarella di bufala served on a stick with a spoon of pesto and a grape tomato.
The service is very friendly and attentive and if you are in need of cocktails their bartenders are among the best.
Piazza Giuditta Tavani Arquati 114
VinAllegro offers perhaps the largest selection of wine in Trastevere. They are well-known for their free buffet in the aperitif hours (5 to 7) of the day so unless you wish to be elbow to elbow with a bar full of students you may want to visit late in the evening.
Their wine offering stirs mixed emotions as you can find something from all of Italy’s wine regions but the prices range from mildly expensive to near criminal. The bar is rather small while charming with an antique wooden bar and back bar and wine bottles lining much of the walls. If you are in Trastevere stop in for a glass.
Via dei Giubbonari, 21
In 2002, brothers Alessandro and Pierluigi decided to expand the family deli by adding a wine bar and restaurant. In additional space around the corner, wine and food tastings are also offered. Simple cuisine is their theme.
This place is very cool but sadly it’s one of the very few spots that is unwelcoming to visitors. Stop in for a quick glass to examine the picturesque deli display and then head out to one of the above mentioned wine bars and get treated like family.