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Shabbat and 2 weeks in Italy -- any Kosher advice?

We will be spending 2 weeks (including 1 shabbat) in Italy in Venice, Florence and Rome. Our shabbat is tentatively scheduled for Florence although we could do Rome instead. Any advice or experiences about Kosher restaurants in any of these 3 cities and shabbat experiences? I have the list of the kosher restaurants but was hoping to get advice about what was good and what was not. Thanks.

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  1. We went to Restaurant Gam Gam in Venice and had a great time there. This was 8+ years ago.

    1. IIRC, Rome had a better shabbos and kosher infrastructure than Florence. It's been almost exactly 10 years, so obviously things could have changed. We had great Israeli food in Rome. There was also a meat pizzeria that was good. The kosher restaurant in Florence next to the shul was just average. I don't remember eating in a kosher restaurant in Venice, but there was a kosher market, run by Chabad, that had all sorts of stuff.

      1. we were in florence for shabbos march 2001 chabad rabbi very hospitable. we were there for friday night and shabbat lunch. helps

        1. Gamgam in Venice. Try the moussaka and the pesto pasta. Both were delicious. The falafel to go was great too. Who would have thought about falafel in Italy, but it was even better than when I was in Israel. They did a renovation of the place, you can see the original venetian brick. We had a fun time and we didn't have to spend all our of savings to eat.

          1. We were in Italy last summer in the same cities you mention. Rome had the most kosher restaurants and many hotels walking distance to some of them. (We stayed in the Piazza Navona area.) I don't which if any are open for shabbat. La Taverna del Ghetto was great. Yotvata was good. Unfortunately we were there in August so many of the restaurants were closed for vacation. We ended up eating fast food some nights --MK restaurant I think, sort of like a kosher McDonalds and a meat sandwich shop next to it.
            We spent Shabbat in Florence. We stayed in a hotel right next to the shul and Ruth's restaurant. The food in Ruth's was good but the service is very slow. We ate at Chabad (around the corner from the shul.) The rabbi was very warm -- the food was very chabad -- filling but not at all glamorous. It was pay what you wish. (Ruth's ended up being closed for shabbat since it was vacation time, but they are often open for prepaid shabbat meals.) Finally, we did eat at Gam-Gam in Venice. The food was fine, but it was crowded and service was slow and they ran out of many of the choices. There is also a kosher pizza shop around the corner from Gam Gam that was good (and I believe a bakery that had sandwiches which we did not try in the same area.)
            Have a great time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: flo220

              Hi,

              I read your post about kosher places in rome. I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for a hotel near the kosher/jewish area. My family will be visiting rome in august and want to stay in a convenient location.

              Thanks,

              Sharon Kaplowitz (psychmom2k@aol.com)

            2. In Rome, all the kosher food is clustered in one neighborhood known as "The Ghetto". We ate at Yotvata a few times - it's a classy but relaxed milchig place. The service and food were great and the prices were reasonable. La Taverne is the upscale meat restaurant there. We found it to be quite good but no better than Yotvata and significantly more expensive. We also ate at a meat sandwich place once or twice (don't remember the name) that was fine, though nobody working there spoke any English so our inability to speak Italian made ordering rather confusing. The sandwich place also had a small grocery section, which turned out to be pretty convenient.

              As for the shul there, security is very tight so they ask some questions to make sure you're Jewish before they let you in. Calling ahead is very helpful.

              4 Replies
              1. re: LI Guy

                Definitely call ahead to the shul. As a result of a terrorist attack some years ago, the security is strict. Additionally, due a Papal edict when the shul was built, it doesn't look like a "traditional" synagogue from the outside. My friend and I walked right past it 3 times before an elderly man steered us right back when we asked "dove andare al synagogue?"
                Any of the places in " The Ghetto", that say" Chuiso Sabbato" are Shomer Shabbos, but if you ask in any of these spots during the week, the shopkeepers and customers will point you in the right direction of what's really good.

                  1. re: markabauman

                    With a background in Italian history and literature (with a thesis subject relevant to Carlo Levi, Primo Levi etc.) I do wish to correct an inaccuracy in the post by MRS - the main Synagogue of Rome, (Tempio maggiore di Roma) does not have a different look than many "traditional" synagogues due to a Papal edict, but exactly the contrary - the building of the new Synagogue was an expression of the emancipation of Italian Jews and received strong support from many progressives of Catholic origin who opposed the old Papal power over Rome and the other Papal States:

                    The lovely Synagogue in Florence was built with a similar idea in mind, but with a more traditional "Moorish" architecture. So was the Mole Antonelliana, which has become a symbol of Turin, though the architect's realisation became far too onerous for the relatively small Jewish community in that city.
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synagogu...

                    By the way, in Italian one does not say "shul", but "scola", with the same meaning of a synagogue as a place of study and learning.

                    All of which has nothing to do with food, I'm afraid...

                    1. re: lagatta

                      Hmmm...interesting. Thanks for the correction, lagatta. Perhaps I misunderstood the tour guide at the synagogue in Rome. She told a story about how the Pope at the time the shul was built deemed that no synagogue could be taller or more grand than any church. Maybe I got it wrong.
                      In any case, I hope that Flo220 brings loose pants...there is much eating to be done!

              2. We were in Italy in 2000. Ate at the vegetarian restaurant in Florence. Thing I remembered most was that there was something on the menu the waiter described as raw fish. As I'm not a fan of raw fish, did not order it. There were many American kosher diners in the restaurant and we all spoke to one another. I asked one person who I noticed ordered the "raw fish" and asked about it. She told me it was "lox." :).
                In Venice the Chabad restaurant, I'm guessing it's the Gam Gam was pretty good. We were able to go for shabbat without reservations or payment. It was almost a camp like atmosphere, with singing, etc. I understand sometimes they have a second seating. There was no charge, but when we got home, we sent Chabad a donation for the meals. I would definately recommend Venice for Shabbat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: hks315

                  I was in Florence Thanksgiving week in 2005. I ate at Ruth's a few times. The food was OK, but it was quite a hike from where we were staying. I remember eating a lot of fruit while I was there because there just aren't that many options if you don't eat treif. I had done a little research before going, and should have packed MREs (kosher meals ready to eat). My only advice is to be sure to pack something to eat if you are going to be there six days.

                2. It was requested that I post this on this topic page.

                  I wasn't pleased with Gam Gam in Venice (March2006) . But then my pejorative views on eating in Venice are matters of public record.

                  For Rome, I don't know if Sora Margherita Piazza della Cinque Scole 30 (tel 06 686 40 02) is Kosher. What most definitely IS Kosher is La Taverna del Ghetto, via del Portico d'Ottavia, 8 phone: 06 6880 97 71 or 0t 68212309 Closed Friday Night and Saturday at lunch, as you would expect. Even the wine is Kosher, and if one of the unwashed wants cream for his coffee or cheese, he'll get soy.

                  I ate here last Nov 2004 for dinner ("lunch" for y'all Yankees) just arriving in Rome after along flight. I sat outside at a table next to the curb. A Italian gentleman at the adjoining table asked me in English if he may smoke. Myself from the town that got rich from tobacco, I didn't refuse. He in turn told me the result of the American election. At the next table were a group of Israelis, skull cap on head. Try the Jewish artichokes.

                  I suppose you know already that Rome has its own Jewish rite along with the Sephardic and one Ashkenazy synagogue. Try the Central Synagogue. Venice is all Ashkenazy, as far as I can tell

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Sid Cundiff

                    As for the person who was looking for the hotel near the shul, central Rome is pretty small - even if you stay by the Piazza Del Popolo, it shouldn't be more than a 20 minute walk to shul.

                    If you're going to the Taverna, I would strongly encourage ordering pasta and staying away from the mixed grill. There is a kosher bakery on the same block that makes a 'roman pizza', which is an awesome dessert. There are also other pizza and fleishig fast food restaurants and a take-out/grocery shop on that block. Make sure to get a copy of 'the list' while at the grocery.

                    I spent a shabbos in Florence, ate upstairs at Ruth's for dinner Friday night (serviceable), and bought food at the kosher grocery down the block for shabbos lunch. Food was ok, but the shul there is beautiful. Stayed at a great hotel right by the shul - the Mona Lisa. Ask for a room overlooking the courtyard.