Rome: where is all the good food!
i will be in rome for three days in january. i love to eat! (hence chowhound!) i'm trying to pick a hotel and i want it to be close to some good, non touristy areas...what area in rome should i stay and what is in that area?
i'm considering a hotel by the colosseum....are there restaurants around there?
this is my first time. thanks!
I'll add to the growing list based on my visit to Rome early May 07:
Loved: Trattoria da Enzo located in Trastevere inbetween the river and Santa Cecelia in Trastevere. Few tables, very busy so get early or reserve ahead. No ambiance other than the love that shows through in the excellent food and good house wine. Has been mentioned in traveler guides, but is well recognized among the locals. We were there on Gnocchi Giovedí (Thurs) and it is a great primi. But many Roman specialties abound like the stuffed zucchini flowers, artichokes Judea, lamb, saltimbocca, etc. Yummy from starters to dessert. The only mediocre thing we had were the stuffed olives (olive ascolane). Affordable at 20-25Eur (plus wine) per person for a multicourse meal.
Augusto's is a tucked away osteria in Trastevere on Piazza de Renzi--a less picturesque but "everyday Roman" place near Piazza Santa Maria. Augusto's is more well known, so not quite as good a value, but has excellent quality Roman dishes--and they speak English fairly well just like at Enzo's. We thought the menu was a little less robust than expected. On the other hand they appear to focus on the dishes they're best at. (I like Enzo's better.) But crowded with locals, both in the number who want to eat, and the tight quarters for those who get in to eat. Get there early!
Biggest Disappointment: with the much raved Dar Poeta in Trastevere. Was at the top of my list for pizzerias to try for our weeks in Italy. It was the hype that did it in. Pretty much everyone was a tourist (including us! :-) ) with very few locals. Pizza was good, for sure, with some interesting topping choices. But the "famous" Nutella calzone dessert was sickeningly think and not lightened enough with ricotta. Definitely a tourist-trap concoction. The equally "famous" bruschetta misto was the worst we had in all our Italian travels. The bread was tough, the toppings poorly balanced and seasoned. I will give them props for the daring if way-too-wierd bruscetta topping of fry sauce (ketchup and mayo) and iceberg lettuce.
Preferred the pizzerias Ai Marmi (right on the main blvd in Trastevere) and La Montecarlo (not far from Piazza Navona). Ai Marmi is called "The Morgue" by locals, and was always PACKED with locals. Pizza was served fast, authentically and affordably. La Montecarlo is a particular gem because it stands out from the many average and overpriced eateries that crowd this area of the city. Excellent pizza, and pasta is pretty good (if understandably not their most famous). Good cold antipasta choices, too. It was packed with a good mix of young locals and tourists in a fun, loud atmosphere.
Pleasant surprise: the gelateria Old Bridge near the museum/Sistine queue along Vatican city wall. Not a place at all you'd expect to find a good gelato. But in the afternoon it was PACKED with locals, and we had to find out why. The gelato was very good, even if not artisan, and you got three flavors, plus creme, for only 1.5Eur. And a pretty good selection, too. Definitely the best gelato value we found among the seven cities in which we travelled.
Tried a few other trattorias in Trastevere. All were pretty good, and in total, speak well for the local atmosphere, good food, and good value to be found in this neighborhood--a "must visit" area of the city. But individually many were better at some dishes than they were at others. You can't go too far wrong just to walk over to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere and browse the nearby streets for something that catches one's fancy.
I grew up in Rome and return regularly (including an upcoming trip for the hoildays this year), though I live in NYC so I'm not up on the latest and greatest. But the thing about Rome (both good and bad) is that things change quite slowly, so you don't get the kind of quality rollercoaster that affects NYC restaurants with chefs constantly going solo, upgrading, diversifying, moving etc. Here are a few of my mainstays, some already mentioned:
1. Cul de Sac (no reservations). Encyclopaedic wine list. Good food but the wine is the star here. Get there at 7:30-45 and you shouldn't have a problem getting a table.
2. Enoteca Corsi (no reservations) for lunch.
3. Sora Margherita for jewish roman fare (no reservations). Try the artichokes alla giudia (fried) or alla romana (braised with aromatics) if they're in season.
4. Sora Lucia (in the Trevi area).
5. Fiaschetteria Beltramme (no reservations) for lunch. keep it simple - cacio e pepe, amatriciana etc. - and get there at 12:45 so you can be in the first seating at 1 PM or you'll have to wait. The same goes for Sora Margherita..
6. Matricianella near Fontanella Borghese (again, get here before 1PM or reserve).
7. Tram Tram, in San Lorenzo. Pretty out of the way but this is in a cool neighborhood and has a good wine list to pair with spicy southern food.
8. Upscale: Il Pagliaccio. Last January one of the chef/owners, who was friends with one of our party, told us he had gone a little crazy with one of his purveyors and produced a tennis ball-sized truffle. Needless to say it made ordering pasta that much easier. The cuisine is much more ambitious than your average italian, and generally good.
9. For gelato, forget La Palma, Giolitti etc. (which are all very good) and head straight for San Crispino, which is ridiculously good - and right next to the aforementioned Sora Lucia.
10. I like to go to La Sacrestia near the Pantheon for pizza, which is an otherwise rather non-descript touristy joint, but my Roman friends go to la Montecarlo, near Piazza Navona. I think it's a subtle protest against nearby Baffetto's popularity. And here I might mention that Romans (and Italians in general) tend to have rather calcified opinions of their restaurants, like the idea that restaurant X is the only place to have such and such a dish - usually a piece of received wisdom, or an opinion formed years before. All of this to say that the locals are not always right, as Albinoni discovered first hand.
Also, try to get a reservation when you can, as Rome is not one of those places where people reserve a month, or even a week in advance. Most of the time same day for dinner will be just fine.
Places I haven't tried but want to:
- Trattoria Monti (one of Frank Bruni's favorite places - and now apparently getting a lot more NYT readers)
- Giuda Ballerino - out of the way towards Cinecittá but apparently very good
- Obika - mozzarella bar - though it could turn out to fall in the category of restaurants trying to appeal to "trendy" romans. That is generally a red flag for me as those places tend to suck.
Have a great trip and I agree with Sid that your choice of hotel in the Piazza Navona area is smarter, if less original, than staying near the Colosseum, as it is more central and doesn't involve traipsing up and down the Celio.
Ok, I have to say something about Gelato (which I am kind of a nut about). I just came back from my 2nd trip to Rome in the last 5 years. The first time I went, Giolitti was the big gun, that was THE place to go. But, before going on my 2nd trip to Rome I read a lot of guide books and heard that San Crispino was really THE place to get gelato in Rome. On top of that we had some other gelato places recommended and I decided to try San Crespino and a few other places.
What a waste of time. I never had BAD gelato, but myself and the 3 other people I went with all agreed, Giolitti was hands down better than all the others. San Crispino seemed a little too interested in making "different" flavors that we didn't find all that appealing. Even the standard "stracciatella" etc. were not amazing. I get the idea, but it just isnt as enjoyable. I'm glad I tried the other spots but at the same time I can't help but think that I could have had a few more cones at Giolitti instead!
I vote for Trastevere. Visited in May and stayed there. It isn't tourist-free, but most of the English you'll hear will be from students who live there, not the fly-in tourists. Less touristy than the neighborhoods described above. We rented an apartment and were very happy (note: locals party late there -- bring earplugs as sound reverberates off the stone buildings and streets as anywhere in Rome). Favorite restaurants (not fine dining but excellent food) of the trip in that general area were:
Dar Poeta, incredible pizza in a very neighborhoody joint. On Vicolo dei Bologna. tucked away, a bit hard to find. Perfectly charred thin crust. Try the signature Dar Poeta pizza with really excellent sausage and something a little spicy. The bruschetta are perfect and the nutella and ricotta calzone for dessert.
Alle Fratte di Trastevere -- go on Sunday when families go after church and the menu has great specials. Everything we tried was mouth-watering wonderful. Cozy dining room, excellent service. No tourists in sight.
Ar Galleta (sp?)-- a bit south of Campo di Fiori (closer to the river) in a piazza I can't remember the name of that starts with an F and has a manor/palace in it with the same name. The eggplant parm was delightful, caprese excellent, nice service in a beautiful outdoor courtyard.
If in Trastevere, the best cafe and gelato are right next to each other -- I think on Via Benedetta very close to the Ponte Sisto (bridge). Same name, same owner, different door fronts -- both very small.
We stayed in Trastevere on our recent visit and enjoyed it. Da Othello has a magnificent antipasti bar; I've never seen one like it, and all of the vegetables and meats on it were delicious. Overall the pasta and secondi were better at La Strada, though. We had pizza at Da Ivo, and although it was OK, I didn't see why it's touted as one of the best in Rome. I wish we had tried Dar Poeta.
I have an old favorite in the otherwise poor-food area of the Colosseum: Ostaria da Nerone Via delle Terme di Tito 96. phone 06 48 17 952. Closed SU. If your cardiologist allows, try the fettucine alla Nerone: cream, salami, ham, peas, mushrooms, and eggs. Otherwise, see my post under "Eating in Rome".
In Florence, the Cinghiale Bianco restaurant in Oltrarno offers pasta with white truffles - however I had a big problem with them on my one visit - the person next to me was served at least twice as many as I was,and nicer pieces. Tourist evidently = second class citizen that day.
yes and no. It wont be as convenient for transit, and it will be a more crowded area to walk in (more tourists, business/government office workers than residents), but its definitely a beautiful, interesting, historic part of Rome and there are many, many restaurants around. I recommend (have recommended before) Trattoria Armando al Pantheon, for very delicious, traditional Roman food in a comfortable setting and at a reasonable price. Their lamb dishes (abacchio), chicoria (if you like salt, garlic and bitter greens!) pasta carbonara, guinea hen and duck, among other things, are unbeatable. 5 of us went for two full meals on our last visit, and the Only losers were the veg soup and saffron pasta that my then-vegan daughter ordered. Sora Margherita in the Ghetto is a classic Roman lunch experience (no reservations but they handle it very well)
Go to San Eustachio Bar for excellent coffee and granita di cafe. People like Bafetto for pizza, near you, and there are many other recommend places you will find if you do a search of this Board and International (to pick up the older posts. YOu will probably be out and about in the daytime in other parts of the city which means that you will likely be lunching away from home, so you may want to get reccs for other areas - there are plenty of them on the Board for the Vatican area, for example. Slowfood.it and the Gambero Rosso guide specific to Rome restaurants, winebars and food shops (purchasable in Rome, in Italian but readable) offer other worthy suggestions.
I've been to Rome every year since 1998, the year where I made the mistake of staying near the train station. I've stayed ever since in two hotels just northeast of Piazza Navona; I've been content ever since.
Around Piazza Navona or the Pantheon, in terms of location, just couldn't be better. Rome (and Europe) is a shoe-leather culture. You can walk to all sights worth seeing, and if the walk is long, then you have the reward of compelling sights on the way. For Rome is utterly unique for history: 27 centuries, each leaving a mark; throw in the obelisks, and you have 35 centuries.
With, Navona as the center of your circle, your radii will be equidistant to the Vatican, Trastevere, the Villa Borghese, and the San Giovanni in Laterno – and most sights will be within the circumference so formed. The subway, bus, and cab will get you everywhere else (Santa Croce, San Lorenzo, San Paolo, Baths of Caracalla, Santa Agnese and catacombs, Santa Priscilla Catacombs, etc). And the subway will get you to the trains stations Termini or Stazione Ostiense; from there local trains can take you to Ostia Antica and other sites more removed. It’s only to Tivoli and Hadrian’s Villa that the trip’s a chore.
Granted, at Navona you'll be a bit removed from the subway (you'll have to walk to the station at the Spanish steps: Spagna), but the subway really skirts most of the main sights, rather than going to them. The route to Spagna from Navona is so interesting that you might not make it to your destination because of lovely distractions – a common problem in Rome. From the north end of Navona, at the fine museum of the Palazzo Altemps (w/the sublime Ludovisi Throne), take Via San Agostino past the church of the same name (maybe the best Quattrocento church in Rome, w/fresco by Raphael, painting by Caravaggio, sculpture by the Sansovinos, Bernini, and Ferrata), and turn left at Via della Scroffa. Look on your right for the delicatessen Volpetti, if you plan to picnic. At Piazza Nicosia, turn right into the via d. Clementino; you’ll see in the distance the Spanish steps. The streets runs past the Palazzo Borghese, then the street’s name changes to Via di Condotti, one of the world’s premier streets for fashion. Just before the Spanish steps, look for the Caffe Greco. A the Spanish steps, turn left, and you see the red M for metro on your right.
For the Via Appia, Google in “Archeobus”, which will take you to the closer stretches of the Way.
To walk everywhere has another advantage than just a treat for the eye. Ever wonder why Italians look thin?
There is a downside: Food in this part of town cost more.
Restaurants that I can recommend in the Navona area:
1. for cappucino: Ciampini, Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina 29
2. for espresso: Tassa d’Oro, at the Pantheon on Via Oriani; Caffé Sant’Eustachio, Piazza Sant'Eustachio 82; Camillioni di Sant’Eustachio, Piazza di S. Eustachio 54, across the street from Sant’Eustachio, and for simple espresso just as good
3. for more of a sit-down Parisian café: Antico Caffe della Pace, Via d. Pace.
4. for ice cream: Giolitti, Via Ufficio del Vicario 40, the Holy Grail of ice cream, however curt the service; Tre Scalini, Piazza Navona 30 (28-32). for the tartufo (be sure you’re at the right place, since another bar next door has a similar name)
5. for budget dining (and budget in this part of town isn’t really budget): Enoteca Corsi, via dei Gesu 87, lunch only: forget the menu and read what’s posted on the blackboard outside; Da Francesco. Piazza del Fico 29, esp. the antipasto and vegetables.
6. for midprice: La Campana, Vicolo della Campana 18: you may not like the stiff service or lack of English, but you can’t complain about the food; Armando al Pantheon, Salita de Crescenzi (near the Pantheon); La Taverna da Giovanni, via Banco di Santo Spirito 58
7. for High End Fine Dining: Il Convivio- Troiani, Vicolo dei Soldeati 31, my favorite in Rome; Enoteca Capranica, Piazza Capranica 99/100: not as good as Il Convivio, but good all the same, esp. for wine.
8. for food with a view: Di Rienzo, Piazza del Pantheon 8/9, phone 06 68 69 097 has gas heaters in winter, and ask to be seated at the edge to be able to view the world’s greatest building, esp sublime in the evening, and the street “theater” even more amusing; Il Domiziano Piazza Navona 88, the best I’ve found for a view in the Piazza Navona.
The following come recommended, but as I’ve yet to eat there, I can’t comment, and leave it up to other Chowhounds to judge:
Da Gino, Vicolo Rosini 4;
Tre Archi da Loreto. Via dei Coronari 233;
Fraterna Domus, Via dell Cancello 6, lunch seating 1pm, dinner 730, reservations required;
Antica Taverna. Via Monte Giordano 12;
Trattoria Da Gino e Pietro. Corner of Via del Governo Veccio 106 and Vicolo Savelli 3;
Vecchia Locanda vicolo Sinibladi 2; Romilo, Via di Campo Marzio, 13;
Al Vicario Via degli Uffici del Vicario;
Maccheroni, Piazza delle Coppelle, 44;
Ristorante Montevecchio, Piazza Montevecchio, 22a;
Trattoria Filippo La Mantia, Via delle Cornachie;
wine bar Cul de Sac Piazza Pasquino 73;
lunch: Trattoria da Tonino al Governo Vecchio. Via del Governo Veccio 16/19;
lunch: Trattoria, Via dei Banchi Nuovi 8,
lunch: Palladini. via del Governo Vecchio 29;
supper: Pizzeria da Baffetto. Via del Governo Veccio 114;
al fresco: Caffe Barocco, Piazza Navona;
L'Angoletto, Piazza Rondanini 55;
Venetian: El Toula via della Lupa 29;
seafood: Quinzi & Gabrielli via delle Coppelle 6.
I’m sure I’ve overlook many.
– Sid Cundiff
The Colosseum area (Im not sure exactly where exactly you mean) is central, has all kinds of attractions nearby as well as a metro stop, bus and tram lines to all parts of rome. You can (we have) walked virtually everywhere in the central city when staying there.
Second, there are plenty of restaurants within easy reach, on the Caelian (the neighborhood toward the Lateran, in Monti,Testaccio (a 5 min tram ride), etc etc, and there are food shops, a good bakery etc,and a nice neighborhood daily fruit and veg market in the Caelian (via San Quattro Coronati) Some of the restaurants were mentioned on a thread just a couple of days ago. If you can be more specific about where you are staying in this hilly neighborhood (you may not want to climb over a big hill to get your dinner, for example) we can give you more specific advice. One thing for sure, though, you will have a wonderful experience in Rome.
re: jen kalb
re: Hungry Celeste
I agree, my favorite lunch in Rome from my Novenber trip was at 313 Cavour. For the language impaired, the waiter spoke perfect english and went out of his way to translate all the daily specials. They had an english language menu as well. The food was great, lots of organic and artisan products. I stood up front and watched the two guys put together all of the plates of food from a vast array of vegetables,meats,cheeses and condiments. Good selection of wine by the glass if you don't want to drink a bottle at lunch time.
We had a wonderful meal at Vecchia Roma (Via della Tribuna di Campitelli). I read about it in "City Secrets Rome" (a wonderful little book you must check out if you haven't already) and it didn't disappoint. If you're out and about and want to grab a quick bite for lunch, I had one of the best sandwiches of my life at a little shop directly to the right of the Pantheon as you face it. Sorry I can't remember the name but it's incredible! Have fun.
Just got back from Rome last week, so I can possibly help you out.
We stayed at a very nice boutique hotel called The Hotel Aventino. It is located in the neighborhood of the same name. (I found it through venere.com, a very valuable resource for locating hotels in every price range in Italy and elsewhere in Europe). It is in a beautiful and quiet residential neighborhood just south of the Circus Maximus. Although the immediate neighborhood has no shops, it is just a few minutes' walk down the hill to a major artery (Via Marmorata)which divides Aventino from Testaccio, where there are lots of restaurants and food-oriented shops. We became regulars at a pasticceria near the bus stop. We had dinner at one neighborhood restaurant (Il Bucatino) which we thought was terrible, but was filled up mostly with locals (so much for the old advice that tourists should eat where locals do--sometimes the locals don't know a thing about good food). Two nights later we ate at a take-out place/cafeteria that had some tables--it was connected with a very highly regarded gourmet shop next door (Volpetti) and the food was very good, and reasonable. Best of all, it was open at 6:00 pm, too early for dinner for most Romans, and we were tired, hungry, and in no mood to wait for dinner. It was perfect for that night.
The Hotel Aventino is part of a small chain of hotels in the same neighborhood, and there is a restaurant at its sister hotel that is only open to hotel guests. It is one of the few restaurants that is open on Sundays. The restaurant is beautiful--all-glass building in the middle of a garden, candles everywhere. The food was consistently excellent, not overpriced, and there was a very nice choice of wines. The service was wonderful We enjoyed the place so much we ate there four out of the six nights we spent in Rome.
I don't know why I haven't seen this post before, but I want to say how much I agree with it. The Aventino is a residential neighborhood and the hotels are discreet, while Testaccio, just below the Aventine Hill has all the liveliness and food anyone could want. Il Bucatino can indeed ba awful, or it can be just what you want: It's true locals are often the worst people to ask, which is partly because many simply don't know good food, but it's also because locals will always order the same few things they know they like and newcomers may well order things that shouldn't have been on the menu in the first place and which locals would never have. In the specific case, however, Il Bucatino used to be better. Da Remo has the best pizza in Testaccio, or at least famously very good pizza, and Checchino dal 1887 is an excellent upscale restaurant serving unreconstructed traditional food.