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Report: Dining in Venice and Rome

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Just returned from two weeks in Italy, most of which was on a cruise, but we did have four glorious nights on our own to dine in Venice and Rome.

In Venice, we had one night to dine, and it was a Sunday. Heeding a recommendation from Indy67 from this forum, we reserved Trattoria da Fiore in Campo Stefano. We were glad we did! The ambiance was cozy and relaxed with an upscale and intimate/romantic edge. There were no English menus, but our server helped a bit. For a starter, I had an assorted seafood dish which included octopus, scampi, sardines, anchovies, etc. It was extremely fresh and very tasty. My husband tried the linguine with clams, which was very good but a little overly salted. For dinner, we both ordered the Branzini with artichokes and olives, a fresh and delicious choice. We also ordered a wonderful bottle of a Amarone which was unfortunately served way too chilly. Price: about 60 euro, including mineral water but not including wine. After dinner, we went to the Hotel Bauer to their terrace café overlooking the Grand Canal. We took in the incredible view and ambiance over very good espresso and biscotti.

In Rome we were fortunate enough to have three nights. For our first night, we chose Al Ceppo. Our experience here was mixed. The restaurant is lovely but a little to brightly lit, and the service was good. We ordered a delicious bottle of Barolo. Again, no English menu, but our server was proficient in English and he described everything on the menu that would go with Barolo. Unfortunately, I might have liked seafood, but he did not go into that portion of the menu. For starters, I ordered a tuna tartare dish that also contained scampi, from what I could glean from the menu. The tuna tartare was scarce on the plate, and the prevalent scampi was, er, raw and still attached to its head. I forced myself to try it, and surprising it was very nice, with a light vinagraite drizzled on the plate. My husband ordered a beef carpaccio, which he said was very good. For dinner I went with a filet, which was very disappointing. I didn’t really mind that it was pretty small, but it was very overcooked, tough, and was actually a bad cut of meat as well (a big inedible vein of cartilage or fat or whatever running through the center). But the wild mushrooms on the plate were delicious and the berry cabernet sauce was absolutely mouth-watering. My husband had a tasty taglione pasta with tomato sauce. Our desserts were amazing. I had the semifreddo, which was very chocolately and rich and velvety smooth, with a chocolatey crust. My husband’s warm chocolate tort was also excellent and oozed with hot gooey chocolate in the center. Price: 100 euros, including water but not including wine.

Night two began with a cocktail at Taverna del Campo, a bustling wine bar in the center of Campo de Fiori. A nice Prosecco for me and a glass of Chianti for the husband, and then we ordered a Campari and o.j. just to try it. It was a beautifully vivid red/orange color, and tasted a lot like grapefruit.

Then we walked to Al Bric for dinner, just outside of Campo de Fiori. The feel was nice and cozy. Known for the wine, the walls were decorated with the sides of wine crates from all over the world. We ordered an excellent Chianti, and started with an assorted plate of Italian cheeses, as well as a platter of thinly sliced cured meats. Both were excellent, as were the breads and breadsticks placed on the table. For our main courses, we both ordered pasta. I had the gnocci with octopus and a red sauce, which was more like a brownish almost gravy-like sauce. This dish was pure heaven and I’m not sure I’ll ever stop thinking about it. My husband had a rough edged pasta with a wild boar sauce, which he likened to a stew-like dish, and was also highly pleased with it. For dessert, we both had gelato, which was unremarkable. Price: 92 euro, including water but not including wine.

Our final night started with drinks at Hotel de Roussi right next to the Palace of the Popes. What a place! The garden in back is full of lovely tables, lush trees and flowers, and there was a solo guitarist playing under a couple of big lemon trees. A truly beautiful and relaxing atmosphere. They had an extensive specialty cocktail list, and I tried the Baby Peach Martini. This was actually just a dry martini with two crunchy unripe peaches the color and size of smallish green olives. Very different. With our drinks, the server put on our table homemade unsalted potato chips, assorted olives, nuts, dried fruit, fried risotto balls, and a couple of cured meat appetizers. Very tasty and a nice touch. Delicious (and expensive) drinks and lovely atmosphere.

Dinner to follow was at Camponeschi in Piazza Farnese. We chose this restaurant for its rave reviews and for the amazing fountain-front setting. When we got there, the fountain was all boarded up to our surprise, which was pretty disappointing. Our disappointment waned pretty rapidly as we enjoyed the beautiful restaurant (both inside and on the outside terrace), incredible food, and the best service we had in all of Italy during our stay. Our server was friendly and helpful and clearly experienced great joy in having us taste their dishes. We ordered a terrific Barolo (again), and started with an appetizer of artichokes roman style, meaning in a sauce of fava beans, large peas, and crispy bacon. Heavenly. We then moved on to a pasta course, spaghetti with a bacon and tomato sauce. A little salty, but still very, very tasty. For our main course, we had the Chateaubriand for two which was incredible. This involved a generous portion of perfectly cooked and very high quality tenderloin beef. I figured I would be able to finish only half of my portion, but I was wrong (ate it all). Accompaniments included little wedges of root vegetables, and some sort of a crispy bread-like disc sitting underneath the steak. We also ordered the specially offered side of the porcini mushrooms (without knowing the price), which was only fair and quite pricey (24 euro!). Part of them were a little gritty, and another part mushy. We were too full for dessert, but our server brought us some cookies and candies anyway, which of course we devoured. This was definitely our most expensive meal, but well worth it. I cannot remember the exact price, but it was in the range $125 euro, including water but not including wine.

We had various light lunches and slices of pizza and cups of gelato, but none of those were planned and I did not note the names of them all. Pretty much everything we had was at least good, and most of it was great. We had a very nice lunch of tuna salad for me and a caprese salad for my husband at Mignanelli24 in Piazza Mingnanell. The only terrible meal we had was lunch at a café called Ristorante Paolo, right by the Vatican entrance. Greasy bland pizza and a rubbery seafood salad for way too much money.

All in all, terrific and interesting food and wine, and a wonderful time.

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