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Rome Restaurants -- Concierge Recommendations -- What Do You Think?

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After much research on this board and others, I contacted our concierge at the St. Regis Grand in Rome and asked for his recommendations for two dinners (one in Trastevere, the other near Piazza Navona or the Pantheon.) We are looking for excellent food, service and ambience. We want to walk and explore Rome before or after dinner, and therefore, we are not looking for a 3-hour dining extravaganza. Price is not as important as quality, service and comfort. Here are the restaurants the Concierge recommended (some of which I have seen discussed on these boards, others unknown to me.) What would you advise?

"Upscale" Restaurants:
1. Antica Pesa (Trastevere)
2. Piperno (Jewish Ghetto)
3. Il Cantuccio (Piazza Navona)
4. Al Moro (Trevi Fountain) * I did see discussion about the staff at Al Moro being snippy and indifferent?

"Casual" Restaurants:
1. La Pentolaccia (near St. Regis Grand)
2. Santopadre (10 minutes walk from St. Regis Grand)
3. Nino (Spanish Steps)
4. Pierluigi (Campo dei Fiori)

I also asked the Concierge about Antico Arco (Trastevere) and Quinzi e Gabrieli (Pantheon). He agreed that these restaurants are both "very good," and then, he added his own suggestions.

I am totally overwhelmed with restaurants! That's why we take cruises -- so that we don't have to decide where to eat each night. Please help and advise what to do! Thank you!

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  1. I, too, am interested in any comments on Antico Arco.

    1. We were in Rome last week and had 2 wonderful dinners. Il Pagliaccio on Via dei Banchi Vecchi near Piazza Navona ---creative cooking in a cool space and Baby in Hotel Aldrovani in the Parioli area. Neither place is like a typical Roman restaurant!

      4 Replies
      1. re: trav

        Please tell me more about Baby - is that operated by the Iaccarino family from Don Alfonso? Thanks, Jeremy

        1. re: Jeremy M

          Yes it is.

          1. re: trav

            How does it compare to Don Alfonso?

            1. re: Jeremy M

              Sorry I've never dined there.

      2. I highly recommend Qunizi e Gabrieli. It's an upscale restaurant with wonderful service. They specialize in seafood. I first questioned about it since Rome is not exactly next to any large body of water, but I was overwhelmed by this place. Lobster spaghetti and linguine with clams were one of a kind. I have not had anything that great here in the States. For appetizer, we had a platter of raw fish which did not taste like Japanese sashimi. I guess seafood there is totally different than seafood here in the States.

        1 Reply
        1. re: poisontea

          "I first questioned about it since Rome is not exactly next to any large body of water...." Check your geography the Med. is 20 minutes away.

        2. Im sympathetic with your difficulty in making this choice. We could start whole threads about whether concierge recommendations are reliable in looking for good food or how to find a good restaurant in Rome. There are online or paper guides geared to American Tourists (Fodors, etc) there are European or Local guides (Gambero Rosso, Michelin, Espresso, Veronelli, etc) and then there are discussion boards like this that are focussed on food where you can receive personal recommendations. and there is the fallback of the concierge recommendation. Each of these sources has its limitation and advantage.

          A boards like this tend to develop favorites and we dont have the massive numbers to know everything about all the restaurants in a city the size of Rome. There are lots or restaurants that I know are well respected, from Slowfood, Gambero Rosso and other sources, that I have never seen discussed. On the other hand, At least if you use a resource like this Board you will know that the person giving the recommendation really cares about food- and will normally be scrupulous in recommendations.

          On-line and paper guides are also limited - they cannot review and rate every restaurant, so there are going to be many, even very good ones that are not covered. and they do not always catch up with changes. In Italy, I would tend to rely more on local guides like Gambero Rosso and Slowfood than the american books.

          About concierge recommendations, a concierge theoretically is close to the ground and should know whats good, right? But I wonder whether a concierge has been to the restaurants he recommends, second, he may have received a consideration to recommend certain places and third, his job is to please the tourists and place them somewhere that tourists tend to be pleased. Since not all tourists are chowhounds and tourists tend to want to eat in the most touristy places (such as piazza navona) a concierge's recommendations are likely to be canted that way.

          If you want to be near the Pantheon/Piazza Navona and not pay too much, I will recommend my old favorite, Armando al Pantheon. Its been written about a lot here - its pleasant, civilized, non-glitzy, with classic roman food, and is not particularly expensive. Indoor dining only.

          For what its worth, my Gambero Rosso 2005, for Rome lists and rates both Antico Arco and Quinzi e Gabrieli as well as Armando al Pantheon while none of the others recommended by your concierge are listed.

          Good luck and enjoy.

          1. Antica Pesa no longer exists, I believe.
            Piperno is very good. Il Cantuccio looks like a bordello from the outside, so I have never gone in, but someone recently said they'd had a good meal. Al Moro is unreliable, occasionally brilliant, but but but.

            Never heard of Casual 1 and 2. Nino is faux casual, with some glitzy people, many tourists, inexplicable fame. It's a good old classic, part Tuscan, hanging in there for generations. I think I may have eaten at Pierluigi decades ago but have never managed to get back. Americans love it, and I haven't spoken to any Italians who have been there. (I'm not being snotty, it's sheer demographics.)

            Antico Arco is on the Giancolo and is very good.
            Quinzi e Gabrieli is generally considered to be awful and expensive, and that was certainly my one experience. FWIW it lost its Michelin star at some point and I don't know whether it has got it back. Another poster writes of a good experience, so maybe the crisis is over.
            Concierges are generally the last people you should ask, except if you just need to know about a place around the corner because you're hungry.

            1. We just returned from Rome last night. Pierluigi was superb.....light wonderful pastas and good fish and seafood. Quincy and Gabrieli is hands down the best restaurant we have eaten in in Rome. The lobster Catalana is fantastic unlike anything here in the states, and their pasta with lobster as a starter is always great. Don't overlook their deserts, they too are wonderful. The service is friendly and very professional. We have atleast one dinner there on the terrace everytime we are in Rome. Please report back and let us know where you dined and how you liked them.

              9 Replies
              1. re: dlgc

                I beg to differ with mbfant. We had dinner at Pierluigi twice this week, and there were local italian families dining next to us both times. Tuesday evening there were quite a few locals enjoying the warm evening on the Piazza, and the great food.

                1. re: dlgc

                  These posts are great. I'll be in Rome staying at the De Russie on Thursday and have set up Dal Bolognese, Le Jardin de Russie, Piperno, De Rienzo Michele, and Sabatini (haven't been back in twenty years). With some tba inbetween any thoughts? Per favore.

                  1. re: EATTV

                    Okay, thanks for all of your suggestions. Three more questions that I have: I know that Antica Arco is located on the "edge" of Trastevere. 1) How far (or how long a walk is it) from the restaurant to the main Square in Trastevere? 2) We either want to walk before dinner or dine, and then, walk after dinner. I guess that means dinner at 7:30 or 9:30 or later. When does everything come to life? Its probably easier for us to walk before dinner (before wine!), but we want to do our exploring at the height of the "action" so that we have lots of interesting things to explore. When would you recommend we make our reservations -- early or late? 3) Because we want time to walk and explore, I am concerned how long dinner lasts at Antica Arco. Can we get in and out within 2 hours? Thanks for the help!

                    1. re: MalibuCA

                      It is not exactly on the edge of Trastevere except on a two-dimensional map. It is on the Janiculum Hill, a fair hike above Trastevere. You probably don't want to combine it with walking in Trastevere, though if you go directly to the Parco Garibaldi before dinner, if it's still light, you'll have a splendid view of Rome and can walk a bit. I personally try to avoid walking in Trastevere at night, but to each his own. I can't stand the crowds and confusion and prefer daytime there, for the shopping. 7.30 is for tourists, if you even find a restaurant open. 8 is good. It's quite early, but you'll get some attention before things heat up. Two hours is about right, but these are not meals at which you should be looking at your watch. In any case, the walk between Antico Arco and Santa Maria in Trastevere is about 30 min uphill and 15/20 downhill.

                      1. re: mbfant

                        The walk to Antico Arco is even longer when you're pushing a stroller during a downpour, as I found out a few years ago. The cooking is kind of sformato-happy, but not bad in spite of that.

                        BTW, we should all be grateful for the presence on the Italy board of Maureen Fant, who quite literally wrote the book on trattorie. Her book Trattorias of Rome, Florence, and Venice is a few years old now, but still very much worth picking up.

                        1. re: condiment

                          You are too kind!

                          I can't even imagine (a) hiking up that hill in the conditions you describe and (b) what the restaurant did with the stroller once you got there. "Sformato-happy" is an excellent way to describe what we might call the discovery of refinement or the dawn of presentation -- a technique whereby upscale but not fancy-schmancy restaurants, like Antico Arco, distinguish themselves from the tradition of what I call fettuccine-in-faccia. The flans have generally calmed down a bit, but Ant Arco has a perennial parmigiano flan antipasto that's really very good.

                          BTW I am informed that Antica Pesa is actually alive and kicking. I'll have to go back and see what I saw that made me think it had closed.

                    2. re: EATTV

                      Definitely try the bronzini at Dal Bolognese...divine. Love their atmosphere, dine outside if weather permits. I would skip Sabatini. For lunch during the week, go to Sora Margherita, so charming, like being in Nonna's kitchen. Their artichoke Judea is fantastic. Hostaria Costanza has ethereal risotto with zucchini flowers along with fragments of Pompey's Theater arches embedded in the walls. The best white house wine goes to Trattoria Monti & Mama's sons, Enrico & Daniele get my vote for best eye candy. Their ravioli with an egg in the middle is superb. Claudia is my husband's favorite server at her family's lunch only restaurant, Trattoria Corsi. She is beautiful & sweet & the food is great. You can even order 1/2 portions so that you may try 2 pastas for lunch. Ah, Roma, my favorite city in the world.

                      1. re: RomeAddict

                        You seem to be quite the Roman fan! I'm going to Italy for the first time at the end of October, and couldn't be more excited about it. I've been wanting to go for years and we're going for our honeymoon. I'm looking forward to seeing it all in person. I took 3 years of Latin and Roman History, but that was quite some time ago! We're spending 2 to 3 days in Rome before going to Florence and we'll be flying out of Venice. I'd really like to take a night to go to a nice family winery where we can stay, eat a wonderful meal and have wonderful wine!

                        But, back to my point....Do you have any suggestions of places to stay in Rome? Our flight gets in at 6:30am on a Sunday, so a place that will let us drop off our bag before check-in while we walk around would be ideal. Any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated! And I've got Trattoria Corsi on my list!

                    3. re: dlgc

                      Pierluigi was lovely in May - as was La Campana and Matricianella....

                  2. Just to add to some of the other comments-
                    I think that Il Pagliaccio and Baby are really good as well (I went to Don Alfonso about a year ago I think, was disappointed. Not my idea of a 2 star restuarant, but maybe it was an off night) .
                    Armando is great and manages to please tourists without alienating their devoted local following
                    Pierluigi - I would a agree that we generally consider it a tourist restuarant. Expensive for the quality of the food, but its true that its nice to eat outside there if you can stand the street musicians. I've found it to be a good place to bring out of town work contacts on an expense account, they have a really extensive menu so something for everyone.
                    I returned to Antico arco about a month ago after not going for several since years since they had gone downhill. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great, and in the beginning it was so I went away disappointed. It doesn't seem like its the best place for a quick dinner...
                    I would stay away from Sabatini...

                    1. Piperno and Pierluigi are good choices. Just to add one more (not that you need more suggestions...), my favorite restaurant in Roma is Porto di Repetta. Smaller place just off Piazza del Popolo. Family run - they have farm outside of town where they grow produce. Maitre D' speaks English and glad to chat and make recommendations. Often he has served something special as appetizer that was fresh from the farm that day and he had a few to offer some guests. Via di Repetta 250 web.tiscali.it/portodiripetta website

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dinoindc

                        Just curious: is it Porto di R-I-petta?