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Top 5 places to eat in Rome, Florence and Venice

  • k

I did a search on these 3 cities earlier and I am just so overwhelmed by all the info. I simply do not have the time to go through the whole process of selecting. I am wondering if anyone can just come up with the top 5 places to eat in these cities as if you are entertaining families and friends from out of town. We are not interested in high end places, especially ones that would require 4 to 5 hours to consume a meal. So far, this is what I have:

Rome -- Armando Al Pantheon, La Campana, Antico Forno, Pierluigi, Ristorante del Pallaro.
Florence -- ViniE Vecchi Sapori, La Casalinga, Tattoria Garga, Le Fonticine
Venice -- Fiaschetteria Toscana, Osteria di Santa Marina, Da Fiore, La Zucca.

Thanks for all your inputs.

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  1. Rome--Armando is OK, Campana is tired, Antico Forno a bakery, not a restaurant. Pierluigi is popular but I've never been. Pallaro, forget.
    Florence--don't know your list exc Casalinga, which has many devotees but left me pretty cold
    Venice--Fiaschettria very good, upscale but not fancy-schmancy. Da Fiore is super but perhaps more than you want. Never been to the others.

    1. I think top 5 is highly subjective (totally different for different people) and tired too. Its about as easy to pick the top 5 in a city like Rome as it would be in NY, London or Chicago. Most people making those picks will pick the ritziest most ambitious and obvious places, because its too difficult to do otherwise - and I would venture to say that few of us have the depth of experience to even start making such a judgement from their own experience. If you dont want to just follow a US or UK foodguide - fodors, timeout, New York Times etc have perfectly respectful reccomendations these days - you can look to european review and rating sources such as Gambero Rosso, L'Espresso, MIchelin, Veronelli, Slowfood. you will start to get a little deeper into the local restaurant culture, which is a lot more extensive that the top group of foreign tourist picks.
      the link below takes you to a page where, at the bottom the top picks of some of the above rating sources are accumulated.
      http://www.2night.it/v2/nazionale/spe... Might give you some more ideas.
      Second, a map, like that in the Red Michelin, the RoughGuide plastic map, that actually shows the restaurants on a map is a good planner, since you may wind up in areas you didint expect to be at mealtime.

      I dont recognize your Florence picks - might be a good thing.
      For Venice, these places are all quite expensive - Da Fiore in particular is going to set you back well over 200 euros even if you order their cheapest bottle of wine; Alla Zucca probably the cheapest.
      Finally, if you want reccs from this board, think of what kind of cuisine you want (fish or meat, casual or dressy, homestyle or stylish and innovative), how much you want to pay and people can probably recommend better.

      1. dont miss..zibibbo in firenze its my fave

        1. In Venice, except for the luxury hotel dining rooms, Fiaschetteria Toscana and Da Fiore are as about as high end as one can get. I had some of the best meals at Fiachetteria Toscana. Am not so lucky with Da Fiore but probably dued to my own preference.

          7 Replies
          1. re: PBSF

            We had a great meal at Al Covo in Venice a little over a week ago... did the tasting menu, had 5 courses of fish. We really enjoyed it.

            1. re: firecooked

              i am not a big fan of al covo, it is recommended in many guides, magazines, websites etc..however it is just average food imho,it gets a lot of usa ink, owned by americans at one point..is it still ??

              1. re: intrepid

                The co-owner and wife of the chef is Diane Benelli, Texan-born but very Venetian-ized (sorry). Her husband, Cesare Benelli, is one of the very few restaurateurs in Venice (along with Da Fiore) to go to the trouble and expense of procuring the best local seafood. His cooking style is very respectful of his fabulous ingredients, so it may sometimes seem simple. Diane makes the desserts and runs the dining room, and I think she's great. I haven't been to Venice for a few years, but it was always one of my favorites and indeed I am responsible for some of that ink. Fiaschetteria Toscana and Fiore are my other faves. I also like Osteria da Bacco, but as i said, it's been a while.

                1. re: mbfant

                  mbfant..i often have enjoyed your articles( nytimes, etc), had found them very useful, and on target.appreciate your work..thank you

                  1. re: mbfant

                    Agree they are getting the best seafood. The only problem with the American ink is the Americans who don't know to turn off their Blackberry's at dinner!

                  2. re: intrepid

                    I am also an Al Covo fan, have been going there since it opened. I think Americans are put off by other Americans in the dining rooms. But, we often visit in the off season and there are also plenty of Venetians, especially at Sunday lunch. I recommend going at lunch anyway because you get better attention without it being crowded. The fish is the finest you will find in Venice AND it is Venetian food, not always the case at Da Fiore. I think Da Fiore could be in almost any European capital. Al Covo has recently added more meat to the menu, large because the fish is becoming harder and too expensive to serve. Go while you can still get the good stuff. You'll never find any frozen food asterisks at Al Covo.

              2. Just returned and the charm of Pierluigi was missing due to the heavy road construction in front of it...forget sitting outside unless you have a penchant for construction workers and the deafening roar of heavy equipment.
                DO dine at La Fiammetta. Don't miss the eggplant parmiagiano...sublimely divine. I'm dreaming of it now. Great everything there! Love this place.
                The risotto w/zucchini flowers at Hosteria Costanza is addictive it's so fabulous. And, you dine among the ruins of some arches of Pompey's Theatre where Julius Ceasar met his demise. Too bad he didn't have the risotto first!
                Alla Rampa beside the Spanish Steps serves a lip-slurping-great spaghetti con vongole. Magnificent antipasti spread for lunch.
                Ditirambo gets best cacio e pepe for me! Don't miss their pear & gorgonzola appetizer souffle if it's on the menu. Ethereal!
                For Venice--love Da Ivo, particularly if you snag the table by the lagoon.
                I think there should be a list of signature dishes at the trattorias. I've started mine!

                1. hello,
                  i'm from Rome, i think i can help but only for this city, as i've been to florence and venice but i don't feel i can suggest for that cities...
                  well... all of you named a lot of... but it's all about tourists places..

                  you want to eat the real roman cuisine in a real roman places? forget about all this fake-atmosfera and super expensive places...

                  a couple of spots where you HAVE to go..

                  TRASTEVERE AREA
                  ARISTOCAMPO - via della lungaretta (roman and genuine, the owner Roberto wander around for countryside in search of genuine products to serve)
                  AUGUSTO - piazza de renzi (on the corner, no display, very simple place, the guys are a little rough but you'll eat like you're guest in someone's home)
                  FRONTONI - viale trastevere (it's not a restaurant, but for lunch you go and take warm pizza crowded with whatever you want, i suggest mortadella)

                  ....if you want more just ask....
                  PALLARO is also nice...


                  12 Replies
                  1. re: nowhere

                    A few little points.

                    There are very few places in Rome that have both fake atmosphere and good food, true enough. But I object to warning people off genuinely good restaurants just because they cook fine, innovative food and set the tables appropriately for it, which comes at a price. Much as I love real Roman food, I think even visitors can benefit from a little variety, and many very real trattorias are not that good. My real Roman husband and I went to Augusto once, and he was completely underwhelmed. It is NOT like being a guest in someone's home since the element of hospitality is completely lacking, and most Romans probably eat better at home. We certainly do -- though, again, I've only been once and not recently. I do love Frontoni (I like bresaola con crema di carciofi), and will check out Aristocampo. But I think today you are not going to find the real Rome even in Trastevere, and with the galloping gentrification of Testaccio, we may lose that too. The real Rome has moved to the periphery, where visitors rarely go, and if they went to a neighborhood trat in some peripheral neighborhood, there's no guarantee they'd enjoy it the same way a neighborhood person habitually does.
                    I used to go to Pallaro about 25 years ago, but it's not very good. It's best loved for being such a bargain.

                    1. re: mbfant

                      good point.. of course when i considered to suggest places to tourists i also consider that it's not that easy go off in the periphery.. even if i agree about trastevere and testaccio, they lose their genuine attitude..
                      about Augusto, i will say that that particular "rough" attitude is somehow appreciate, and i agree also about the fact that most of us enjoy having dinner at home best than at restaurants..you know... the best thing we can suggest in this case is that the tourist should be escorted from a town native.....

                      1. re: nowhere

                        Maureen....you need to trot your taste buds to Ristorante Fiammetta for their eggplant parmiagiano. It was so divine I had it for lunch & went back for more at dinner. V.G. Zanardelli between Navona & the Tiber. Around the corner from the Genio Hotel. Love this place!!!

                        1. re: RomeAddict

                          We just got back from Rome. We've been there many other times for longer periods, we're both fluent in Italian, and we know our way around Italian and Roman restaurants.

                          We were excited to try Armando, but we were thoroughly underwhelmed, if not angry. They're clearly catering to a foreign crowd-- the food is very uninspired and the portions are small. We would never go back - a complete disappointment.

                          On the other hand, I thoroughly agree that La Fiammetta is how it should be--real Roman food and unpretentious ambiance and service. We ate well and felt respected.

                          1. re: ksherak

                            so sorry about Armando - it was excellent for many years. Did you go for lunch or dinner?

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              It was dinner and all Roman specialties: a carbonara with almost no guanciale in it, a cacio e pepe that was just ok, and grilled baby lamb chops made with the least tender meat imaginable-barely edible (and very expensive).

                        2. re: nowhere

                          nowhere I am planning a trip to italy and I dont want the average tourist view do you have any suggestions?

                        3. re: mbfant

                          I agree with your points. Aristocampo, if that is the one I know, makes panini...and it is a sort of chain as there's one in Campo dei Fiori and another 2 in Trastevere. There's one restaurant that nobody ever mentions and it is the real old Trastevere restaurant where you can breathe that "old" feeling as soon as you walk in. And you eat traditional, good food, cooked by the wife, served by the husband and son. The restaurant's name is Paris, near arco di San callisto. Augusto is among my no-no-list.

                          1. re: cristinab

                            sorry to rain on your rec, but Paris has gone downhill terribly. Augusto is at least honest, cheap and simple fare.

                            1. re: vinoroma

                              I have been at Paris twice in the last month and nothing but good words to say. I do agree it is not the same as few years ago, but it is surrounded by hundreds of trattoria which serve bad food at low prices and lots of tourists (and unfortunately romans) look at that not knowing what they are served. Quality is not an issue at Paris but it is, instead, at other restaurants. On the other hand, until the day in which somebody questions him/herself on how it is possible to serve an entire meal at those prices and have lamb included, whose price ranges from 25 to 40 euros per kilo with a 60% yield......

                              1. re: vinoroma

                                I agree w/ Vin. Paris was tired and mediocre on our last visit nine months ago. Nothing like its former self...

                                1. re: wristband

                                  I must have been lucky then! Last time I got their baccalà fritto and it was delicious: real filets, golden and crispy...golden...means good fresh oil! Well, I guess we have different opinions, but it happens often and that's the beauty of a blog!

                        4. it's maybe incredible but i'll never know your mentioned restaurants for Florence..... and think i've lived here since i was born !!
                          maybe i've to try a little search on it!
                          anyway this is my absolute best insider choice in the centre of Florence:
                          Fiaschetteria da “Il Latini” - don’t miss the grilled fillet with pumpkin flowers, the Tuscan soup and soups in general and the ‘fiasco’ cannellini.
                          Marione - a great restaurant with moderate prices, and a menu offering different meat and fish dishes

                          for bistecca:
                          Sostanza (commonly called “i' Troia”) - absolutely the best
                          Buca Lapi - The price is high but everything is impeccable

                          just outside
                          La Martellina - Try the ficatolle with “squaquerone” (a creamy cheese, squaquero in Florentine dialect) and the meat covered with porcini mushrooms or with truffle.
                          Right outside Florence in the southern parts on the mythical wine and oil road, that goes towards Siena.


                          1. I like Pierluigi, and Santopadre in Rome.

                            1. I agree that the local places are the best.
                              My favorite place in Venice was Da Remigio. I went for Sunday lunch and we were the only Americans, which is a plus. We ate for hours. I can still remember the razor clams.

                              1. i'm awakening this thread because steve h. got me all riled up about eating in Italy on his WFD post....

                                Rome: Sora Margherita - for their carciofi alla guidia
                                Florence: I Due Fratellini - all the tiny panini, but especially the one with the fennel salami
                                Venice: Trattoria Alla Madonna, for the delectable maleche, served by Renzo

                                These recs are all from 2005, as, sadly, that's the last time I was there.... so depressing....