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Making Reservations

I am currently planning my honeymoon in Tusany, Umbria and Rome for this October and I was wondering if I need reservations for all of the restaurants I am planning on going to (and how much in advance I should make them).

These are currently the list of places I am planning on going to:

Orvieto - I Sette Consoli
Siena - Antica Trattoria Botteganova
Monteriggioni - Il Pozzo (for lunch)
Greve - Solociccia
Florence - Sostanza, Antico Fattore, & La Giostra
Perugia - Cafe Di Perugia & Ristorante Il Convento (not sure about these two)
Rome - L’Archeologia, Ditirambo, Colline Emilliane & Il Bacaro

Any advice would be appreciated. Also, if I am making a mistake with any of these restaurants please let me know. Thanks.

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  1. Hi,
    I would say get a pizza in Perugia. Mediteraneo is fantastic and no reservations needed, but get there early as there can be a line. If you have your back to Bar Centrale on the main drag (turn right and keep right, just a few hundred yards til you get to it.) Fantastic pizza--the best in Umbria. Umbria is so casual in its food, that the more sophisticated stuff tends to seem fabricated. Another good one is "da mi cocco" which has a fixed menu and all the classics in a great environment--loads of students in there, but very authentic and not expensive. Be sure to go to Bar Sandri for dessert and coffee right on the main drag across from the museum.
    I would skip eating in Greve and go to Dario Cecchini in Panzano (five minutes away on the same road). He is a little over the top and sometimes not so friendly, but it's a real scene with plenty of tastings and opera in the Maccelleria (butcher shop) and his new restaurant directly across the street is fabulous. fayefood.com

    1. I do not believe you will need reservations for Il Pozzo. You will need resers for SoloCiccia which is in Panzano. We went to the Sunday lunch at SoloCiccia and really enjoyed it. We sat at a table with all locals and they were very friendly to us. It was like eating at someone's house for Sunday dinner. We found Dario to be very friendly, he comes around to each table after dinner with his fiancee to make sure everything was ok. I did see him get irritated earlier in the macelleria, due to a tourist sticking a camera in his face and taking his picture while he was working, without first asking. I'd get irritated too.
      As for the other places on your list, unfortunately, I'm not familiar with them.

      1. Wondering about your choice for Orvieto.

        In Rome, are you seeking Emilian food in particular? I liked my dinner there but might not include it if I had only 4 dinners in the city, unless specific I had an interest in that type of cuisine..or wanted a change from local food, which would be unlikely fter so short a time.. But that is me....

        1. We ate at Sostanza (twice) in Florence last month. We made reservations both times for the 7:30 seating (there's another seating at 9:00). Both times the restaurant wasn't completely full, but I did observe that they turned people away between 8 - 9 who didn't have reservations for the 9:00 seating.

          1. My recent experience in Italy is that reservations were greatly appreciated - even if the restaurant was not full. Italians like to eat at the same time; lunch begins at 1:00 p.m. In Orvieto, we were turned away at 12:50 p.m.:) So - with everyone eating at the same time, you wll need reservations. If you haven't already see it, I recommend the Food Lover's Guide to Florence - which also has great recommendations for Tuscany.


            5 Replies
            1. re: ElissaInPlaya

              Great topic. My wife and I are planning a visit to Tuscany this summer. Very few of the restaurants recommended on this board do on-line reservations and I must say I am a little intimidated at the prospect of having to call to make reservations over the phone. How much was language a problem when making your reservations?

              1. re: OCKevin

                I just returned from a week in Rome and Positano and I called ahead or emailed to reserve for each day -- no problem at all. Get a phrase book and find out how to say "I would like a reservation for 2 on 14 April" and they will ask what "ora" (time) and you can say either 1 pm or 8 pm -- I only used those two times! (I like to keep things simple!!) There were a number of places that were full and would not have let us in without a reservation!! Do reserve -- you don't want to go all that way, and not try these great restaurants!!

                1. re: OCKevin

                  I can reassure you that Italians are charming and accepting of the most rudimentary Italian.

                  The most obvious strategy is to have the staff at your hotel make your reservations, even in advance of your arrival.

                  If you have to make your own reservations, try calling during the food service hours of the restaurant. Sure the restaurant may be busy, but that's the time when it's most likely that an English-speaking employee will be there. You might begin your conversation with the question "Parla Inglese?" Now, that's not good Italian for "Do you speak English?" Grammatically, you should say "Parla lei Inglese?" But if you're not sure how "lei" is pronounced or if you want to keep it simple, the first version will work. As I said, the Italians are forgiving and used to coping with tourists.

                  You'll be amazed at how few words you actually have to know to make a reservation. Buy a small phrase book and practice some useful words or phrases before your trip. Figure out what you can comfortably say. For example, I sometimes get tripped up saying the Italian word for the noun "reservation," but I'm fine with the verb "to reserve." So, I've become quite fluent in the Italian phrase "Please reserve a table for two persons"

                  Finally, an extra effort to use gracious language -- "per favore" and "grazie" at a minimum -- will go a long way.

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    Yes, a phrase book is very useful. And as has been mentioned, even the slightest attempt, no matter how mangled it may come out will bring out a smile and much appreciation.

                    1. re: Indy 67

                      This is all such sage advice! Thank you! Also, I am glad to be reminded that this is something to have fun with and not to be intimidated by.

                2. You should always call ahead because even when you don't really need a reservation, you want to make sure the place is really open. This is a country of surprises. Italians don't like to plan very far ahead, so except for weekends, it has never been necessary to book very much in advance even at pretty fancy places. Sorry to say, what is screwing up the whole system is Internet enthusiasm for a handful of places, which people then book way ahead. This means there is less room for locals to drop in, and the place winds up filled with tourists, which makes nobody happy, not least the other tourists, who would rather dine surrounded by locals. The altruistic solution is to resist reserving as long as you can stand it, and have a couple of backup places in mind to assuage your disappointment should you not get the table you want.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: mbfant

                    MBFant -- I'm curious about your answer and need your further input. I just returned from Rome, and in my experience, I NEEDED a reservation to eat at a few of the spots that I most wanted to go -- based on the advice on this board. Thus, I called ahead and reserved where I knew exactly which night or day I wanted to go. In my case, I made all my reservations the week leading up to my departure. I'm glad I did, as, in several cases, I would have been TOTALLY OUT OF LUCK without that reservation (like Monti, where I had to reserve for lunch on a Saturday!!) On the other hand, several spots where I had reserved via email (AND I WAS HOLDING THE EMAIL CONFIRMING THE RES.) we went to the restaurant and they were closed. I was NOT happy about that. This happened at Armando al Pantheon. (Did they really not know a mere 4 days in advance that they would be closed the night they confirmed my reservation via email???) Maybe email reservations are not being taken seriously? Do you think that this whole new email reservation thing is spoiling the system of last minute reservations? I guess, ideally, you should call only a day or two in advance, but no more. Is that your advice? That way, the restaurant will know if they are deciding to close at the last minute for the next couple days. I know all diners (in general) need to be more flexible, but given the price of a trip to Rome these days (especially one paid for with weak US dollars), and considering how excited one gets to dine at specific spots on specific days when you know you will be at say, the Pantheon or the Vatican, I don't think "winging it" with backups in mind would have worked for me. There were some restaurants I went to that, if they were unable to accomodate us, we would have had to walk another 4-5 blocks to find a taxi, to drive to another restaurant, possibly to be turned away again. That is a frustrating option, especially when one is on a much-anticipated vacation, looking forward to Rome's great fare.

                    1. re: PeggyD

                      Yes, I think the whole e-mail thing is ruining the whole system, but I know we're going to have to get used to it. It is also true that there are zillions of tourists and young people swarming the center of Rome, putting additional strain on capacity. BTW I tried to reserve for lunch at Monti for today (Saturday) but they said they were closed for Saturday lunch. We always reserve every place, even if it's just a half hour in advance. But it's not just e-mail. It's actually boards like this that can quickly turn an ordinary place into a cult object.

                      Rome can be a very infuriating place and should never be confused with a normal city. The unexpected is going to happen. It can ruin your trip, or you can be ready for it. It helps to have a LOT of restaurant names and numbers in your handbag and to carry a cell phone. I can tell you Armando isn't worth getting worked up over, and no place is indispensable. There are lots of good fish in the sea.

                      Most restaurants are family run, and it is entirely possible that if there is a death in the family or everybody has the flu or something or other, the restaurant will be closed without prior warning. This doesn't happen often -- hardly ever -- but it happened to a friend of mine that she arrived at a very serious place, reserved weeks before, and they were closed because their mother had just died. Under those circumstances, they didn't send out e-mails to clients with reservations, they relied on people to understand. There was just a sign on the door. My friend had her taxi take her somewhere else and went to the original place on a subsequent trip. Had she already left her taxi, she'd have been able to call another on her cell phone, which IS indispensable.

                      1. re: mbfant

                        Following up on your comment about alternatives to some of this board's cult favorites, what other places would you recommend? Your stature on this board is such that, I believe, until many hear an alternative suggestion from you, the situation will remain as is.

                        For example, I've posted about lovely meals at L'Angoletto, a three minute walk from Piazza della Rontonda. I've read only one other person's post about his/her meal there, and I don't believe my recommendation had anything to do with that person's having gone to L'Angoletto. Meanwhile, the torrent of Amando al Pantheon posts continues.

                        Please understand my feelings aren't hurt. I certainly have no financial stake whether or not folks patronize L'Angelotto. I only mention this as a concrete example of how certain restaurant names are entrenched on this board.

                        1. re: Indy 67

                          I'm profoundly flattered that you think I have such influence, but I find many of the restaurants recommended here and elsewhere are places I don't even like, and the ones I do like leave a lot of people cold. I have written about the different needs of visitors and residents, and it's partially attributable to that. I intend to explore this dichotomy further, should I ever have any time to think about it. I like Armando as a place but have never raved about the food (which, however, I think is pretty good), and Franco was utterly unimpressed the one time I dragged him there for research. One of the reasons I liked it was it was a quiet place for lunch when I needed to talk to someone. That is almost no longer true. I promise I will try L'Angoletto. I don't know how long it's had the present management, but it seems to me years ago it was very good, specializing in fish, and I was told it was Sandro Pertini's fave. In those days I think I went once, but it was out of my price range. Meanwhile it fell off my radar, but I'll be happy to try it. Another I keep forgetting to try is Babette, and a couple of others mentioned frequently whose names have slipped my mind. I don't really go to trattorias that much because I can cook that food at home with better ingredients. If I'm looking for a restaurant for Franco and me, it's unlikely to be in the center unless we're combining it with errands, which is rare. And if we have to take people out, we're afraid to experiment.

                          Frequently recommended places not on my recommended list include Sora Margherita (which I dislike), Sora Lella (ditto, and it's expensive), Ditirambo, Orso 80 (which I find vile), Enoteca Corsi (which I sometimes will meet people at for lunch but would never seek as a destination), Pierluigi (can't even remember if I've ever been).

                          The places I like and go frequently to are La Piazzetta, Checchino, pizzeria Li Rioni, Nerone sometimes, Paris (but I haven't been in a while, not their fault), Monti (which I like better and better), Antico Arco, Giuda Ballerino!, Palatium, Casa Bleve and La Bottega del Vino, Cavour 313 sometimes. Most new places we try are disappointing, and we are having more luck with restaurants outside the city, but that usually restricts us to weekend lunch as we prefer to take public transport. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but those are the most important. We did recently go back to La Gensola and liked it, and had a very pleasant dinner at Ristorante Montevecchio. Higher up the scale than this group we like Al Presidente, but have not been in a while, and Al Ceppo, and still higher we have had recent fab meals at Agata e Romeo, Convivio, Baby, L'Altro Mastai, and Il Pagliaccio.

                          1. re: mbfant

                            Thanks for this follow up. It's a great resource.

                            Your mention of new management at L'Angoletto has me concerned. My last trip to Rome was in 2004. The food was still superb, but four years is an eternity in the restaurant business. Apologies in advance if my comments result in your having to stomach an indifferent meal.

                        2. re: mbfant

                          Great advice re: carrying a cel phone, and list of restaurant numbers. I agree with this and also recommend carrying a map, and the number of a good taxi service as well as learning enough Italian to make reservations, inquire about restaurant openings and tell a taxi directions. We used this method a LOT more in Italy than in France.

                          FYI, it's very cheap to get a new sim card and Euro minutes for your cel phone (Maybe 15 Euro?)