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May 4, 2008 12:40 PM

Need help with Rome Restaurants

We already have reservations for La Pergola, but need help in selecting another restaurant . I am considering Nino or Il Gabriello. We want something moderately priced, and I do not know how Nino or Il Gabriello compare. Any information would be appreciated.

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  1. After La Pergola, anything is moderately priced. I'm curious how you narrowed your choice to those two and what, besides price, are your criteria. I've never been to Il Gabriello. Nino is somewhat Tuscan, always full, always the same. It's one of those places that can be just what you want but doesn’t really stand out. It got a lot of attention when Tom Cruise went there.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mbfant

      I chose Nino and Il Gabriello because they are close to the Spanish steps . I have heard mixed reviews regarding Nino's especially with the service. We do not have a preference about what type of restaurant, whether it be seafood etc. As we are splurging on La Pergola we wanted something between 100-125 euros for two. I considered the Hassler Rooftop but this looks out of our price range. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

      1. re: FRAN5932

        Trattoria da Gigetto is really, really good and in your range. If you go, try the fried artichokes ... sublime! Reservations suggested.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. Are you sure you cannot venture a bit away from this area to eat? Not too far away along the Via di Ripetta are two places I like, both with moderate prices: Buca di Ripetta and Trattoria Gran Sasso. Both are near the Piazza del Popolo end of the street...maybe a 15 minute walk from the Spanish Steps.

        11 Replies
        1. re: erica

          Erica, what is it about these two places that make them special for you? What are dishes yoy recommend? Thanks

          1. re: stymie

            I have not been to either on more than a year, but they are both homey trattorie with good Roman fare a combintion not so easy to find in that area of the city.

            I remember an excellent abbacchio at Buca di Ripetta and a great carbonara at one of those two places; I think it is better to vary your choices with the season. The last two times I have been in Rome have been in January so there will be different things on the menu for you now that late spring is here.

            Frankly, I am just beginning to realize how valuable it is in Italy to solicit the advice of the waitperson in planning a meal. I think people in the US are suspicious about asking for specials fearing that they will be presented with overpriced leftovers, but in Italy I have noticed (we just returned from Campania) that many locals forgo the printed menu and, instead, have extended discussions with the waiter about what to order. (Maybe MBFant will elaborate and/or confirm; I suspect that I read about one of the Ripetta places in her book!))

            So that is the long way of saying that I cannot give specific recommendations about either place. But in general I have found that that area is less than optimal for eating and those two are exceptions. I also like Pizza Re on the same street.

            I did NOT like Nino's very much; it was crowded with tourists when we ate here on two occasions and the service felt rushed and not attentive. And it is a Tuscan place..why eat that if you only have a few meals in Rome??

            (Although I have dined at Colline Emilane and liked it....)

            1. re: erica

              Buca di Ripetta has changed management since my book, and I haven't been back, but I've heard good things. It was always a nice old place. Gran Sasso is distinguished for being relatively cheap and plain as a pikestaff in that fancy schmancy area. The first time I went I thought it was cute and I liked the price. The second time my food was inedible (though my friend's was fine). It is definitely NOT a place to spend a precious meal slot on a short trip. As for engaging with the waiters, I've been saying it for years. I once taught a course to American undergraduates on Italian food culture, and the first day I told them to use their eating experiences in tandem with their Italian studies because the better you speak, the better you eat. The skepticism was palpable, but by the end of the term they all said it was true. The more you talk, the better you eat. Always ask questions, always complain if you see another table eating a food you weren't offered (this is Franco's specialty; he has radar for noticing this kind of thing), never accept a single-language English menu.

              1. re: mbfant

                MB thank you for the update. I will take this time to thank you for your wonderful book which has led me to innumerable great meals in Italy. Might this be the time to respectfully suggest a new edition?

                I will now cross Gran Sasso off my list for future visits to Rome!

                I did notice on my recent trip to Amalfi and Naples (see reviews here) that the Italians among our fellow diners did not even glance at a printed menu but instead had long conversations and asked many many questions about the day's offerings. AS if anyone needs more prodding to develop language skills!

                1. re: erica

                  Erica, thanks so much for the much-needed encouragement. The publisher was not interested in updating the book and I have the rights back, but am stalled looking for a new publisher because my impression is people are not willing to spend money on a quirky independent restaurant guide when they can (a) buy a brand name guide from a series or (b) get info free from the Internet.

                  In any case, Gran Sasso has its role in life, and if you have eaten well there in the past, don't give it up because I had one bad meal there. Trattorias are like old shoes -- nothing is more wonderful if they're yours, but someone seeing them for the first time can't be expected to be bowled over by their virtues. I believe my original simile was eccentric uncle.

                  And finally, yes, conversation is the key to good eating.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    MB: I am flabbergasted that the publisher is not interested in a new edition. You cannot imagine how helpful that book was to me over the years. Together with Fred Plotkin's guide, your book was instrumental in helping me understand Italian food culture and in leading me to so many great meals. The mainstream guidebooks do not even come close to imparting that depth of knowledge. I would stand in line to buy a copy of an updated version!

                    At least we can read your posts here and I thank you for those!

                    1. re: erica

                      MBF: Erica is very correct ... you need to either find a decent publisher with some idea what we all want to buy ... or self-publish and send it out for a fee paid on your website. Put a nice photo on the cover and I'll buy 10 copies today ... I have several friends going to Italy this summer for vacation and I'm going back to Rome with my sons before the end of the year. Seriously ... the market is there!!

                      1. re: PeggyD

                        Thank you both. I really will work on this.

                        Lest we be scolded for being off topic, let us get back to the OP. Palatium, near Piazza di Spagna, on via Frattina, is very good and moderately priced, not least because it's easy to have just one dish and a glass of wine. There are also lots of trattorias in that area, which someday I will get around to trying. But it is not necessary to stay around piazza di Spagna to eat. It's not such a long walk over to Armando at the Pantheon, for example.

                        1. re: mbfant

                          I would like to second MFant's recommendation of Armando at the Pantheon. Very tasty but I would recommend making reservations.

                          If I might offer two more suggestions, I would recommend La Fiametta, it is relatively inexpensive and was very tasty when I was there in October.

                          And my second recommendation is Pierluigi. It is my and my wife's favorite restaurant in Rome but this could be more due to the waiter we always have (Giorgio, ask for him and prepare for an excellent experience) although the food is excellent. Again, I would recommend reservations.

                          I have a very extensive listing of restaurants that I went to for my honeymoon in October. The link is:


                          And here is my review of the restaurants:


                          Hope that helps and enjoy Rome, it is a wonderful city!


                2. re: mbfant

                  What's the name of your book? I am going to Italy next month and am searching for food ideas!? Thanks.

                  1. re: carri

                    I don't know whether I'm allowed to say, but if you go to my web site (or even just google my name), you'll find my opera.

          2. For a great family-run neighborhood spot- Augusto in Trastevere always hits the spot! I recommend if you are looking for a trattoria/osteria filled with locals & inexpensive. Arrive a little early for dinner or you will be waiting outside in line & salivating to the smells & watching everyone eat!

            Piazza de' Renzi, 15,, Lazio 00153, IT

            1. Hostaria Costanza
              Piazza Paradiso, 65, Rome, Italy
              Tel: +39 066861717

              This restaurant is on a little side street. Awesome! Definitely get the fried zucchini blossoms. We went there twice on our last trip, it was so good.