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Roman Chow In Rome?

Hubby & I will be in Rome in about a week for a few days. We would love to dine on truly authentic Roman cuisine exclusively. Particular focus on family owned and operated establishments would be desirable. We're adventurous diners who, being on vacation, don't mind spending for great food. Food is far more important to us than decor, though, so the white tablecloth treatment isn't necessary if the hole-in-the-wall delivers. Any help would be appreciated. We'll gladly repay in kind if any Italian Hounds come to Toronto.

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    1. re: chezfredo

      These places serve moderately priced family cooking, and it's delicious.

      Sor'Eva, piazza della Rovere, 108 -- walkable from the Vatican -- homey and delicious

      Armando al Pantheon, down the street from the Pantheon to the right as you face it. Popular, you might have to reserve. May have a website now.

      Lo Zozzone is a true hole in the wall serving pizza bianca, take out only -- off the piazza Navona on via Teatro Pace, but you may see immigrants behind the counter.

      And I second the choice for da Giggetto, and think it is especially fine at night with a stroll through the Portico d'Ottavia, a lovely destination in its own right.

      If you are in Roma on a Thursday, you might like to join the Romans in eating gnocchi, made with semolina. It's my favorite preparation of gnocchi (with one exception) in Italy.

    2. Well Googs, from one Torontonian to the other, you cannot afford to miss out on a dinner at "Agata e Romeo". They have a website, so you can browse in advance.

      Have a terrific time...I love Roma!

      1. Googs, given that a week from now will be August. Do check ahead of time to make sure the restaurants you want to go to are open. I'm going to Rome in a couple of weeks too and in my research and as many CHers on the Rome board will tell you, many restaurants close in August. You may luck out as some won't close until the week of ferragusto (aug. 15) but many are closed the whole month. So sad for me.

        Please report back on where you end up!

        1. We definitely plan on trying Agata e Romeo and Est Est Est that mbfant so generously recommened. The menu at Giggetto looks a little long to me. Can anyone recommend a place with a somewhat more focused menu?

          8 Replies
          1. re: Googs

            There's a good chance A & R will be closed for vacation, but do try. Many places don't take the entire month. haven't been to Est3 in years, so can't guarantee it, but in any case I'm sure it's still long on atmosphere. I'm not crazy about Giggetto, but it often saves the day when other places are closed. The menu is long but not unfocused. The specialties are the fritti of the Jewish tradition. In summer artichokes, not in season, are still available, so it's don't ask, don't tell. They may be imported or frozen. Fiori di zucca are not to be missed, fried zucchini flowers filled with mozzarella and a little anchovy. Everything on the menu is classic Roman home/trattoria food.

            1. re: mbfant

              I'm wondering about a few of other restos I've been reading about. Are you familiar with Al 34, Al Ceppo (I just love a kitchen headed by women. Makes for great comfort food.), and Piperno? They all seem as though they might be open in August.

              1. re: Googs

                Al 34 is OK if nothing else is open, not a destination in itself. Piperno is unlikely to be open, but give it a shot. Al Ceppo is wonderful.

                1. re: mbfant

                  "If nothing else is open." LOL! I'll see if I can get a table at Al Ceppo. Thank you so much.

                  1. re: Googs

                    Googs I tried to make a reservation for Al Ceppo for August 10 but they are closed August 8-27. If you are in Rome before the 8th you should be good to go!

                    1. re: heypielady

                      Thanks for the help, heypielady. I just got an e-mail back from them. They close the DAY I arrive.

                      Where are you trying next? I've e-mailed Agata e Romeo and Piperno which is rather difficult to do with your fingers crossed.

                      1. re: Googs

                        I'm staying with my aunt and uncle who live and rome. I asked my uncle to call Sor'Eva, Da Giggetto, Le Tre Zucche, La Tavernetta 48, and La Fiammetta for me to see if they are open. If and when he does I'll post the results.

                        I did get make a reservation for Il Convivio...rather pricey for me but if I end up eating with mi Zio and Zia everynight since everything is closed, I guess I'll save up enough.

                        Please post about Agata e Romeo and Piperno when you hear back!

                        1. re: heypielady

                          Well count another one out. Piperno is closed for the entire month. Bummer.

                          Haven't heard from Agata yet. I'll keep trying.

          2. I'm somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned some of the places in Testaccio:

            Da Oio a Casa Mia
            Ne Arte Ne Parte
            Da Bucatino
            Pizzeria Remo

            1. My husband and I had lunch at Giggetto yesterday, selected both because of the conflicting reviews on Chowhound and because it was one of the few restaurants still open at this time of year. I think it was one of the worst meals I've ever had in Rome, and I've had some bad ones. We tried various starters: the artichokes weren't fried, they were cremated. The fiore di zucchina was tiny and tasteless, the stockfish fillet was crumbly. The mains were better, I had a risotto alla pescatora which was a little short on shellfish but acceptable while my husband's porcini mushrooms were not bad apart from dripping with oil. All this was washed down with tepid white wine, no chilled wine available. I thought ordering gelato for dessert was safe, how bad can a simple gelato alla crema be? I was wrong. It tasted of (I'm not kidding) fava beans. According to my husband it tasted of fava bean pods. The service was poor but that isn't that important, in my book, if the food is good. The place was full of tourists, all of whom looked very unhappy as plate after plate of burnt artichokes arrived, a tourist trap indeed. A truly lousy meal.

              8 Replies
              1. re: afds

                Thanks for the update. That's sad.

                1. re: afds

                  I completely agree. Mr and I just went there last night. We had an 8:30 reservation. After we were seated we were ignored for 40 minutes. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if the food was good but it was pretty terrible.

                  The artichokes as afds stated were cremated. I could not understand how it was even food anymore. The buccatini alamatriciana was ok but weak on the guanciale and even the pasta was a little past al dente. We also had saltimboca alla romana that was bland and overcooked. The one good thing we had was the suppli di telefono (rice balls with mozerella cheese in the middle)

                  Other than the wait one were seated our waiter was just aweful. He spilled water on my husbands seat. Spilled wine on our table cloth. And through down our food with disdain. Perhaps he hated it as much as we did.

                  1. re: heypielady

                    I'm so disappointed to read these awful write-ups of Giggetto, since my one meal there, several years ago, was so terrific. And I was looking forward to a return. Well, who knows? I may not get back to Rome for another couple of years and, obviously, things change...

                    1. re: Deenso

                      I suppose, since its August, that its possible that their chefs are on vacation and they are willing to stay open because they will get jammed with tourists whether or not the cooking is on. All I can say from personal experience is that a couple years ago when we are in the ghetto at lunchtime over the Christmas holidays, we looked in at Gigetto and it was totally empty - we walked over to Sora Margherita which was doing a land office business and had a great lunch. that emptiness, when Romans were in town and lunching spoke to me.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        I don't like either Giggetto or Sora Margherita, but in Giggetto's defense here I'll say people were probably choosing price, and Sora M, being so tiny, fills up a lot faster. Also, with a faster turnover, it's a more likely choice for lunch for busy locals, esp since Giggetto always has a lot of tourists.

                        That said, I am perversely gratified to hear the negative reviews of Giggetto, which we abandoned years ago. It occasionally fills a need—Sunday evening, August, lot of space—but should not be anyone's first choice for that menu.

                        1. re: mbfant

                          We will just have to agree to disagree on Sora Margherita - I totally lack your expertise on the roman jewish cooking style, but everything we ate there on our single visit (5 of us, and I tasted everything) was delicious, particularly the lamb and the fried artichokes, and the friendly social atmosphere and good prices also pleased us.. Gigetto just had that "the wave went out a while ago" kind of look.

                          1. re: mbfant

                            I have to say something in Giggetto's defense as well. This is clearly family-style dining with the accompanying huge servings, lower prices, and lower quality. If I were travelling with kids in tow I would probably have enjoyed it more for these reasons.

                            As it was, I found the location romantic (okay just about everywhere in Rome is) and here's the one thing I appreciated: The cannelloni. It's almost completely a dying art in Toronto. Nobody wants to wait long enough for a pasta that must be baked. Everybody's gotta go faster. The cannelloni was delicious and well-made. I felt a little teary and nostalgic as I ate it. It's been years since I've had one in my hometown.

                            The other dishes we had were nothing of note, but I would return simply for, that's right, the cannelloni. For the record, our server was terrific.

                            1. re: Googs

                              Cannelloni has practically disppeared even in Rome, not, I think, because it's slow, but because of all the meat and bechamel, which are out of favor, and possibly because it's tedious to make. In any case, it's very retro. I believe Nino, in via Borgognona, also has cannelloni. In general, it's more likely to be served on Sunday, which is when you find most of the baked pastas. And yes, it's real nostalgia food.