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Underground 'In Home' Restaurants in Italy

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Just beginning the culinary planning for a two week Italy trip next spring...

I have this vague recollection of reading a New York Times article a while back on a form of ad hoc restaurant in Italy that is basically a proprietor serving lunch (maybe dinner too) out of his or her home. Sort of an underground scene, but in a local sense. I think the article also mentioned that these are popular among workers on lunch break. The details are all very fuzzy and I haven't been able to find the article again.

Does any of this ring a bell?

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  1. I didn't read the article, so I will try to guess what you may be talking about.

    They exist, but they are very hard to find, as obviously they don't advertise...and would face fines.

    Cesarine is an association, and you can find dinners in a house that serves typical food:
    http://www.homefood.it/index.php?obje...

    You might try to find an agriturismo. It is not underground, and it is not popular among workers for lunch, but could fit your requirements.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jaykayen

      I'm looking into an agritursimo, but was hoping to do this in addition.

      Found the article:
      http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/...

      Upon review, it only covers "At-home Trattorias" in Palermo. I won't be in Palermo, but I'm still wondering if it's worth seeking them out in other cities, and if so, how to do it.

      The homefood association looks interesting. I will definitely be considering it.

    2. Hello,

      The article still holds true in much of the south (at least I've seen similar places in most of Sicily and Naples) but I don't know if you'd really find that up north. Also, I find that from Rome up the trend drifts much more towards unmarked or unnamed but completely legal trattorias. For ei, I can't even give someone a name or address to any of my favorite places in Rome, but I can walk to all of them with ease. What city will you be in?

      1. Likely itinerary: In or around Bologna for a couple days, an agriturismo in Tuscany for a couple, a few days in Rome, a few days in Positano.

        Nothing set in stone except flight into Milan in late April and flight out of Naples two weeks later.

        1. I don't know of any, but FWIW I think this is the article you're referring to:

          http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/...

          EDIT: just saw zEli173's previous post about the same article. Oops.

          1. I do remember the article. I also remember a review from someone who went to one of the HomeFood places and was disappointed.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/340457

            1 Reply
            1. re: erica

              It looks to me like the NYT article and the HomeFood places mentioned on PBS and Gourmet are unrelated and slightly different things. HomeFood seems to be like being a "guest" for a meal at someone's house/apartment also allowing for a look inside the home of a real Italian family. The NYT place is an underground restaurant run out of someone's home kitchen that caters to locals - though of course being in the NYT will attract tourists as well.

            2. I am leaving for Italy Wednesday for a10 day trip during which I have arranged for 2 Home Food meals, one in Bologna and one in Milan. So far it has been very nice and easy to deal with the organization. If you are still interested, I will report back on my expereince upon my return.

              7 Replies
              1. re: mlzeats

                Yes, please report back!

                1. re: erica

                  Will do...

                  1. re: erica

                    We have returned after to wonderful meals with Home Food hosts, one each in Bologna and Milan. The hosts were not only marvelous cooks but were also very engaging dinner company. The only difficulty was that the host in Bologna only spoke Italian so we needed to rely on the translation services of my daughter who is in Italy studying among other subjects, Italian. Notwithstanding this language barrier the host's warm hospitality was very welcoming and we all felt very comfortable. In Milan, there was no language barrier and by the end of the evening we felt as if we had made new friends. The food in both instances, was excellently prepared and traditonal for the region. In sum a worthwhile experience which we intend to repeat on our return trips.

                    1. re: mlzeats

                      Sounds superb! Can someone request these particular people through the HomeFood site? I just took a look at the site and am overwhelmed by the possibilities!

                      How much did the dinners cost, by the way?

                      1. re: erica

                        Erica, The dinners cost 40 euros/pp+Home Food membership (3.50/month/pp...but it is a one time fee so if you have more than one dinner in the month you do not pay the fee twice ..) On particular dates, specfied meals at stated locations are offered...HF limits the number dining. We told Home Food where and when we wished to dine and it proposed the meals available. For more info you should email Home Food through its site. I found it to be very helpful and willing to assist.

                        1. re: mlzeats

                          Excellent advice!! Thanks! I am heading to Turin in April and believe there is an option there...

                  2. re: mlzeats

                    I just saw this thread, but 2 years ago we had an experience at a guest house that was one of our most memorable experiences in Italy (an hour outside of Bologna). We found the place from a previous Chowhound post - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/338128.

                    Chris was one of the most generous and heart-felt people we had ever met. No expense is spared with the dinner. Since she prepares the entire meal just for your group, you can discuss if you have any particular preferences in what you would like to incorporate in the menu (truffles, veal, etc.).

                    Leaving that night, we kept thinking how honored we were to take part in such a unique dining experience. For the two of us, they probably opened 5 different wine bottles to pair individually with each course. Also their home-made Limoncello was very deceptive - so delicious, and dangerously intoxicating!

                    Highly recommended!

                    http://www.leoccare.com/