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Please critique my list for Rome

We'll be traveling all over Italy, so for our 3 days in Rome we want to focus mainly on typical Roman food but won't be slavishly devoted to it. Cost is no object, we're also not afraid of risky neighborhoods, but we easily get bored of what I'll call high end international with the same foie gras and lobster menus around the globe. We definitely want something that has a sense of being in Rome.

Dinner:
Al Bric, Sunday night, already have a reservation
Porto di Ripetta - fish - redundant if we're going to Sicily?
Checchino dal 1887 - excellent traditional Roman?
Trattoria Monti - more modern? Still good? Overrun by tourists?
Piperno? heard conflicting info about the menu aside from amazing artichokes...worth a dinner, or just go for lunch of artichokes and one or two other things?

Lunch:
Il Matriciano after Vatican
Piperno?
Paris, if Piperno doesn't work out
Sora Margherita - backup option
Cul de Sac - wine bar, snack or full meal

Gellati:
Tre Scalini, Alberto Pica, Gilitti, San Crispino

Espresso:
Bar Farnese
S Eustachio
---I need more espresso recommendations...I'm coming from a place with good espresso, so mainly I just need a quick fix once in a while and I'm not looking for a song and dance, just good beans and a well-pulled shot.

Special thanks to ejcSanFran for compiling a list that seemed to capture many of the Chowhound Rome favorits, quoted below:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549238
"Thu, 10-09 - Checchino
Fri, 10-10 - Antico Arco
Sat, 10-11 - Paris (followed by late night clubbing
)Sun, 10-12 - Uno e Bino
Mon, 10-13 - Trattoria Monti
Tue, 10-14 - L’altro Mastai (is this a good romantic splurge choice?)
Wed, 10-15 - Da Felice
Thu, 10-16 - Lunch: Crudo or GiNa
Dinner: pizza (where?)
Fri, 10-17 - Agata e Romeo
Sat, 10-18 - La Piazzetta

Other places I’ve heard about:

Al Ceppo
Baby
Da Francesco – for pizza
Enoteca Ferrara
Est! Est! Est!
Giuda Ballerino
Il Fico
L’Osteria
Osteria del Rione – Inexpensive prix-fixe; any good?
Palatium
Piperno
Ristorante da Ottavio
Vladimiro Ristorante"

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  1. The list from ejcSanFran listed Antico Arco. We were there a year ago October. Best meal in the 5 days we were in town. Great food, wine list, very reasonable for the quality and the staff could not have been nicer. Great space with wine bar when you walk in and 3 (?) more floors. We are going back in May and will there for sure. You won't be disappointed.

    http://www.anticoarco.it/

    1. SteveG -- You have really researched this site ... I went to Rome twice last year on business/vacation and am going again in 2009. Let me give you some thoughts on some of the choices you note:

      Trattoria Monti - more modern? Yes!!! Still good? YES!!! Overrun by tourists? Not totally overrun ... but then again, for great food, who cares if the people sitting nearby are tourists or not.

      Lunch:
      Il Matriciano after Vatican ---- Perfect choice in my view, or else on Sunday night -- the food was wonderful, but it is a bit of a walk from the Vatican
      Paris -- I would choose Paris over Piperno, but that is me. The food is good, and I hear Piperno is also good, but I haven't been there.
      Sora Margherita - backup option
      Cul de Sac - wine bar, snack or full meal -- we went there late at night for a dinner and the food was kinda average, but the wine selection, you have to see

      Gellati:
      Tre Scalini, Alberto Pica, Gilitti, San Crispino -- you list several good spots, but San Crispino was our favorite

      Espresso:
      Bar Farnese
      S Eustachio
      ---I need more espresso recommendations...I'm coming from a place with good espresso, so mainly I just need a quick fix once in a while and I'm not looking for a song and dance, just good beans and a well-pulled shot. -- We loved Tazo D'Oro (spelling??) and the best ... look up that one (we also brought the beans home!) and we liked a place called Cafe Pace -- great coffee, not as fancy.

      Regarding your other ideas per another poster, let me mention a couple I would NOT MISS -- Antico Arco (super food -- and it is located on the Gianicolo Hill ... go check out the keyhole at the Knights of Malta door after dinner ... the view is amazing!!) We also loved La Piazzetta and will be going back there ... we did not try Agata e Romeo, but we will on our next trip, because it is reputed to be GREAT and is right down the street from our favorite hotel -- Mecenate Palace (near Santa Maria Maggiorre). For pizza, we went to BOTH Antico Forno and La Fiammetta (not far from Piazza Navona). You are well on your way to a WONDERFUL trip!!

      Ciao ... PeggyD

      1 Reply
      1. re: PeggyD

        Thanks a bunch to both of you...looks like Antica Arco, Trattoria Monti, and Paris over Piperno should fill in our blanks nicely.

        For pizza, Antico Forno, Il Fornaio, and Baffeta (sp?) are on our radar, but our first stop after Rome is Naples so we won't really worry too much if we miss Rome's best pizza.

      2. Dinner:
        Al Bric, Sunday night, already have a reservation
        I have still never been there so hope to hear a report.

        Porto di Ripetta - fish - redundant if we're going to Sicily?
        Never been here either, but don't worry about redundancy.

        Checchino dal 1887 - excellent traditional Roman?
        Yes, VERY traditional. Don't expect "interpretations." It's old-style home cooking with fine wines and cheeses.

        Trattoria Monti - more modern? Still good? Overrun by tourists?
        Yes, has some traditional dishes, some newer. It's very good. They are from the Marche. Tourists as Peggy says.

        Piperno? heard conflicting info about the menu aside from amazing artichokes...worth a dinner, or just go for lunch of artichokes and one or two other things?
        It's very good, classic, fairly formal. Paris more relaxed. I'd plan on a full meal at one or the other. Don't know what conflicts you're talking about.

        Lunch:
        Il Matriciano after Vatican
        Was underwhelmed the couple of times I went, now many years ago.

        Piperno?
        Paris, if Piperno doesn't work out
        I like it very much.

        Sora Margherita - backup option
        I hate it, but I am a minority.

        Cul de Sac - wine bar, snack or full meal
        very good but always crowded and uncomfortable in my experience and no reservations, I believe.

        Gellati:
        spelled gelati
        Tre Scalini, Alberto Pica, Gilitti, San Crispino
        spelled (and pronounced) Giolitti. I'd skip Tre Scalini. The others are great.

        Espresso:
        Bar Farnese
        S Eustachio
        ---I need more espresso recommendations...I'm coming from a place with good espresso, so mainly I just need a quick fix once in a while and I'm not looking for a song and dance, just good beans and a well-pulled shot.
        For a quick fix once in a while, you go to the nearest bar where you are when you need the fix. Only tourists and guidebook writers will carry a list. However, I like the coffee at Cafffè Camerino (three f's) at the beginning of Via Arenula (Largo Argentina).

        Special thanks to ejcSanFran for compiling a list that seemed to capture many of the Chowhound Rome favorits, quoted below:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549238
        "Thu, 10-09 - Checchino
        Fri, 10-10 - Antico Arco
        yes, like it very much but find it's better to go early (8 pm) and avoid weekends, because they sort of lose it with crowds.
        Sat, 10-11 - Paris (followed by late night clubbing
        love Paris, dunno about the clubbing
        )Sun, 10-12 - Uno e Bino
        yes, like it very much. Also Vinarium in same nabe.
        Mon, 10-13 - Trattoria Monti
        Tue, 10-14 - L’altro Mastai (is this a good romantic splurge choice?
        ) yes, it's tops
        Wed, 10-15 - Da Felice
        haven't been since the makeover. Worth a try.
        Thu, 10-16 - Lunch: Crudo or GiNa
        never been to either but probably OK
        Dinner: pizza (where?)
        I only eat pizza near my house. But I also used to like Nuovo Mondo in Testaccio. Also Remo. And l'Obitorio (Marmi) in Trastevere.
        Fri, 10-17 - Agata e Romeo
        love it, also candidate for romantic splurge
        Sat, 10-18 - La Piazzetta
        love it, but just bear in mind it's a trattoria not a major restaurant

        Other places I’ve heard about:

        Al Ceppo
        love it
        Baby
        it's very very good. also very upscale. another ro-splurge candidate
        Da Francesco – for pizza
        never been
        Enoteca Ferrara
        restaurant is awful and expensive
        Est! Est! Est!
        haven't been in years. The atmosphere is great but I'm not sure the pizza is really as good as I used to think.
        Giuda Ballerino
        very good, creative, pretty much of a bargain, great attention to wines
        Il Fico
        nice seafood-based trattoria. very friendly. open Sunday evening. a bargain. Not a destination, however. I think not for this trip.
        L’Osteria
        ???
        Osteria del Rione – Inexpensive prix-fixe; any good?
        ???
        Palatium
        I had terrible saltimbocca there, but everything else I've ever had there, on numerous visits, has been super, made with the best ingredients of the Lazio region. I go there for lunch with a friend every so often because you can have something yummy without spoiling your appetite for dinner. But dinner is also good -- e.g., great matriciana. In the evening, ask for upstairs dining room, which is noisy but has real chairs instead of the stupid stools they use downstairs with the design.
        Piperno
        Ristorante da Ottavio
        ???
        Vladimiro Ristorante"
        The only mention of this I have ever seen is the repeated post on this board.

        5 Replies
        1. re: mbfant

          Thanks for the thorough response and corrections! If you could only go one place for the soup with broccolo romanesco and skate (Brodo di Arzilla?), would it be any of the above places or someplace entirely different? I take it from your website that you like the version at Paris, but the version at Antico Arco looks like an interesting update, "Roman broccoli soup with small ravioli filled of sting ray."

          A place with a name like "Baby" immediately rings my warning bells, but is a name in English not necessarily an awful sign for Rome?

          I think everyone on Chowhound has warned against Ferrara...naturally, our concierge recommended it ;) At least he'll be useful getting reservations at places we specify.

          1. re: SteveG

            I don't see the point of an interesting update of brodo di arzilla, though it does sound good, if you've never had the original. If that is the case. At Paris you have to specify you want the broccoli, which you do.

            An English name has to be taken in context, anywhere. This is fine dining for Italians. The name is because the chef is the son of Don Alfonso and the restaurant is considered an offshoot. I'm not sure whether the baby is the son, the place, or both.

            And speaking of English, "filled of sting ray"? Honestly! I do not understand the psychology of restaurants that refuse to ask somebody competent to translate their menus, but I've stopped wondering. Yes, the Italian is brodo di arzilla, and the translation, as you say, is skate. Filled with.

            1. re: mbfant

              Is Baby good enough that we should go when we swing back through Rome in a few weeks? We were planning to do most of our high-end dining in Bologna, Florence, and possibly Palermo under the theory that like many major capitals, the undiscerning expense accounts and wealthy international tourists make it harder to find excellent food at the top level in Rome, but we're happy to be told otherwise too.

              Since we'll be in Naples, is the original Don Alfonso better than Baby? Chowhound is somewhat lacking in detailed reports of Don Alfonso, aside from a few people who were put off by the price but didn't really mention the food.

              1. re: SteveG

                I dont really think you have to worry about the tourism/expense account issue in Rome - Romans are as fanatical as any other Italians in their food love. Id stay away from any restaurant with an "international" tilt, however.

                Maybe you will get some responses on Don Alphonso - the whole area of Campania is a hotbed of wonderful food - there are more reviews on the site, but you need to use the main search box, which will pick up posts older than a year, including on the old international board to find them.

                1. re: SteveG

                  Baby is good enough, but I wouldn't say that somebody who doesn’t live here should go to a lot of extra trouble to go there. Florence is the place to skip high-end dining. Also why Bologna? We went to Sant'Andrea, in Palermo, when it was new and thought it was awful, but maybe that wasn’t typical. I had lunch at the Charleston about a year ago with a local notable and thought it was good. Rome sort of has two top levels, one where it's important to eat and one where it's important to spend money (most of these are off my radar). At our Sunday lunch at Baby we saw a well-known jet-set-type ex-Socialist minister, suggesting it belonged to the second group, but the food was really good and the service superb.
                  I actually liked the food at Baby better than at Don Alfonso, but it's hardly fair to make a judgment on the basis of such limited exposure. Don is very good, but a bit self-conscious. The elegance seemed more natural at Baby. The food is great ata Don Alfonso, mainly interpretations of traditional but obscure dishes, and they grow practically everything themselves. Our fave on the Amalfi peninsula is Taverna del Capitano, but unfortunately we haven't been in quite a few years.

          2. I think you have a lot of great replies - for me, if you are going to Sicily and, particularly, Naples on this trip, seafood would not be a priority in Rome. You know pizza is mostly not available at lunchtime in Rome, right? The "pizza bianco", more a focaccia, at Antico Forno is an exception, but thats a takeout snack, not a sit down place.

            I think you are doing the right thing going for the Roman specialties

            1. We are traveling in Italy right now so hopefully this will help-

              Rome-

              Renato y Luisa- AMAZING- best food best service- very rustic food, hearty and great wine/bread.
              Dal Cavalier Gino- Very good also, very much a locals place, make sure you know some Italian or you might meet with unfriendly service (my husband spoke English and we both could have sworn the waiter was seriously PO'd!)

              Sicily- not sure where you are going but we have been following
              Palermo-
              Sant' Andrea- A MUSt- it was insanely good and wished we had eaten there every night- hearty, food for the soul, we had a beautiful Sicilian red with angler fish tortillini plus the most amazing seas bass rolled with creamed cauliflower. I'm a big bread person also, for some reason I've noticed that if the bread basket is good and fresh the food ends up being amazing, so hence this had some of the most amazing traditional rolls from Sicily with orange rinds.

              Osteria dei Vespri - Was not a fan at all- way too pretentious , lots of foam and strange bread- but I am a big fan of local hearty rustic cuisine.

              We also have visited the following cities so let me know if you need more recs (you can email me at annette.gallo@gmail.com)
              Florence
              Venice
              Tropea
              Vibo Marina (AMAZING food)
              La Sila (AMAZING food)
              Milan

              1 Reply
              1. re: annettegallo

                Thanks a ton, especially for the Palermo comments...both places were on my radar but I hadn't tried to make any decisions yet.

                We'll also be in Florence, so if you have any reporting to do on the rest of your trip I'm sure we'd all appreciate reading it ;-)

              2. One other thing- call Piperno before you go, it might be closed

                1 Reply
                1. re: annettegallo

                  Happy to help SteveG! I am going to submit a full report when we are back but in Firenze I can tell you some of my favs:

                  Oliverio- Very classic- The books say Sophia Loren used to hang out there. For the money it worth every bite, the wine was fantastic and the food was really very good. A little bit of twist of traditional Tuscan cuisine, I liked it very very much (and the atmosphere is beautiful)- for 3 courses, dessert and a bottle of red was $140 euro

                  La Giostra- Please stay far far away from here, its like a wannabe Italian Waverly Inn with a TGIF undertone. So cheesy. The food was way overpriced, huge portions, service was rude, saw at least two strange 80 year old men with 20 year old Russian model-types (not sure what that means but it gave me the chills). Super tacky and our bill was 156 euros for less than great food.

                  Cafe Zero (I think this is the official name)- I never got the exact name but we happened upon the place for lunch and were so pleasently surprised. It is in the oltrarno district. We ate lunch here and and the most amazing view of Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi. The place is huge and is partial stand-up cafe with great pastries and part sit down eatery. Try both, we did! Its on Via de Bardi, take a left when you get off the bridge and its on the river side of the street.

                  Also one other place in Palermo I forgot to mention-
                  ANTICA FOCACCERIA SAN FRANCESCO
                  Now lots of people on here love this place and rave about the Milza (a small "sandwich" with spleen and ricotta) and sounded to me about as rustic and traditional as you could get. We made reservations and dined upstairs. I have to sadly, I was so disappointed the food was really heavy and not in a good way. Not much flavor. We tried the Milza, which I think is an acquired taste but if you like organ meat then you will probably like it, but also ordered other traditional offerings like pasta with sardines and tropea red onions, have to say this was not so great. I would recommend going for lunch hour if you are interested in getting a taste of the miza and just ordering from downstairs. You are better off eating at Sant Andrea every night (I'm still dreaming of my semolina ravioli with sea jack sauce)

                  Have an amazing time!

                2. Reporting back...the executive summary is that the food on this trip was extremely disappointing for me, since our produce in California seems to be significantly better and the restaurant scene in major US cities is so competitive that the overall lazy approach to food prep in Italy just doesn't hold up.

                  Lunch after Vatican, Il Matriciano: terrible pastas. One so al-dente as to be inedible, the other just pushing the limits of al-dente but noticeably different, so this wasn't any sort of consistent philosophy of the kitchen, just lazy execution. Sauce/toppings were OK. Traditional Roman salad of puntarelle was fine, but didn't hold up to comparisons with other restaurants later in the trip. I think I picked this place due to confusion on chowhound over this and a few other restaurants with similar names...I'm sure one of them is pretty good, but not this one.

                  First night in Rome, Al Bric:
                  Overall, a good meal. Nothing wowed, but it was solid food prepared correctly with good service and a very good wine list. Nero d'Avola Risotto very well prepared, but an excessively large portion which filled me up. Preparation was not better or different than I can do at home, so I didn't order risotto again for the rest of the trip. Prawns were of excellent quality and cooked to the point of perfection. Reimagined traditional Roman soup of skate, brocolo romanesco, and pasta with the pasta taking the form of fresh skate ravioli was excellent, and much better than the traditional version I had at Ristorante Paris, where the short pieces of 1/4" broken up noodles often stuck together, thus remaining uncooked when the pieces that weren't stuck together were perfectly cooked. Overall, a good meal that was satisfying and met but didn't exceed expectations.

                  Most of the lunch joints on our radar were closed, but we ended up with a snack of a pizza bianca from Il Fornaio if memory serves. Language barrier too great and menu too lacking to figure out how to order the version with cheese and mortadella, but the plain was very good. One of the only places on the entire trip where the staff didn't rewarm our purchase in a microwave, but rather in an oven.

                  Finally ended up at the wine bar Cul de Sac, which was a disaster. I found the wooden benches in the banquets plenty comfortable, if extremely plain, and the wine selection was very good. The trouble was the food, which ranged from utterly inedible to pretty tasty. The menu has a big selection of pates, which caused me to order the selection of 3. They were all awful, didn't taste of the source animal, and my partner's comment that they tasted like meow mix was spot on. Burrata was good, but no better than I can get in San Francisco when I make sure to buy it the day it flies in from Italy from any number of local markets. Pasta Amatriciana was pretty good, especially by local standards.

                  Dinner at Trattoria Monti: overall very good, with a few slip ups. My pasta in broth, a very loose large shape called something like passeti which is made with bread crumbs in the dough and seems to be pressed directly into the broth to cook was quite tasty, but the flavor was dominated by lemongrass or citron zest that would have made a wonderful back note but instead was an overwhelming forward note that hid the nuance of the broth. Roast squab had amazing flavor, but was severely overcooked, which seemed to be the rule with poultry in Italy everywhere we went. Had a number of other dishes which weren't memorable. They comped us a few glasses of excellent vermentino grappa.

                  Lunch, La Matricianella
                  This place has awards of all types on the door: slow food, gambero rosso, driving clubs, newspapers, etc. The food seemed like a very representative old-fashioned Roman trattoria, and much of it was good, but none of it was great. Fried jewish-style artichokes had lots of nice crispy leaves, and were lighter and significantly better than the version at Ristorante Paris later in the trip. Memory is hazy, since nothing else stands out, but I think my Roman-style tripe was OK but not great, and was crying out for flavor of any kind from herbs, garlic, pepper, or anything else to rescue it from the monodimensional tomato sauce. I think we had a pasta carbonara, which we were disappointed to find made with what looked an awful lot like pancetta and not guanciale. Wondered why this was a slow food favorite, and began to sense that Slow Food is heavily influenced by the presence of an owner in a restaurant, low prices, and and old-school ambiance and not terribly influenced by the quality of the food. Very slow and haphazard service. We probably didn't order the strengths of the restaurant, but it would be nice if they just shortened the menu to what they do well.

                  Last dinner in Rome was at a place whose name escapes me, with a gorgeous display of cheese in the front window and walls decorated with the wooden ends of wine cases, many of which were French. Overall, a good meal, but it leaned heavily on the cheese, with the only thing standing out in my mind being rigatoni swimming in melted taleggio. A careful inspection of the cheese only revealed a few that aren't imported in California, which was a bit of a surprise.

                  On the second leg of the trip through Rome, we ate at Ristorante Paris, Il Moro, and Taverna Flavia.

                  Ristorante Paris was good, but all the waiters had terrible BO, the fried artichokes were more compact and greasy than other versions we had in Rome, the traditional Roman soup with skate, pasta bits, and brocolo romanesco had perfect flavor but terrible texture due to some of the pasta bits sticking together and cooking unevenly, the puntarelle salad was the best we had in Rome. Can't remember what my partner had for dinner--his first and second were unmemorable.

                  Al Moro struck us as the Roman equivalent of Tadich Grill for San Francisco residents. A long menu, somewhat inconsistent, with a few real gems. Primarily playing host to power-lunchers in suits who never look at the menu and always order one of a few favorites. Conchigle pasta with sausage and porcini mushrooms was excellent, though the mushrooms had the texture of dried despite the waiter recommending this dish when I asked him which dishes would include the gorgeous fresh porcinis I saw in the produce display when we walked in. My partner's bollito misto had an excellent variety of tasty meats, but didn't come with any sauce, such as salsa verde which we thought was standard. Perhaps the waiter forgot, but the prices they were charging should have ensured perfect execution.

                  Dinner at Taverna Flavia was the best of the trip, and quite bittersweet because it was our last night. We definitely would have returned if we'd found it sooner. We found this place based on a recommendation from the owners of a nearby leathergoods store, when we asked them where they go to celebrate special occasions. When we first walked in, we were struck by two things: walls covered in photographs of every celebrity likely to have been through Rome in the last century, and the overpowering smell of white truffles. I have never encountered such a strong truffle aroma, even at dedicated truffle tasting nights in San Francisco restaurants, and it was so blissfully strong that it was almost revolting. My handmade egg fettuccine noodles in a simple eggy/creamy sauce were the perfect support for the entire small white truffle that was generously shaved over them; expensive at 45 euros, but a fair price for the quantity and quality of truffle used and the perfect execution. My partner's 10 euro pasta carbonara was the only one we had in Rome that was made correctly with guanciale, and was also the only one in Rome that was better than almost every version we've made in our own kitchen at home. My partner's chicken hitchcock, cooked in lemon juice and white wine, was the first poultry of the trip that was cooked perfectly without being overcooked, and was also deliciously flavored due to the use of fresh herbs. My steak strips were perfectly charred from the grill with great flavor development, and were extremely satisfying. All in all, the only restaurant of the entire trip that was "traditional" that also managed to execute on every dish ordered. A side order of cooked spinache was well-prepared, tasted good, and provided much needed roughage, which also earned them points considering the difficulties we had finding edible vegetable matter for the duration of the trip.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: SteveG

                    Thanks for your report. I was in Rome Dec. 27-Jan. 4 and wanted to post my findings but couldn't remember my screen name/email/password, etc., from so long ago.

                    We had a perfectly acceptable lunch at Cul de Sac: soup, egglant Calabrese, a lasagna and all'amatriciana.

                    Our best meals by far were at Antico Arco and Checchino dal 1887.

                    We had several other places on our list but we never made it to them.

                    For us, this was a reminder of how much Roman dining takes a backseat to Roman sightseeing. As much as I would have loved to go big every dinner and/or lunch, I was spending far too much energy on museums, churches, piazze, fontane, etc.

                    A great trip, and maybe I'm not a committed chowhound. I live and dine well in SF, but on vacation--well, I want to eat well, but I'm on vacation.

                    1. re: SteveG

                      SteveG, in over nine years of following and contributing to Chowhound your's is the single most interesting, most intriguing post that I have seen. From the detailed inquisitiveness to the detailed frustration and criticism I, quite frankly, have never read anything else like this. There is not another person who has criticized Italy, its food and its restaurants along with Chowhound's recommendations for them quite so curiously. You were even successful in including Slow Food, the aroma of white truffles and risotto no better than your own in your comments.

                      My guess is that you would not care for Alba in October.

                      1. re: Joe H

                        I was also interested in this. I suspect that the bar for creativity, "freshness" and pristine, unusual and varied produce is a bit higher in San Francisco than Italy, where traditions and seasonality matter more, garnishing is rare and food may be cooked longer. I think maybe the EU is having an effect too - a lot of the products, like artichokes, tomatoes, etc are being produced for a larger market on larger farms and in greenhouses. And the little handpicked field greens I remember seeing 30 years ago (admittedly in warm weater, not winter) have been replaced by greenhouse grown uniform arugula selvatica, etc.

                        As for slowfood, we have had great experiences mostly but in some cases I think the cost parameters for listing are too restrictive - the focus is on good presentations of the traditional home-type dishes and, I feel, a welcoming environment. Usually it works but weve had a few duds over the years.

                        1. re: Joe H

                          Just to be clear, the truffle was amazing, and I'm sure I would love Alba in season.

                      2. Wow Steve - great report!

                        I am researching my restaurants for Rome so your critique really was helpful.

                        As we only have 3 nights in Rome, I am starting to narrow down my choices.
                        I have Matricinella, Paris, and Pierluigi tied at this point, but want to eliminate two.
                        All along, leaning toward Matricinella and Paris.
                        From your description - it seems as though you were not really impressed by either of these!
                        Can you compare price and atmosphere for me, and which one you would rather go back to try again?

                        I'd appreciate your input, as I am driving myself a bit mad!

                        The only place that you gave a glowing review to was Taverna Flavia.
                        I googled it and came across several terrible reviews of it.
                        And they immediately put me off looking into it any further.
                        I have 14 places on my list of "must try's" as it is, so I really don't need anymore to look into anyway!! Unless of course you can sway me! :)

                        Thanks for anything you can offer!

                        Cheers

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: NellyNel

                          I am curious about Pierluigi; this place seems to turn up on many visitor's lists here, and on other sites,
                          I would love to hear the straight up because i had never heard of it until recently..I hope MB Fant will comment here..

                          1. re: erica

                            Erica, if I remember correctly from another post - MBFant hasnt been there for years...she wasn't inspired by it enough to ever go back.

                            Have you checked out their web-site?
                            The menu doesnt thrill me, but the look of the place does...the atmosphere looks wonderful (to me anyway)

                            She also (I think!!) doesn't like my other choice of Matricinella - but I have read soooo many great reviews of the place. I really think I'm leaning toward this one

                            1. re: NellyNel

                              Eccomi. Yes, Pierluigi used to be sort of chi-chi and now I hear about it only from tourists. I have a vague memory of dragging Franco there some years ago and being underwhelmed. Choruses of tourists on this board assure me it isn't so, but if Franco and I want fish, we take a train to Anzio or Ostia or we go to Tuna on via Veneto. I have no reason to try Matricianella again after a bad experience, but someday might in the interest of research. I read the same reviews you did of Taverna Flavia and had the same reaction. I find Paris reliable, classic, and a fallback when we want to take a visitor out for a traditional meal, Checchino too, for a somewhat different traditional menu. Monti left us pretty cold last Friday. In general I find your list mysterious. Where on earth did you get those names?

                              1. re: mbfant

                                Many thanks for the responses! ( By the way, I had two good dinners at Matricianella in early 2007 but I am not sure that those dinners merit an"essential" on anyone's list) I did look at the Pierluigi website and something about the photos gave me the idea that it was oriented toward tourists. Maybe it was the neighborhood, too. Which does not mean the food is bad, by any means..

                                It is so hard to figure out these things. Alfredo is a nice homey trattoria near the Pantheon and all of a sudden it is turning up on all of these "must eat" lists. (Same thing with Sant' Andrea in Palermo, by the way)

                                The other place,which I have never tried and which seems to turn up on EVERY list of newcomers to Florence is La Giostra!

                                It is all so very difficult for those of us who basically travel to eat (and thank goodness I can write that on CH!) that is why contributors like MBFant are so valuable. Many thanks, Maureen!

                                1. re: erica

                                  I think you mean Armando near the Pantheon. The proportion of tourists (yes, i know I am one of them) to locals *has* grown quite a bit in the last few years.

                                  As for La Giostra, I've rarely if ever seen it recommended here or at the other food board. It's very often recommended on travel boards, because many tourists like the "free" (ha!) prosecco that many identify as champagne, the "free" antipasto plate and chatting with someone who calls himself a Habsburg prince.

                                  1. re: zerlina

                                    Good, Zerlina--you corrected me--I did mean Armando. And thank you so much for clearing up the mystery of La Giostra. Can this really be true that all of these people are drawn to the "free" prosecco and a few free antipasti? Over and over again I see this place mentioned on a travel site..it has always sounded so totally hokey to me. And from what I read, it is very expensive. Many thanks!

                                2. re: mbfant

                                  Hi Maureen and thank you for your thoughts.

                                  "In general I find your list mysterious. Where on earth did you get those names?"
                                  Were you referring to my list?
                                  I posted my list on a different blog elsewhere on the board..

                                  If you were referring to my list - I got my list from all sorts of places - allot of travel web-sites, and then I further reseached on my own.
                                  Allot of them were on Italian web-sites with Italian reviews.

                            2. re: NellyNel

                              I think the fundamental problem is most restaurants have a menu that is four times larger than it should be, and one person may order a real stinker when another orders something pretty good.

                              For example, our Cul de Sac experience involved a dish that was in the worst 10% of our trip (meow mix pates), and another that was maybe in the top 25% for our trip.

                              The reason we liked Taverna Flavia so much is that everything we ordered was appropriately cooked and seasoned. Pasta was fresh and neither undercooked nor overcooked. Poultry was succulent, rather than dry and stringy.

                              Frankly, we drove ourselves mad trying to find good places, and if I had it to do over again I would just eat paninis for most of my calories; we spent too much time eating gut busting mediocre meals trying to find greatness, when we could have been seeing the sites.

                              As for Matricianella vs. Paris, the artichokes were better and cheaper at Matricianella. Paris has a more upscale interior, much better service, but the absent-minded kid with the runny nose who bungled service at Matricianella was replaced by an uncommunicative old man with terrible BO at Ristorante Paris. Trattoria Monti was similar in price to Ristorante Paris, and left a much more positive impression in my mind, though the flavorful squab at Monti was terribly overcooked. Al Bric is much more modernized in style, and I liked it more than Paris too.

                              1. re: SteveG

                                Steve,

                                Thanks so much!
                                You have really put thing into a different perspective for me.

                                True, loving food so much I am spending allot more time researching the restaurants than I am anything else!

                                And yes, i think it certainly depends on what you order.
                                Hmmm well I really appreciate your feedback. You.ve given me a bit to mull over.

                                Cheers!

                                1. re: NellyNel

                                  We are recently back from a week in Rome. We liked Antico Arco, but not as much as some who have posted above. Our best meal was at La Rosetta, but that is well known and expensive. Our big discovery was Le Mani in Pasta in Trastevere. Excellent food and not expensive. For a full report go to the Rome Category in The Wandering Epicures.

                                  1. re: beaulieu

                                    Thanks beaulieu - I'll check it out!

                            3. The espresso at St. Eustachio is reputed to be the best but, the old timey decor is worth a visit. The trattoria St. Eustachio next door is a good place for lunch. We found the dinner service lacking having went back after a delightful lunch. Sit outside if the weather permits.

                              1. Just a couple of little hints for ice cream and such things. Giolitti is indeed one of the best places in Rome for it. Anyway, my personal fav is a tiny place in front of the Vatican Walls (just around the corner from Piazza Risorgimento), no idea of the name but I've been there many times, not a huge place, nor 50 flavs, but ice cream is really good.
                                If u are a fan of sweet tastes, I have a couple of recommendations to add. First, I suggest that u take a walk into the ghetto (yes, there is a small ghetto in Rome), there are 2 or 3 jewish pastry shops that make delicious things (most Romans love it, even tho it's not really their own tradition) including a cake with "visciole" (a kind of cherry); I assume visitors never get a taste of such things, and I assure u it's worth it. Second rec, is a chance to get one of the most known "tiramisu" of the entire city, I have to say I don't agree with my Roman friends (they say this is the best tiramisu ever in the world), but still, it's good, and also, especially at nights and weekends, the place is crowded with people who just go there with that reason. The place (it's a bar, actually) is named "Pompi" and it's in Piazza Re di Roma (u can get there with the subway easily).
                                Enjoy :-)