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Rome in March

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foggy_town Jan 12, 2009 12:05 PM

My wife and I are heading to Italy at the end of March, hopefully beating the Easter crowd. We went to Florence/Venice/Milan in 2006, and will focus on Rome (about 5 days), Naples, Amalfi Coast (too early in season?) and Umbria this time.

It will be the first time for my wife, but I visited Rome 8 years ago on my own. It is truly a magnificent city, but I was somewhat disappointed in the food. Perhaps it is the season (summer), perhaps it is the location (Centro Storico, Termini), or perhaps I succumbed too soon in the heat, but I had a hard time finding eateries with a favorable tourist/local ratio. The food is decent and cheap, better than what an average tourist eat in many US cities. I would be content if it is Florence or Venice, but I expect more in Rome. Where do Romans eat? I normally have no problem finding great bistro in Paris full of Parisians just 2 blocks from major sights.

I just started browsing this board, and collecting ideas. So far the short list includes:
* Antico Forno Campo de Fiori (take out)
* Al Bric
* Armando
* Trattoria Monti
* Paris
* Sant’ Eustachio and Tazza de Oro (coffee)
* Pizzeria Buffetto (pizza)

I am sure the list will grow as I spend more time on the board. It has served us well in the past. Meanwhile I am counting on the collective wisdom of the board for the following questions:
1) What areas are good for just walking around at evening, and discovering good trattoria with traditional food and lots of locals?
2) We are not big meat eaters, and will focus on pasta and vegetable anti-pasta. We both love seafood though, particularly fish. Can someone recommend a good place for seafood? Where can we have Sardinia style pasta with bottarga? Or shall we wait till we get to Naples?
3) We want to have one special occasion meal, to celebrate, well, just being in Rome. It would be at the end of a busy sightseeing day, and we want it to be relaxed, not having to “live up with the service level”. Would Antico Arco be a good choice?
4) Where can we sample authentic Roman Jewish food?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. austx03 RE: foggy_town Jan 12, 2009 12:33 PM

    Yes to Antico Arco. You won't be disappointed. Been there before, be there in May and the time following the May visit.

    1 Reply
    1. re: austx03
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      foggy_town RE: austx03 Jan 12, 2009 08:06 PM

      Thanks, any idea how much would it cost? Their website did not list price.

    2. mbfant RE: foggy_town Jan 12, 2009 01:02 PM

      Where the Romans eat is, I assure, not necessarily where you want to eat. Romans eat Roman food at home or at their local trattoria. When they go out, they often want something different, while you probably want something more traditional and authentic. It's not, of course, that simple, but many of the best restaurants in Rome have a large foreign clientele, and it would be wrong to hold it against them.

      You don't say where you ate on your previous trip, or what you ate, so it's impossible to evaluate your experience, but I can say this: many people don't get Roman food because it seems too simple and not what they are expecting. Do some reading about Roman food.

      The Campo de' Fiori/Pantheon/Piazza Navona area is full of restaurants and trattorias and tourists and heavy-drinking young people, as well as some very beautiful streets and attractive restaurants. I would not expect to wander around and walk into any place wonderful. It may happen, but it's a long shot. Study and reserve.
      Tuna, on lower via Veneto, is wonderful for fish. Paris is fine for the basic Jewish menu. Armando is nice but not as good as Monti, and even Monti, which is very good, is not as indispensable as some reviewers suggest. Sant'Eustachio and Tazza d'Oro are very good, if you're already in the neighborhood. Baffetto is a great favorite of many people, but it's a mystery to me. The pizza is good, but the place is uncomfortable and always crowded. There are several Sardinian restaurants, but I'm not really up on them. I wouldn't expect to find Sardinian bottarga on the menu in Naples. You can also take a plane to Cagliari as a day trip and have lunch there. It's quite close.

      You will find a lot of locals in peripheral neighborhoods eating near their homes. Most locals can't afford to live in the neighborhoods where the tourists go. So just choose the restaurants you like, familiarize yourself with the warning signs of tourist traps, have an idea in advance what should be on the menu, and relax.

      Antico Arco would probably be fine for your special occasion.

      6 Replies
      1. re: mbfant
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        foggy_town RE: mbfant Jan 12, 2009 08:15 PM

        Points well taken. No I do not remember where I ate. I was not even using a guide book, just wandering around and it was 8 years ago. The lesson: one stil needs to do the homework, even in Rome. I hope it will be different this time around, with the help of this board.

        1. re: foggy_town
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          PeggyD RE: foggy_town Jan 14, 2009 04:57 PM

          Do your homework ... it is TOTALLY worth it. Rome is a beautiful, breathtaking city with lovely, warm Italians, but you can eat poorly and pay a lot of money if you are not careful. Read this board carefully, make your list, reserve ahead (call & confirm when you get to Rome) and don't forget to have back up spots ... you will have a WONDERFUL time!! Ciao!! Peggy D

        2. re: mbfant
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          foggy_town RE: mbfant Jan 21, 2009 08:16 PM

          I see Tuna mentioned in another thread. Can someone characterize it? Is it an old school tratorria, or modern? Is it expensive? Seafood is usually more expensive than meat, but we are heading to the interier (Umbria) and will be away from coast after Rome. We changed our travel plan to skip Naples this time.

          1. re: foggy_town
            mbfant RE: foggy_town Jan 21, 2009 11:48 PM

            It is a very stylish restaurant with a conservative kitchen, all seafood. There is an antipasto of raw seafood and one of cooked --- succession of many small plates. The pastas are hearty, paccheri with scorfano and little tomatoes, spaghetti alle vongole. The fried calamari are delicate. It is expensive but not top-tier expensive, just expensive because it has top-grade fresh fish. You would almost certainly have two courses, not three, but might want dessert.

            1. re: foggy_town
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              Indy 67 RE: foggy_town Jan 22, 2009 03:35 AM

              Since you're heading to Umbria, plan on being able to order fish -- lake fish -- even in the interior; carp and pike are on many menus. I had known the names of these fish, but I don't believe I had eaten them until our Umbrian trip. Delicious.

              You don't mention the dates of your trip, but depending on the time of year, you may discover even more fish being offered in Umbria if my experience in Tuscany is any guide.

              In 2001, I visited Arezzo in March and made an interesting discovery. I know that Tuscany has a coast line where the cuisine includes fish and shellfish preparations, but Aretine cuisine is very heavily into meat. Therefore, it was something of a shock that on this -- my third trip to Arezzo -- I was seeing special, page-long menus featuring fish/shellfish exclusively inserted into to every restaurant menu. Not being Catholic, I didn't pick up on the significance of these additions. Answer: It was Lent.

              1. re: Indy 67
                jen kalb RE: Indy 67 Jan 22, 2009 08:18 AM

                One thing we noticed on our last trip to Italy is that top-flight seafood has become the default luxury option to the local cuisine in many places. Also pristine food from out of region. For example, in Mantova, Parma and Bergamo, which all have substantial cuisines of their own, restaurants serving very expensive and excellent seafood are very popular - even restaurants noted for the local dishes will offer these items elsewhere. In Mantova, for example we ate at a slow food establishment and feasted on marinated local fresh water lake fish and classic rice dishes, while the table across from us ate platters of amazing scampi (prawns). In Bergamo (another inland location), we watched table after table be served seafood plateaus, and we ourselves ordered a fish (at a ridiculously exorbitant price. The amuse buche they served included lovely buffalo mozzarella (obviously flown in). So if you are dining in the top tier you will see out of region items like these. But the price will be high, so watch out (I think our fish was delicious but cost around $75 - would we order it again - no).

                BTW on many trips to italy, including in Rome, we ate a lot of wonderful grilled trout - that was never expensive - so keep an eye out for that alternative. too, if you dont want to spend an arm and a leg.

          2. PBSF RE: foggy_town Jan 12, 2009 03:47 PM

            When you order your coffee drinks at Sant' Eustachio, if you don't sugar, tell them ahead of time, otherwise, they will put a little sugar on the bottom of the cup before pulling your espresso.

            1. steve h. RE: foggy_town Jan 14, 2009 05:11 PM

              march is the best month to visit rome. deb and i have been doing it for years.
              one piece of advice i would give: don't sweat the details. learn your neighborhood and go from there. find a restaurant you like and return. return customers are held in high regard.

              1. s
                Stig RE: foggy_town Jan 15, 2009 11:58 PM

                An excellent area for "windowshopping" restaurants is the area west of Tiber known as Trastevere. My wife and I love this part of Rome. The food is amongst the cheapest in Rome, and they serve a lot of traditional Roman dishes. My favorite so far is Da Lucia. They serve one of the best and simplest dishes I've had in Rome; Spaghetti Alla Gricia. Perfect for lunch. Also, you can't leave Rome without having their Panna Cotta for dessert. It's been know as one of the best in the city.

                A fun tip is to hang at the square outside the Santa Maria in Trastevere church just before lunchtime, and follow the priests when they go to eat. They know their way through old Rome like no guidebook.

                Best regards from Norway
                -S-

                3 Replies
                1. re: Stig
                  mbfant RE: Stig Jan 17, 2009 03:15 PM

                  You CAN leave Rome without having ANYBODY'S panna cotta! The standard in food in Trastevere is not that great, and especially in the cheap places. Da Lucia has many devoted fans. In my opinion it's fine if you're already in the neighborhood, but I certainly wouldn't recommend going to any trouble to go there. But I do recall it has excellent crème caramel, much more traditional in Rome than panna cotta.

                  1. re: mbfant
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                    Stig RE: mbfant Jan 18, 2009 12:27 AM

                    Hehe. This is a good example of different experiences. I'll go out of my way to get to Da Lucia. If I stay at a hotel near the Spanish Steps, I'll jump a cab to have dinner in Trastevere. I have quite a list of places I like to return to there. You might say that the dishes are simpler than many of the highend places, but the atmosphere and friendlyness of the locals are great. I love the late walks through the old city after dinner.

                    As for the Panna Cotta remark, what's the point?

                    1. re: Stig
                      mbfant RE: Stig Jan 18, 2009 05:18 AM

                      Oh, I was just taking you literally, and I find panna cotta people think it's a really important local food, which it is absolutely is not. And there ARE panna cotta people :-)

                      As for Trastevere, I'm sure everybody would like to know what else is on your list. I only ever go to Paris, l'Obitorio, and occasionally La Gensola. Il Ciak is good, but the menu and atmosphere aren't what I'm usually looking for. I also like Checco er Carettiere, but it's awfully expensive for essentially an oversized trattoria. Otherwise my husband and I have been consistently disappointed by other places we've tried in Trastevere, unless, of course, I'm forgetting something. Enzo and Spirito Divino are on my list to try.

                2. p
                  POY RE: foggy_town Jan 18, 2009 07:31 AM

                  Around the corner from Pizzeria Buffetto is the Pizzeria Monte Carlo full of Romans until late at night. Every time we go to Rome, we start at this pizzeria because the pizza, house wine, and ambience is perfect.

                  1. edible complex RE: foggy_town Jan 18, 2009 01:40 PM

                    it's been a while, so check to see if these are still open:

                    Ristorante 34- Via Mario de Fiore, 34
                    P.zza di Spagna www.webeco.it/al34
                    great sweetbreads with artichokes, and seafood lasagna
                    > > > >
                    Trattoria Otello alla Concordia- Via della Croce, 81 P.zza di
                    Spagna eggplant parmesan and veal saltimbocca; antipasti plate
                    with artichokes is a great starter; great desserts too
                    > > > >
                    Osteria Margutta- Via Margutta, 82
                    P.zza di Spagna
                    very cozy with fireplace; great seafood
                    > > > >
                    l'Enotec Antica- Via della Croce, 76
                    P.zza di Spagna www.enotecantica.com
                    happy, little wine bar with great cheese, roasted veggies and sausages
                    > > > >
                    Spinosi Alberto- Via del Mascherino, 60-62-64; Antica Trattoria
                    Dal 1923 just outside, to the left of the Vatican Tipica cucina
                    romana; best caprese and meat lasagna; great lunch place
                    > > > >
                    Le Naumache- Via Celimontana, 7
                    Colosseum
                    known for their fettuccini and tiramisu
                    > > > >
                    "Mystery" restaurant- either Rist. alle Rampa or Caffe Leonardo
                    facing the Spanish Steps, on the same side of the street of the
                    steps, go to the right and on your left is a row of restaurants
                    next to Valentino and AMEX. there is one with outdoor dining and
                    the best zucchini blossoms and fabulous buffet of all things
                    Italian.
                    > > > >
                    Hotel Forum- Via Tor de'Conti, 25-30 www.hotelforumrome.com
                    Roof garden restaurant with panoramic view of the Forum
                    > > > >
                    Rosati- Via del Corso and Via di Ripetta
                    P.zza del Popolo
                    Great Sunday brunch with terrific view of the piazza.
                    > > > >
                    Ciccia Bomba Pizza & Co.
                    via del Governo Vecchio, 76
                    great pizza place near the Piazza Navona; highly recommended by
                    locals
                    > > > >
                    Ristorante La Carbonara
                    Piazza Campo de' Fiori, 23
                    overlooking the Piazza; great antipasti bar and pasta carbonara
                    go to the Campo de' Fiori market first for fruit, veggies,
                    flower, and spice market; very colorful; then have a long lunch
                    at Carbonara
                    > > > >
                    Il Gabriello
                    Via Vittoria, 51; near the Spanish Steps area
                    fresh, homemade pastas; don't miss the grilled radicchio with
                    gorgonzola
                    > > > >
                    Giolotti; Piazza Collona
                    ice cream, gelati
                    > > > >
                    Tre Scalini; Piazza Navona
                    sit outside and have the Tartuffo; a decadent chocolate gelati,
                    truffle, bomb thing

                    1. s
                      sockster RE: foggy_town Jan 26, 2009 07:57 AM

                      We're actually in Rome as I write this and unfortunatly leaving in the morning. This is our second time her e this month and now we won't be back until April...As far as restaurants are concerned....book ahead. Here are my choices: Armando del Pantheon, ask for Fabiana and tell her Roberto sent you. Da Gino, no menu, fabulous pasta, Pizzaria Montecarlo, great pizza and ambiance, Macharonni, and then in Trastevere there is a restaurant called Frascatti, which is very local and very wonderful. Also in Trastevere is a fabulous pizza place, probably the best (according to our friends here) in Rome called Il Marmi...no reservations, dinner only, and worth the wait if there is one, Have a great time.....and bring layers to wear.

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