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Jan 20, 2009 05:09 AM

Lunch near Palazzo Barberini

My husband and I will be in Rome in late April. One morning, we will be taking a walking tour of Baroque art/architecture that ends at the Palazzo Barberini at lunch time. I'd really appreciate some recommendations for restaurants in the vicinity.

I'll define "the vicinity" to include a 15-minute walk in any direction, although I'm guessing that we'll either head to Piazza del Popolo or to Castel Sant'Angelo after lunch so recs along either of those two routes would be particularly appealing.

We're not interested in a three-course meal with wine. However, beyond that restriction, we're totally flexible. Traditional trattoria cooking, innovative cuisine, and fish/shellfish are equally appealing.


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  1. Within a 15-minute walk of Piazza Barberini in any direction there are about a bazillion decent places to eat of all varieties, but it's not clear to me what you want. Three-course meal with wine is exactly what you'll find at a traditional trattoria or any other kind of restaurant except the new-formula type of place. Tuna, just up via Veneto from the piazza, may offer light lunch, I'm not sure. They were changing their daytime offerings. Chinappi, also fish, also just off the piazza, and may offer a light lunch, but I'm not sure. Otherwise there are the bars. Pepy's, on the piazza, is famous for its tramezzini. Unfortunately La Baita, which was a lovely bar, has been transformed, but it still might meet your needs. My French hairdresser (near the piazza) likes Ciao Bella, opposite Tuna on via Veneto, but one of the owners is a client, so he probably gets good treatment. I've never been. Canova could be an idea on Piazza del Popolo. And the bar near Villa Medici between Trinità dei Monti and p del Popolo/Pincio, I think it's still Ciampini, is another idea. There is this place called Gina too, near P di Spagna, but I've never been. Sounds OK for light lunch.

    8 Replies
    1. re: mbfant

      Thanks for your reply. Perhaps my mixed signals stem from the fact that my husband and I adore the classics of trattoria cuisine; however, we can't eat two three-course-meals-with-wine per day. So please help me understand what you mean by a trattoria inevitably being a three-course lunch with wine.

      Put a slightly different way, I know Italians have rules about foods and eating. (I've learned about slighty under-ripe tomatoes in salad. I've learned about no cappucino after 11:00.) So what are the rules regarding ordering practices at a trattoria? Could I really not order a salad and antipasto selection for lunch? Could my husband and I really not share an antipasto selection and each order a pasta/risotto to follow?


      1. re: Indy 67

        YOu can certainly order whatever number of courses you want in a trattoria.
        The pricing is a la carte rather than for a fixed meal, and you will see that others also order less than 3 courses. Dont worry about it. From my way of thinking, find the restaurant with the cooking you want to experience, and give it a try (assuming that fewer courses and a lighter meal will satisfy your itch). On a brief trip, I think its a waste of an eating opportunity to go to a "light meal" kind of place unless is has dishes or experiences you want to have. bty, our preference has always been to have a full meal in midday and our lighter meal in the evening - since so many things are closed until 3 or so in the afternoon (have you checked the opening hours of those churches in Pza del Popolo, for example) it fits in better with a touristic itinerary to have a slow, relaxed lunch.

        1. re: Indy 67

          I'm one of the people guilty of propagating all these rules and intimidating innocent tourists, but a number of the rules are relaxing under pressure from modern life and international travel, especially in the city centers. Young people who have seen something of the world are taking over, and changing, their parents' trattorias and restaurants. (BTW the often repeated business about no cappuccino after 11 AM is silly. The prohibition is against cappuccino after a meal, and it's real, except under pressure from tourists many restaurants even list it on the menu.) And indeed many trattorias that used to make a fuss if you didn't go the whole nine yards now don't bat an eyelash if you eat relatively light. (BTW risotto is not as a rule the thing to have in a Roman trattoria.) Nevertheless, a traditional trattoria is a place where you go to eat a full meal with wine, nothing fancy, but a meal. Of course YOU define what's a meal. An antipasto and a primo is fine anywhere any time except in the upper echelons, where portions are usually quite small in expectations that clients will go the distance. But an antipasto and primo at a trattoria for lunch will probably not leave you much room for dinner. Colline Emiliane, for example, is near P Barberini, but an antipasto and primo there is serious business. Therefore I would recommend either the traditional formula of a sandwich in a bar or a slice of pizza al taglio or a single dish in a tavola calda or the new formula of the chi-chi places such as Tuna (if indeed it does light lunch) or Palatium (both of which I love) or even Obikà, the mozzarella bar, all places where the food is of good quality but the combinations nontraditional.

          1. re: mbfant

            On the topic of Italian food rules, there was an amusing interchange last night on the competition cooking show TOP CHEF. Fabio, one of the contestants is Italian, specifically Florentine. Over the course of the competition, Fabio has criticized other contestants' dishes based on the rules of Italian cooking. Last night, Fabio's distress over others' violating the rules of Italian cooking reached new heights.

            The particular competition required each contestant to prepare a dish that evoked the home town cuisine of one of the US football teams using a given set of ingredients. Fabio was assigned the Green Bay Packers and was, therefore, dealing with venison as the protein and the requirement of using cheddar cheese. Fabio responded by topping a salad of mache with cheddar cheese shavings. His salad was dressed only by olive oil.

            Now, the plot thickens. The guest judge was an American who had been awarded three stars by the Frank Bruni (NY TIMES) a couple of months before the taping of the show for Scarpetta, an Italian restaurant. Said guest judge criticized the flavor of Fabio's salad as lacking in acidity. The voices of Fabio's grandmother, his instructors from school in Genoa Italy, and every Italian who knows the cooking rules must have been screaming in Fabio's brain. Suddenly, he shouted out in a most impolitic way, "You're a chef in an Italian restaurant and you want me to mix acid and cheese?"

            Tellingly, the judge did not take on the content of Fabio's cricitism. He only scolded Fabio saying words to the effect of, "I'm the judge. Not you."

            1. re: Indy 67

              Poor Fabio! He was absolutely right. But if he had been more furbo (and known his chickens better) he'd have finessed the acid lack with a few drops of balsamico.

              As it happens, I had two mache salads last week and thought about the acid question. The first was made by a friend who is a very good cook. She dressed the salad with lemon and oil and topped it with shrimp as an antipasto. Everybody else thought it was great but I thought it was way too acidic. The next day, at one of our favorite fish places (Pierino, in Anzio), the final plate of the succession of antipasti was mache topped with shrimp and sort of punctuated with a few tiny strawberries. It had no acid at all, just oil, and was exquisite. I'm with Fabio.

              1. re: mbfant

                Hi Indy -

                I was on the Top Chef board...I think I'm the only one who thought Fabio's salad looked good! (cheese and fruit!)

                I too, am planning a trip to Rome -
                Can I ask what other restaurants you have on your list?
                (Not that I need anyMORE input - I already have a list of 10 MUST try's - and we're only in Rome for 3 days!!
                I WISH my wallet and belly could take 2 full 3 course meals while we are there!!!
                I think though that we will do our big meal in the evening...
                If I have too much food and wine at lunch - I'll be wiped out for the rest of the day!

                1. re: NellyNel

                  I haven't really cranked up my research efforts for our April trip. Below, I've shared some of the restaurants that I've identified so far. With few exceptions, I haven't gotten to the point of planning our activities coupled with our meals yet.

                  This list probably is not going to break any new ground for you.

                  L'Angoletto -- near P. Rotonda; the first meal we ate on our long-ago first trip to Rome; we've begun every trip here for sentimental reasons; this trip we'll probably break that tradition since we're staying in a completely different part of town

                  Il Convivio -- near P. Navona; exquisite food and service; priced accordingly; this is where I was first introduced to a stool for handbags -- love them!

                  Colline Emiliane -- we haven't had the food of E-R since our trip there two years ago; a meal at Colline will remedy that problem

                  Agata e Romeo: no personal experience, but I understand this is comparable to Il Convivio, albeit somewhat more traditional

                  Tuna: no personal experience; I understand this offers innovative cooking with an emphasis on fish

                  Casa Bleve: no personal experience; choosing from an assortment of well-made antipasti to assemble a meal appeals to me

                  Cecchino: no personal experience; we ate at Incanto (a head-to-tail Italian restaurant) in San Francisco and we're weren't blown away; I want to eat equivalent meal prepared by Roman chefs who learned their skills at their grandmother's side

                  La Piazzetta: no personal experience; good trattoria cooking; convenient to the Colosseum

                  Trattoria Monti: no personal experience; I understand this offers excellent trattoria cooking

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    Thank you, Indy for your list.
                    There are a few places on your list that I havent heard of and will be sure to look up!