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Mar 30, 2009 12:10 PM

Details from our recent trip to ROME

My husband and I just returned from a week in Rome, where we ate our way through the city. Below is a bit about some of the places we went, what we ate, and how we felt about our choices. I hope it provides some valuable guidance to those of you planning a trip to this wonderful city!

Hits for Lunch:

1) Enoteca Corsi on Via del Gesu: Family owned and operated, Enoteca Corsi is open only for lunch and produces classic Italian fare with aplomb. Their fettucini with tomato and basil was perfection in its simplicity, and their mozzarella is creamy and tender just like it should be. We returned on the Friday of our visit - during Lent, so seafood dominated the menu- and had linguine pescatore (with cod, squid, octopus) and bacala with potatoes. Both were fantastic. Service cannot be beat. The one waitress, Sara, is attentive and kind, even though she is waiting a restaurant full of hungry Italians! This is simple fare that we enjoyed with jugs of their house wine - nothing fancy, but by far and away the best lunch we had in Rome.

2) Antico Forno Roscioli near Campo de'Fiori: We ate our best pizza in all of Rome here. Our favorite is the white pizza with the little yellow and red grape tomatoes. You can also purchase a loaf of their fresh bread and some salami or prosciutto and have them put it together into a sandwich for you. Either way, a fantastic lunch on the go.

Miss for Lunch:

Otello alla Concordia near the Spanish Steps: Our guidebook had called this one of the most reliable places in Rome. We found the food clumsy. The pasta e fagioli was too thick and mushy, and the zucchini blossoms were drowned in batter, destroying their delicate texture and flavor. Service was quite good, but not worth a wasted lunch in Rome!

Hits for Dinner:

1) Armando al Pantheon: Our dinner here was so good that, again, we returned for our last night in Rome. The pastas are very fresh. The amatriciana was divine. The servers are friendly and made us feel as comfortable as their regulars. The best part of our meal was the ricotta torte we shared - cornmeal cake with a filling of ricotta and strawberry jam, blanketed in powdered sugar. We actually ordered two slices on our last night because one was not enough. You MUST try Armando!!

2) Da Fortunato: This is definitely a place to see and be seen, so there is a fair degree of condescension if one isn't a regular. It's still worth a trip if you don't mind sticking your own chin in the air in response! Don't let them seat you in the back room. They will try it if you are a tourist - request a table in the front room with the Romans. We did, and it made all the difference. All of this is preamble to the real news, which is that the food is divine. Among other things, we had prosciutto and melon, gnocchi with tomato and basil, veal piccata, and wild strawberries with gelato. Each course was beautiful. The gnocchi were the best we have had.

3) Colline Emiliane: This place is worth the trip just for the proscuitto. While you're there, though, don't miss the tagliatelle bolognese, which is incredibly delicate, or the blueberry tart, if they've made it that day. What the place lacks in atmosphere (it's small and a bit cramped, and the tables are tombstoned) it makes up for in phenomenal food.

Miss for Dinner:

Ditirambo: Called the "quintessential trattoria" by some, we found it to be merely average. Our food was over-salted, and my branzino was inexpertly doused with an over-thick artichoke ragout, eliminating the delicate flavor of the fish. We did try the pear and pignoli tart with hot fudge for dessert, and it was transporting. They also poured a glass of limoncello at the end of the meal that was the best we had during our trip. I would not return, though, in light of the disappointment of our first two courses.

Hits for Snacks:

GELATO - San Crispino near the Pantheon (better by far than Giolitti) Make sure you get the panna (whipped cream) on top, and try the pistachio, our favorite.

COOKIES and PASTRY - Forno Campo de'Fiori - get the amaretti with pignoli on top and the apricot shortbread cookies.

COFFEE - We disagree here. My husband prefers Sant Eustachio, and I prefer Tazza d'Oro. We do agree that the latter makes the better cappucino. The former produces an espresso with incredible crema, which is what won over my espresso-loving husband, but be aware that they put quite a bit of sugar into the coffee if you do not ask that they hold it. The croissants at Tazza d'Oro are far better, as is the fresh blood orange juice.

Thanks for reading. Buon Appetito!

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  1. Thanks for your report. We will be leaving in a couple of weeks for Rome and Florence. I am just finishing up my restaurant list. We will be staying in the Ghetto and have not been to Italy for 8 years! Any further details of your trip would be greatly appreciated.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kadaffodil

      We will be in Rome and Florence too in a few weeks! Roscioli is legendary. I have the pizza bianca recipe, and sadly, could not replicate it the way they do it. The original is still the best. I go to Ditirambo every time i'm in Rome, and it never failed. Too bad the OP didn't have quite a good experience.

      1. re: kadaffodil

        We did try a restaurant in the Ghetto called Vecchia Roma that got RAVE reviews - from our concierge and by the guide who took us around the Vatican. It was a pleasant atmosphere (candle light; waiters in coats), but the food was fairly basic and not as good as we had a number of other places. We went for the fried artichokes, which the guide said were the best in Rome, but they were greasy. If you do go, beware of the antipasto buffet. The menu quotes 5 euro, which sounded too good to be true - and was! It was 5 euro per item one chose! Needless to say, I chose too many and was shocked at our bill. My fault for not inquiring. Feel free to send any questions, and I would be happy to try to to answer any of them!

        1. re: foodie4444

          I find that American visitors tend to just adore Vecchia Roma, which has the advantage of being in a beautiful location and open on Sundays, but the food is very uneven and decidedly overpriced. We occasionally go there with visitors but never on our own.

      2. I'm going to be in Rome next week and I'm looking for a good hearty Roman meal. I was thinking of Al Ceppo but now you are making think of Armando. What did you eat as secondi?

        7 Replies
        1. re: jwobkk

          Al Ceppo is WAY better than Armando, which is a very good trattoria that has acquired a cult following, possibly because the people there are so nice and it's a known haven in a very touristy area. Ceppo is a proper bourgeois restaurant in a much less touristy part of town, very attractive, with a large and varied menu and great wines. You won't find the classic cucina romana, but the food is plenty hearty and authentic.

          1. re: mbfant

            Thanks mbfant. The other one I am considering is Antico Arco which sounds great but perhaps a tad too modern for what I am looking for. Any thoughts on that place? Armando could be a great call for lunch.

            1. re: jwobkk

              I haven't been in a while but have always liked Antico Arco, but I live here and like a change when I go out. It might be a bit modern for what you want, but they have superb cacio e pepe, carbonara, and risotti. The secondi are a bit more international—and weaker IMO.

              1. re: mbfant

                You are a great source of information. Any thoughts on Felice a Testaccio?

                1. re: jwobkk

                  The one time I ever went I thought it was a good trattoria but not transcendental. It's a sort of cult place, or was under the previous regime. I believe Felice, who I used to see creeping around Testaccio until a year or so ago, was the grandfather of the present management. He was a sort of soup nazi and the place was a real hole in the wall, invisible when closed. Now it's all spruced up and I don't know if the food is the same. But I'm sure it's good stick-to-the-ribs trattoria fare. Now that Rick Steves is recommending the Testaccio market and the NY Times has written about Felice, I feel the neighborhood's days are numbered and I'm really depressed.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    Here is the NY Times' precursor to the recent mention of Felice, from 2004:


                    Maureen, you are invaluable!

                    1. re: erica

                      Just returned from my trip and my two meals in Rome were excellent and just what I was seeking.

                      Armando al Pantheon was the lunch spot and everything was just great. Awesome pasta and tremendous veal with roasted potatoes. I highly recommend this place. Very friendly service in addition to the food. Get a reservation as it is very small.

                      Dinner was Da Felice in Testaccio. This wasn't as friendly as Armando but it was more local and I love local places. My friend asked for a menu because we had trouble understanding our waiter and this pissed the waiter off. Completely rude and uncalled for but we got a good laugh about it. Despite the somewhat rude service the food was off the charts. The signature cacio e pepe was unbelievable. Roasted lamb with potatoes was devine. Artichokes cooked roman sytle were so good I got a second order. Tiramisu served in a glass was probably the best rendition of that dish I have ever experienced. Don't miss this place.

        2. I checked the website for Antico Forno Roscioli near Campo de'Fiori and it doesn't list the hours. Do you know whether it will be open around 3pm or 4pm? My flight gets in around 1:30 and I would like to find a great place that's open around 3 or 4.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ingrid Ingrid

            Ingrid, the forno part is open monday-saturday from 7am till about 7:30pm. It is a bakery where you can also have a lunch on the go (pizza by the slice, sandwich filled with porchetta, etc.), it is open during the whole day. The shop/winebar/trattoria part, which is just around the corner opens later, stays open till very late. There is lunch and dinner service, ant in the time between you can shop (cheese, cold cuts, wine, etc.).

          2. Hello there,

            I live in London and went to Rome for a weekend trip with my sister. I'm not sure if it was an off night, but Armando al Pantheon was a miss. Service was rude and the food was so, so. Nothing to rave about IMHO. We did have a nice lunch at Enteco Corsi. I know many rave about Pizzeria da Baffetto -- it was good but not sure if it is worth the hour wait.

            Rome is lovely! Enjoy your holiday!