Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Italy >
Aug 6, 2009 08:10 AM

ROME: Tough Dinner Choice on Monday Night of Honeymoon Itinerary

My wife and I are going to eat at La Pergola now on one of our nights in Rome, honeymoon and all, so now I have our dinners planned with one small exception...

On Sunday, it will be La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali because that is one of the most recommended places I can find that is even open on Sunday. Tuesday will be La Pergola. Wednesday will be a pizzeria that we can make the final decision on later (between Baffetto, Da Ivo, Dar Poeta, etc.).

Before we had decided on La Pergola, Monday was going to be Armando al Pantheon and Tuesday was going to be Giovanni ar Galletto on the Piazza Farnese (Rick Steves' "favorite al fresco setting in Rome").

So now I need help deciding between Armando al Pantheon and Giovanni ar Galletto for Monday night. We can only do one. :-( I was quite looking forward to Armando, but I've heard great things about Giovanni ar Galletto too and I really wanted to experience that setting during dinner.

Any advice? Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Many congratulations on your wedding. It depends what you want to do - if you want to sit outside then Giovanni ar Galletto it is, otherwise Armando al Pantheon. Also think about Pierluigi, Piazza Ricci in Rome (although I think it might be closed on Monday). If it is open and you like fish it might be worth considering. Have a wonderful honeymoon.

    18 Replies
    1. re: LotsC

      Have Chounds actually visited and liked Giovanni al Galletto? I know its popular on other sites but get suspicious of Rick Steves recommendations.
      Armando would be a good contrast to your other choices with its typical roman food , such as spaghetti carbonara, abbachio, oxtails etc..(stick to those- while some of the other dishes are very good indeed, some can be disappointing..

      1. re: LotsC

        Pierino is closed on Monday.

        Giovanni is a very retro, classic trattoria in a great location. Armando is usually friendly and good. Neither is a gastronomic destination.

        1. re: mbfant

          Mbfant, any "gastronomic destinations" in central Rome in an Armando type of price range (saving the big bucks for La Pergola) that we could go to on a Monday evening instead? Thanks.

          1. re: Sanjuro

            Felice in Testaccio is a nice trattoria with Roman dishes well executed, prices like Armando.

            1. re: vinoroma

              Avoid this place at all costs. Even with a reservation, they kept us waiting over 45 minutes at 10:30 PM last night....they are pompass and overwhelmed by their success!

              1. re: sockster

                I am sorry you had a bad experience - but "avoid at all costs" seems such a hard verdict. Was the food bad as well or is it "just" the waiting that annoyed you?

                1. re: vinoroma

                  This was actually the second time this restaurant pulled this stunt. The first time we waited. This time at 11PM we left.

          2. re: mbfant

            Oh, I forgot to mention that I would also prefer your recommendation to be traditional Roman cuisine since I know that La Pergola is not.

            1. re: Sanjuro

              If you are unfamiliar with classic Roman food it sounds like either of these would be good destinations for you. I dont believe mbfant meant that they were unworthy choices..

              1. re: jen kalb

                I agree with jen kalb. I think what mbfant means is that, almost by definition, *no* trattoria is or should be a "gastronomic destination". See her remarks about small family-run restaurants becoming tourist attractions in a recent thread:

                Giovanni's setting is lovely, and the food was good when it was a friend's local resource years ago, but I haven't been since it became a Rick Steves recommendation. Armando is good and reliable, particularly if you stick to the Roman dishes.

                1. re: zerlina

                  What I really meant is that I don't think Armando and Giovanni are all that good. The whole idea of a trattoria, of course, is you go there a lot, it's near your house, and you always eat the same few things, and the owner knows what you like. This makes it very hard on the transient, which is why certain trattorias, the handful of ones that manage to do well by transient clients, get adopted by tourists. The food may actually be better at more anonymous places on the periphery of the city, but even if you ever found them, you still would risk not eating very well because you would be regarded as a Martian, and who knows what Martians like, so the owner or waiter would steer you conservatively and you'd miss what all the regulars were eating. I tell you, it's a minefield getting a decent meal in this town. Of course, the longer you stay, the higher your standards and the more you eat at home. Also I just can't stand that whole Pantheon/Campo de' Fiori scene, though there are some good places. Armando is fine, with excellent reports. I have always found them friendly. There was a recent report of bad treatment, which we all hope was anomalous. I don't know anybody who ever goes to Giovanni. I tried it for lunch with a friend a couple of years ago, for research, and found it perfectly all right, nothing exciting, an old-style trat, which is fine, but an old-style trat with a view that will be filled with Rick Steves readers is not going to head my list for my honeymoon. And I can tell you that, with the exception of La Pergola, I would have to drag my husband to the places on your list. I'll grant you my trat research is a bit out of date. We always go to Nerone or La Piazzetta, both near the Colosseum. Felice, in Testaccio, is probably OK. I've been resisting going there for various reasons (the one time I went I thought it good but not the promised transcendental). L'Angoletto is supposedly very good, likewise Grano next door. Many people like La Pigna, a classic trat off via del Gesù. I like La Gensola, in Trastevere. OK, to try to make this a bit easier for you, on a Monday, for classic Roman, Felice, Nerone, or La Pigna. Or Armando. And I'm open to hearing a defense of Giovanni.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    You know, I think youve been in Rome long enough to underrate the attractions of the classic dishes to people who have never experienced them, or experience them only rarely. I know where you are coming from in terms of the horrors of the Navona/Pantheon area, and I agree that for people who are able to cook the dishes and have eaten them hundreds of times, these trattorias may not feel special, but many of the posters writing for advice are on their first trips to Italy. To me it would be a shame if they visited Rome and never tasted the typical cuisine. For their sake, Im glad you unbent in the end!

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      i'm getting a kick out of the back-and-forth between mbfant and jen kalb. i think i see both sides.

                      deb and i have been renting an apartment for the month of march near the campo de' fiori for nigh onto four years now. as a tourist, i love the via giulia, shopping at the campo and visiting my neighborhood restaurants. as a frequent visitor (one step up from entry-level tourist), deb and i like to cook at home on sundays, stroll the parks and pop into interesting little places for a bite.

                      cooking at home has become more important over the years (thanks, maureen). eating out is important but we seldom seek out high-end places.

                      my point? when in rome, be a tourist and eat like a tourist. it's ok. they know, really. frequent visitors have a tendency to throttle back a bit, take advantage of the local markets, cook more at home and watch the sun go down on the terrace with a modest glass of wine.

                      whatever, rome is cool.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Jen, I am ALL for people coming and eating the traditional cuisine. I've devoted my life to helping people to appreciate it. I assure you I don't underrate it. But I want people to come here and learn what Roman cooking is really about, not to think a mediocre, or lazy, trattoria is a good example of it.

                        I have often said that "Ask the locals" is terrible advice unless the local in question is a VERY discriminating eater and/or understands your expectations. Some of the worst meals we've had have been on recommendations of my husband's (local) colleagues and work acquaintances. It is to the credit of Armando and Felice, and others, that they serve the same decent food to both local regulars and visitors.

                        I can't possibly keep up with all the trattorias in the center of Rome (at least not without a book contract), but I am almost always disappointed, and my husband more so. It is a fact of life here that trattorias in the center tend not to show off the best of the traditional cuisine. Unfortunately we can say that such-and-such a place gives good value or is a pleasant place to pass an evening, but a true trattoria should (in our dreams) simulate a home-cooked meal.

                        So what should people do? For one thing, and sorry, Steve, it is NOT all right to eat like a tourist, they should do a little homework and, if they are at all interested in traditional food, ask first WHAT to eat, and only then WHERE to find it. Then, if there are budget concerns, they should think of only one meal a day -- there are plenty of economical snack options for lunch -- and try to budget for one of the better traditional places, such as Checchino, Paris, Piperno, Checco ar Carettiere (all of which have both fans and detractors, but at least make an effort). And when they get there they should order traditional dishes, not the few other things that are on the menu for people who have been eating the other stuff all their lives. It's fine to enjoy a meal at Armando, or even Corsi or Sora Margherita (neither of which is as good as Armando), but don't imagine that's as good as it gets. Don't confuse good value or a good price with really good food. I see that all the places in the SlowFood Guide for Rome are closed in August, so I won't be able to do any research till the fall, but I will. I know that a new generation has taken over a number of tired old places, and maybe they've perked them up a bit.

                        1. re: mbfant

                          With all due respect, I've eaten better and more carefully executed classic Roman dishes at SlowFood trattorie and even at not-mentioned-in-any-food-guide trattorie than at Paris and Checco er Carettiere. Checchino was excellent.. I haven't eaten at Piperno.

                          1. re: mbfant

                            i always enjoy your insights. i think we're pretty much on the same page here. the word tourist to me is not a pejorative.
                            best regards,

                            1. re: mbfant

                              Thanks everyone for your help.

                              Perhaps I'll go with Armando for the Monday night dinner so that all of my choices will have one thing in common:

                              NONE are Rick Steves recommendations. :-)

                              That's if I go with La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, Armando, La Pergola, and Da Baffetto. Not a single one of them is in Rick's 2009 guide. I was a bit surprised to find that Nerone IS one of his recommendations in the 2009 guide, but no matter...

                              Also, don't get me wrong...I actually like Rick Steves. I have countless guidebooks (Michelin, Blue Guide, Fodor's, Frommer's, DK, etc.), each of them proving useful in their own way, but I think his have the best overall information for itinerary planning. Yet, I must admit, I've heard several negative opinions about his food recommendations.

                          2. re: mbfant

                            Giovanni is . . . adequate. Very nice to non-Italian speakers. And sometimes open when other places aren't. As you say, not a destination, but pleasantly situated.

                2. I've eaten in both, as recent as last year.
                  I have a special place in my heart for ar Galletto having eaten there a couple of times in the 90's, including on my honeymoon, and then again last year. My husband wanted to go again, for sentimental reasons. I was concerned it wouldn't be as good as it once was, but we had a very nice meal. I even got to try pajata there which I'd wanted to try, but had not had the chance.
                  As for Armando's, we two very good meals there last year. Both solid.

                  For sure neither place is fancy nor "spectacular", but I think if you are looking for a good, strong, choice in the tourist center, you can't go wrong.

                  If you'd like to see pictures of the meals and read about what we ate (because I'm a food geek like that) you can see it on my website,
                  Click on the Rome 2008 trip.

                  Oh, btw, I am going back in October with the same friends we went with last year and we all agreed we wanted to eat at Armando's again (on Thursday, when they do the oxtail dish).

                  1. Had to revive this thread in order to ask:

                    Will Giovanni ar Galletto even be doing outdoor dining in mid-October? I admit, that IS the main attraction, so I would like to be sure. If we can't eat on the Piazza Farnese we can forget it entirely. I had chosen Armando for the "trattoria meal" (going to Checchino now as well, and still La Pergola), but stupid ar Galletto keeps popping up in my head. IF the terrace is open...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Sanjuro

                      Since the only thing Giovanni has above other trattorias is location, it will almost certainly be serving outdoors in October, which can be quite mild (but chilly in the evening). I don't know for sure, but they may well put heaters outside for the die-hards who want to enjoy the view, and these are likely to be tourists. October days are legendarily gorgeous in Rome, and it's really too hot to eat lunch outdoors in summer (don't all chime in at once! tourists feel differently), I'd suggest a lunch at Giovanni, admire Palazzo Farnese, and go someplace more interesting for a nice dinner indoors.