Suggestions for upcoming trip to Rome, Florence, and Venice
My husband and I are spending a couple weeks in these three cities. After a lot of research and suggestions from all directions, here's a list of restaurants we're considering. Please help critique our list and provide any suggestions that will help us. Thanks CHOWs, I trust your taste and opinions!
Da Franco ar Vicoletto
Armando al Pantheon
Renato e Luisa
Acqua al 2 (Christmas Eve)
Fiaschetteria Toscana (lunch)
Osteria Enoteca (lunch)
Vini da Gigio
I need a lot more suggestions for Venice, please.
Thanks in advance for all your help!
The places on your list for Venice has been discussed on many earlier posts on this board. Except for Alla Madonna which I have not had much luck during 2 visits, the rest are all very good. If you can be more specific on what you are looking for and what you might you expect from the places on your list, you'll get some feedbacks and and recommendations.
Let me elaborate. This is our first trip to Italy and we are interested in eating where the locals eat -- at mid-price (not upscale or high-end) places, though there is room for a splurge dinner here and there, so I'd like recommendations for those, too. We're especially looking forward to meals with fish, since we'll be so close to the ocean in Rome and Venice. But we like all sorts of food. That said, if someplace specializes in offal and the whole menu is that, we'd probably pass. I hope this helps!
Couple of comments: Venice is an expensive city to eat, especially good seafood. Moderate in Venice is 'expensive' for most other cities in Italy. You will more likely to eat with locals at midday meal than in the evening as many Venetians head back home after work to the mainland.
I agree with most of the posters on this board that Fiaschetteria Toscana is probably the best traditional Venetian restaurant. The ingredients are always excellent; the best wine list in Venice and fairly priced, excellent cheeses and very good desserts; wonderful service. The large dining room is comfortable but by no means luxurious (don't get placed in the second floor room where sometime diners get treated as an after thought). If I had to pick one restaurant in Venice, this would be it. This is not a place to choose for a quick lunch but certainly appropriate for a leisurely midday meal.
The food at Vini da Gigio is good and straight forward, the room intimate and comfortable, the service is genuinely friendly but the best is their great wine list.
Corte Sconta is one of the best seafood restaurant in Venice, meaning the freshest fish and shellfish simply prepared. Like most good seafood restaurants, it is expensive but far from being a 'ripped off'. The outdoor garden is nice but probably too cold this time of the year; don't think it heated.
Alla Madonna is a very large old style trattoria. I've eaten there twice, first time in the 80's and couple years ago. Nothing has changed in between; the same decor with a tire looking seafood display as well as dishes of overcooked contorni just inside the entrance. Waiters in white jackets serving a large dining room full of locals as well as visitors. Our recent dinmer: the pasta with squid ink came to the tables two minutes after our order, the grilled seabass is ok but bland, the artichokes waterlogged. I am scratching my head as my experiences are so different from couple of very knowledgeable posters on this board as well as the trattoria seems to be always full.
Other seafood places: La Furatola in Dorsoduro, moderately price, excellent bacala, the fritto misto is large enough to share as an entree. Antiche Carampane, is more expensive but the quality of the seafood is impeccable; warm little gray shrimp in a salad, fish carpaccio, simply cooked scampi, grilled sogliola or rospo. No farmed fish is ever served. Of course there is Alle Testiere, which deservingly praised often on this board. The antipasti are some of the best and most creative; for secondi, I prefer the simply grilled fish or shellfish (served with a side of grilled vegetables) over the the 3 or 4 daily specials. And the desserts are worth eating, rare for Venice. Be aware the restaurant is very small and cramped, service can be a little abrupt; no printed menu as the daily offerings are recited (help if one knows some food terms though English is spoken). Since this is off season, reservation should be easier to come by. For more inventive Venetian cooking, Boccadoro is excellent. It is small and comfortable with modern decor; the service, friendly and personal. The owners used to work at Al Covo before opening this restaurant a few years ago.
One of the joy of eating in Venice is a glass wine and munching cichetti in the numerous bacari. This is where eating in Venice doesn't have to be expensive. Places range from simple atmospheric wine bars near the Rialto market to more substantial places like Alla Vedova, Cavatappi.
Locals do congregate in small osterie for lunch and they can be inexpensive as long as one order what they eat and not from the printed menu: simple plates of food, pasta, risotto; try Al Bomba, Ai Promessi Sposi, La Cantina.
Venice: I haven't been in a while, but the one time I went to Corte Sconta I really, really hated it and thought it a major ripoff. Fiaschetteria Toscana is too good to throw away on lunch, unless you go in for serious lunches. I love Al Covo.
You don't say whether this is your first trip. Except for Antico Arco, which is very good, your Rome list is not too exciting. Armando's main virtue is friendliness and location. The food is good, and I don't want to say anything against it, but it has become a sort of cult object, which is exaggerated. Renato e Luisa's main virtue is being open Sunday evening. Unless you drink wine at lunch, Buccone is a waste. It's a wine shop -- nice for aperitivi and hors d'oeuvre. Never been to da Franco.
I can't be any help with Rome and Florence, not having there for many years. For Venice, my favorites have been Alla Madonna and Al Covo (been to both of them twice). For the next trip to Venice I am planning to try Alle Testiere, which has gotten many positive reviews on this board. If you take a side trip to Burano, which I highly recommend, have lunch at Da Romano.
We're going to be in Florence for Christmas as well (and Rome before that).
Have you made reservations at those places? Did you have any trouble getting reservations in general?
I've been trying to reach Teatro del Sale to see if they're open on or around Christmas, but their email is bouncing.
I'd love to hear from people on what they would recommend for Christmas meals (especially if you know the restaurant is open). Price is not an obstacle for us, but we're not planning on bringing very formal wear (maybe just a dinner jacket for me).