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Good authentic food in Rome

What do hounders think of David Downe's "Food Wine Rome"? After checking this board against his reviews, it seems most of the recs here are the most expensive, most obvious places to go rather than where locals who appreciate good value/good food would dine.

I'll be in Rome mid-March and would appreciate several suggestions for real trattorias/hosterias known for Roman food and neighborhood homely feeling/price.

thanks.

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  1. I'm a local, having lived in Rome for 30 years, and there is an answer to your question, but it's not simple. Locals have different needs. Most of the mid-level or lower restaurants discussed on this, or any board, are places I would not make any effort to go to unless I happened to live near them or go to the movies near them or something of the sort. I eat better at home.

    I have no need to go to a "mozzarella bar" because I buy my favorite high-quality mozzarella at Volpetti and eat it at home with the best tomatoes from the Testaccio market and the best olive oil of the Sabina and sometimes even olio MANNI. Only a very expensive restaurant uses ingredients remotely comparable to what my husband and I eat every day. I don't eat puntarelle in restaurants because the ones we make at home are freshly cut and the dressing made in a mortar with the best oil, vinegar, and anchovy fillets, not paste. If you compare a spaghetti all'amatriciana in a trattoria and what I make at home, you'll think they are two different dishes. In other words, (a) there is little gastronomic incentive for my husband and me, as locals, to go out to eat in real trattorias or homey places, and (b) it follows that places we do like to go have to be above average, and their prices will be too. We have the luxury, of course, of not having to eat all our meals in restaurants and can thus go out less frequently to better places. People staying in hotels have different requirements.

    Nevertheless, of course there are traditional places serving enjoyable meals. The best are not likely to be in the center of Rome, though many are. Very few real Romans live within walking distance of Campo de’ Fiori any more, yet tourists insist that that is the most "central" location. Well, any restaurant that manages to maintain standards in a neighborhood overrun by tourists and undiscriminating young people is necessarily going to have above average prices -- just to pay the rent. And the same places are going to be mentioned over and over because if they're any good, they are not going to be a secret.

    If you think you've found some interesting prospects in Downie's book, name them and see if someone reading this board can offer first-hand experience.

    27 Replies
    1. re: mbfant

      Thank you for your very thoughtful reply, mbfant. In NY, I'm a professional cook and source in the city's farmers' markets. However, i do enjoy dining out frequently, especially at lunch to avoid the crowds and which makes it more affordable. We'll be staying at an apartment in Trastevere.

      here's the list I compiled of inexpensive to moderate (mostly) places Downie recommends (by area):
      3 best open markets: Trianfale, Testaccio, Esquilino Termini
      Ghetto: Giggetto al Portico D"Ottavia, Taverna del Ghetto, Il Pompiere, Piperno,Roscioli
      Pantheon: Gino
      Trevi: Otella alla Concordia
      Esquilino: Hosteria Da Angelini, Domenico Dal 1968, Taverna Dei Quaranta
      Testaccio: Da Oio A Casa Mia, Perilli, Checchino Dal 1887, Zampagna
      Trastevere: Da Giovanni, Da Guldo, Pizzeria Ai Marmi or L"Obitonia
      Prati: D'Oro Da Marco E Fabio, Panattoni, L"Arcangelo
      wine bars: Cul de Sac, Trimani. Casa Bleve, Cavour 313

      I'd love to know what you can recommend from these.
      gratefully

      1. re: 4seasons

        Do try to watch your spelling. It will make it easier when you Google all these names or look for them on a map.

        I go to the Testaccio market because it's the best market within striking distance of where I live. There are other excellent markets. In Trastevere I would go to San Cosimato, smaller than Testaccio but good.

        In the Ghetto, Piperno has been discussed in the last couple of days here (negatively). The others have their proponents, but we gave up on Giggetto and Pompiere years ago. Roscioli is idiosyncratic and expensive.
        The one time I went to Gino (not so much Pantheon as Montecitorio) I thought it was vile, but most people love it. Otello is cute but last time I went the food was awful and it was very touristy, with the Italians all packed into the smoking section (quite some time ago). Da Gildo was awful last week, but pizza might be OK. Domenico may be OK. Taverna dei Quaranta is quirky, can be awful, but sometimes fills a need (seems always to be open, price is right). Never been to Da Oio but it's supposedly good. Checchino is reliable. Zampagna left me cold the one time I went. Gave up on Perilli years ago. Arcangelo is greatly loved, but I can't really warm to it, though I'm going to give it another try. L'Obitorio is good for pizza. The wine bars are all good. Casa Bleve can be quite expensive, Cul de Sac quite uncomfortable.

        1. re: mbfant

          I always appreciate your comments on Roman fare!

          1. re: bropaul

            I also appreciate mbfant's comments on Rome, which I only visit occasionally, but I want to add that what she says about Roman restaurants strikes me as true of Italy generally -- or at least where I live in Italy (Liguria).

            She writes

            "I eat better at home."

            I think most Italians do. Not very long after moving to Italy, I found myself thinking that Italy is great food culture, but not necessarily a great restaurant culture -- at least not in the way many urbanites expect. The whole Michelin-type idea of a genius chef who creates the perfect individual plate of food for the individual diner strikes me as alien to Italian cuisine. If you watch Italians in restaurants, they very often order for the entire table. They eat the same food as a group. They don't all demand something different to "taste" and then eat off each other's plates. I think Italians value digestion as much as they do taste sensation, and don't mix foods as much as American restaurant goers do.

            I don't mean to imply there aren't great chefs or creative chefs all across Italy. There are, and I'm sure mbfant knows where to find them in Rome. I suspect I don't enjoy restaurant dining (anywhere) as much as mbfant does -- which is lucky for her, since she's a restaurant critic! But while I still go out to eat for convenience in Italy, I don't expect to eat as well in restaurants as I do at home. And I doubt anybody would consider me a great cook. All I'v learned to do is to leave the great ingredients that I buy at the store alone, as much as possible. Food in Italy is delicious, unadorned. But restaurants can't sell that and make a living. Even Italians out for a celebration want something a bit special.

            I used to see posted on the web information on tours in Italy where you could eat in people's homes. If there is such a "tour" in Rome, I would go for it I think! The single best BUCATINI ALL'AMATRICIANA I've ever tasted was made for me by a friend in Rome in her kitchen. My husband and I have a joke that whenever we come across it on a menu we order a plate to see if it's anywhere near as good as Raffaela's.

            It never is.

            1. re: summerUWS2008

              I've been thinking about this a lot since last night and perhaps we have introduced an unfair dichotomy for the poor tourist who doesn't have the chance to "eat at home". Clearly, excellent home cooking, using the best ingredients is the pinnacle of good food. A tourist in Rome for a few days doesn't have that choice, so where does one go to eat food that most closely resembles authentic home cooking? I think that is the question that those of us who know Rome are being asked.

              1. re: bropaul

                Yes it is, and it has been answered over and over, but the OP seemed to object to reading the same names repeatedly. But there is a reason why the same names come up, and that is what I tried to give. The OP wanted to know where locals seeking good value ate. As you say, locals have different needs, and where locals would go for home-style cooking is not necessarily where tourists ought to go. In short, OP and others should not (necessarily) begrudge decent trattorias in high-rent areas their prices or their fame. That was my point. It's easier to have the comfort-food Italian-style experience in smaller towns.

                1. re: mbfant

                  the OP was complaining (rather unfairly I thought) that we recommended only high priced places on this site. While there is some of that (a lot of requests for special occasion meals) I think most posts are about places that offer traditional Roman cooking. I further think that many of these places exist primarily to serve Romans who have to eat lunch away from home, for example places like Armando and Gino that serve a whole lot of government officials and business people , and accordingly offer a high standard of food that is recommendable. Of course major tourist invasions can skew this, and I dine out mainly at lunchtime, admittedly, but my strong impression is that most of the restaurants, winebars etc in the centro that get recommended by site regulars are mainly patronized in midday at least, by Romans on their lunch break or doing business entertaining. Most restaurants farther out too, for that matter, Rome is mostly Romans and not tourists, after all. Places like the two above , Trattoria Monti, or down the cost scale Sora Margherita, Zampagna etc. can give the OP the real food experience they say they crave.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    thanks for your (and others on this thread) comments on this subject. It's sums up better than i ever could what I've been thinking and wanting to say forever.

                  2. re: bropaul

                    I appreciate the plight of the "poor tourist," but I think even the poor tourist can and perhaps should learn something about the difference in Italian food culture, and therefore not bring their native habits and wrong expectations to the table.

                    mbfant has made a career of learning these differences, and I hope she will correct my haphazard observations. I didn't come to Italy to study the food. But I really am struck that Italians don't seem to use restaurants in the way that many Americans (or French) do, that they don't view a menu in the same way (if they look at one at all), they don't share a restaurant meal with friends in the same way, they don't rate the restaurant experience the same way. This may be why the Michelin guides are not necessarily good guides to eating out in Italy.

                    I think if visitors could begin to rethink their expectations about eating in restaurants in Rome, it would open up new and better avenues of thought for them about eating well here.

                    1. re: summerUWS2008

                      I think your observations are spot-on, though I would add that the old ways are changing here too.

                      What's frustrating is many tourists are really seeking an authentic experience, but the truly authentic experience is elusive and not likely to happen. And they might not even like it. For any number of legitimate reasons, a meal, even in Italy, could be considered "too" authentic. That's what happens when a local sends you, instead of takes you, to his local. For example, you might order something that is on a written menu that nobody has looked at in ten years, and it could be awful. The local thinks the place is great because all he ever eats is, say, the matriciana. Also locals like cheap places. Young locals like very cheap places. And they are willing to sacrifice quality for price. They can eat their mother's food tomorrow, for one night they can eat mediocre food in exchange for a cheap night out with friends. In a major city, I can promise you that where restaurants are cutting corners is on the food. The waiters are paid the same no matter what kind of oil the kitchen fries with. That's where they can save.
                      My advice is not to spurn a restaurant because it costs a little more than you planned -- save on something else (have a picnic lunch, not a sitdown) -- or because it has been noticed by other foreigners. It may have been noticed because it's doing a good job. And get out of the center to find authenticity and absence of tourists.

                      1. re: mbfant

                        I read a few Italian food blogs (by Italians, in Italian), and I'm aware that the restaurant industry in Italy is suffering in the current economic crisis. Have all or most trattorias resorted to saving on the oil they use?

                        Restaurants do change over the years, but have all the trattorias in your book changed so much in ten years that they deserve to be given a blanket condemnation (as here) or damned with faint praise (as in other threads)?

                        I'm puzzled. Here you're saying one has to get out of the center; a few days ago, you suggested that of two suggestions by another poster a restaurant "a cut above a trattoria" outside the center might be worth the trouble but that a trattoria probably would not.

                        Please give tourists looking for a trattoria meal a tiny bit of slack!

                        1. re: zerlina

                          Those were my suggestions, I believe, and I have to say that Mbfant was spot on.

                          The issue was not that one was a trattoria and the other "a cut above a trattoria" (in fact, i think the one "not worth the trouble" styles itself a ristorante) but that one (Il Cortile) has slightly better food and a much nicer ambiance and in general is a nicer dining experience.
                          And believe me, the other one, Il Focolare, is not exactly down at the heels or anything. Last time I was there, which was years ago, both Roberto Benigni and an Italian TV star (that I didn't know) were dining there with parties at separate tables.

                          1. re: zerlina

                            As for the specific two, both outside the center, neither is strictly a trattoria and both are neighborhood restaurants. Funny, one of the last times I went to Il Focolare, I saw Benigni there too (pre-Oscar). At the time it was in Gambero Rosso and I was curious to try it since I remembered it as a nice old pizzeria back in my student and grad-student days, when I spent a lot of time in that neighborhood. Conclusion: IMO Focolare is not worth the detour, but Cortile is -- but I have sentimental attachments to it; when I dragged my husband up the Janiculum to try it, he was unimpressed. If you live near Focolare, it's a decent enough place to eat.

                            I have said repeatedly that locals and visitors have different needs and different agendas. Therefore, visitors should not pooh-pooh decent advice on grounds it doesn’t come from locals, and locals don't always give good advice. Downie isn't a local, BTW. As for my book, I'll have to go through it and check, but despite the title (to which I objected), not all the entries are true trattorias. I have to say, it wasn’t my idea to write a trattoria book, and if I'd been able to write the book I wanted it would have had a lot more ristoranti.

                            It is, of course, ill-advised to make sweeping statements, and I don't mean to generalize quite as much as it seems. But one last generalization -- with disclaimers. I believe that the traditional trattoria, understood as family restaurant that more or less substitutes for eating at home, is more likely to be found outside the center, because not that many people actually live in the center, but that visitors just parachuting in will not necessarily have the same enjoyable experience at such a place as a regular, who always orders his favorite dish. The restaurants in the center that do provide good service and good food get mentioned repeatedly, and deserve credit, and shouldn't be dismissed as the OP seemed to do.

                            1. re: mbfant

                              Please let's not get hung up on nomenclature. A place that I frequented years ago called itself a trattoria and then, one day, renamed itself a ristorante. The prices went up, the food remained the same. Da Armando hasn't been a "family restaurant that more or less substitutes for eating at home" in decades; it still calls itself a trattoria. I should have said "trattoria-type" restaurant.

                              My point was not recommendations from non-locals vs. locals (I know Downie isn't one), and I am aware that many of the restaurants in your book are not and never were classic trattorias.

                              I also know that a visitor is not going to know which dish is the strong point of a particular restaurant and that.restaurants outside the center are more likely to be neighbourhood family restaurants, but you approved of one and said the other was not worth a visitor's while. Simply going out of the center is evidently not going to ensure that the visitor who does not know Rome ends up in a good one either.

                              A visitor looking for traditional Roman cooking is not going to find it at most of the restaurants to which you have given your seal of approval, and as I said, the restaurants where he will find it you have either condemned or damned with faint praise. I'm merely suggesting that you might toss the poor visitor looking for a trattoria-*type* meal a bone and name those that you find most acceptable.

                          2. re: mbfant

                            "For example, you might order something that is on a written menu that nobody has looked at in ten years, and it could be awful."

                            Or the corollary is that you might order what the locals order but it won't be what you want.

                            Once at Il Cortile (which I rec below) my SO and I went with some friends who were even more "regular" than we were and well known by the owner and chef. One friend said that his favorite secondi there was the "hachette," which he was ordering, so my SO (who doesn't speak Italian or French) ordered it as well, figuring that such a good friend of the restaurant must know what he's talking about.
                            What did he get? Essentially a hamburger patty. According to him, it was the best hamburger patty he's ever had, but not what he was looking for.

                            And I agree about getting out of the center to find authenticity and an absence of tourists. You don't have to go far, but a little out of the centro storico or trastevere will make a difference.

                            Finally, I would suggest to the OP, since he/she is from NYC and there are plenty of people who know both on this board, that they mention some places in NYC they like, which might help other posters to figure out their taste, price point, ambience needs, etc.

                            1. re: mbfant

                              I can verify from personal experience that I don't always like the most "authentic" regional Italian dish in a restaurant recommended to me by a local Italian -- sometimes because my palate is not up to it, sometimes because of what you said: Nostalgia or habit trumps good judgment. (I have learned NEVER ask anybody in London for a restaurant recommendation.)

                              And I also have found where I live it is always worth the few extra euros per plate to pay for better food. In Ligurian food, which is so simple, the margin for error seems really small -- so much so that even the best restaurants here occasionally miss (you just have to live with it), but paying for optimally fresh high quality ingredients is what makes the cuisine admirable.

                              It occurs to me to add 2 things to my observations in this thread:

                              One is that Milano is a world away in its Italian restaurant habits. Much more like what we expect to find in English-speaking countries.

                              The other is that, were a Roman or any Italian to beg me, on his or her way to New York City, to please tell me where he or she could finally taste an authentic, well-made American hamburger with cole slaw on the side -- I honestly don't where I could send them! I have never eaten restaurant cole slaw to match any home-made batch. Most of it is inedible. (Likewise potato salad.) New York City hamburgers are among the worst in America (slowly improving.) With a few exceptions, the best typically American dishes I eat in America are cooked for me by my friends who are good cooks. I can think of many standard American dishes I wouldn't touch in a restaurant -- and when Americans go out to eat in restaurants, they almost never go out for American food, or any food they can cook at home. Duck and sea bass only rarely appear on the family dinner table, yet they are ubiquitous on American restaurant menus.

                              And one last thought: When I lived in America, when the waiter handed teh menu to me, the first question I asked myself was: "What do I feel like eating tonight?" In Italy, when I'm handed the menu, I first ask the waiter what the cook in the kitchen is feeling like cooking tonight. With rare exception, I go with what the cook feels is right for tonight.

                    2. re: mbfant

                      Chacun a son gout, but I found Cul de Sac perfectly comfortable. Some tables in the back, a few booths opposite the bar/cases in front, a table or two outside in nice weather. I also like it b/c you can order as much or as little as you'd like, without getting the cold shoulder from the waiter.

                      1. re: mbfant

                        After reading all the threads, it's clear I was misunderstood and some form of reverse snobbism is operating. First, I have NEVER been to Rome. Two, unfortunately I have only 8 days to spend. So there wouldn't be time to travel outside the city or crisscross the town; it's more likely we'll want to eat where our roaming around the sights takes us. Three, the intention is to sample Rome's restaurants at lunch, and either cook at home or eat lightly for dinner. Four, I am not averse to spending money on well-made food; what I object to, is going for a big name, expensive menu, & celebs. I own a sophisticatedI palate and know good food (former chef/writer), and would be delighted to qualify my favorites in Manhattan (of course this changes all the time). Of the list I provided to mbfant, it would seem she struck out pretty much all of Downie's recs (unless I missed something). I'm not clear what she clearly adores, expensive or not. It seems the "visitor" is put down as a tourist who should expect not such good culinary experiences (maybe hanging out in Volpetti is the answer) since she doesn't know the lingua. I'm still puzzled.

                        1. re: 4seasons

                          Look just a couple of observations. The average recommendations on this Board (not the special dinner ones, of course) are for the type of places you want . I mentioned 5 in my post above that are worthy of a lunchtime visit. Others have mentioned different places which would be worth a try. We also tend to dine out at lunch not in the evening, and those recommended in the Centro so far will serve you well. If you will be over by the vatican at lunch time, there are a number of threads about that.

                          Second, the Downie book is focussed specifically on the cuisine of the Roman terroir. Since Rome is a national (and international) capital, it does not cover all of the cuisines and types represented. I think he offers pretty good accounts of the places that we visited that he covered. But there is a difference between the best "terroir" restaurants and the cheapies, as mbfant notes.
                          Among the cheapies - we did try Zampagna in conjuntion with a visit to St. Paul outside the walls, and the pasta was particularly nice but while the oxtail was tastily sauced it was undercooked with scanty meat(as is pointed out by Downie and by mbfant here, good meat comes at a higher price point). Price was cheap tho, wines were not fancy and whle pleasant, it was not a place to relax for a couple of hours. We thought the food at Sora Margherita esp lamb, artichoke and pasta were quite tasty, and the price was right but its crowded and again, not a place to rest after spending a morning pounding the pavements.. We tried one of Downie's little places over in Trastevere after striking out at Paris one night (Paris was dead empty we didnt have a res, I was dubious the little place was jammed but squeezed us in with a smile) and I had an acceptable version of spaghetti alla gricia, not so acceptable cicoria - husband liked his thin crust gorg and pear pizza - however we had a generally distrustful feel for Trastevere, looked like cheap grub for the youthful crowds, mostly, like the Village.

                          I dont think there is anyone who posts here who has a full current feel for all the restaurants in Testaccio for example or Trastevere. I was planning to stay in Testaccio last year and I think I was aiming to try Bucatino and maybe, dal Checchino, if we were hungry enuf one dinnfer time. It didnt happen so I couldnt add to the knowledge base. why dont you visit one or two of the ones you list? Its really unlikely that you will go wrong

                          All in all my faves throughout Italy are mostly the bourgeois business and weekend lunch places - I think they tend to be comfortable and deliver quite good traditionally tilted food - not at the very lowest price point but at a reasonable one (because their patrons tend to lunch out frequently)
                          downie lists a lot of these, you will also find them in Slowfood. Checkout Timeout and Gambero Rosso too if you want a different range of views.

                          dont know if you said where you are staying - if you do we can recommend some food shopping sources.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            thank you for your positive reply, Jen. We're staying in an ap't. in Trastevere, near Santa Marie church. I do intend to cook evenings. Even though we have limited time, we hope to explore the four corners of Rome, not merely the Historic Centre sights. More roaming neighborhoods (Aventino & south/east of Borghese Gardens) is what I love to do, and discover some eateries on my own.

                            1. re: 4seasons

                              4seasons--There isn't any attempt here to be snobby to you. There is an attempt to explain to you that your posts tend to keep asking for something -- no doubt inadvertantly -- that isn't easily found where you say you are going. You want to lunch on homey Roman food during days you are touring central Rome, and it's still not clear to me whether you are willing to go where celebrities go, or to a big name place, or if you want to keep to a budget. Restaurant recommendations on this board are for good restaurant eating in Rome. The focus is on the food. Since you will doing your own cooking at home, you will have a chance to sample a lot of great delicacies available from places like Volpetti's but not on restaurant menus. If you have a good Roman cookbook, you can accomplish those dishes with authentic ingredients (no small matter in Italian cooking). When you go out to a restaurant, you'll get the best food if you follow recommendations for best restaurants.

                              When you ask for "several suggestions for real trattorias/hosterias known for Roman food and neighborhood homely feeling/price", people aren't being snobby to you when they try to explain why they cannot seriously recommend any to you.

                            2. re: jen kalb

                              Our visit was just a few nights this time and we were using up some food supplies we brought up from Naples, but we very much liked the big breads at both Antica Cacciara Trasteverina on Via Francesco Ripa (good pecorino too its a deli that stocks bread, not a bakery) and the truly excellent La Renella bakery at 15 Via del Moro which is open virtually morning to night selling the country style breads (I liked the tipo Genzano with the bran char), pizza bianco and al taglio, sandwiches and traditional cherry and ricotta sweets. Both will be close to you. The Valzani bakery is a period piece but while it makes me a bit guilty to say it,I did not like the pricy pangiallo and panpepato I purchased there, thought the Passi product from Testaccio was much better. There is a big grocery store (under the Standa department store) over toward Viale Trastevere which is ok but not optimum to get the best stuff, and the covered market which was not open on our shopping days - there are little shops which sell some of the things you need but we found we had to forage a bit on the weekend.` PS - the pleasant little place we went to was Da Gildo - but it did NOT have pizza with artichokes on top as per Downie's book.

                            3. re: 4seasons

                              I think part of the problem may have come from your phrasing. "Most obvious, most expensive" doesn't really apply to most of the traditional restaurants frequently mentioned here, and none of them is a "big name, expensive menu, & celebs" place.

                              On Roscioli: Not all locals agree with mbfants assessment. vinoroma lives in Rome - though it's only been two years, not thirty - and loves it. Another local - who doesn't post here - is Stefano Bonilli, who founded Gambero Rosso and ran it for decades; it's his go-to place (he lives in the area). A very negative review in the thread I linked to on February 7 came from a visitor.

                              There's never going to be unanimity about any restaurant. Armando is reliable for classic Roman dishes; even mbfant has given it grudging approval in the past. Trattoria Monti (probably not in Downie's book, because it features the cooking of Le Marche) is almost always well reviewed, although a recent visitor was disappointed. The one time I ate at Da Gino, I found its carciofo alla romana and carbonara very good. It was at lunch; everyone else in the place seemed to be a local (they were all greeted warmly by the owners). In Trastevere, La Gensola gets good reviews on the Italian (by Italians) food blogs I read. The recently reopened Taverna dei Fori Imperiali in Monti just got a rave review on a local's food blog; she's an American who has lived in Rome for about a decade.

                              As Jen Kalb says, lunchtime is generally preferable, because that's when the locals working in the area are there; it's not very likely that a restaurant is going to go out of its way to give the relatively few visitors in the place inferior food. Most of the bad reviews of Da Gino by visitors that I've seen have been of dinner, when Da Gino seems to shift gear: It has two sittings in a relatively short time, which never bodes well.

                              1. re: zerlina

                                I agree about da Gino, I have had better experiences at lunch than at dinner time. At lunch it is purely senators and a very nice atmosphere, at dinner more tourists....

                                I generally agree with Maureen, I also often think "I can make this better at home" (I *am* a good cook), especially because I use better raw products. We go out either to have pizza (which you can't do at home at the same level without a wood burning oven, sorry, no discussion on that!); at times when we don't feel like cooking to a simple place just to see some faces; or to really nice food like roscioli or other (higher end) places. I also think a tourist has other needs and expectations.

                                re: Roscioli: by no means traditional, but really my favorite, you are right! Just last night: warm and cold artichoke salad, mortadella di bologna on peanut crackers with parmiggiano, merluzzo salad with red & white beats, brik filled with robiola on a chicory-mustard seed salad (heavenly!), rigatoni with coda alla vaccinara (the only traditional dish and it was fuori menu), lamb chops on spinach and chicoria, beef tartar with a prune/onion jam. With 2 great wines (timo rasso and etna rosso), water. The check was 189 euros (we were 3 people). Before the meal we got a plate of mozzarella, salumi etc.and each a glass of franciacorta, all complimentary (but that is not gonna happen to one who walks in there the first time). So you can see, it is not cheap, it is not traditional, but it is really good food with great products and we always get great service and the wine list is a joy for me (as a sommelier).

                                1. re: vinoroma

                                  Thanks for listing your favorite menu items. Is Roscioli open in August? I will be traveling August 3-10.

                                  1. re: windycityjh

                                    Please note that those menu items were in February. The menu changes all the time. Just as a broad guideline - go for anything that counts as antipasto, go for fish, do not have the traditional pastas but fishy ones. I haven't checked with them, but they should be open around your dates, usually they only close around the 15th for a couple of days.

                              2. re: 4seasons

                                "Two, unfortunately I have only 8 days to spend. So there wouldn't be time to travel outside the city or crisscross the town; it's more likely we'll want to eat where our roaming around the sights takes us. "

                                One strategy that worked for us as tourists in Rome is to look for a place crowded with happy looking people when it got to be time to eat. Some places didn't seem even to have names, or at least they weren't obviously displayed. But we usually had satisfying meals.

                                It's a simple strategy, but it can work as well as dithering for months over the conflicting and possibly out-of-date reports of others. I've done that too.

                        2. There is a long thread on Downie's Campo dei Fiori and area recommendations here:
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/670201

                          And a short one on his Vatican recommendations here:
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673405

                          1. There are still several trattorie di quartiere or neighborhood restaurants in Rome where to sample hearty roman food in a cozy environment.
                            Da Fabrizio (Trastevere), Dar Moschino (garbatella), Zampagna (Ostiense), Roberto e Loretta (piazza Tuscolo), Trattoria dell'Omo (termini),da Righetto al grappolo d'oro (ponte milvio), Dante (piazza mazzini), Trattoria Cadorna (piazza sallustio), Augustarello (testaccio), Cannavota (san giovanni), Senz'arte nè parte (testaccio), Valentino (via del boschetto). If you want to go a bit more like gastro-trattoria and try innovative roman dishes:
                            All'Oro (parioli), Settembrini (prati), Fernanda (porta portese),Casa mia (ponte milvio), Palatium (via frattina).
                            Evergreen but $$$: La Scala & Il Caminetto (parioli), Girarrosto fiorentino (veneto), Girarrosto toscano (vatican), da Cesare (piazza Cavour), Nino (via borgognona).
                            Enjoy your roman holidays:-)

                            Nancy Aiello

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ItalyTravelista

                              Based on the OPs profession, I would suggest that he try Palatium for creative dishes (not every one on the menu is, but some are). He'll also get a good experience trying wines from Lazio.

                            2. When I lived in Rome (which admittedly was quite some time ago) this was our neighborhood place, if that's the kind of thing you're looking for. You'll have to know some italian to get around the website. It's in Monteverde Vecchio, which sits above Trastevere and is not that far from it. The terminus of the 75 bus used to be right near the restaurant, but I have no idea if this is still the case.

                              http://www.ristoranteilcortile.it/

                              There's another one up in the same neighborhood we also used to go to called Il Fuocolare, but I couldn't find a website for it. Good pastas, but on the whole Il Cortile has probably better food and a nicer atmosphere.

                              If you are staying in an apartment, do try to go to the market and cook some of your meals. As Maureen says, the quality of the ingredients can be amazing and you don't always need to pay to eat those ingredients (ie. excellent mozzarella) in a restaurant.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: missmasala

                                Yes, the capolinea of the 75 is still on via Alessandro Poerio. For Il Cortile (which I have liked for decades but hardly ever get to any more), it's actually better to get off at the penultimate stop. It's a cut above a trattoria and definitely a neighborhood attraction. The foreigners it draws are from the orbit of the American Academy and other foreign institutions in the nabe.

                                The other place is called Il Focolare, not Fuo... It's not bad, and I believe it's open Sunday evening, but it's the sort of place that might seem great if you just walk a couple of blocks to get there, but you might wonder why you bothered to climb the Janiculum for it.

                                1. re: mbfant

                                  Totally agree with that assessment of Il Focolare. (And thanks for the spelling correction) We lived on Poerio and only walked a couple of blocks for it, and so enjoyed it.

                                  I recommended Il Cortile b/c I thought that it fit the vibe of a neighborhood place with good food off the tourist track, which is what I thought the OP was looking for. And yes, the penultimate stop is closer, but I figured that for those that don't know the route and don't speak italian well, it might be easier just to wait until the bus comes to it's final (temporary) resting place. It can be hard to know what the penultimate stop is if you don't know the line, and asking the driver can be intimidating.

                                  Oh, this discussion is really making me miss Roma!

                              2. 4seasons-- Sor'Eva

                                for what it's worth, I've recommended this Roman trattoria on Chowhound before, and as far as I know, I'm the only person here who has even eaten there. I had a very satisfying simple lunch in 2004, and in 2008, Susan Spano at the LATimes wrote this about Sor'Eva:

                                "Touristy restaurants and cafes line Borgo Pio from the Vatican east to the Tiber River, but the area is not known for cuisine. One exception is Sor'Eva, 108 Piazza della Rovere, 68-75-797, a small, no-nonsense trattoria with terrific pasta and other Roman specialties; two courses, about $30."

                                Might fit your requirements.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: summerUWS2008

                                  Summer, I can attest that i have also eaten there frequently. I t was just a little off my radar, because it's not in the neighborhood where I lived. It was my "go to" spot after a concert when the auditorium was still on the Via della Conciliazione. Sunday afternoon concert at 5:30, dinner at Sor'Eva and back home at a decent hour before work the next day. The best part was that my bus stopped right outside. I remember it as always good and unpretentious.
                                  Thanks for reminding me!

                                  1. re: bropaul

                                    Great to have some back-up on the unpretentious goodness of the Roman food at Sor'Eva (at least as of last tastings) and even the existence of this humble place. I was beginning to wonder if I'd imagined my meal there -- but I do remember it well -- Roman artichokes and a simple home-made pasta with peas.

                                    But it really is a dog-leg off the usual tourist path, even though it's actually not far from quite a few tourist destinations.

                                2. If I could just chime in based on the my experience in the last couple of years living in Rome, I'd have to say that expectations when eating in your local trattoria are not necessarily lower, they're different. Maybe as Maureen says (may I call you Maureen, Maureen? I've been reading your posts all evening) it's because you've been to a movie and it's convenient. Maybe it's easier to meet friend out; maybe you just didn't feel like shopping and cooking (not that that happens often to Chowhounders); or maybe you're in a hotel and are not going to fry up some guanciale for an amatriciana on your nightstand. Obviously, wherever you go, nothing is going to even come close to you mama's lasagna. And if one mama is, say, bolognese and the other napolitana, they probably would even recognize the other's dish as having even the remotest relation to the one she cooks.

                                  I've heard two people from the same village debate the merits of using carrots AND celery, onions or garlic (heaven forbid you should suggest to a Roman that there might be both) in their soffritto for a ragù.

                                  But I digress. My point is this. There is some very good restaurant food in unpretentious local joints. Leave you ideas of home cooking at the door. Forget any baggage you might have from Italian food cooked in other countries, and particularly complex-ingredient laden North American Italain food. If you order lamb chops, that's what you'll get. Maybe a spring of rasemart and some olive oil was involved, but you're not going to get sun dried tomato-reduction, deglazed with balsamic, simmered in flowered capers, with a hint of anchovy, slivers of olives, grated cheese and a scattering of bread crumbs on a bed of wilted arugula and sautéed porcini. Ever.

                                  So, having said that, I think there are some great, local places that 4seasons should eat.

                                  In my neighborhood (Esquilino, by Termini) I'd head to Morgana (via Mecenate 19 (http://www.trattoriamorgana.com/Tratt...) for their classics like carbonara and amatriciana, their rarer Roman dishes like snail and pajata (veal intestine, with the mother's milk still inside) and seasonal ones like agretti and puntarelle; I'd go to La Vecchia Conca (via Carlo Alberto 26) for any pasta dish they recommend to you, the roast bass and the thinnest pizza around (my favorite); and I Buoni Amici (Via Aleardo Aleardi, 4, a few steps from San Giovanni basilica) for their moscardini (fried baby squid) and loads more besides.

                                  Near Maureen if you happen to be visiting the non-Catholic cemetery, the Pyramid or the Montemartini annex of the Capitoline museum (which you really should do), I'd head for da Enzo, (via Ostiense 36). In the centro storico I'd pick Da Luigi off corso Vittorio Emanuele (http://www.trattoriadaluigi.com/ careful the address on the website is that of their web designer NOT the restaurant, which is located at Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 25). I love Il Fico, especially if they have telline (tiny thumb nail sized clams, on the specials board (on the right as you walk in (www.ilfico.com, via di Monte Giordano, 49, a couple of minutes from Piazza Navona, heading towards Castel Sant'Angelo). And Fiammetta, piazza Fiammetta, just above piazza Navona, that serves good pizza and Roman classics.

                                  I'm with Celeste, I like Cul de Sac and think it's great (when it's not crowded or you can sit outside). I've said it elsewhere but I think Baffetto and Montecristo are a waste of time.

                                  By the Trevi fountain, you could do far worse that the ancient trattoria Scavolini, on the vicolo of the same name. Somewhat better food and wine are to be had on the corner of the same street and Lavatori, at Chianti. If you're here in winter, have whatever game special is on the menu.

                                  And if you have time, definitely explore areas like Testaccio, or Garbatella, or San Lorenzo. There are gems to be found everywhere.

                                  Buon viaggio e buon appetito!

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: vincentinparisandrome

                                    sitting in rome for a week in an apartment near st, giovanni laterano. read your post last night and somehow la vecchia concha jumped out at me. my wife and i had lunch there today-escaping the huge political rally in the hood.
                                    we had fried baby squid wih zucchini- a great great appetizer. we split a pasta an a pizza and had a litro of house red. an exceptional lunch with wonderful people working the house. thank you for sharing your local with we tourists.

                                    1. re: jfadds

                                      One question for you on this place: did your waiter tell you that service was not included in the bill? We went there a while back with 5 people and had that trick attempted on our party. We refused to play along and the experience made us not want to return there. Recent posts have said La Vecchia Concha has some nice dishes and we might try the place again, but the memory still remains.

                                      1. re: jfadds

                                        I'm not sure I understand. The problem was that service was NOT included? If service isn't included, which is generally the case in Italy, then all you do is leave a little loose change, and only if you are so inclined. Tipping is completely optional here, and in no case could a waiter demand a tip if the menu didn't say that there would be a service charge.

                                        Was your problem with the coperta on the bill? Some places add a small cover charge (listed as "coperta" or sometimes "pane", bread) and that is generally listed separately on the bill.

                                        1. re: vincentinparisandrome

                                          Umm, it is not a totally unknown phenomenon in Rome restaurants frequented by tourists for a waiter to pointedly inform visitors that service (or, more often, tip) is not included, even when service *is* included, as is most often still the case in Rome.

                                          1. re: vincentinparisandrome

                                            Service is usually included, either as an explicit percentage or somewhere in the prices. It is customary to leave more than loose change, but still nothing approaching the percentages customary in the US, where there is no charge for service but payment for it is expected. Coperta is a blanket for your bed. Coperto is a cover charge.

                                            1. re: mbfant

                                              (giggle) maybe I was thinking about breakfast in bed. apologies for the typo.

                                        2. Sora Margherita I liked. Best pasta cacio pepe, I tried 3 when in Rome, the others were with a real cheesy sauce and butter. Should be just pasta, pepper, water and cheese. Difficult pasta to get right. (if you are interested, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqiJfq... looks like there is some fat in there...) Yes there are tourists and no reservations also not cheap but then what is in Rome. Also go to Pizzarium if you have time, see here for more info http://villainumbria.wordpress.com/20... also see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/683396

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: Martins

                                            This has been a fascinating discussion! I'm an American, I haven't been to Rome a million times, so that's what informs what I'm going to say. I don't know a trattoria from an osteria from a ristorante.

                                            The last time we were in Rome last year, we were trying to walk off the jet lag and hold off having dinner until at least 8 pm. We were staying near the Campo de' Fiori and decided to walk to the river to look at the Castelo Sant'Angelo all lit up. We happened to look down off the road level on to Tor di Nonna and saw Trattoria Lilli. Actually, we smelled something good and we saw it. I guess its location qualifies as being in the touristed centro storico area.

                                            The wait staff didn't speak much English and we don't speak much Italian, but we managed to order. As the place filled up, I noticed that other people were eating what we were eating. I enjoyed watching the young couple sucking face in between sucking pasta. Watched as groups of people would stop in the middle of dinner to go out for a cigarette break. I didn't think anyone else in the trattoria was American, we seemed to be treated the same way as people the staff recognized. I couldn't tell you if it was the best bucatini all'amatriciana ever made, at home or in a trattoria, but it was the best I had, with real guanciale and al dente, an interesting experience for an American. Turns out the owner is married to a woman from Staten Island (we're former New Yorkers), which we learned as he chatted with us when he came out to chat with the other patrons.

                                            I don't remember how much much the meal cost but it was the least expensive dinner we had in Rome, say less expensive than Piperno or Grappolo d'or Zampano (which we loved), better than dar Pallaro 10 years ago, better but more expensive than dar filetto a Santa Barbara 5 years ago, purely my opinion and palate.

                                            We found it purely by accident. I'd recommend it, but I don't know if this is was the OP is interested in and if anyone else would agree. I hope everybody gets to stumble over a gem. by following their nose.

                                            1. re: AprilTwoCats

                                              Good for you! It's those kind of experiences that make traveling so special.

                                              1. re: AprilTwoCats

                                                Thank you for your comments, AprilTwoCats! I signed on to ChowHound today for the first time; I am going to Rome in 3 weeks and thought I would look for some advice about good food to be had there. The conversation above has surprised and fascinated me!
                                                I, like you, wouldn't know a trattoria from a ristorante - but that won't stop my enjoying myself immensely! I do know when my nose and my mouth are happy and I'm just going to go with my own instincts. I am pretty picky about my food and I am not a chef but think generally what I cook at home is hard to beat! However, cooking in Rome won't be an option for me. If I can find a good market, bakery,a local grocery spot, I will pick up some bits and pieces for picnic type dinners. Lunches will be in restaurants and I find I don't usually go wrong asking what the chef likes best that day. If I get a meal that's not quite what I'd hoped for - oh well! There will be another delicious opportunity coming along soon.
                                                So - glad to see there are some nice options listed above - thank you very much for the suggestions, everyone! I know I will have some marvellous experiences - food related and other - in Rome. (If any of the fantastic cooks in Rome would like to invite a couple of friendly Canadians for a home cooked example of the wonderful local ingredients, we'd be thrilled to accept!)
                                                Happy traveling everyone!

                                                1. re: Edmontonjane

                                                  Welcome to Chowhound, Edmontonjane! If you search this board for places to buy food in Rome, you'll get lots of good information.

                                                    1. re: Edmontonjane

                                                      PS. Two cats... Have you seen "threecorgis" on Instagram?

                                                    2. re: AprilTwoCats

                                                      I always forget about Trattoria Lilli, so thank you. It used to be in the Slow Food guide, and I put it in my trattoria guide (now out of date), but it's sort of dropped off the radar. It's large, traditional, a bargain, and centrally located -- a very good place to know about, and I'll try to remember it from now on.

                                                      1. re: mbfant

                                                        Your comments at the start of this thread were very useful. What is your opinion regarding best of the best retaurants in Rome, without factoring in cost.

                                                        1. re: gjrubino

                                                          I believe I listed my favorite top places in another thread. There are several I haven't been to and others I haven't been to in some years. I don't get all that many opportunities to eat at that level.

                                                      2. re: AprilTwoCats

                                                        Hello,

                                                        I am heading to Rome in a couple of weeks and am interested in Trattoria Lilli. However, google searching hasn't resulted in an exact address. Does anyone know the exact location of this gem?

                                                        Thank you!
                                                        Danielle

                                                        1. re: darnray

                                                          it is on the eastern end of Via di Tor di Nona - if you google map this street, you'll even see Trattoria Lilli on it.

                                                        2. re: AprilTwoCats

                                                          Home run (baseball reference) two cats! Drinking the surprisingly good house red and waiting on secondi at this moment. Awesome!

                                                          -Shaun1dog

                                                      3. It's been a long time since we've been in Rome, but Frommer's Budget Travel recently did a short article on Rome eating places:

                                                        http://www.budgettravel.com/bt-dyn/co...