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May 14, 2010 10:01 AM

Quick Rome Restaurant Report

Back in Rome for my annual month, I've enjoyed several very good meals (despite my general lack of enthusiam for Rome restaurants) and wanted to report the praise. Felice al Testaccio still serves the best bowl of Cacio e Pepe around, and the service remains a bit off-putting. Armando al Pantheon continues to produce very good food, wonderful service and an authentic mostly-Italians atmosphere right next to one of the great tourist attraction in the City. Bottega Bleve (the current name of the Bleve location in the Ghetto) is stellar. Different from its upscale version near the Pantheon in atmosphere (much less elegant; much more easy-going), it still provides excellent service (Francesco, a transplant from the south by way of Piemonte was truly charming) and a wonderful food and wine experience. Finally, I tried Osteria Fernanda for the first time for lunch. It was warm, cordial, reasonably priced, and delicious. In particular, the Bucatini Amatriciana was incredible--one of the two best, if not the best, I have ever had (and I order it ALOT).

Hope this is helpful

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  1. Thanks for the report, Geraldl!

    I'm going to Rome for the first time this June. Where have you had your other "best" Bucatini Amatriciana? I've never had this dish, and I love guanciale (I've had it on pizza), so I'm eager to try this Rome staple while I'm there.

    13 Replies
    1. re: quillynilly

      The other "best" was at a place that I subsequently had such a bad experience, I won't even mention it.

      1. re: GeraldI

        Bummer, hate when that happens. Good thing you found a replacement "best" at Osteria Fernanda!

      2. re: quillynilly

        Try the Amatricana at Armando. They make a wonderful, authentic version.

        1. re: sockster

          Is theirs better than the one at Cecchino?

          1. re: quillynilly

            IMHO....absolutely. Plus, they are much nicer to their guests...again this is my opinion and my experience there. If you go to Armando, ask for Fabiana, She is one of the servers and her dad is the chef!! Their steak and arugula isn't too shabby either!

          2. re: sockster

            We love Armando's. Fabiana, her dad (the Chef) Claudio, and her uncle Fabrizio run a wonderful spot that we always recommend to friends coming to town. It's nothing fancy, but really well done--and Sockster is right, Fabiana is really wonderful and really knows her wine. If you do go there, save room for their torta alla romana for dessert. Also, though not on the menu, during spring and summer you can get a pasta dish with asparagus and wild strawberries that is really unique and delicious. They also do a very nice version of Coda alla Vaccinara.

            1. re: GeraldI

              Working from NYC today...I really miss Fabby and Claudio....great people, vino, and food!!

              1. re: sockster

                These super-strong recs sold me -- my first dinner in Rome with be at Armando's, got the confirmation from Fabrizio this morning. Thanks for the tip!

                1. re: quillynilly

                  Please tell Fabiana that her friends from New Jersey say hello....and it's only the two of you, ask for table #8. It's a four top in the back of the restaurant that they only sit two people, as it's in front of the antipasti....You'll love the experience...hopefully!!

                  1. re: sockster

                    You mean the one under the odd painting of the naked woman; yes, that's our normal table. Sockster, you don't own a wine shop do you? We were there last week and Fabiana was mentioning friends from either NY or NJ with a wine shop

                    1. re: GeraldI

                      WIsh we were...but we always sit at that table and Fabiana always picks out wonderful wines....if you're there, see if she has a wine from Basilicata called Titulo- Wonderful....and well priced too.

                    2. re: sockster

                      Alas, we'll be a three top, but I'll request Fabiana's section so I can give ya a shout out! :)

                      1. re: quillynilly

                        And she'll know who your talking about!! Enjoy!

          3. went to the website of Osteria Fernanda. Their lunch menu is much smaller and much lower priced compared to their dinner. Is this unusual in Rome or it is a phenomenon that restaurants start to pick up.

            1. Your report is indeed helpful. Thank you!
              As we're only there for a day or two, have limited time to eat and will be traveling with another couple, I'm wondering what price category Armando's falls into.
              Also curious about what your "must orders" are there. I really want to go and hope to convince our co-travelers.

              It's likely I'll be posting another query but if you have any top places in Rome, I would be terribly grateful to get any and all advice.

              Thanks again!

              1 Reply
              1. Is anyone else of the opinion that Armando is a good trat, but not quite deserving of the the praise it continually receives here on Chow? It's fine. Nothing special. Da Felice, however is indeed great. I have always received great service there--enhanced by the servers' propensity to patiently list the many daily specials in clear Italian rather than trying to dumb it down into broken English. Last time we sat next to an elderly father and his son, both of whom devoured coda alla vaccinara with their hands. It was beautiful.

                8 Replies
                1. re: ian_pink

                  Have been to Da Felice four times- ate there twice- the two times I went and didn't eat there, they "never had" our reservation. The food is wonderful no doubt..a cut about Armando's perhaps....but their atitude toward non Italian speaking Americans is rude and crude to say the least. This said. when we did make it to the dining room, the servers were excellent. PS I confirmed each of my two reservations we didn't make it into the restaurant with (as I did the two I did) the day before from Skype.

                  1. re: sockster

                    I second sockster's comment on Felice. Ate back in the day when the old man ran it gruffly and again last year. Rude and crude in the front, waiters try harder. Absolutely absurd NY Times article last year that claimed it was the best trat in Rome. Crazy!

                    As for Armando, I agree with Ian and Maureen's ambivalence. I have had a number of meals there over the years. Yes, its small, pleasant, reasonably priced, nicely located in the center but the food is...just ok. Nothing special. Certainly not necessary to go out of your way to eat there. Many excellent options offering far better lunch and dinner experiences. I simply do not get the over-the-top raves at CH.

                    I suspect its b/c A's staff is friendly with tourists (which Felice could take a cue or two). That attitude is great. But the food is quite another story.

                    1. re: wristband

                      Im one of the ones who early recommended Armandos on this Board. Not because its "the best" - Im sure its not, but because like La Campana it has exemplified what we like about the unpretentious but still civilized trattorias of Rome. (da Nerone used to too, but it seems to have slid) Nothing fancy, but dignified, a certain style, maybe a little bit worn around the corners, relaxing. We go in there we know there it is going to be a very comfortable lunch experience, with polite waiters (nothing over-the-top please, friendly or unfriendly) and very tasty food for the most part. And then there is the Roman culture we get a window into - the other clients, sometimes very interesting.(the lunch we "shared" with an important elderly man, his loving family, hangers on, bodyguards, etc. I dont know when I will go back because my visits are short and I always want to try new places, but it has not failed to satisfy so far.

                      It would be great to see more commentary on alternatives - I hope to check out da Gino, inter alia, next time around.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        I will add one additional note to those who love Armando's. When I asked a Roman friend who is both a chef and also writes food reviews for Gambero Rosso where he and his family go for a "normal" meal and for something special, he listed, without qualification, Pagliaccio's (which I do not enjoy by the way and don't understand the hype--much better versions of that type restaurant in the U.S.) as his "special" place and Armando's as his "normal" place. Remember people, we are each just reciting our own opinion. Each of us have different tastes, likes, and dislikes. I for one will keep going back to Armando's and won't ever go back to Pagliaccio's. Other's feel exactly the opposite.

                        1. re: GeraldI

                          Totally agree: to each his/her own. My point is Armando is fine for what it is but the raves on CH just do not comport with my past experiences. If you enjoy Armando, great. Its certainly a pleasant and accomodating place. But the superlatives are beyond me.

                      2. re: wristband

                        Can't comment on food quality 'cause I haven't been to Rome yet, but I booked Armando's for the first dinner b/c I'll be dining with people with very dull palates, the kind of peeps who claim they "can't taste the difference" b/w good food and horrible food but who are very sensitive when it comes to price and inhospitable treatment.

                        So I'm viewing Armando's as like a test case, wanna see how everyone reacts to authentic Roman fare before venturing on to finer, pricier venues.

                        If Armando's goes well, on to Cecchino's, where we also have a rez, but if I end up feeling Cecchino's would be "wasted" on them.... for those who've been, have you ever seen a solo diner at Cecchino's? Is it frowned upon?

                        1. re: quillynilly

                          the baby lamb and roman style pastas at Armando are a good place to start.. they have a bigger range of dishes on the menu - best to stick with the Roman stuff

                          1. re: quillynilly

                            I've eaten alone at Checchino but always at lunch. The brother who does front of house couldn't have been nicer, but one of the waiters was grumpy (he's probably always grumpy). It may be different at dinner, but I can't imagine that a solo diner would actually be "frowned upon" even at dinner. But if you go alone, do change your reservation from x people to one before you get there.