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Rome - 4 casual dinners - thoughts on my list please!

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I am going to Rome for the first time with my husband 6-10 October and so am planning our evening meals for Wednesday to Saturday nights inclusive. We are staying near the Spanish Steps, and ideally want to walk to dinner (up to 20-30 minutes away), but given we are in town for 4 nights we don't mind going further away for one or two nights. We prefer casual places, with good food and a nice relaxed ambiance. We particularly want to AVOID places where there is a focus on style over substance, and where the clientele, food and decor have too much bling!

I have spent time reading previous posts on these boards - which have been really helpful, so thank you all for your comments - and have picked out a few places that seem to meet my criteria. We're not looking for a series of blow-out meals, but I want to do a little research so that we aren't disappointed. I am a little concerned that they may be a little "samey" so I'd appreciate your thoughts please! Many thanks!

La Campana
Colline Emiliane
Almando al Pantheon
Le Mani in Pasta (worth going over to Travestere for?)
Antico Arco (for a slightly smarter night out - worth the trip for the food and ambiance?)
Casa Bleve

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  1. La Campana and Colline Emiliane are both wonderful...and not at all the same. La Campana is traditional Roman fare while Coline Emiliane is food from the Emila Romana region of Italy. Both places have top-notch food and very good service. I suggest you make reservations if you do go to either of these palces.

    As for Casa Bleve, we were there in December 2009 for the famous lunch buffet and it was amazing. Sadly, they have stopped serving the buffet, but I hear they serve many of the buffet offerings a la carte on their lunch menu now. We have not been there for dinner, but I hear it is just as good. Casa Bleve has one of the best vibes and ambience of any restaurant I have been to in Rome. I highly recommend it. Buon appetito!

    1. Antico Arco is certainly worth the trip. The food is excellent and the service is very nice, though they get slammed at 9pm and the kitchen gets very backed up, so go early or late to avoid long waits between courses.

      Le Mani in Pasta is great, definitely worth the trip. Aside from that, I second everything ttoommyy has written!

      1 Reply
      1. re: katieparla

        Thank you both so much, Katie and Ttoommyy. This is very useful indeed - and it looks as if I have the 4 dinners all sorted now! We really appreciate your help and are so looking forward to our trip now. I'll be sure to update this thread on our return.

      2. La Campana will fill the bill but I would not say that in absolute the food is great. It is good, traditional Roman fare. Grano is very nice, a more modern trattoria in a lovely setting. Definitely recommend it. Antico Arco is excellent. Go early. My husband and I were totally underwhelmed by Le Mani in Pasta the one time friends dragged us there. The one friend I know who goes to Babette is the most peculiar eater I know, but she just goes for the lunch buffet. It's supposed to be good, but probably not a must on your first trip. Armando is nice but not a must. I find Cul de Sac too uncomfortable, more emphasis on wine than food. haven't tried Casa Bleve since they changed the menu. Skip it. Colline Emiliane is very good, a bit uncomfortable, and not Roman, so skip it. You might look into Palatium. Modern setting very near Piazza di Spagna with very good regional food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mbfant

          Thank you, Maureent, this is all extremely useful too. Planning this trip is proving to be almost as enjoyable and interesting as actually going on it! I need to get booking now, and will update this thread when we get back to Edinburgh.

        2. I have a little suggetsion too, it's not too close to where u are, but it might we worth a little trip, maybe if u like to see St. Peter's square at night (a sight I recommend), u could take a walk on Via Cola Di Rienzo y get at Zi Gaetana. the place is nice, been there few times (last time like one year ago), cool atmosphere (on weekdays u wont need to reserve if u dont get there late, and I suggest u get there around 8 or not much later, which is early for our Italian standards for dinner time). It carries a good mix of traditional food blended with delicate creative cuisine. Do not hesitate to try something that sounds weird, be open, and look for a new taste. U won't be disappointed. Not cheap but not that expensive either I guess. U can look it up on internet and see if it appeals to u.
          I will think of more places but this is the first one that came into my mind...

          1. We had the buffet lunch at Babette a week ago Sunday and enjoyed it very much. They have a lovely courtyard and the food was good. It wasn't great, but it was good. The price of 25 euros per person included wine, water, coffee and dessert.

            1. My wife and I enjoyed Antico Arco and think its worth the trip. I would also recommend Tratoria Monti which is mostly locals, excellent food and service.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jfrao

                I'll throw in a vote for Armando al Pantheon. Delicious Roman food in a very unfussy and friendly place.

                1. re: iamq

                  Thank you all! I will report back....

                2. re: jfrao

                  "I would also recommend Tratoria Monti which is mostly locals, excellent food and service."

                  I'd be interested to know when was the last time you were at Monti, jfrao. Recent reports have the service being less than stellar unless you are a regular. We were there about 5 years ago and loved it: food and service.

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    We were there a year ago and the food was extremely good tho I complained about the indifferent service here at chowhound at the time and we did not receive one dish I had especially wanted to try. I would still go back based on the food quality but would adjust my own behavior in the direction of greater firmness and clearness in my requests - we tend to underrate how language difficulties can make service results less adequate. As many have commented service can greatly improve anywhere with return visits That being said, we are always "surprised" and caught flat footed by less than adequate service in Italy since in general the service is so civilized.

                3. Just back after a wonderful few days. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, although I admit to being flabbergasted by how much busier the city was since my last visit around 10 years ago. With such a plethora of tourists and restaurants, I was pleased that we had researched and booked meals in advance.

                  Rather ironically, in light of recent posts by others, our most enjoyable meal was at Trattoria Monti. Service (from the two brothers and another younger guy) was extremely friendly, and the food was fantastic; we couldn't fault a thing!

                  The food was also fantastic at Antico Arco, but the experience marred by some awkwardness when we arrived - we were led to the upstairs room which was completely empty and soul-less. We asked if we could have a table by everyone else downstairs. There was a bit of a performance involving a phone call to check, and eventually we were led downstairs again. From then on, service was good, though not particularly warm. But it was probably another 45 minutes before any other party went up to that floor, so had we stayed at our designated table we would have been eating on our own for the majority of our meal.

                  Another night, we walked to Travestere for Le Mani in Pasta. Another enjoyable evening, notable for the fascinating walk through the Ghetto and across the Tiber to get there, and, once in the restaurant, the warm welcome and the outstanding pasta. The rest of the food was decent but if returning there I would have nothing but pasta - which is the point of the place after all!

                  I also enjoyed the market at Campo di Fiori for the photography opportunities - and for the pizza by the slice from the bakery in the corner of the square.

                  So thank you, Chowhounders, for all your help, which added considerably to our Rome experience!