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Seeking authentic Roman cuisine and Ambiance: Please advise

Thanks to your great posts, and with the help of Katie Parla's blog, I've been able to put together a short(ish) list of places I'd like to try. Please help me to narrow them down!

My husband and I will be in Rome for 3.5 days (7 meals). We are looking for straightforward food--excellent fresh pastas--cacio e pepe, alla gricia, all' amatriciana, carbonara--fish and meats. We steer away from offal. We'd like to try a wine bar, one "night out" spot, a few trattorias, and pizza. We are staying near P. del Popolo but will travel for food.

Here's the list:

Antico Arco
Dal Bolognese

Da Gino (vicolo Rosini 4)
Grano
La Campana
Roma Sparita
La Mani in Pasta
Taverna dei Fora Imperiali
Matricianella
Monti
Lilli (via Tor di Nona)
Da Ugo (via dei Prefetti)
Al Moro
Armando al Pantheon
Il FIco

Roscioli
Casa Bleve

We'll be in Monti for lunch one day and would appreciate your suggestions. Will also go the Vatican Museums late Friday night and would like to know where we should go for Pizza afterwards (say around 10:30).

Many thanks for your help in paring down the list!

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  1. Hi planetjanet!

    For your evening meals:
    I would recommend Antico Arco for your "night out". For excellent fish, try Tempio di Iside (Via Pietro Verri) near the Colosseum or Tuna (via Veneto) near Piazza Barberini. Both are quite expensive and be sure to book. A more moderately priced place that I like a lot for fish is La Torricella in Testaccio (Via Evangelista Torricelli, 2/12). If you want to sit outside, be sure to say so when you make a reservation. Maybe vinoroma can weigh in on Friday night pizza near the Vatican. I used to go to L'Archetto on Via Germanico but I haven't been in years. Unfortunately the renowned pizza by the slice place Pizzarium (via Meloria) closes at 10 pm, but I think it is worth stopping by before your visit to the Vatican Museums. You can take the Metro from Piazza del Popolo to Cipro, grab a few slices, then make the 10 minute walk to the Museums entrance.

    For lunches:
    If you are looking for authentic Roman cuisine and ambiance you cant go wrong with La Campana, Matricianella and Roma Sparita (their cacio e pepe is a must). Their menus are very similar, however. For a bit more variety with less offal and more fish, check out Le Mani in Pasta. For your lunch in Monti, try La Carbonara (Via Panisperna, 214), serving simple and very inexpensive pasta dishes. Alternatively, you could combine your wine bar and Monti outing at Enoteca Provincia Romana (Largo del Foro Traiano 82/84). This wine bar run by the Provincia di Roma serves food prepared from local ingredients and wine from the areas around rome. It is not technically in Monti, but it's close enough.

    For wine bars Il Goccetto is a great place for wines by the glass. Palatium (via Frattina) near the Spanish Steps has an excellent selection of wines from Lazio and very good food. Unfortunately Casa Bleve now only serves lunch and dinner and doesnt offer their old wine bar services. Unless you are a regular, Roscioli's wine bar is miserable.

    What about gelato? Enjoy it while it is still warm enough! My favorites are Fatamorgana, Gelateria del Teatro, Ciampini, and Gelateria Corona.

    Im not sure that Ive pared down the list much but I hope this is helpful!

    4 Replies
    1. re: katieparla

      Thanks Katie! So many choices, so little time.

      Here's my take on it. What do you think?

      Wednesday (arrival in Rome at 7):

      Drinks at Il Goccetto
      Dinner at Roma Sparita (cacio e pepe, of course)

      Thursday:

      Lunch at Matricianella (Gnocchi day, no?)
      Dinner at Antico Arco (around 8:30 per the recs of the posters on this board)

      Friday:
      Lunch at Casa Bleve or Da Gino or Da Ugo or La Campana (advice?? Seems very few have recommended Da Ugo or Da Gino).
      Pre-Vatican museum snack: Pizzarium
      Late dinner: Trattoria Lilli (thoughts?)

      Saturday:
      Will be near S. Giovanni in Laterno and Santa Maria Maggiore so:
      Lunch: Enoteca Provincia (or Trattoria Monti or Taverna dei Foro Imperiali--advice?)
      Dinner: Le Mani in Pasta or Armando al Pantheon?
      Drinks: La Vineria, Della Pace

      Roscioli (v. de Chiavari), Al Forno de CF for snacks
      Gelato at Fatamorgana, del Teatro, and Ciampini.
      Drinks at: La Vineria, Il Goccetto, Della Pace, Palatium

      I'd be grateful for any and all advice!

      PJ

      1. re: planetjanet

        Wed and Thursday look good. For Friday's lunch I would go to Casa Bleve for a change of pace from the traditional cucina romana. But if you are aching for more, La Campana is great. I think vinoroma recommends Lilli, so go for it!

        For Saturday lunch, I would personally rank the three places in that order. I haven't been to Trattoria Monti in a year and my past few visits have been disappointing, mainly the second courses. A rabbit that couldnt have been drier comes to mind...That said, it is closer to Santa Maria Maggiore than the others and has wonderful sformatini and primi. Be sure to book in advance for Sat lunch at Trattoria Monti. I would choose dinner at Le Mani and for drinks, the newly reopened Bar del Fico (near Bar della Pace)...or both!

        1. re: planetjanet

          Lilli is a very simple, very nice, very typical Roman trattoria, nothing less, nothing more. Although we live very close-by, we discovered it years later and love the local buzz and the simplicity, the not having to dress up and think and decide over elaborate dishes etc. Just a simple neighborhood place. You could definitely check it out.
          I like La Campana especially for lunch, actually. And on fridays the menu gets fishier (the arzilla soup!).
          Matricianella I haven't been to for some time now, and I do hear bad things. I think they are succumbing to the tourist hordes.
          Pizzarium I do love and you will be right there, so nothing better than that.
          Agree with Katie on saturday.

          Have fun!

          1. re: vinoroma

            Vinoroma and Katie, mille grazie for your input!

            I'll report back when we return.

            All best,

            Planetjanet

      2. Going next week. Wanted to send a shout out to Katie Parla. NYT Sunday Travel Section, 36 Hours in Rome, 10/10/10 recommends Enoteca Provincia Romana for "great food, friendly service, and low prices." Katie got there first. Go hounds!

        1 Reply
        1. re: planetjanet

          Yes, and they confused province and region. Lazio is the region, and the regional enoteca is Palatium on via Frattina. Roma is the name of the province and its capital city.

        2. Just got back from Rome and Florence. La Campana was so good I went 3 times during my 4 days in Rome. The fettuccini with white truffles (45 euro) and porcini arrrosto (16 euro) are addicting and now ranks as 2 of the best things I've ever consumed in my life. It really puts to shame any white truffe or porcini prep I've had in the states at much more expensive restaurants.

          Matricianella was good and the wine list very impressive, however, the food was no where near the level of La Campana. Their fried porcini was actually quite sad when compared to La Campana.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Porthos

            Just back from Rome. Thank you all for your advice. My report:

            Il Goccetto was our first stop in Rome. This old wine store (vino e olio) offered over 40 varieties of wine by the glass, small snacks (bocconcini, involtini), and a local crowd. We arrived at 8 and had no trouble getting a table. We enjoyed two glasses of red wine and a few small snacks in this comfortable, relaxed environment before heading off to . . .

            Roma Sparita for our first dinner in Rome. We started with carciofi alla giudia followed by bucatini all'amatriciana and taglionini cacio e pepe served in parmigiano tuille. The pastas were superb—al dente and perfectly sauced. Roma Sparita provided exactly what we were hoping for in cucina romana. The clientele appeared to be mostly Italian (on a Wednesday night) and the service was warm and efficient. The rooms are plain but the food is memorable. I would say that the amatriciana was the best I had in Rome.

            On the way home we stopped for a tartufo at Tre Scalini. I must confess that it is no longer as good as I remembered and I would no longer recommend it. Navonna yes, tartuffo at Tre Scalini no. For New Yorkers looking for a dense, chocolaty tartufo I'd recommend Lattanzi on West 46th St (good Roman cooking as well).

            For lunch on Thursday we chose Matricianella. Thursday, I understand, is gnocchi day in Rome and Matricianella did not disappoint. Their gnocchi pomodoro e basilico were light, fluffy, and perfectly sauced. In fact, I’ve never had better gnocchi. We enjoyed a tender, flavorful saltimbocca alla romana and delicately fried zucchini flowers. Another example of excellent cucina romana in simple surroundings.

            Early Thursday evening we enjoyed two great glasses of wine at Cul de Sac. Though my husband really wanted to stay for dinner (and I did too), I argued against it as we had a reservation at Antico Arco. The meals being served at Cul de Sac were particularly appealing: large fresh salads, plates of cured meats and cheeses, lentil soup, lasagna. The ambiance was casual and friendly and the service warm. Our fellow diners thoroughly enjoyed their meals—I asked. I will definitely return for a meal.

            It was with some reluctance that we left for Antico Arco. Though we prefer simple pasta dishes to innovative Italian cuisine, I wanted to try Antico Arco as it had been so highly recommended here and on other sites. We were shown to a table upstairs—the English speaking ghetto, I surmised. Downstairs the atmosphere was buzzy and vibrant. Upstairs more sedate. I assume that they put the English speakers upstairs so that they can devote a single English-speaking waiter to the room. I was not insulted by the move but felt that I could be dining in New York or LA. My husband started with the crispy buffalo mozzarella, salted tuna roe and confit tomatoes. The tomatoes overwhelmed the cheese. Good but unremarkable. I started with the onion pie in a parmigiano cheese fondue. Definitely not memorable. I followed with the risotto with castelmagno cheese. Too much white food. My error in ordering (though when I voiced this concern to our waiter when placing my order he assured me that I was choosing the house specialties). Thank goodness for the nebbiolo wine reduction to add some color and to cut the strength of the cheese. My husband had the cacio e pepe and enjoyed it. The service was friendly and efficient and the room comfortable. Not in any way a memorable experience, though. Too many choices and too little time in Rome to repeat this one.

            We enjoyed a delicious lunch on Friday at Enoteca Provinciana. I must say that I did not expect the sleek, contemporary décor that characterized this enoteca at the edge of Trajan’s forum. Nor did I expect to need a reservation! Though the restaurant was full, we were lucky enough, after a short wait, to secure two seats at the bar. We had an achingly fresh insalata caprese and, as porcinis were in season, an insalata porcini. We paired this with glasses of excellent local red wine. After the salads we enjoyed lasagna porcini and tiramisu. Lovely spot with fresh, locally grown and inventively prepared food. The crowd appeared to be entirely local. Many people came in for paninis to go—which also looked great. Definitely go, but make sure to reserve.

            Later that afternoon we stopped by Al Forno in Campo de Fiori and Roscioli, where we sampled excellent pizza al taglio and pignoli cookies (Roscioli).

            After a visit to the refreshingly empty Vatican Museums on Friday night, we ate a late dinner at Trattoria Lilli. When we arrived at 10 the place was packed with locals and two parties were waiting outside. Again without reservations, we were lucky to be seated within ten minutes. The room filled with large groups and the mood was convivial, boisterous even. The friendly energy was infectious. And the food delicious! We had the house wine, anitpasto del casa, bucatini all’amatriciana (gives Roma Sparita a run for its money), tonnarelli alla gricia, and rocket salads. All perfectly prepared. Lively ambiance, neighborhood vibe, delicious food, friendly service, and good value. A winner for sure.

            Having polled my dining partners at the bar at Enoteca Provinciana about their favorite spots I decided to forego dining at Trattoria Monti in favor of Da Gino on vicolo Rosini near the Parliament. I haven’t dined at Monti so I don’t know if I made the right choice but I know I made a good one. We had Saturday lunch reservation at Gino for 2:30. When we got there the place was full and a line of waiting Italians snaked out the door. After a short wait we were seated. I started with the tonnarelli all ciociara (house made pasta with guanciale, pecorino, mushrooms, and peas) and my husband had the spaghetti all gricia. Perfectly sauced, perfectly al dente. We then had a large platter of oven roasted porcini mushrooms and a mixed salad capped with glasses of grappa offered by Gino himself. I would happily return and gladly recommend Gino. Great food, lively local atmosphere, rustic room with hand painted murals, and good value.

            Saturday night, our last night in Rome, we had planned to eat at Le Mani in Pasta. However, by 8:00, after drinks at Bar Della Pace, we were just too tired to consider a walk to Trastevere. So, at the recommendation of our hotel concierge we dined at Hostaria da Pietro, on via Gesu e Maria. We were greeted warmly and shown to a nice table in the back room, which was mostly filled with Italians. The service was great and the ambiance both friendly and clubby. The food, while very good, was in my opinion not up to the standards of Matricianella, Roma Sparita, or Gino. My rigatoni was over sauced and the saltimbocca ever so slightly tough. The millefoglia was delicious though. For cucina romana near Piazza del Popolo it’s worth a try but you can get better food if you venture just further afield.

            Next time I will try Monti, La Campana, Le Mani in Pasta, and Cul de Sac. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these.

            I will also lunch at Palatium—an enoteca on via Frattina with a vibe similar to that of Enoteca Provinciana.

            I will go back to Gino, Matricianella, Lilli, and Roma Sparita.

            I’m curious about Edy and Enoteca Cavour. Any thoughts on these? Also checked out Bar del Fico but my gut on that one is that it is for a very young crowd who values atmosphere above all. Thoughts?

            Special thanks to Katie and Vinoroma who made such generous suggestions!

          2. Planetjanet, what about the gelato (apart from Tre Scalini)? I love del Teatro myself...

            Oh, and while I haven't tried Trattoria Monti, I'm told that it focuses more on Le Marche cuisine than Roman.

            For your next trip, I recommend checking out Da Felice's in Testaccio. It's a bit of a schelp (although ~walking distance from the Pyramide metro stop) but well worth it for a lot of great traditional Roman dishes, including the best cacio e pepe I've ever had. Oh, and fantastic tiramisu!

            The rest of the restaurants I like or which have been recommended to me in Rome (note: not all of them "authentic Roman") are listed here:
            http://www.wikinapoli.com/italy/rome/...

            Although I haven't been to many of the restaurants mentioned so far, you certainly can't go wrong with Katie Parla's recommendations--she certainly knows her stuff!

            1 Reply
            1. re: skywalkerswartz

              Enjoyed gelato at San Crispino, Ciampini, Corona, and Giolitti. Of these the granita di limone at Giolitti and the fruit flavors at San Crispino are my favorites. Del Teatro and Fata Morgana were on my list but we couldn't make it last time.

              Thanks for the link!