Italy Trip Report Part 1 - Rome (Long)
My girlfriend/ fiancée & I just got back from a two week vacation exploring Italy. (She was my girlfriend at the beginning of the trip and my fiancée by the end.) We hit Rome (4 nights), Tuscany (4 nights – visited: Pienza, Montalcino, Sienna, and Montepulciano), Florence (3 nights) & Venice (2 nights). We could have used another day in both Tuscany & Florence and maybe a half day in Venice. Overall the food was fantastic. I did a lot of research on this site and was able to get a copy of rneeno’s Rome spreadsheet which was very helpful, especially at lunch time. We only had one bad meal the entire trip and even that was not horrible, just not as good as the others - it was the only place not recommended on this site. We had a recommended bottle of wine with all dinners. We drank a lot of Brunello, Rosso & Nobile. The only wine I did not care for was the Chianti, but this is mainly because I don’t like Chianti. Near the end of the trip I was red wined-out & switched to whites. We had Prosecco, and it was good. It was amazing how cheap good wines were. We skipped desserts most of the time and just had gelato on the way home…and sometimes on the way there.
Obviously the coffee and gelato do not need to be described. The one thing we did note in a negative light (no pun intended), was at how bright the restaurants were. Even in the fancy schmancy places the light was glaringly bright. English was not a problem and with the exception of one place in Venice, the service was great and all of our waiters were both helpful and patient.
One word to describe Rome: absolutelyf’ncrazy. And this is coming from two people who live in NYC. Now I understand people who come to visit New York and say that they like it, but could never live here.
Tavernetta 48: Via degli Spagnioli - This was a nice little place that we went to our first night. Everything was very good and prices were great. Since it was our first night we had to get the pasta specialties. We shared an order of alla amatriciana and carbonara, both of which were very good. For entrees my fiancée ordered the veal saltimbocca topped with prosciutto and gravy that was very nice. I had the steak Florentine. Also very tasty, but at the end of the day just another nicely seasoned steak.
Ditirambo: http://www.ristoranteditirambo.it/ - They had us at “Crackling Suckling Pig” and “yes” it was as good as it sounds. Probably one of the top single food items we had all trip. In fact, I am still thinking about it. We also had the Octopus and eggplant flan with mint and salty scampi which was great and the Tonnarelli cacio e pepe also very good. To repeat what another CHer said: the place was warm – and we were there in September. As I was fanning myself the waiter shrugged sorry and looked at the air conditioner then said something in Italian apologizing. Once the place started to clear out a bit, it finally cooled down.
Il Convivio: North Piazza Navona - Classic upscale dining experience. Food was elegant, very refined and excellent. The waiter was extremely helpful, and the service could not have been better. That said with the exception of 3 other American couples and one French party of 4 it was nearly empty on a Friday evening. While the food was excellent and it deserves its star, it was nothing special. I don’t mean to infer that it was bad, far from it. It was very romantic with exquisite food and great service; exactly what you would expect. But for two people who live in NYC and have been to many top restaurants it was “just another fine dining experience,” if you know what I mean. Part of it is that our tastes are changing. After going through the “fine dining” phase we now seek out more rustic style of food (i.e., we would rather eat a great taco off of a truck for $3 than go to Nobu for $300).
Trattoria Lilli: Via di Tor di Nona, North Piazza Navona – This was our last meal in Rome. One reviewer said that it was good but not worth the extra trip to go there, so we were both hesitant to finish our trip here. However, our other dinner plans fell through. Since it was somewhat close and we could get in we decided to go. What a great decision that was. Of all the places that we went to in Rome, including Il Convivio, this was by far our favorite.
Panifico Roscioli: Campo Dei Fiore - Via del Chiavari, 34 – This was our first bite of Rome. We had just checked into the hotel, were hungry from the flight and looking for something that was nearish our hotel and quick to eat. We first ordered the pizza bianchi, which was fantastic. Beautifully cooked, golden in color, soft & warm on the inside with just the right amount of olive oil & salt on the top. Since we wanted something a little more we ordered the pizza pomodoro & mozarelle. Fantastic. The same bread as the pizza Bianca, but with a simple tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. I could have eaten this every day for lunch, but my fiancée had a rule of not eating at the same place twice – gelato & coffee excluded.
Naumachia: www.naumachiaroma.com Coliseum – For lunch we really wanted to go to Pizzeria Li Rioni for pizza. Unfortunately they were closed for the day and we had to find someplace else to eat nearby. Since we were at the Coliseum most of the places looked like tourists traps: cheap food, high prices. Nearby, there was one place that looked really good and was busy, so we decided to give it a go. But there was a 20 minute wait. Across the street was Naumachia. It was half empty, never a good sign. But we were hungry, it was starting to rain and they were open. As it turns out the food was quite good. We had the mozzarella, tomatoes & basil – very good, but I have had better in the States (actually not a bad thing) and we ordered a white pizza with mushrooms, garlic and sausage which was great. By the time we finished the meal it had stopped raining and we were able to continue on to The Forum.
Pizzarium: Vatican - 43 Via della Meloria – Again for lunch we wanted to have pizza – a common theme of Rome. So we decided on Pizzarium which came recommended. The pizza was great. Thick focaccia style crust cooked perfectly with great toppings. We both had the ricotta with sausage, which was fantastic. My fiancée thought it was the best pizza of the trip. However, I preferred the rather plain pizza of Panifico Roscioli. While the pizza was great, it was a far walk from the Vatican. Unfortunately/ fortunately by the time we realized it was too late to turn around. It was located in a residential area where real Romans live, and not the rich ones. The place is just a whole in the wall with a small standing counter to eat at or a couple of plastic chairs out front. The pizza was very good, but I would not make the trip out there again.
Tazza d’Oro: Pantheon. This came highly recommended as one of THE places to get coffee. Luckily it was right around the corner from our hotel. The coffee was very good and it was a great experience, but I don’t think it was that much better than other places where I stopped in for a quick cup. In fact, the best coffee I had was at some crappy little bodega in the Ghetto that was selling candy bars, liquor and trinkets.
Cul de Sac: ~ http://web.tiscali.it/culdesac/ - near Piazza Navona. Nice little wine bar to get a selection of meats & cheeses. Great reviews here and we have to concur. Great wine selection, the atmosphere was fantastic - it looked the part, and the waiter very patient helping us pick out a meat & cheese selection along with an appropriate wine that was fantastic. I wanted to come here again, but we just couldn’t find the time.
Cavour 313: – near Coliseum. We really wanted to go here after a day at the Coliseum and Forum to unwind (brutal day – I could not imagine what it would be like in August with the heat and more people). Unfortunately it was closed until 7:30 and we did not have the time/ energy/ patience to wait.
Giolotti: North Pantheon. I sampled many gelato places, and this was very good. My fiancée was convinced that it was the best of the trip.
Below are the other reports from our trip:
We really wanted to go to trastevere and the Ghetto, but just didn't have the time. My favorites were Trattoria Lilli & Ditirambo.
I loved the pizza from Panifico Roscioli, but it is more a bakery than a restaurant. The pizza is very plain. It is the bread that makes it so good. That said, I would have eaten it everyday.
I rarely ate out in Rome and typically stumbled into places starving but I had an amazing meal at La Scala in Trastevere. On busy nights expect a wait to be seated, sit outside if the weather is nice enough. Trastevere is pretty hard to navigate so with it's winding and narrow cobblestone streets, just look (or ask for!) Piazza della Scala in Trastevere!
It was so good I went back again with friends and had yet another fabulous meal. Enjoy Rome, I love it there!