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Jul 20, 2011 02:39 PM

Caveat emptor - Hostaria Nerone

I am compelled to warn potential visitors about this place. My context: from Toronto, visiting Rome for a conference, staying in Parioli, on a budget, wanting to see the Colosseum on my last night in the city and to have a classically Roman trattoria meal. I have eaten in a dozen (plus a few) places over the past week, from 68 Euros/person (Pescheria Rossini) to a 6 Euro slice of pizza (Roscioli). I was made aware of Hostaria Nerone by Maureen Fant's list, via Google. It was a choice between H.N. and Taverna Dei Quaranta. H.N. was closer.

My Colleague and I looked identifiably touristy, but not stupid, poor, or uncouth. Service at a notably un-crowded (but not deserted) H.N. (7 p.m., yes, I know, that's early) began with us being ignored for 5 minutes, then grudgingly given napkins and cutlery. Two slices of bread and plastic-wrapped grissini followed a minute later. Menus lagged behind a couple of minutes. No orders for drinks were taken during this sequence; no greeting was offered, no prosecco proffered.

Several minutes after we closed our menus, the waiter approached. "CHAMPAGNE?" he leered, hoping to capitalize on the romanza that was so not in the air between (female) Colleague and (gay male) me. I demurred. We were allowed to order water, wine, and meals. Colleague ordered an insalata mista and osso bucco. I ordered insalata di mare, swordfish, and a contorni of cicoria.

The water, which was ordered "with gas", arrived in an open but labelled bottle advertising it as "naturally effervescent". It wasn't. In fact, it was not just flat: it was unmistakably tap water. We engaged the waiter, explaining in broken Ital-English that the water was flat. He shook the bottle, observed no carbonation, and proceeded to pantomime ignorance - a specialty here: feigning guileless daftness despite clear indications that one is clearly a veteran of serving/bilking the tourist trade.

We requested a fresh bottle of carbonated water, and received a carafe of tap water. By that point, we were wary of arguing further.

The white wine: it was a carafe of house wine, because Colleague wasn't drinking. It arrived with an inch of wine slush at the neck of the carafe. It was otherwise what one would expect, which is to say: bad. But let's ignore that.

Insalata arrived. Colleague's salad comprised wan lettuce (browning around the edges), shredded carrot, and slices of tomato that were so pallid that they seemed to have been imported from Florida in February.

My insalata di mare was an overly generous portion of calamari (cooked nicely), octopus (overcooked to the point of mealiness), mussels (no complaints), shrimp (canned-salad-sized, and mushy) black olives (canned), baby arugula (pale) and a few bits of oddly flavourless giardiniera. The salad was essentially undressed - there was a pool of olive oil (not tasty, likely not extra virgin) in the bottom of the bowl, and the rest had been dropped on top. It wasn't even good, marinated, pre-packaged seafood - it was just... a bunch of stuff. No vinegar, no lemon, no salt, no herbs, no spices... nothing.

On to the secondi. Colleague's osso bucco was tender, generously proportioned, utterly bland (yes, we both know how properly seasoned food tastes) and profuse with canned button mushrooms. It was accompanied by mashed potatoes, despite the fact that Colleague was offered (bizarrely) the choice between potatoes and mushrooms at the time of ordering. (Wouldn't risotto alla Milanese have been a valid choice? Or when cooking in Rome, does one conspicuously make a point of mis-interpreting dishes from other provinces?) Waiter, asked about the discrepancy, pointed to the canned button mushrooms in the sauce by way of explanation.

The swordfish... not bad, actually. Again, completely devoid of seasoning and spices, but nicely cooked, apparently fresh, and ideally portioned.

The cicorio... ugh. Sodden, unsalted, and spiked with punitive chunks (not flakes or brunoise) of dried red pepper.

Having rejected dolci and been punished with a 15 minute intermezzo, all that remained was the theatre of negotiating the bill. Waiter made an enormous show of writing down each item on his notepad as if it were new to him (shrewdly, we were not charged for water), tallying it up not once, not twice, but thrice, and - grand gesture - presenting us with the total on a new sheet of paper: 2 Euros less than it was on his notepad! We asked for a ricevuta, and were told in no uncertain terms that the 2 Euros was in exchange for not getting a ricevuta. We demanded a ricevuta, and the waiter stormed off. Of course, this meal being expensed, the lack of a receipt amounted to our paying for it out of pocket. But the meal had been so miserable, the prospect of another encounter so daunting, and the hours remaining in Rome so few, that we left exact change and scampered off into the night.

And that is how Hostaria Nerone stays in business.


hostaria nerone
Via Terme di Tito, 96, Roma , IT

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  1. I've not been there in years (I remember excellent pajata and excellent spaghetti with vongole veraci) but apparently you are not the first to think lowly of Nerone:

    Do think the risotto would have been served as a separate course, before the osso buco, not as a side with the veal. Mashed potatoes seem a good pairing to me, but I will let others comment..

    Curious if you ordered off the printed menu or asked for recommendations..

    Shame about your meal, in any case!

    1. I'm very sorry you had a bad experience on my recommendation. Roman trattorias are a sort of lottery, and there is no doubt, as I have said and written often, that regular customers eat better at Roman trattorias than first-timers. There are various reasons for this, and possibly if you had said "Maureen sent me," you'd have at least got the water you wanted. A non-Roman friend once said to me "Rome is the only city where you need a recommendation to get a decent meal." Of course, he was exaggerating, but he had a point. We'll have a word with Eugenio, and when I say "have a word," I mean I'll sic my husband on him (an engineering professor, twice Eugenio's size, who walks past the restaurant four times a day and has been eating there for forty years).

      Now, some technical points about your meal. I will grant you there is no excuse for salad that is brown around the edges, but I will also say that I haven't ordered a salad in a trattoria in decades. They just never measure up, and I hate those shredded carrots. Likewise, insalata di mare. I might take a spoonful from the buffet, but I stopped ordering it in trattorie decades ago. I know Nerone's swordfish, and it IS good, and seasoning other than oil and maybe lemon would be inappropriate. Spices, indeed. Not in Rome, and in general nothing is used on fish out of respect for the fish. Grilling a slice of swordfish without drying it out is a major achievement. Ossobuco is usually served with mashed potatoes here. A side of risotto is a strictly milanese quirk and not on the radar of a Roman trattoria. The milanesi don't own ossobuco. Nerone's cicoria ripassata in padella is usually quite good. I'm surprised it lacked salt, but the pepper was correct. Brunoise? huh? this is a Roman trattoria. The correct way to use hot pepper is to sauté a large piece (or two) of it, usually with crushed whole garlic cloves, in oil and then to add the boiled vegetable until it's well coated with the flavored oil. It would be better to remove the garlic and pepper pieces before adding the chicory, but, again, it's a trattoria and that may be too much of a refinement. Also the presence of the pieces shows that the dish was prepared correctly. They are not meant to be eaten.

      Further thoughts, it is really inadvisable to turn up at a trattoria as early as 7, even if it's technically open. Things just won't be right and you signal an unfamiliarity with local ways. This signal can be practically at the pheromone level, but it's there and can have consequences. Deep-down, Roman trattorias are not in the service business in the sense that the goal is to satisfy paying customers. Rather they are traditionally in the feed-the-neighbors business. To answer your question how do they stay in business, it's that their core business is regulars with whom there is a rapport, and this is true not just of Nerone but of any number of Roman trattorias. I'm from New York, where retail is in the air you breathe, and it has always amazed me how in Rome nobody seems to care about getting new customers; they are regarded as a distraction from the care that should be given to their regular customers. (Disclaimers, disclaimers, not everybody is the same, et cetera.)

      The business with the bill was bad, and that was definitely the owner, not a waiter. He will be reprimanded. It's a very common practice, but not nice.

      44 Replies
      1. re: mbfant

        Maureen--that was a fascinating reply.

        1. re: mbfant

          All I can add after Maureen's excellent reply is : ditto! Couldn't have said it any better.

          1. re: minchilli

            Thank you, Elizabeth. I have some follow-up. Franco went to Nerone for lunch yesterday and not only had a word with Eugenio but spotted Woody Allen also having lunch there. Eugenio was quite surprised and wondered whether they'd actually eaten at the bar next door, not at Nerone. This seems unlikely, but the outdoor tables do sort of fuse. He says they have every kind of food, frozen. He also said he always gives tourists a receipt, which I believe, so the situation is not at all clear.

            1. re: mbfant

              Thanks much for the typically invaluable advice. But I have a query. As a NYer also, I would never fir example, order, say, the stuffed filet of sole or the pasta "alfredo" concoctions that fill the laminated pages of almost every luxe dine. I don't know anyone who has, or would, either: there's just too much of a disconnect between the core identity of the diner (however much chrome or many bottles of cognac there are) and these absurdly out of place offerings. OTOH, why would a simple insalata mista or an insalata frutti di mare be considered no-gos in Roman trattorias--these are core dishes throughout the penisola, some grander than others, but always it seems rooted in a fundamentally Italian kitchen. It would be like veering away from french toast or a BLT at those same diners. Just asking.

              1. re: bob96

                Great question. And I will add another, hoping that MBF does not mind the constant barrage of queries:

                I notice that most Italian diners, not only in Rome but throughout the country, will forego the printed menu in favor of lengthy conversations with the waiter regarding their orders. Would you say that my experience is the case more often than not, and that as tourists, we too would be advised to do the same if we want to sample the best of the day's fare?

                1. re: erica

                  OK, Bob first. When I think of the cost and the trouble of the "simple" salads we make at home, from the perfect greens, to the best red-wine vinegar, to, and especially, the expensive and carefully stored extra-virgin olive oil, and then think of the premixed salads on sale at markets and supermarkets, I always choose something else in a trattoria.

                  As for insalata di mare, come on. Use your brain. They contain squid, shrimp, mussels, clams, and should be carefully dressed with the best oil and lemon. Do you really think all those ingredients are being brought in daily from the best suppliers and carefully cooked in the same kitchen where they're slinging cacio e pepe and carbonara and even stewing coda alla vaccinara? I have insalata di mare in fish restaurants, not in the same places I eat spaghetti all'amatriciana or polpette (and yet, at Nerone, to return to the original topic, the spaghetti alle vongole is great and the fish main dishes are excellent, but very limited and kept simple, and I also love the meatballs).

                  Now Erica. The more you discuss your meal with the waiter, chef, or restaurateur (often three-in-one), the better you eat. Italy is not an information culture, like the Anglo-American. It's more: Information is power and I'm going to give you as little as possible until I think you deserve it. By discussing, you show you deserve it. The menu is to fulfill a legal requirement, or to save having to speak to tourists, or may be out of date. Even in places where you definitely should study the menu, you still have to have the conversation. It just works out better. Also, in your own local, you already know what you want, or the owner knows what you like and tells you what to have today.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    Once again, thank you for your informative and thoughtful response. You are a valuable resource here!

                    1. re: mbfant

                      We used to get great salads in Rome trattorie - they were a revelation on our first visits, with freshly picked tiny mixed field greens, good oil, sometimes with lemon, rather than vinegar. If you cast your mind back 30+ years to the standard american salad, you can see why.

                      Salads in Rome have become more standardized and uninteresting over the years (no more wild greens, the same stuff we see in markets usually with only carrots and the tart tomatoes for contrast.) but they are and should be good nevertheless. I agree that the oil used can be an issue, I remember some especially oxidized olive oil presented on the table of a Florence restaurant on one occasion.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        With all due respect to Maureen who said, “the more you discuss your meal with the waiter, chef, or restaurateur, the better you eat” might be a Roman thing, but it is definitely not an “Italian” thing. For restaurants in Tuscany, Piemonte, Liguria, Lombardia, Emilia Romagna, Alto Adige, Friuli, all places that I am intimately familiar with, that is not a correct statement.

                        Rome, it appears, has some strange quirks. Maureen said “Roman trattorias are a sort of lottery.” “Regular customers eat better at Roman trattorias than first-timers.” Actually that hasn’t been our experience in all the times we’ve eaten in Rome, but let’s assume it’s true (although I find it a terrible concept). What is not true in the areas I’ve mentioned, is that discussing the meal with the chef or whomever, “the better you eat.” Let me explain.

                        Over the past 35 years, we’ve eaten more than 1800 meals (not a misprint) in restaurants in Italy. We’ve become very close friends with some of the “top” restaurants in the North, and good friends with many more people who own trattorie, from Florence (where one of our favorite trattorie is) to Emilia Romagna to Friuli. We’ve learned from them that everyone basically eats the same food… if it is a restaurant that cares about its food and clientele. Sure, a regular might get a little something extra if the kitchen prepared it for the staff meal, but basically everything that is being served is on the regular printed (or spoken) menu, or is one of the daily specials, specials that are mentioned on an inserted piece of paper on the regular menu, told to you by the waiter, or as at one trattoria in the area I’m in now, on a chalkboard as you walk in.

                        You might discuss the overall meal with the waiter or owner, ask how a dish is prepared, ask for a small tweek if necessary (which if small and if possible, the restaurants we’ve gone to are happy to do), but there is never a feeling that you have to prove yourself, or as Maureen said “show you deserve it.” What is this "show you deserve it aspect of dining? You’re paying for the meal and you have to show you deserve it; that seems perverse to me. You, Erica, are going to get the exact same food that we are going to get, even though we know the owners of the restaurant very well. IMO, that is the way it should be; why would you want to eat in a restaurant that did it any differently, no matter how good the restaurant.

                        If we go to place that we’ve been to thirty times, the meal we get will be the same meal that anyone gets. The kitchen, and I am intimately familiar with restaurant kitchens in the North, will not sauce the pasta any better for me than for you. The fish will not be prepared more poorly for you than for me, nor will anything else be different. A good restaurant will prepare food and serve food in exactly the same way to me as to anyone else. The only exception would be if, for example, perhaps the clients are rude or if the clients dress in shorts for an evening meal etc. Perhaps the owner will say to me that the cozze came in today and they are exceptionally good, but that will not deter the owner from serving the same cozze to anyone else… the cozze that are on the menu.

                        Maureen said, “even in places where you definitely should study the menu, you still have to have the conversation. It just works better.” You have to have a conversation? Perhaps in the place Maureen frequents in Rome, but that hasn’t been our experience. What works better? Will the food will be different and “better”, whatever better means? My opinion is that one should stay away from restaurants where there are two, or more, tiers of clients, the haves and the have nots.

                        Again, our experience has been totally different from what was described above i.e. the more you discuss the better you eat. We’ve never found that to be true.

                      2. re: mbfant

                        Thanks again, for this time depressing news about the state of Italian (or, at least, Roman) trattorie kitchens. Over the course of our trips to Rome and Italy as a whole, I've had mediocre insalate ( with frutti di mare and without) as well as mediocre cacio e pepe, bucatini all'amatriciana, and gnocchi I knew had to have been frozen. I was disappointed but not shocked: that's the chance one takes, unless (or maybe even if) you're a resident who can track performance and value easily. Even if you might make better carbonara at home than you'd fine in most trattorie. My brain works well enough, thank you, not to expect all trattorie to be places universally committed to absolute best sourcing and ingredients. Some might. That's why we crawl these boards, learn about piatti tipici, and try to use that knowledge where it counts. There's so much work to do before we can deserve the right to spend our euros with some chance of success.

                        1. re: bob96

                          The state of Italian trattorie kitchens has never been better today, than in the 35 plus years I've been eating in them. Perhaps not in Rome, and maybe not in Tuscany where I live, but in Piemonte, Emilia Romagna (particularly in the countryside around Parma), southern Lombardia, Friuli, Liguria, and even up here in the Val Badia (small valley in the Alto Adige) if you count some of the wonderful rifugi (Scotoni, Bioch etc.).

                          The reason that there are better trattorie kitchens is that younger people are opening them and that seems to have signaled more careful preparation of dishes, a return to many more traditional dishes that had disappeared from menus, a menu that changes more often, more daily specials, and very importantly the consideration that a decent, good or very good bottle of wine, served in good wine glasses (no one would accept eating on paper plates and no one should have to drink good wine from bad wine glasses) should be a part of the meal.

                          Slow Food, in spite of its faults, has had a tremendous positive effect on the mentality of trattorie owners, and we, the clientele are the beneficiaries. Again, it might not be that way in Rome with its captive audience, but it is that way in many other places. There is only one minor downside. It comes with a price. You can find cheap trattorie food, you can find very good trattorie food, but it is more difficult to find cheap and very good trattorie food, particularly when it comes to fish. Prices are still in the "value" range which is all to the good, but its rare to find a place, except for rifugi, that, after paying your bill, you walk out and say how the hell did they serve that wonderful meal at that low price.

                          1. re: allende

                            I hope it is clear that an Internet post is not intended as a complete treatise on every aspect of the subject at hand. I was answering a specific complaint about a very traditional center-city Roman trattoria frequented by tourists and neighborhood people, including, very happily, my husband, myself, and numerous friends and colleagues. And I stand by what I said -- for this specific context. Tuscans understand customer service, Romans mostly don't. The commercial transaction here is a sort of fiction -- I sell you bread because I like you, not because your money is as good as the next guy's. Of course everything is evolving, but there are still a lot of Roman trattorias where only regulars eat really well, and without too much hyperbole (if that is not an oxymoron), I would say that it is pointless and irrelevant to attempt to hold the Roman trattoria to ordinary restaurant standards. (Remember what Mussolini said: it is not impossible to govern the Italians, just pointless.)

                            Of course my dinner at Il Convivio or Agata e Romeo will not be objectively better than Joe Blow's (though I may get more attention than Joe does and might get a little taste of something new), but my lunch at the hypothetical modest trattoria where I hypothetically go every day will be a lot better than Joe's for numerous reasons, partly because I as regular know the trattoria's strengths and Joe is reading from a probably obsolete menu under the mistaken impression that one dish is as good as another. Another reason is that the best pieces of the roast, for example, will be put on the plate of the guy's who's coming back tomorrow and next week, not the guy who's just passing through. And it's actually not just Rome: a famous trattoria outside Florence gave us the dried out first slice of prosciutto and acted like it was our fault we got three bottles in a row of corked wine.

                            As for the conversation with the waiter, and eating better after earning respect, I believe that is true at all levels, though possibly for different reasons. And at the top, it is probably true all over the world, but let's just take Italy. Take a hypothetical situation: I say I am interested in this secondo but wonder if it would go well with this primo. Waiter says, well they both contain X. I say, oh I know X. I had it last week at Casa Tre Stelle. Waiter says to himself, Oh, OK, she knows X and eats at Casa Tre Stelle, then says to me, well if you like X, you'll probably also like Y and you will be amazed if you follow it with Z in which the chef does this amazing thing he learned from his grandmother. I will pay attention to the dishes in a different way than if I had just read them off the menu back to the waiter. And the waiter would never have mentioned the chef's grandmother if he hadn't thought I would appreciate it.

                            Agata e Romeo
                            Via Carlo Alberto 45, Rome 00185, IT

                            1. re: mbfant

                              Since the board is primarily an attempt to help people, what is the name of the famous trattoria outside of Florence that acted as if it were your fault that you got three corked bottles in a row? No restaurant should ever do that; the restaurant gets a credit for all corked bottles or uses the bottles in other ways. Were the three bottles the same wine? What happened with the fourth bottle?


                              1. re: allende

                                Omero, but it was eons ago. Yes, all the same bottle. I may misremember, but I'm pretty sure the fourth was a different wine.

                              2. re: mbfant

                                And what's the chance there is no chef's grandmother? Let me see if I understand: for everyone except longtime local regulars (ma non solo), there's likely no chance that a traveller, who's usually a first time guest, can expect a reasonably good trattoria experience. Even those who know the difference between pajata and puntarelle, or between a cesanese from Piglio and one from Olevano Romano, who research choices on CH, or who care enough to accept Roman stylistic oddities. As an Italian American who speaks Italian, knows Italian food and culture, and who regularly visits family in Italy, I guess I'm out of luck, too. At some point, I can only say me ne frego and move on.

                                1. re: bob96

                                  I look at this differently as a frequent US visitor with minimal italian. To me there is no question that both (1) being a regular and (2) having serviceable itialian will ease interaction in many places not just Rome. Every so often we have had difficulties arising from our lack of the two characteristics above. But we would not have been returning for over 30 years if these problems were frequent or pervasive. Lack of language can be a barrier, to understanding specials recited or even written (since local terms/dialect are often used) or perhaps a server will not even recite specials to a non-italian speaker. having a conversation about wine can also be problematic. We have not had the issue Maureen cites with slices of the roast (we are not big roast meat eaters) but for example, as one time visitors to a restaurant in the Venice Lagoon we were told certain items only to hear them offered and seen them servced to what appeared to be regulars at a table seated later. We are philosophical about these things, which given human nature are bound to happen, as long as we get a good meal that is..

                                  From our first visit to italy, we appreciated the professionalalism of restaurant workers, the rather formal culture, which while not overtly friendly was still hospitable, even in Rome. And where we received wonderful meals. I really dont think this has changed, sure we cant ask how the nephew is doing and so forth, and may miss out on this or that, special item but in the end I dont believe there is a magic key to a better meal that we have not obtained. And as we have learned a bit more italian (and as a younger generation with more english have come up) it has become easier to ask a few questions, obtain recommendations and connect with the food culture, which will always make the experience more positiive.

                                  The one area I dont feel comfortable with, even how is the recommendation one hears to "put yourself in the waiter's hands". Without some discussion, and comfort level, this just doesnt work for us.

                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    Jen, I don;t want to overstate the problems we might have faced in our years travelling throughout Italy--and in the beginning, my Italian was mostly patch poor dialect. I've always appreciated the skill, professionalism, politeness, and commitment to service you find still easily enough (even at an Autogrille coffee bar!). And I acknowledge that meeting local culture and language at least part of the way will almost always lead to better service. But Maureen's mostly dismal picture of Roman trattorie struck me strangely--as if one needed to be a member of an exclusive (and shape shifting) club to get even acceptable value.

                                    1. re: bob96

                                      That's not what I said. I said you would have a better experience if you show you know what you're doing, and I believe that is true. I see people all the time ordering the wrong thing or not understanding what they're getting, and even well-meaning waiters (and I LOVE good, professional Italian waiters and miss them when I travel) have limited English and will often suggest conservatively lest the client misunderstand or not like something truly local. I honestly think you have to do some homework to truly enjoy a Roman trattoria, or rather to enjoy it with a good level of awareness of why you're enjoying it. And just read some of the comments in this thread to understand that people bring their own criteria to Rome, and those criteria are out of place. My advice is: have a clue what you're doing, communicate the fact by engaging the waiter (or whoever) in a conversation about your meal, and you will have a better experience than if you just ordered off a printed menu. And if you go to the same place twice in rapid succession, you too can be a regular.

                                  2. re: bob96

                                    "As an Italian American who speaks Italian, knows Italian food and culture, and who regularly visits family in Italy, I guess I'm out of luck, too."

                                    No, you're not out of luck (and hold the sarcasm, please). You use all your skills to establish yourself early on as someone who knows the difference and expects to be treated with respect.

                                    1. re: mbfant


                                      Again, what is the name of the famous trattoria outside of Florence that acted as if it were your fault that you got three corked bottles in a row? No restaurant should ever do that; the restaurant gets a credit for all corked bottles or uses the bottles in other ways. Were the three bottles the same wine? What happened with the fourth bottle?

                                      You were told the name of the restaurant you recommended in Rome where the OP had a mediocre meal. You even went so far to send Franco there the next day to find out about the situation. I, and others, would like to know the name of the trattoria outside of Florence. That isn't a problem, is it?
                                      Thanks once again.

                                        1. re: allende


                                          Perhaps I shouldn't hesitate to speak for mbfant, but she has already answered your question above: Omero. I don't get the point of this hounding, even on Chowhound.

                                          I live in Italy and, as I've posted before, i have friends who feed me at their home when I visit Rome, so my restaurant experiences there are limited and out of date. That said, where I live in Italy, and where I travel in Italy, it of course helps you order the exact food you want if you and the waitstaff are fluent in the same language, but most wait staff and restaurants I encounter take tremendous pride in satisfying their guests, and doesn't put them through tests to see if they are °deserving° of a good meal.

                                          I will say that the balance of the posts on Chowhound about Rome convey the impression that for people for whom enjoyable dining is a big reason they choose Italy over other travel destinations, then Rome should be skipped. Is that intentional? My question is directed at the regular Rome posters.

                                          I'll also add that if I had to walk into a restaurant and say °so and so° sent me to up my chances of a good treatment and good food, I wouldn't go.

                                          1. re: barberinibee


                                            I apologized for not seeing Maureen's post. See above.

                                            I agree with you about Rome. As both of us live in Italy and travel a lot and eat in restaurants a lot, it is refreshing that we encounter restaurants that, as you so well said, " take tremendous pride in satisfying their guests, and doesn't put them through tests to see if they are °deserving° of a good meal."

                                            It seems perverse to me that Roman trattorie, which are basically a service industry, would as Maureen believes that "Deep-down,(they) Roman trattorias are not in the service business in the sense that the goal is to satisfy paying customers. " Not only perverse, but morally bankrupt. As I said, that has never been our experience, but we don't live in Rome and don't go there as often as we used to.

                                            I'm happy that there are so many many other wonderful places in Italy where the attitude is completely customer friendly, whether you are there for the first time or the twentieth.

                                            Am curious to hear your restaurant thoughts about the Val D'Aosta, an area we've been to many times.

                                            1. re: allende

                                              Enjoyable dining is not the primary reason why I go to Italy or Rome, but I have enjoyed dining even in Rome, even at Roman trattorie. There are trattorie in Rome where even unilingual tourists will get a good meal. They might not know what the cook's special strengths are, but they won't get the dry end of the roast: they'll get the next slice. I'm fairly sure Sernoff does not speak Italian; he and his wife ate at a few trattorie, and there are no complaints similar to the OP's in his report:

                                              Mbfant will perhaps - or perhaps not - forgive me if I point out that she has always been fiercely protective of Hostaria Nerone, (over?)stating as inflexible rules for all Roman trattorie those that obtain there and that there have been more reports by tourists of negative experiences at Nerone than at any of the other trattorie frequently mentioned in the forum.

                                              1. re: zerlina

                                                "always fiercely protective of Nerone" ... "inflexible rules ..."

                                                Sorry: nonsense. I know Nerone and like it and think it's way the best bet in a touristy neighborhood full of tourist traps. It has real Roman food and is frequented by locals. In the great tradition of Roman trattorias, the owner remembers what I like and I know what his strengths are. Other people have that relationship with other trattorias. I happen to live practically across the street from the Colosseum and have to run the gauntlet of ghastly tourist joints just to get to the bus stop. I'm grateful we have Nerone in the neighborhood, and so should be tourists who want to eat decently after their Colosseum tour without having to go to a different neighborhood.

                                                As for the "dismal" picture of Roman trattorie, again, nonsense. I think that to eat well in a Roman trattoria, you can't be passive. As Vinoroma said, you have to know where you are and what time of year it is. You have a better experience if you know more and show that you take an interest. The people in the other thread who went to La Gensola are an interesting case. They knew carbonara was local, but didn’t realize the restaurant served primarily fish. The server eventually stepped in and guided them, but had they engaged him from the beginning, they'd have had a much more enjoyable and more typical meal. The flip side of all this is that really Roman waiters are wonderful -- and I miss their kind of guidance when I go elsewhere -- but in many cases their default position is "off" and it is the job of the customer to turn them on.

                                                La Gensola
                                                Piazza della Gensola, 15, Rome, Lazio 00153, IT

                                              2. re: allende


                                                Sorry to be chiming in so late (the Alps interfere with connectivity!), and sorry to have confused a few things above, adding the confusions of an already confusing subject.


                                                I'm having some wonderful eating and hospitality experiences in some very untouriisted corners of the val d'Aosta and will write up a long post when I am back to a land line.

                                                To others, regarding this whole business of trattorie and Rome etc etc:

                                                It does seem to me that there has become this idee-fixee among travelers to Italy that the ultimate dining experience to be had in Italy is the hole-in-the-wall eatery without a tourist in sight, where you will be feed piles of amazing cheap food by adoring hosts. It also seems to me that every Italian town does have eatery that stays in business by feeding the postal workers and the police their lunch, and maybe some widowers at night, and the occasional family celebration. When a tourist who doesn't speak Italian walks into such eateries, anywhere in Italy, the chances of the tourist snagging an exquisite meal are actually pretty remote -- and yet this is precisely the meal most tourists are begging to have.

                                                First of all, most of these utlitarian eateries don't serve fantastic food. Some do, and it a joy to find them, but most serve middling food. Secondly, if you don't speak Italian, the staff will -- as Maureen accurately sugggests -- steer you toward safe choices. They won't dish up the blood-and-beet sausage for you. (I had to talk a restaurant into serving me that tonight.)

                                                But I think perhaps only in Rome does one encounter a hostility to your very presence and attempt to get rid of you with bad food-- plus the cheering on of such a culture by the locals. (I think people headed to Florence and Venice have so lowered their expectations of finding "local" eateries that nobody asks anymore for help finding them lest they look like a rube).

                                                Elsewhere in Italy, I have encountered nothing but incredible concern that I have a pleasurable meal. In fact, it was encountering how much Italians cared about good digestion and pleasurable dining, no matter how humble the circumstances, that made me decide to move to Italy. A happy stomach is a pre'-requisite to all happiness, and my experience of Italian restaurant owners is that they care tremendously that they not upset your stomach. Rudeness is not an aid to digestion, nor is class snootiness, and I very rarely experience it anyplace I dine in Italy.

                                                1. re: barberinibee

                                                  Great post.
                                                  Am looking forward to Val d'Aosta report.

                                                  1. re: barberinibee

                                                    Barberinibee, your last paragraph exactly mirrors my experiences over the last 12 years on the back roads of Northern Italy.

                                                    For example, I’ve never encountered snooty, but they are reserved at Lalibera in Alba. However, when I joked that regrettably I was out of wine, having finished our bottle of Aldo Conterno, Langhe Nebbiolo, “Il Favot”, I was given an opened bottle of Bricco Mollea, Dolcetto Delle Langhe Monregalesi at no charge. To avoid being rude, I poured myself a nice glass.

                                                    1. re: barberinibee

                                                      Well said. And well worth emphasizing that (a) the fabulous mom-and-pop place with great food, no foreigners, low price, and smotheringly affectionate service is a chimera and (b) that we are talking about Rome in this thread, not all of Italy.

                                                      1. re: mbfant

                                                        Mbfant, I take this to mean that your “chimeras” are all in Rome, because I have been hallucinating all over Northern Italy otherwise.

                                                        1. re: BN1

                                                          We are talking about Rome. See (b), above.

                                                      2. re: barberinibee

                                                        "It does seem to me that there has become this idee-fixee among travelers to Italy that the ultimate dining experience to be had in Italy is the hole-in-the-wall eatery without a tourist in sight, where you will be feed piles of amazing cheap food by adoring hosts."

                                                        Hear hear! This is a point that was dying to be said. Seen in that light, it's not surprising that so many people have "disappointing" meals in Italy: they came in with unrealistic expectations.

                                                        More broadly, though, I find that many, if not indeed most, restaurant-goers actually evaluate restaurants not in terms of the absolute quality they got, but rather by the degree of match between the overall *experience* they had while there, and some idealised "template" of what a restaurant "typical" of the given country or region would be like. So the ones that get good reputations are not necessarily the ones serving the best food; rather, they are the ones who are most adept at managing their image. It's also possible to overestimate the limits of the possible: it's unlikely that a fairly basic pasta dish is going to be a revelatory culinary experience (although actually this sort of overestimation is more rampant in the high-end restaurants like Il Convivio or Agata e Romeo where people convince themselves they're about to be transported to the third heaven). At the end of the day, food is food.

                                                        Notwithstanding, there *are* cultural differences between Southern Europe and Northern Europe (or America). In multiple discussions with Italian and Greek friends I've seen that the culture is more relationship-orientated, and so there is a tendency to reserve the best of everything for friends and regulars. A discussion came up about butchers. They were explaining how the best of the spring lamb, or the best cuts of beef, wouldn't even be on view at the butchers; they'd be "reserved" for friends and family. When I explained that in England it would invariably be first-come, first-served, and that if you walked in as a complete stranger a few minutes before an old regular, and asked for the top bit of meat, you'd get it, they really had difficulty adjusting to the concept. It's different ways of looking at what's fair. Preferential treatment for regulars, from a Northern/Anglophone viewpoint, may seem fundamentally unfair, but at least in the eyes of some Southern Europeans, the *reverse* is true: how can it be considered "fair" to treat an old friend in the same way as some random stranger you will probably never meet again?

                                                        That said, there are restaurants, in Rome as elsewhere, that are more focussed on their regular clientele and are someone dismissive of one-off (or first-time) diners, and ones that are not - and who will provide a great meal no matter who walks through the door. To give a pair of concrete examples I get the feeling that Matricianella is one of those regulars-first restaurants while Le Mani in Pasta is an everyone-welcome establishment. However - and I think this is the critical lesson to draw - it CANNOT be inferred that regulars-first restaurants are serving, to regulars, better food that could be had at *any* other restaurant in Rome - there's nothing "magical" about their cooking and if you believe that you're simply falling prey to the mystique of exclusivity.

                                                        1. re: AlexRast


                                                          I'm glad you find my sentence inspiring, but I actually disagree with most everything you've posted,

                                                          From reading Chowhound alone, but also from talking to many people, I don't think most people have disappointing meals in italy. That isn't what the great majority of people say.

                                                          While I think that food writers and editors have done a disservice to everybody by focusing on the hole-in-the-wall-endless-plates-of-food experience and over-the-top language, I don't think most people arrive in italy with unrealistic expectations of the food. I think most people are unsure what to expect. Most people are genuinely taken with the skill with which so much Italian food is made, including pasta. It isn't as good where they come from.

                                                          Most people are doing the right thing, I believe, by valuing an eatery by the overall experience of dining there than by simply "best food" on the plate. In Italy, I don't think that is managing an "image." Some Italians love to cook and run a restaurant. The pride in what they do and their enthusiasm for sharing and pleasing customers makes dining deeply satisfying.

                                                          Once again, it is impossible to argue with other people's experience. But as I stated above, I have yet to encounter restaurants in Italy where newcomers are dissed and "the best" is saved for friends. This is being harped on over and over again on Chowhound. People insist it is a norm, but I've not see it anywhere. Not in Rome. Not in the rest of Italy. I could tell anecdote after anecdote about restaurant owners bringing me unusual plates of food when I was a one-time visitor to their area, insisting that I must try this specialty of the region since I was never coming back. I have had restaurant owners leave their restaurant and run to a store or a relatives' house to bring back an item I was curious about which they didn't have on the menu.

                                                          I've (temporarily) concluded that I apparently live in and go to a different Rome and a different Italy than the one I often see described here on Chowhound or on other internet sites. (I already knew I'd never seen Rick Steves' Italy, where millions go every year.) I am sure I am not dreaming this country I live in. I am sure I am awake and all my senses are clicking.

                                                          I encourage every one to come to the Italy that I live in and not be discouraged by what they read on the internet. I've yet to be disappointed by anything in Rome, I think the pasta in Bologna is fascinating, the reputedly stingy conservative Ligurians feed me extraordinarily well, and I am about to head to southern Italy to eat Cerignola olives, pristine fish, unique ancient recipes, fried hyacinth bulbs -- and I have every expectation of being treated fairly -- even gloriously -- although I am a Northern-bred Anglophone who doesn't look or sound Italian and I will be in southern southern Europe.

                                                          (I have had the exact some wonderful treatment in Greece, which I have found to be quite egalitarian and generous, even in their crisis. I seem to recall when I lived in London that people didn't regard each other fairly at all, but by prejudice and rank, and that they value their restaurants for celebrity sightings.)

                                                          I feel sure there is no convincing the people who believe the opposite. I just hope people planning trips to Italy have an open mind and they can decide for themselves.

                                                          1. re: barberinibee


                                                            It occurs to me to add to my already long post that I almost never go to Venice because i dislike the culture there, I have never been in Florence except in winter, I eat many of my meals in Rome at friends' homes. So to the extent that 90 percent of the people coming to Chowhound's Italy forum are asking for guidance about these few places , mostly in the thick of the mass ourist season, I readily admit my knowledge of the Italy that probably most people writing here have as their main focus deal is outside my experience. (I've no plans to revisit Under-theTuscan-Sun Tuscany and the Amalfi coast either).

                                                            I do understand the role clientism has played in Italian life. But in general, I've found the culture of the Italy, its food and its people (and its much-fretted-about-footwear), to be something quite different and much better than what I see described on the internet and in a lot of popular analysis.

                                                              1. re: barberinibee

                                                                You hit it perfectly. This was meant at your first post. Chowhound seems to be having problems.

                                                                1. re: allende


                                                                  I just hope the things we treasure about Italy never change.

                                                                2. re: barberinibee

                                                                  I think here I should clarify some points I've made because I can see there is a danger of reading in implications which I don't intend.

                                                                  "It's not surprising that so many people have "disappointing" meals in Italy" - here many does not mean most. I don't think a majority of people have disappointing experiences. But there is clearly a contingent who do - these are the "many" who I suspect are coming in with unrealistic expectations, or for whom at least expectations are often a factor in the disappointment.

                                                                  Note that by contrast the subsequent sentence: "many, if not indeed most, restaurant-goers actually evaluate restaurants..." DOES carry the possibility of being most, although that's not certain, because without hard data in front of me it's impossible to say with certainty. This comment, however, applies not specifically to restaurants in Italy but to the general approach as to how people think about restaurants.

                                                                  "Most people are doing the right thing, I believe, by valuing an eatery by the overall experience of dining there than by simply "best food" on the plate" (your comment) - here I have to disagree, at least in part. I do think it's important and necessary to distinguish best food on the plate irrespective of other considerations (such as service, price, ambience etc.) because it's a basic benchmark of absolute quality. I think it's fine to identify restaurants by the overall experience, but when this is done, it should be made very clear that the opinion is being made on the totality of the experience rather than the food per se. Likewise I don't think food quality should be downrated for things such as poor service, even if the problems were egregious. This can go into the *total* opinion of the restaurant, and should do so indeed, but I think where possible people should be clear about what they're going to get. Similarly, a restaurant with charming hosts and an extremely pleasant atmosphere needs to have it noted if the food is good but not great. On the other hand no praise should be withheld from a restaurant that actually manages truly *great* food with all the other positive attributes.

                                                                  "Rather, they are the ones who are most adept at managing their image." It is important to note that by this I do NOT mean necessarily in a cynical or commercial way, i.e. restaurants for whom image is everything and quality is not a priority. It's perfectly possible to be able to cultivate a good image (both in the actual experience and in reputation) while at the same time upholding the highest standards of quality and actually caring in a positive way about the customer. Indeed, among the ones with good reputations, this is probably what is happening, because image alone will only take you so far. However, a restaurant that does excellent food but whose "look and feel" isn't so immediately attractive will have a harder time attracting attention, and indeed I've seen some quality restaurants apparently fail for precisely this reason. They had great food, but just never got much custom because they didn't look like the type of place you'd necessarily expect good food to come from and didn't spend too much effort on promotion.

                                                                  "Notwithstanding, there *are* cultural differences between Southern Europe and Northern Europe (or America)." Here it is critical to understand that in the paragraph that follows there is ABSOLUTELY NO implied value judgement about the relative merits of different social attitudes. So that if I characterise, broadly, Northern and Southern cultural norms as different - that's what I mean: different, not necessarily better or worse. However, I think it is pointless to deny that there *are* differences at a cultural level: indeed, this is something to celebrate: let us not get into a world of one homogeneous culture. Equally, however, I do not mean to infer that cultural norms apply either to all people in a given cultural milieu or to any specific identifiable person. Thus you cannot take, e.g. any one Italian and any other Brit and be able to say that the Italian will favour friends and family whereas the Brit will be strictly first-come-first-served. I'm looking at effects that apply at a statistical level, across populations, as opposed to at a person-by-person level. It doesn't even have to be a majority of the population. It only has to be that the proportion of the population that acts one way versus the other is higher, relative to the proportion of the population, averaged across all people in the world, who would act in this way. How this works in practice in the restaurant world is that as a customer, coming into a restaurant in Italy, it probably makes sense to be more prepared for the possibility of differential treatment, and not to be overly perturbed by it, than it would in e.g. America, although it would not in general be possible to predict in advance specifically which restaurants might work in this way.

                                                                  My main point, though, was still the last sentence of the reply: " CANNOT be inferred that regulars-first restaurants are serving, to regulars, better food that could be had at *any* other restaurant in Rome" - precisely because it's a random statistical distribution, there's no necessary correlation between food quality and treatment, so if differential treatment does bother you, simply go elsewhere; there are plenty of choices and some of them will be equal in food quality to the ones where for you the type of service received ruins the totality of the experience.

                                                                  1. re: AlexRast


                                                                    I think most people can tell when a restaurant delivers exceptional food and insulting service, and make their own choices. Likwise, I don't upgrade nice food to great food just because I fell in love with my hosts. But I go back to nice food and the great hosts.

                                                                    Sure there are differences in northern and Southern European cultures -- and those differences are why so many people choose Italy for their dream vacation. They don't want the rigidities of those other places. They have a vision in their mind that they can come to Italy -- even Rome -- and eat a delicious, relaxed evening meal, drink wine, have espresso, linger in a beguiling setting, probably outdoors on a warm night, and they won't have to dress up and they won't have to put up with insulting service.

                                                                    I don't think they are being unrealistic. That is the reality throughout most of Italy. That has been the experience of so many people and why so many return. I don't know why anyone would want to direct them to those few restaurants in Italy where insulting service is on display or patrons at the next table will be fretting about your footwear. Of course, if someone prefers, they can make a reservation, dress up, pay more and go to one of italy's marvelous upscale restaurants with impeccable service. That is of course many people's idea of romance and travel, and Italy can supply that too.

                                                                    But don't underestimate how much it has meant to people to be treated hospitably wherever they went in Italy as a fundamental part of their dining experience. (And yes, I am talking about Rome too.) If you tell them there is better food down the street so long as you butter up the waiters, or put up with selfish, sloppy service, or wear the right shoes, don't be surprised if they aren't interested in that list of recommendations. And I personally think they are making the right eating choice. The food will sit better on their stomach in the happier place.

                                                                    it is perfectly possible all over Italy to eat memorably, have great service and be welcomed for who you are. I simply do not accept that theory that differential service is the norm in Italy. Sorry. The norm is really quite the opposite.

                                                                    1. re: barberinibee

                                                                      Hi, we do have our differences but I think are not as divergent as it may seem.

                                                                      You mention "I don't think they are being unrealistic", and neither do I. When I said that "many" "came in with unrealistic expectations", I just mean that there is a group of people who have, or seem to have, an idée fixe about what a restaurant should be like, in a particular country or region or market segment or whatever, and if the reality is different from their expectations, are much more disappointed that what, really, was warranted based on what they actually experienced.

                                                                      "But don't underestimate how much it has meant to people to be treated hospitably wherever they went in Italy as a fundamental part of their dining experience"
                                                                      Or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world. No, I definitely respect that people want to have a certain level of treatment in restaurants whereever they go. I just make a plea to make a clear separation between food quality and service quality so that when choosing where to go, people can make fully-informed decisions.

                                                                      "I simply do not accept that theory that differential service is the norm in Italy." Please understand that this is not what I am saying. Again, what I am saying is that, based on conversations with Italian friends and (inevitably limited) personal observation, it seems the probability of differential service in Italy is somewhat higher than it is in some other countries - which is not the same as saying it's over 50%, or even a particularly high figure. But it's a possibility that does exist, and - what I'm trying to get to here - is not *necessarily* an indication of any particular disdain on the part of the restaurant staff towards some customers, merely of somewhat different cultural expectations.

                                                                      1. re: AlexRast

                                                                        Hey Alex, stick to your guns. There is no question that "differential service" is common in Italy. Venice went so far as to form an association of restaurateurs who pledge to use the same price scale for everybody, a reaction to the common dual price scale for residents and visitors. Elsewhere (not "everywhere"!) the practice is not so institutionalized but of course it exists.

                                                                        Nobody is saying that a meal in Italy isn't one of the most compelling reasons why the human race is worth saving. I've devoted the last twenty years of my life to teaching my fellow English-speakers how to understand and get the most out of their Italian meals. And one way to do so is to go to Italy prepared, to know what are local dishes or to be equipped to ask, and to be ready to establish a rapport with the people providing your food. As many people have suggested on this board, and I'm one of them, it takes very little trouble to do this -- go twice in a row someplace and you're a regular -- and is well worth it. That people have had wonderful experiences in Italy, especially northern Italy, and especially smaller towns and cities, is not surprising. So have I, all the time. And I've had some of my best experiences in Naples, on the Amalfi coast, and in the deep South. But I have found over the decades (I've lived full-time in Rome since 1979 and was a frequent visitor to Italy for more than ten years before that) that the more I engage and show curiosity, interest, and a bit of knowledge, the more forthcoming my interlocutors, and the greater my enjoyment. And my experience is reinforced by my observations of other foreigners and the things friends, students, and clients report to me and ask me. That moment when you realize someone else really cares what you order for dinner is almost the high point of the whole evening, and it happens when you engage. I've had people (many English) tell me they had avoided asking questions because they didn't want to be a bother. Now if that isn't a cultural difference, what is?

                                                                        Of course there's a North-South divide. "The customer is always right" is not an Italian concept, though in some places it is recognized as good business. Florence historically did business and was governed by money people and developed a middle class, Rome historically was governed by an ecclesiastical aristocracy that discouraged the personal development of the urban poor. Today Florence is much more customer-oriented than Rome, and it's no wonder.

                                                                        And to conclude, just a word about footwear and fashion. Rome is a very casual city and very laissez faire. Romans don't care what you wear, and you can even frighten the horses as long as it doesn't interfere with getting dinner on the table. But people who come from countries where restaurants publish dress codes ("no jeans," "smart casual") often ask how they are supposed to dress and, if possible, how they can avoid sticking out as tourists. They deserve an answer.

                                                      3. re: mbfant

                                                        I've never had to work that hard anywhere else in Italy to be treated with the respect I've come to associate with Italian public culture. Even if the meal was less than wonderful.

                                          2. re: bob96

                                            I do not think as extreme as Maureen, maybe, but do agree with some aspects she is touching upon: on this board, right now there is a somehow disappointed account of someone in Rome who went to la Gensola and ate carbonara & amatriciana and then wanted to go on to fish (hold back by the waiter). Just because you are in Rome doesn't mean you can have a good Roman pasta dish - and you are in a predominantly fish restaurant. Knowing this will make the experience better for everyone.
                                            Knowing your region, your season AND the strengths of the restaurant/trattoria will give you a better experience.

                                    2. I am brand new to Chowhound and I signed up just so I can give my 2 cents about Hostaria da Nerone. My family and I ate there just a little over a week ago during our first trip to Italy. I picked it out from a Rick Steves book that said it was close to where we were (Colloseum). I was bound and determined to find it and I am so glad I forced my husband and daughter to keep walking up the hill. We LOVED this place! The manager was so nice, his mother was doing the cooking, and they treated us like family. When my husband found out that "Mama" was cooking he made a big deal about her and had his picture taken with her. My daughter had lasagna (never would eat it before) and loved it. I loved the old style of the interior and the simpleness of the place. After finishing our meal, the manager brought over shots of Limoncello for the 3 of us, for free! This was the most fun we had anywhere during a meal. We may not be very snooty about what we eat, but as long as you are satisfied and happy, that is all that matters.
                                      Just so you know - the next night we ate at some fancy looking restaurant that had an enclosed area right by a highly traveled street (can't remember the name) and I had fish (seabass), thought it tasted good but got sick that night.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Sewingbee

                                        There is no question after this thread we're heading to Nerone for a lunch. Got to find out for ourselves. Do we need a res for say 1:00 (and that goes for Gensola too "pesce del giiorno per favore"--practicing)? Thanks.

                                        1. re: petergins

                                          You do need a reservation for La Gensola. Nerone usually fills up, so you should call ahead, especially if you want to sit outdoors, but you needn't reserve much in advance. If you want to try walking in, get there before one o'clock. You'll want to try their carciofi alla romana. That's the sister in the kitchen, not the mother. We still love it.

                                          1. re: petergins

                                            I think gensola is not about the fish of the day, prepared simply, but more about the antipasti and pasta they prepare with the fish. I think asking for the (whole) fish of the day may take you to another road, which might as well be good, but not what i think is their strength.

                                            1. re: vinoroma

                                              it also might take you down the road of an expensive meal, since whole fish (except for maybe some of the farmed fishes) is about the most expensive thing you can order in an italian restaurant..

                                            2. re: petergins

                                              I ate at Hostaria Nerone in January and quite enjoyed my meal there. I especially enjoyed the antipasti of many vegetables and some egg dishes. We also had nice pasta, the pasta itself cooked very well. Sorry I was too full for a secondi or dessert. I recall the no-name house white wine as pleasant and that the coffee was good.

                                              Maybe because it was January, or perhaps because we were "early", we were able to just walk in for lunch, and we found the space warm, cozy and comfortable. In short order, the place absolutely did fill up (it appeared to me it is the regular lunch gathering spot for at least one nearby group of office workers). Well-behaved children were also among the clientele.

                                              We had perfectly nice, attentive service at a comfortable corner table, and left feeling that Hostaria Nerone just about fit the definition of a warmly relaxed, simple meal in Rome with fresh, well-prepared, traditional food. Only a few other meals we had in Rome outside of private homes matched Hostaria Nerone for the quality and freshness of ingredients, especially the memorable vegetable antipasti. We'd gladly return.

                                              1. re: barberinibee

                                                In fact, the vegetable antipasto is one of the best in Rome, and the main reason I go there too.


                                                1. re: barberinibee

                                                  I'm now starting to check on the Italy board again, as hubby and I just booked a 25th anniverary / his 50th b-day trip to Venice and Rome. I'm fascinated by the opinions on restaurants in Italy, Rome and elsewhere, north and south, etc.

                                                  I read up a lot of food and restaurants, so we probably fall in the more-knowledgeable-but-not-expert category in terms of knowing local specialties, and all that. And while we've had some less-great meals, my memories are all of the wonderful experiences, which mostly include good exchanges with the people in the restaurant (now that I think about it). Discussing local seasonal tomatoes with a waiter at one Roman restaurant, learning about punterella at another (then discussing it with a guy at the Campo d' Fiori market), and so on.

                                                  Generally, though, I don't ask a lot of questions. My Italian is ok but not great, so incapable of a detailed discussion in Italian about which dish works best with others, or that I want to try something new to me. So I tend not to use English to ask the detailed questions - sounds like I should use English if I can't communicate well enough in Italian!

                                            3. I ate here yesterday for lunch. The food was fine -- yes, there were canned mushrooms, but so what? The location is VERY convenient and the menu is a few euros cheaper than the real tourist options, for example, at the Pantheon or Piazza Navona. From my experience, this place will satisfy the needs of most travelers in Rome who are looking for decent food at a decent price a short walk from major attractions.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: foodmonk

                                                I'm not sure which place you're referring to, but in Italy IMHO, a place that uses canned mushrooms, is not a place that serves "decent" food.

                                                1. re: allende

                                                  You should be sure, since the topic of this post is the Hostaria Nerone.

                                                  Look, there are several classes of dining for a tourist in Rome. Some people are here for the food -- well, good luck to you, since other regions of Italy are much more famous for cuisine. Sure, there is classic Roman food, but you have to pay for it, or go a bit further out of town. The city center caters to tourists, bureaucrats and the working classes. You get what you can take.

                                                  For me -- and I would wager, many Hounds who end up in Rome -- you have a few meals you can splurge on, but also many meals where you just need to eat something, for example, en route from the Coliseum to S. Pietro in Vincoli, where Da Nerone is located.

                                                  The restaurant is fine for what it is -- not a destination meal, but simply a better than average place at the right spot at decent prices.

                                                  I feel compelled to give notice here: Attention, tourists in Rome! Yes -- you can have a totally respectable meal here that you will not regret with a minimum of fuss and damage to your wallet.