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Rome: Seeking Casual Dining

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I'm doing some late planning for our trip to Italy in October. I've been reading the boards and taking some notes, but I thought I'd try to get a few succinct answers with my own posts.

We are staying off of Via Cola di Rienzo, in the Prati district for six days, then, after other travels, we have one final night, staying on Via Fabio Massimo, not too far from the Vatican and the Ottaviano metro station. I'm not sure if this is in the same district. It would be nice to have some dinners within walking distance of these places, if possible.

For most meals, we'd prefer small, casual, authentic trattorias to modern multi star spots. Do I need recommendations for this type of eating, or might it be easier to walk around and take our chances?
In case you can't tell, I'm a slightly anxious (but totally thrilled) first-timer to Italy. Very excited about all the sites to see, and a bit overwhelmed. Any ideas and opinions are welcome!

(I've split this off from a joint inquiry for Rome and Florence, so if you already responded to that thread, I've saved your advice.)

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  1. The reason why you have received no replies is because your question is too vague and because the Rome residents prefer to reply to posters who have done some prior research.

    There are two schools of thought about eating while touring: 1. Have a sit-down lunch in the area you are visiting and have a light dinner (cold or reheatable items, available in delis and at deli counters of many supermarkets; easiest if you are staying in an apartment) 2. Have a light lunch (pizza al taglio etc.) in the area you are visiting and a sit-down dinner in the evening, either near where you are staying or elsewhere in the city. Evidently, either alternative expands the horizons far beyond Prati (Via Fabio Massimo is also in Prati).

    There have been fairly recent threads about the kind of eating you are looking for. The Rome residents have weighed in on the restaurant alternatives; the OPs have posted trip reports. Between the two of them, they have pretty much covered the ground.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/793982
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/770018 and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785318

    6 Replies
    1. re: zerlina

      I understand your response, and I feared I might get one like this. Believe me, I've read every thread I could find, and I need to narrow down the choices. I included all the criteria that I know of, but I am not familiar with Rome at all. Most of the posts I've read describe great food, but I have no idea what type of place they are writing about, or what the cost is. Some talk about making reservations weeks in advance, obviously that is out of the question for us. As I said in the opening post, we are not looking for the best and trendiest starred spots, and we don't want to spend 100 Euros per person. We want small, traditional, friendly trattorias for dinner, hopefully in or near Prati. Like everyone on these boards, we don't want big tourist spots. But we do hope for tolerance of minimal Italian. I'm not sure what more information I can give.
      I got some good responses from the same question on the Florence thread, then I compiled a list of possibilities and requested feedback. I'm going to try to do that here from the places mentioned in other threads. Maybe that will help?

      ETA: I live in a town that has exactly ONE restaurant that I can recommend to visitors. So even thinking about all the choices is pretty overwhelming!

      1. re: L.Nightshade

        Most of the places that I recall being mentioned in Sernoff's or Tenortom's trip reports are under 100 Euro a person and in the mid-price range (40-60 Euro per person with a more modest wine). There's an Italian Web site where the price indications are pretty reliable: www.ilmangelo.it. Choose Roma from the drop-down list in the first box, enter the name in the third box, click Cerca. Prices are without wine.

        It's really not necessary to reserve weeks ahead of time in any of these places. Calling the day before or even morning of is generally enough. Tenortom was an exception: his whole trip was planned around food, and it was a largish group.

        Do think about where you plan to be during the day and consider nearby places for lunch. If you go to the Restaurants section and enter L'Asino d'oro, for example, then click on the listing and then on Browse nearby, you will get places in the general Colosseum area. It would really be a shame, I think, to limit yourself to the Prati area.

        And don't worry about the minimal Italian. A greeting in Italian and then English will get you by almost everywhere in Rome.

        1. re: L.Nightshade

          Florence is a lot smaller than Rome and gets a lot less Board traffic. Questions arent as repetitive for board participants, because believe me, everyone hitting rome, with a few exceptions, is looking for authentic, delicious,friendly and reasonably priced options.. For you, Rome must feel daunting. but its also hard for folks to recommend not knowing where you will be. So I suggest reading through some of the long discussion threads, which really identify recommendations and picks of a rather limited number of restaurants by Rome residents. You can also search (google is better than chowhound's own search, but put chowhound in as a search term,for posts about areas) Finally, you can use the Restaurant page tools to get info about restaurants in an area or price range. For example here are some restaurants in or near Prati that might be worth consideration. http://www.chow.com/search?query=Prat...

          Click on the individual places for more info, including reviews and links to discussions. The price data is normally in euros, $ = 25E or under, $$ = 25-35 $$$ is mid-high ( no defined top right now but in my head topping out at say 65E), and $$$$ is luxe. You can also put your address or other search terms in to the search to get additional proposals.

          Once you have some more ideas, you can go for targeted searches.

          PS we had a very good and well priced meal at Osteria dell Angelo in the Prati area a few years back. Its friendly, and while not in the top tier of Roman food, you could enjoy it.

          1. re: jen kalb

            adding link

            -----
            Osteria dell' Angelo
            Via Giovanni Bettolo, 24, Roma , IT

          2. re: L.Nightshade

            I am not a Rome expert but this is what I would do: before coming back to this board, get a map of Rome, even Google Map and find where via Cola di Rienzo in Prati and via Fabio Massimo are at. Central Rome, where visitors will spend most of their time is across the river. Map out these points: Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and the Forum. Trastevere, the other area of interest is just south of Prati, is on the same side of the river. That should give you some sense of orientation. Get a good general guidebook such as Time Out read the sections on transport and basic dining scene and NOT necessarily their recommendations. Some might sneeze at these books but they do a good job in a pinch. It will give you a sense of what types of restaurants are available, what is Roman food, what food is worth eating, some sense of cost. It is not comprehensive or a Bible but that is not you need at this point. Hopefully by this time, you will have some basic knowledge to ask pertinent questions and able to read the board with some sense of purpose. After getting settled where you are in your mind, come back to this board and read the posts by the Rome residents: mfant, katieparla, minchilli, vinoroma. Most of their recommendations are not high-end or too far from central Rome. Repost with some specific places and see if they meet what you are looking for as to the type of food, ambience, location and budget.
            From your post: "For most meals, we'd prefer small, casual, authentic trattorias to modern multi star spots. Do I need recommendations for this type of eating, or might it be easier to walk around and take our chances?"
            YES! you do need recommendations for any good eating places in Rome, otherwise, how do you know if the food is any good? They will correct me if I am wrong but for most places you are seeking, you do not need to make reservations weeks ahead (a few days ahead for weekends might be sufficient). Sorry if I am trying to be too basic.

            1. re: L.Nightshade

              zerlina, jen, and PBSF - Thank you all for your wise words. I will try to regroup, using all of your suggestions, and come back a bit more prepared!

          3. I second what PBSF just said, do look for recommendations because, trust me, mediocre restaurants in Rome sadly abound. Yes, I am Italian and yes, I love casual food so may I recommend in a pinch:

            -Bir & Fud (nice assortment of artisan beers, as its name suggests)
            -Salumeria Roscioli (amazing display of cheeses and salumi, pasta, a good wine list).

            If you plan to go to Musei Vaticani in the morning, you may want to visit Pizzarium for what's arguably the best sourdough 'pizza al taglio' and supplì. Metro stop 'Cipro' on the A line. Just thinking about it makes me salivate!
            Also if you like gelato, Grom it's a good option among others with their choice of natural, Slowfood sourced ingredients. Near the Pantheon.

            Hope this helps!

            -----
            Roscioli
            Via dei Giubbonari 21/23, Rome, Lazio 00186, IT

            Pizzarium
            Via della Meloria, 43, Rome, Lazio 00136, IT

            Grom
            via del Campanile, Florence, Tuscany 50122, IT

            5 Replies
            1. re: pasticcino

              Thanks for your ideas pasticcino! Mr. Nightshade will especially appreciate knowing about Bir & Fud. While I'm a wine drinker, he's mostly a beer man. Do they make something like an IPA in Italy? I think he's already in anticipatory withdrawal from his preferred beer. I exaggerate, I'm sure he'll be delighted to try Italian microbrews.

              1. re: L.Nightshade

                See also Open Baladin for italian microbrews

                -----
                Open Baladin
                Via degli Specchi,5, Rome, Lazio 00186, IT

                1. re: jen kalb

                  Thanks jen, and Mr. Nightshade thanks you also.

                2. re: L.Nightshade

                  there are plenty of IPAs in Italy. one feature in places specializing in beer is that they only serve beer, no wine. That includes Open and Bir & Fud. if you want a bit of both, Salumeria Roscioli's got both. Da Danilo, L'Asino d'Oro, La Gatta Mangiona, Sforno and Pizzarium all serve Italian craft beers and wine as well.

                  www.parlafood.com

                  1. re: katieparla

                    Thanks katie, that's good information to know. Mr NS will be happy about the IPAs. I've added all those spots to my list, for when we both want to indulge.

                    What a fascinating website you have!

              2. I'm just getting ready to leave, and have one final question to ask.
                I've compiled a list from all of your comments, several other threads, and some generous additional help from Zerlina. During our first stay in Rome, we are planning on selecting spots and making reservations using the list I've made, based on where we will be, and what think we feel like eating.
                However, we will have one final evening in Rome, in the Prati district, after our other travels, and before departing. Since we will be there only a few hours, we do want to stay in the neighborhood, and would like to choose a spot in advance and make reservations.
                I am currently looking at Il Matriciano or Settembrini. Although it's also nearby, I have ruled out Dal Toscano because we will be returning from two weeks in Tuscany, and I think we should go for something more Roman. My concern about Il Matriciano is that there are a number of reviewers (on CH and blogs) who claim it's gone downhill and that they can be horrible to Americans (but who knows how those Americans behaved). But I like the sound of the old fashioned trattoria described by some positive reviewers. Settembrini seems to be getting a lot of good reviews, but something I read made me think it might be terribly modern and trendy. Is that accurate? While that might be fine, it might may or may not be quite what we are looking for on our last night.
                Any opinions on these two spots are welcome.
                I thank you all for your assistance. Thanks to all of you, I am leaving well-armed with information!

                -----
                Il Matriciano
                Via Dei Gracchi, 55, Rome, Lazio 00192, IT

                Settembrini
                Via Luigi Settembrini, 25, Rome, Lazio , IT

                4 Replies
                1. re: L.Nightshade

                  Have a look at this thread:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/810716

                  It's not a typical Roman trattoria, and I don't get the impression that the food is particularly Roman, but it's close and an alternative to Settembrini.

                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                    If you're looking for casual dining, you might want to make sure to try the markets along the Tiber River if it's a nice night out.

                    There are lots of restaurants and the view and setting are really nice. On the downside I don't think you will find the best restaurants in Rome there and you may find a lot of cigarette smoke, but it is a distinctive way to spend an evening in Rome.

                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                      Matriciano HAS really went downhill. Settembrini is not terribly modern, but I do understand your concern. Also, it is not as good as it used to be. How about Arcangelo?
                      PS: don't know which markets calumin is talking about - he might be thinking of the summer-only tiber bank stands, which are long gone.

                      -----
                      Settembrini
                      Via Luigi Settembrini, 25, Rome, Lazio , IT

                      1. re: vinoroma

                        Oh that might be, I was there in August bit if they are gone now that's too bad.