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Suggestions for dining in Florence and Rome (vegetarians)

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My husband and I, both vegetarians are headed to Italy in a couple of weeks .. this is our first trip to Europe and to Italy and we are super excited. I'm researching places to dine for lunch/dinner in both Rome and Florence. I would love some suggestions and comments on places I have so far. We are looking for casual, cafe style places for the most part and one fancy dinner on our anniversary (Rome).

This is what I have gathered so far based on other posts from chowhound board and other travel forums..

Florence: (we are staying at Hotel Casci)
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1) Buca dell Orafo
2) Tratoria la Casalinga
3) Tratoria Sergio Gozzi (lunch)
4) OSteria Cipolla Rossa
5) La Bussola pizzeria and wine bar
6) Trattoria da Sergio Frezzolini

Rome: (we are staying at Hotel Adriano in the Novona area)
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1) Obika Mozzerella Bar
2) Da Bafetto or La Montecarlo for pizza
3) Caffe Mancini Ristorante
4) Osteria dell Ingego
5) Caffetteria Canova Tadolini
6) Otello alla Concordia
7) Maccheroni
8) Sicilianbocca (near Vatican)
9) Pizzarium

I've not narrowed down a place for our anniversary dinner. Any suggestions?

Also I'm finding most of the restaurant websites don't list prices on their menus. Is this common? We will mostly be eating pastas, pizzas, soups and cheese (no meat or seafood for us). How much can we expect a meal to cost at a trattoria?

Is it necessary to make reservations at most places?

Thank you!!

-----
Maccheroni
Piazza delle Coppelle, 44, Rome 00186, IT

La Montecarlo
Vicolo Savelli 12/13,, Rome, Lazio , IT

da Sergio
Piazza San Lorenzo 8r, Florence, Tuscany 50122, IT

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

Cipolla Rossa
Via de' Conti,53, Florence, Toscana 50123, IT

Casalinga
Sdrucciolo de' Pitti,9r, Florence, Toscana 50125, IT

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  1. There are Roman residents who post on this board so they would be better for giving you up-to-date opinions on your list but if you are not aware of Il Margutta, but you might want to check out its website. It lists prices for lunch and dinner. It is one of the few restaurants in Rome devoted to serving vegetarians and vegans, and it is a tony place, although not expensive by Rome standards. It's lunch menu is particularly a bargain.

    http://www.ilmarguttavegetariano.it/eng/

    If you are planning to be in Rome outside of the Christmas/New Year's holidays, I don't think you need reservations, but others who post here who live in Rome can advise you better.

    Also Roman residents know better than I do when the Roman artichoke season is (where I live, it is fall/winter), but if are artichokes are in season while you are there, you might not want to miss out on eating artichokes in the several ways Romans cook them. Gnocchi is good in Rome and easy to find (especially on Thursdays). Also, if you eat eggs, you might be on the lookout for them in Rome because I've enjoyed eating them there in winter as a main course, sometimes with truffles.

    You might find this link interesting:

    http://www.venere.com/blog/vegetarian...

    1 Reply
    1. re: barberinibee

      oh wow, I was not aware of such a restaurant. That sounds really nice for our anniversary dinner. Thank you for that suggestion. I like how they have the set menus where we can actually eat everything they serve.. Thank you for the tip on Gnocchi.

    2. I am sure I will be in the minority here, I would skip Gozzi. I will admit, I used to like it, but I find the food greasy and not very vegetarian friendly. The cuisine is very "casalinga" and there is nothing wrong with that. But you've already got that represented anyway.

      1. My other question is would it be ok to order a few dishes like soups and pastas and share between my husband and I? At most places we won't be eating the secondi/meat course so sharing the pastas and other dishes seems like a good idea. I wonder if this is appropriate....

        5 Replies
        1. re: dscan99

          Glad Il Margutta might work out for you.

          I'm not sure I understand your second question. Are you saying that perhaps you will want to each order a pasta or a soup as a first course, but then since you are not eating a second course of meat, you would like to split a plate of pasta for your second course?

          It''s ok to ask to split any dish, including an appetizer or dessert, or a first or second course. Just know that if you order soup followed by pasta, or pasta followed by pasta, your waiter might caution you that this is not the normal way to eat an Italian meal. But if you say that's what you want, they will bring whatever you order. They will also probably ask you what dish you want to eat first, and which you want to eat second.

          If you order a side of vegetables in an Italian restaurant, it is always big enough to share.

          Also be aware that many Italians do not order the entire meal all at once. They wait until they are finished eating their appetizer and pasta, and if they are still hungry, they will order more food. So you can do that too. It's actually a much more enjoyable way to eat.

          You might also tell your waiters you are vegetarians and ask if there are any vegetarian dishes that the cook makes that aren't on the menu. Sometimes there are.

          1. re: barberinibee

            That really helps! Thanks! I meant that the husband and I would order maybe three dishes between pastas and soups/salads that we would share.. not necessarily one dish for each of us. Anyway from what you describe, it sounds like places are flexible. It's also good to know that we don't need to order everything up front.. rather wait and see how hungry we are after each course to order more.

            I'm defintiely learning a few Italian phrases and one of them is "I'd like some vegetarian options please".

            1. re: dscan99

              Brava!

              1. re: dscan99

                I think 2 dishes per person would be ok. Sharing by trading plates is what we do. I would not ask the restaurant to divide the dishes on to two plates.. Bear in mind that servings are relatively smaller in Italy than in the US, so that you may need to order more food than you are currently anticipating.

                1. re: dscan99

                  You can order course by course in trattorias or classic/traditional restaurants, but the more upmarket places can't usually handle that. Don't forget that whatever number of dishes and courses you order, you eat one at a time, with the exception of veg and meat/fish, or whatever you're eating instead of meat (a trattoria classic in Rome is grilled scamorza cheese). Don't order your salad to accompany your pasta. As long as you eat cheese and fish, you'll always find plenty of meatless meals, though you might want to ask if meat broth has been used in the soups or sauces.

            2. In Florence, I love both Casalinga and DaSergio, but I don't think of either as being particularly vegetarian-friendly. Soups in particular can be tricky because many have a meat- or poultry-based stock. Although I am not a vegetarian myself, I found it easier in Rome to find vegetarian secondi when I was looking for something lighter after a substantial primo.

              -----
              Casalinga
              Sdrucciolo de' Pitti,9r, Florence, Toscana 50125, IT

              1. PS: I wanted to show you this menu for Armando al Pantheon, and I'm sorry it doesn't have prices, but they are mid-range by Roman standards. (60e per person for a 4 course meal with wine, and you don't have to eat 4 courses.)

                But you can see that at Armando, for a main dish, you can get cheese with truffles, or "meatballs" made of farro grain with a gorgonzola sauce. Armando's also has some purely vegetarian appetizers, and a whole lot of vegetarian pastas.

                It is considered one of the very tastiest restaurants in Rome, and you would definitely need a reservation. It is right down the street from the Pantheon (as you stand in front of the Pantheon facing it, just walk halfway down the street that is at a complete right angle from Pantheon steps, past the newspaper kiosk). You can ask to see a menu so you can see the prices, and if you like what you see, you can make a reservation.

                http://www.armandoalpantheon.it/menu.php

                You can also ask at other restaurants if they have these dishes.

                1. Hi dscan99!
                  barberinibee has already provided great information.
                  I'd suggest also to delete from your list Obika, that is a franchising you can find also at airports and in foreign cities such as NYC, and Maccheroni, a "trendy" place whose food quality is much lower than average.
                  If you are interested also in eating not in historical center a restaurant where l go often mainly with vegetarian food is Le Bistrot in Garbatella area (south Rome, B metro stop). A cozy place with familiar and friendly service too.
                  Il Margutta and Armando are very different each other, but both are excellent possibilities in the heart of Rome!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: tavoleromane

                    Thank you. The only reason Obika struck me as interesting was because of the concept of a mozzerella bar. I'll keep it on the back burner.

                    1. re: dscan99

                      My pleasure!
                      In my opinion you can find a better quality mozzarella in some of the already mentioned restaurants or directly in the best "gastronomie" food shops.
                      Buy a slice of "pizza bianca" or some good bread together and you'll enjoy a lot!

                      1. re: dscan99

                        Spelled mozzarella, and you don't need a bar. Go to a top purveyor and buy some and just eat it.

                        1. re: mbfant

                          Like.

                    2. I'll weigh in on Florence here:
                      I love both Casalinga and da Sergio, but wouldn't send my vegetarian friends there.

                      I was recently at Al Tranvai, and they have a lot of vegetarian options, more than most places. Loved their gnocchi with gorgonzola!

                      There is actually a macrobiotic restaurant in Florence, Un Punto Macrobiotico, Piazza Tasso 3r

                      5 Cinque is a cute place for lunch, with lots of salads, vegetables and ligurian pizza.
                      Fuoriporta is an enoteca, but has a zillion types of bruschetta, many vegetarian.
                      Pepo, over by the San Lorenzo market, always has a lot of veg options. I had a great pumpkin soup there the other day. So pretty that I'll upload the photo.

                      www.elizabethminchilli.com

                      -----
                      Al Tranvai
                      Piazza Torquato Tasso, 14, Florence, Tuscany 50124, IT

                      da Sergio
                      Piazza San Lorenzo 8r, Florence, Tuscany 50122, IT

                      Casalinga
                      Sdrucciolo de' Pitti,9r, Florence, Toscana 50125, IT

                       
                      1 Reply
                      1. re: minchilli

                        Thank you Elizabeth! I really apreciate your response.

                      2. I also had a general question about drinking water. Is it safe to drink from the tap? Or is bottled water common? (like a DAsani or Aquafina).

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: dscan99

                          Italy is a civilized country and the tap water is fine. excellent in fact (drink from the streetside taps in Rome), but in a restaurant normally you will be offered bottled. they will ask if you want with or without "gas" - you get it by the liter, usually. I cant think of a time when we received tap water. although it could be requested.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            I'd add that many restaurants are currently using filtered tap water (acqua filtrata in Italian) that can be with or without gas addition. Generally it is priced 2-3€ per liter.
                            However tap water is offered in some restaurants if you don't want a bottle.
                            Have you ever been to l'Asino d'Oro for example, Jen?

                            1. re: tavoleromane

                              Nope, havent been in Rome since Asino d'oro opened there. Looking forward to visiting. Its not clear to me why bottled water has been so prevalent in a city with such good drinking water. In the past, there seem to have been a lot more diversity and regionality in the bottled waters but now it seems like its coming down to a smaller number of big producers.

                              Thanks for the info, thanks, tavoleromane!

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                I think the lack of tap water in restaurants has got to do with two factors: one, though the water is very clean and pure as the city of rome pipes it into the pipes, manybuildings have very old piping systems and what comes out of the tap in the kitchen is not that good anymore. I don't mean unhealthy, but very limescale-y and not as fresh tasting. Two, i think there were incidents of caraffes containing things other than water being served to guests (mistakenly) thus making an unopened bottle of water a safer choice to serve and order. I know some people who won't even accept a bottle of water if it is not opened tableside, thus ensuring its un-contamination.

                                1. re: vinoroma

                                  Since the practice of serving bottled water in restaurants is prevalent throughout Italy, I have sometimes wondered if it just the simpler way to charge for it. Europeans don't expect a free full pitcher of water to be offered to them, and paying for a standard measure of bottled water strikes me as a simplel way to agree on its worth.

                                  I've observed that frizzante is generally the first choice of my Italian dining companions, while visiting Americans go for naturale. So I would think most restaurants find it easier just to stock the bottled frizzante.

                                  But those are just my observations. I've never read a history. I do think that something that tends to get underemphasized in history books is the hygiene mania that gripped Europe and the UK, and to some extent the US in the last part of 19th c. Whole social orders were rearranged to promote germ-fighting above all, and I think the unshakeable customs of drinking bottled water in European restaurants may have something to do with that. (The British are still suspicious of plain water in any form it has seemed to me.)

                                  Remember too that evidence of cholera in a city is something that city officials will almost always try to cover up, and cholera is spread through drinking water. Naples suffered one of history's worst cholera outbreaks as recently as the 1920s, and suffered it again after WW2. Surely it is only recently that Romans relaxed about cholera, being so far south. Better safe than sorry might have been the attitude of a lot of Romans when accepting water in a restaurant.

                        2. I am back from my trip and let me say, both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed eating every single meal... well we had one big disappointing lunch but other than that everything was so fabulous. Thanks to everyone on this board who helped me narrow down restaurants!!!

                          In Florence we ate at:

                          1) Cafe Steffania Marchetti- small little joint on the main street leading up to the Duomo. FAbulous, fresh pastas, paninis and salads.

                          2) Zaza- It was kind of toursity but the food didn't disappoint. We had the vegetable pizza and Pesto Fettuccine. I loved the grilled veggies on the pizza.. the crust was amazing.

                          3) Imatti Trattoria - advertised as a pizzeria but their gnocchi was amazing. My husband had the penne arrabiata and said it was one of the best dishes of the entire trip :)

                          4) Cipolla Rossa- excellent excellent excellent. :) :) WE had penne with carraige driver sauce (which I thought was a bit on the salty side) and a fettuccine with herb pesto and crushed almonds and peppers. Very tasty. Their panna cotta is to die for.

                          5)Trattoria San Lorenzo- I'd highly recommend this place. But make reservations.

                          In Rome we ate at:

                          1)Obika- (first evening, reached late and this place was right opposite our hotel)- their farro soup was really good and hit the spot after a long day.

                          2) Cafe Mancini - we found out about this place from chowhound but learnt it was closed and instead called "Costa Rei"... specializing in seafood. Did not dine there.

                          3) Osteria de Mario - grilled vegetable platter (antipasti) which was a bit oily but tasty. We also had the minestrone soup which was really good and the fettuccine alfredo. The portions were HUGE. Finished off the meal with a limencello and some biscotti. The service was super friendly and very quick.

                          4) Vatican- Arlu a San Pietro - I highly highly recommend this place. WE went there for lunch after a tour of the St Peter Basilica. The lasagna was simple yet amazingly delicious as was the veggie pizza. Thought we mostly ate just pizzas and pastas we never got tired of it :)

                          5) Alla Campana- recommended by our hotel for our anniversary dinner- I had a really yummy artichoke ravioli in a pink sauce and the husband had a lentil pasta soup. WE ordered an appetizer of mozzarella, tomatoes and greens. It was divine!!

                          6) Il Margutta- I give this place only 3 out of 5 stars. The variety was obvious in the brunch buffet but the food was average. The dishes were not hot and I didn't get a satisfying feeling at the end.. probably because I overate LOL but the food was just OK. Maybe the a la carte dinner is better.. but the brunch is an excellent value 12 euros per person.

                          7) Il Chianti - next to Trevi Fountain. This is where we had the best pizza of the entire trip- Cipolla (onion) pizza with black olives. The mixed salad (greens, corn, cherry tomtaoes, olives and mozzarella) was incredibly fresh and satisfying and complimented the pizza very well. The wine was amazing. and OMG the dessert was a puff pastry with mascarpone filling and fresh strawberries on top and a strawberry sauce on the side. DECADENT!

                          8) Night and Day- joint near the PAntheon- a disappointing last day dinner. I dont recommend this place. Felt like I was eating sub par food.. the pizza tasted like American takeout pizza :( Sucked because this was our last meal.. I wish we had better luck.

                          Overall the experience was very positive and we didn't have to make reservations, probably because we went during low tourist season.

                          you can read more about my trip on my blog at: http://deepasdoodles.blogspot.com

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: dscan99

                            Thanks for reporting back. I'm glad you had a "divine" experience for your anniversary dinner, and I appreciate the update on Il Margutta. When vegetarians are looking for advice on restaurant dining in Italy, it's not always clear whether they will be happy with the sometimes limited vegetarian offerings on the traditional menus, or if they would rather opt for a committed vegetarian restaurant. I enjoy vegetarian restaurants and I've had some tasty dishes at Il Margutta and some unmemorable dishes too (dinner is not necessarily better than lunch). Since it is one of the very few Roman restaurants committed to vegetarian cooking, the temptation to mention it to people seeking vegetarian restaurants in Rome is pretty strong.

                            I'd be curious to know if you felt that, as a vegetarian, most Roman restaurants offered you enough vegetarian choices even if they served meat to other diners.

                          2. I also want to add that we had really bad attitude from the waiter at Maccheroni. We were going to go there but didn't have a reservation. We showed up at 7:30, (lots of empty seats) and the waiter asked us if we had a reservation and we said no. He literally rolled his eyes and said "I thought as much". *SHOCKED* I thought that kind of attitude was unacceptable. We got seated and I was feeling very uncomfortable that we decided not to give them our business.