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italy trip report dec 2011 restaurants, gelato, coffee bars

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hey all

chowhound has proved useful for me research on good places to dine in italy. there were some hits and misses as usual and i hope the info will help others for their italian holidays.

my trip was to milan-rome-florence-venice-milan over 12 nights.
you'll see me indicating about toilets, i went to italy for fearing the toilets about what i've heard and read about. my fears were uncalled for though^^

we are a family of 3 and are small eaters so mostly 1 restaurant per day.

restaurants

day 1 @milan: Latteria di Via dell’Unione no cover charge
quite pricey vegetarian food despite the looks of the place. its a local haunt. spent 47 euros easily cos we were so hungry after the long flight. do not touch the bread on table. 4 something euros. but we were too hungry to care. pumpkin flan was blah. their gnocchi was good, veg soup good. mixed platter okay.

day 2 @rome: sanacafe no cover charge
no cover charge, nor tax. food highest quality. free multigrain bread served on table that we ate hesitantly tho caved in cos we were so hungry after vatican. realised bread was free upon payment. cod salad was damn good. tuna salad alright tho sister loved it. mom veal lunch set was damn good too. loved their toilets.

day 3 @ rome: Colline Emiliane no cover charge
begged them to let us in wo reservation on a sat lunch. they relented by squeezing us into a small table. food okay. risotto rice too hard, hardest of all the risotto i've tried. sis liked her spinach ravioli. stewed veal in milk tasted like pork, not worth it as we preferred fresh meat. dessert was 12 euro, some cream like tiramisu (that's how the waiter described it). too much alcohol at the base though we have had known we would mix the cream thing before enjoying it.

day 4 @rome: -

day 5 @florence: Il Santo Bevitore cover charge
cod fish was damn amazing as what the waitress stated. loved my beetroot risotto. sis didn't like the ragu pasta though we ordered only because the guy beside us seemed to enjoy his.

day 6 @florence: tuscany tour, organic lunch included in package
nth much to say

day 7 @florence: Trattoria Marione cover charge
recommended by my foodie tour guide. ordered roast beef w potatoes, spag w tomato sauce and veg soup. i enjoyed their veg soup alot though pricey. sis said she had to drink loads of water after spag w tomato sauce. suspected: msg laden of some sort.

day 8 @florence: Caffe Coquinarius cover charge
really a light place for dinner or lunch. pear and cheese ravioli was nth great. i ordered gnocchi again, alright.

day 9 @venice: Trattoria Antiche Carampane cover charge of 3euro
so bad. i dun even know why people on CH are recommending this place. ordered crab pasta, grilled dory with breaded skin, sea bass. fish wasn't so fresh plus the prices were ridiculous for the "cheap" fish. this was in comparison to the tuna we had in sanacafe in rome and cod in florence.
portions tiny too. crab pasta - nth fantastic. spent 87 euros. it was a local fav tho, i wonder why.

day 10 @ venice: Ristorante Al Giardinetto da Severino cover charge + 12%
bad service though i attributed it to being placed in a section where the server (a grandpa) was about to go off on break. lasagna saved the day. fish was blah. many tourists.

day 11 @milan: la rinascente restaurant cover charge?
rude service again. had risotto alla milanese which was okay. we wanted foie gras lunch set but they gave us the salad set instead. over much confusion we just accepted the salad. please don't even consider the salad set as you'll be offered 2 blocks of smelly cheese and a small salad. the lasagna with veal was nothing like a lasagna at all.

day 12 @milan: Trattoria Abele la Temperanza cover charge
best risotto ever. ordered 2 risottos: tuna and mushroom. service good. placed packed. there's a dude who could translate the entire menu in english for me. panna cotta was excellent. we also ordered a fish w prawns. family said not good, worse fish dish thru out the trip. prawn overpowered the taste of fish. since i'm allergic to prawn i've no idea.
anw, money worth spent for last night in italy.

gelato

day 1 @milan: -
day 2 @rome: Venchi (pistachio and hazelnut were the best non chocolate flavours, the rest were blah i.e cappuccino).
day 3 @ rome: san crispino very good with nuts in the nutty flavours. first gelato place which i see having their gelato covered instead of having them all piled up. i later learnt that they do that at places where they make REAL gelato. real gelato must be stored with consistency and leveled.
day 4 @rome: Giolitti (THE BEST EVER, my food guide in florence concur), Il Gelato di Claudio Torcè (bad and slimey)

day 5 @florence: Vestri - my food tour in florence brought us there. okay.
day 6 @florence: -
day 7 @florence: got tourist trapped near ponte vecchio for paying fake gelato + waffles for 10euros.
i wasn't thinking after the space outlet trip.
day 8 @florence: Grom - passable. Neri - horrid, not even cold and super slimey.

day 9 @venice: -
day 10 @ venice: Gelateria Lo Squero Dorsoduro
nth great

day 11 @milan: -
day 12 @milan: peck's gelato 3.50 for small. quite good pistachio and hazelnut.

coffee bars/ light food places

day 1 @milan: exk restaurant - they know how to make the creamiest foam. easily accessed from duomo. toilets available.
day 2 @rome: castroni cappuccino good + sandwich/pastries nth to rave
day 3 @ rome: castroni cappuccino
day 4 @rome: Tazza D'Oro Coffee Shop good + castroni juice good

day 5 @florence: -
day 6 @florence: -
day 7 @florence: prada cafe at space outlet way overpriced. ensure you are not hungry before going.
day 8 @florence: the mall's cafe better food, prices quite reasonable.

day 9 @venice: Pasticceria Dal Mas + Pasticceria Targa cheap cakes 1.10euro each!
day 10 @ venice: visited the same places as the day before.

day 11 @milan: random stops that meet the maximum of 1.30 per cappuccino
day 12 @milan: random stops that meet the maximum of 1.30 per cappuccino

in summary, rome has the best food, no cover charges, no taxes but the scariest in terms of safety. was targeted by a gypsy with fake baby when hopping on the metro. met tourists who have phobia taking the metro. wondered whether i put my family in unnecessary danger. but rmb to hold onto your valuables tightly. beware of the spagna station in rome.

don't settle for gelatos on the streets. good gelatos are found in weird places and take effort to hunt down but worth it.

cappuccino is cheap in italy, sometimes cheaper than water.
important to find the nearest supermarket to your hotel. most hotels don't provide kettles to boil.

won't recommend joining a food tour. you can do it on your own w chowhound.

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  1. For most people,Vecchia Latteria della via dell'Unione is a fairly cheap lunch in Milan. Plates of gnocchi or risotti run about 8e pp. The house mixed plate is less than 20e as I recall, and usually feeds 4 people or two extremely hungry ones. One of the reasons it is filled with locals is that it s one of the least expensive choices close to the Duomo if you want to sit down and eat budget-friendly food that is hot, home-made, seasonal and tasty.

    How did you discern the ethnicity of the person whom you felt "targeted" you in Rome?

    On second thought: Never mind. Happy Hannukah.

    1 Reply
    1. re: barberinibee

      my family members took notice of her eyeing my bag and the father of a family standing next to us alerted my sister by tapping her rapidly. we managed to push our way into the metro but the lady with obviously fake baby yelled at us for pushing her and pointed to the baby. she stepped out when the doors were about to close. scary for my family but i'm okay. just a caution for tourists. i heard many accounts from american girls that they were targeted as well.

      merry christmas to you too.

      yes, i think why i found it expensive was due to ordering too much. we had more plates than other tables. most locals were just sharing a larger mixed platter and sipping wine.
      after currency exchange that meal would cost 80 in my country and with that price its usually for special occasions. our meal in sanacafe in rome was around that value and given the difference in ambience and food quality (had cod, veal and tuna at sanacafe), i would say Vecchia Latteria della via dell'Unione is quite pricey. but if that's the cheapest to offer in milan around duomo, i guess i had a good deal since we enjoyed the food.

    2. Hi! I'm doing some research for my upcoming Italy trip and am a little confused. Sorry if this is a silly question but what do you mean there is a cover for restaurants? Do you have to pay to eat there? Thanks in advance for clarifying! :)

      6 Replies
      1. re: hae818

        yea exactly. pay to eat there. i found it ridiculous since i started my tour wo having to pay cover in rome. everything is cheaper in rome, pls eat well there and save more in florence n definitely venice.
        but some cover charge, do check though, include "free bread". no free water though.

        have a blessed trip!

        1. re: xoxobleach

          Wow. Thanks so much for the heads up. :)

          1. re: hae818

            Not really a big deal - they don't expect you to tip on top of the cover charge. At least my recent experience was 1.-5 - 2 Euros per person - less than 15% of the bill. Just a different approach to paying.

            xoxobleach -

            I'm sad to hear you had so many poor dining experiences - in 2 1/2 weeks in Tuscany/Milan/Florence/Venice, I can recall 1 bad meal (at the B&B we were staying in) and maybe 1 or 2 I'd prefer to not experience again just because they were dull.

            In my recent travels in Sicily, we had a couple of salty dishes, but mostly every meal included something wonderful as was the street food (incredibly inexpensive and fun to eat). We had been warned about Palermo and found it not scary at all, maybe a bit impersonal. In the other cities and towns, everyone was very hospitable, same as my experience in the North.

            Guess I am lucky I didn't eat at the same places you did!

            1. re: tsquare

              Oh that makes sense. Thanks for the tip on not tipping! :) Glad I read this.

              1. re: hae818

                You can still tip for good service.

                One evening I really did not want more than a small plate from the antipasti buffet. Restaurant policy is that is not permitted. We poorly explained I was not feeling well and the waitress said quietly, "Okay, if you feel like ordering more, we can just add that when you are ready." Saw what I ate (I did not make a pig of myself, though the options were wonderful), left us alone other than to check on us and make sure everything was alright. Even though the cover charge would be a decent tip on the food ordered, we left a couple of extra euros, just because she bent the rules and was kind about how she handled it. It's always nice to leave a little change.

                Do read up on tipping before traveling, it varies greatly by country. Or you can take the other tactic and figure you'll never see these people again, why tip? And make everyone look bad!

                Enjoy your trip and travels. It's a wonderful thing to experience - and even the bad moments give you something memorable.

              2. re: tsquare

                yea given i shortlisted places a wk before flying, i guess i've to work harder next time.
                but those that were good were really good n value for money like sanacafe, Il Santo Bevitore and da abele. i didnt mid paying cover charges for the latter 2. for these 3 great places, i'm thanking chowhound by writing this report for others^^