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Rome in late March- check my list and maybe some suggestions?

Hi 'hounds,
Fell in love with Rome last year during a 24hr stopover on a work trip, and find myself fortunate enough to be going back in late March with my wife and two friends for 6 nights. Can you help check my list and maybe add a few ideas please? We prefer the more traditional, hidden, homey type places to the "see and be seen" ones, and I work in the fine wine industry so excellent wine lists have heavy priority (read: depth and quality, not necessarily price).

Here's my agenda and questions:
1. loved Bir & Fud, so will be revisiting there. Is there a better pizzeria?
2. something in the Jewish Ghetto, Piperno maybe?
3. an excellent wine bar- Cul de Sac, Palatium, or Trimani? Did I miss something better?
4. a Sunday lunch (that's the big meal, right?) spot
5. because I just HAVE to, either La Carbonara or Matricana(sp?), which one? is it worth it?
6. good dinners, heard about Al Ceppo as a local's spot, and Agata e Romeo...
7. will be staying a bit outside of the main area, and have to basically walk past the Vatican every day to get into the old city- any good farmer's markets and such around there?
8. is L'Eau de Vive worth checking out? Seems interesting....
9. Any great hidden spots I absolutely need to try? We are adventurous eaters, and I'm trying to learn as much Italian as possible before we leave.

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

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  1. 1. loved Bir & Fud, so will be revisiting there. Is there a better pizzeria?
    this place has gone way downhill foodwise, though the beer selection remains strong. i much prefer Sforno, La Gatta Mangiona, La Fucina, and Tonda

    2. something in the Jewish Ghetto, Piperno maybe?
    Good for some dishes (carciofi alla giudia in particular) but sadly past its prime and way overpriced IMO. This sentiment unfortunately describes many of the old institutions in the ghetto . I do like the kosher Ba'Ghetto restaurants (both locations on Via Portico d'Ottavia) and Nonna Betta (also kosher)

    3. an excellent wine bar- Cul de Sac, Palatium, or Trimani? Did I miss something better?
    Remigio is a fantastic spot for sparklers, La Barrique in Monti is one of my favorites in all of Rome, Uve e Forme near Piazza Bologna is sensational. Of the ones you mention, Cul de Sac and Palatium are great, had a not so nice experience at Trimani in December seafood en papier served in a scorched plastic bag that stunk and had turned brown. server not remotely knowledgable about wine. not good.

    4. a Sunday lunch (that's the big meal, right?) spot
    Flavio al Velavevodetto is great for Sunday lunch. La Gensola, Antico Arco also great.

    5. because I just HAVE to, either La Carbonara or Matricana(sp?), which one? is it worth it?
    neither and not really.

    6. good dinners, heard about Al Ceppo as a local's spot, and Agata e Romeo...
    both good but maybe time for some new blood? For upscale dining, I love Glass in Trastevere. Metamorfosi and All'Oro (both in Parioli) are also quite good.

    7. will be staying a bit outside of the main area, and have to basically walk past the Vatican every day to get into the old city- any good farmer's markets and such around there?
    i think there is a farmers market on sundays in piazzale clodio, but otherwise you can go to the Mercato Trionfale which is open Mon-Sat.

    8. is L'Eau de Vive worth checking out? Seems interesting....
    never heard of it!

    9. Any great hidden spots I absolutely need to try? We are adventurous eaters, and I'm trying to learn as much Italian as possible before we leave.
    since french food was on your radar, why not try ethiopian cuisine, which is an international cuisine with a long history in rome. Mesob on via Prenestina is the best spot for it.

    ----------
    www.romeforfoodies.com

    2 Replies
    1. re: katieparla

      Katie,
      Thank you!
      A question about Sunday lunches- have heard they can be packed, especially at the better places. Can I/ should I reserve a table? How early do I need to reserve?

      1. re: jdwdeville

        call friday for a sunday reservation to be on the safe side

    2. I like Bir & Fud, though haven't been in a while. The atmosphere is a bit hectic unless you arrive quite early. The Trastevere location is central. I certainly wouldn’t travel to the outer reaches of town for pizza, but others would go to the ends of the earth.

      I think Piperno is very good indeed, but not every dish on the menu is as good s every other (fritti are great, but we also had great fish on our last visit; skip the oxtail). I would go there for Sunday lunch.

      Palatium is better for food than for wine. Love both Al Ceppo and Agata.

      L'Eau Vive is interesting in theory, but my two or three meals there were pretty bad, years ago. Give it a pass. It was very popular in the 80s for some reason -- frequented by cardinals and possibly also high-ranking Christian Democrats. What it is is a restaurant in a fabulous palazzo run by lay sisters of an exotic order, possibly Asian, but in any case the sisters are of many nationalities. The food was French but also French imperial on a sort of rotating basis. My memory is dim. I just remember it not being very good. They were famous for making everybody sing a hymn in the middle of dinner.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mbfant

        Thanks for the insight, L'Eau Vive's menu seemed less interesting than what it is, and given only 6 nights I think I'll skip it.
        Palatium seemed fun just for the Lazio angle as we don't get much of those wines here in Los Angeles short of Orvieto (full disclosure: one of the wineries I represent is the excellent Sergio Mottura)... Hmm, will have to find somewhere else with a local bent maybe.

        1. re: jdwdeville

          Palatium is THE place with the local bent if you are interested in wine! the food is good, like Maureen says, and wines even better, if you do want the local ones.

      2. Basically agree with katie in almost everything, some additions, esp. re: wine from me.
        1. Will you be north of the Vatican? Pizzarium is a great pizza by the slice place to grab some as a snack and it could be on your way in or out of town, check on the map. Hesitating to suggest as a full meal as it is only standing space and can get rather expensive with bigger amounts.
        2. Not Jewish cooking and not even real cooking, but Beppe e suoi formaggi in the Ghetto is a great place for a stop - cheeses, salumi, wines mostly from Piedmont (where he is from) and France.
        3. Cul de sac has a great list but has very cramped seating and foodwise you should stick with cheeses and such, do not eat pasta! Palatium has a great wine list but only from Lazio, the region we are in. Since you are interested in wine, this could be very interesting. Trimani has gone downhill, seeing also it is out of your way, i wouldn't go there. Closer to your place (i am assuming) is Sorpasso, cute place with interesting wine list (some naturals and oranges) and rather good food, esp. the cold stuff. Del Frate in Prati is also a good wine bar option. If you would like to have proper good food and the best wine list in town, go to Roscioli but do your homework on what to order (e.g. Burrata and carbonara).
        4. Flavio is at the moment my fave spot for sunday lunch. You won't need dinner. Or as mbfant once said (about another place, but applies here, too), maybe a glass of water.
        5. No.
        6. Finer dining? Depending on your budget, antico arco, san lorenzo, Glass, all'oro, metamorfosi, pagliaccio would be my faves, more or less in an ascending price order. Taking wine into account, obviously all of these have great lists but for me two stick out: the head somm and cellar manager Cristiano at antico arco will give you some of the best wines you have never heard of if you talk with him a bit (excellent english as he has lived in australia). At metamorfosi, somm Paolo unfortunately doesn't speak much english but if you get one of the wine pairing options (there are two) you can trust him blindly - we had the best meal of last year and best wine pairing ever over a 10course-10glass feast in november.
        7. The mercato trionfale, mornings, mo day to saturday, is your best bet. The southern part of it is dedicated to local and/or organic producers.
        8. No.

        Have fun eating and drinking!

        1 Reply
        1. re: vinoroma

          Sorpasso is perfectly located and sounds great, thanks!
          I am staying to the northwest of the Vatican, so you're rec's are very helpful.
          Cheers.

        2. Thanks everyone.
          One last query- is there any exceptional, tiny, back-alley little place that you feel is a quintessentially Roman experience? I remember wandering past hundreds of tiny hidden little places last fall thinking how charming they were, does one or two stand out from the lot?

          6 Replies
          1. re: jdwdeville

            We just got back from Rome on Monday and I've not reported back yet, but I wanted to mention that we had tremendous roman style pizza at Da Remo in Testaccio. I wouldn't call it charming exactly, but the quirky (surly?) attitude of the staff made it an interesting local type of experience.

            1. re: jdwdeville

              Settimio al Pellegrino near campo de' fiori comes to mind. Make a reservation or have your hotel do so. They reserve many tables for walk-in regulars and might turn you away or stick you next to the door if you don't book. you have to buzz to get into this place, the decor is quirky, husband mario works the front of the house, wife teresa in the kitchen does 5-6 first courses (a soup and a couple of types of pasta with different sauces to choose from) and just as many seconds (grilled meatballs, meat rolls cooked in sauce, tripe roman style, etc). get the montblanc for dessert. it is one of the most sugary things you will ever eat. in a good way tho.

              ---------
              www.romeforfoodies.com

              1. re: jdwdeville

                you may have walked through some of the back streets of Trastevere that has that flavor - there are a lot of little restaurants in the NW corner up under the Palatine - they tend to be cheap and home style but not sure the food comes up to the atmosphere. Da Lucia/Sora Lucia is one of them but Ive seen mixed reviews. http://www.trattoriadalucia.com/,

                Da Olindo is another, mentioned by David Downie is another. Hopefully others can point you to a reliable and atmospheric meal
                http://maps.google.com/maps/place?oe=...

                1. re: jen kalb

                  I think Jen means the Palatino bridge rather than the Palatine hill. One that (Italian) Rome food bloggers seem to like in that corner is Da Teo.

                  1. re: zerlina

                    I think I mean the Giancolo! Sorry for creating confusion altogether and thanks for spotting my error, Zerlina!

                  2. re: jen kalb

                    yeah none of those places is any good. as you say atmosphere is more interesting than the food

                2. Here ya go:

                  1. loved Bir & Fud, so will be revisiting there. Is there a better pizzeria?
                  As per Katie, Tonda, Sforno and Gatta Mangiona.

                  2. something in the Jewish Ghetto, Piperno maybe?
                  I've had two really great meals at Piperno in the last month. I also like Da Gigetto, which has fantastic Carciofi.

                  3. an excellent wine bar- Cul de Sac, Palatium, or Trimani? Did I miss something better?
                  I love Angolo Divino on Via del Balestrari. Great wines (many natural) and good selection of cheeses, salame, etc. Also, the ambiance is warm and you can reserve a table.
                  4. a Sunday lunch (that's the big meal, right?) spot
                  My favorite Sunday lunch place is Perilli, hands down. And order both Carbonara AND Amatriciana. (which answers next question.)

                  5. because I just HAVE to, either La Carbonara or Matricana(sp?), which one? is it worth it?

                  6. good dinners, heard about Al Ceppo as a local's spot, and Agata e Romeo...
                  I like Al Ceppo a lot, the food is very good without being pretentious. Very old fashioned, and they have an open fire where they grill, which is rare. I am not a fan of Agata e Romeo. I find the place itself horribly stuffy, and the food kind of boring. As Katie points out, there are so many new and exciting places. I'd add Settembrini to the list, especially since you'll be in Prati anyway.

                  7. will be staying a bit outside of the main area, and have to basically walk past the Vatican every day to get into the old city- any good farmer's markets and such around there? There is a good neighborhood market on Via Colle de Rienzo

                  8. is L'Eau de Vive worth checking out? Seems interesting....
                  Oh goodness, you mean the place run by French nuns? I don't think anyone has been there for as long as I can remember. But if you do go, let us all know!

                  9. Any great hidden spots I absolutely need to try? We are adventurous eaters, and I'm trying to learn as much Italian as possible before we leave.
                  Great hidden spots...some of my favorites are a bit off the beaten track. Osteria del Giuda Ballerino and Tre Zucche. And do make sure you go to L'Asino d'Oro.

                  www.elizabethminchilli.com

                  Thanks so much for your thoughts!

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