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ROME RESTAURANTS AGAIN-I KNOW, BUT NEED HELP - PICKY ITALIAN SPOUSE

We are returning to Rome after a 15 year absence and following extensive research, I still need help with dining options. Our Roman holiday will start on Saturday, March 3rd for 3 days. Returning from Florence on the 9th of March, Friday and Sunday will be in Rome. Thus, our Roman culinary adventure will last five days.

My wife is Italian but speaks little of the language. However, she converses well in "food," and is ludicrously particular when consuming Italian edibles. She is like "Mickey" from those old commercials, "she hates everything." Nothing compares to Grandma who taught her to cook. Exceptions to her displeasure have been Lupa and Scarpetti in New York, many of Milan's restaurants especially Aimo e Nadia, and Don Alphonso in the hills above Sorrento. We are not adverse to expensive gluttony, but enjoy "hole in the wall" restaurants even better.

After perusing Chowhound, Eat Rome, Diane Seed, and David Downie, I have come up with the following list: Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
FORTUNATO al PANTHEON – PANTHEON – EX SUN (TRAD)

AROMA – MONTI***** (FANCY) – DINNER EVERY DAY

PERILLI – TESTACCIO – CLOSED WEDNESDAY

L’ARCANGELO – PRATI ****** (CREATIV) CLO SUN, SAT DIN ONL

CHECCHINO DAL 1887 – TESTACCIO ***** CLOSED SUN & MON

COSTANZA – CAMPO – EX SUN

TRATTORIA CARDONA – 30 MIN WALK – SAT & SUN DIN ONLY

L’ASINO D’ORO – MONTI – SUNDAY LUNCH – CLOSED MON

ROSCIOLI – CAMPO ***** EX SUN (GROCERY)

FLAVIO AL VELAVEVODETTO – TESTACCIO ***** EVERY DAY

LA SELLA DEL DIAVOLO – POPOLO (SEAFOOD)

TAVERNA DI FORI IMPERIALE – MONTI – CLOSED TUESDAY

LA GENSOLA – TESTEVERE – EVERY DAY (SEAFOOD)

VINO E CAMINO – PIAZZA NAVONA – EX SUN

ALL ‘ ORO – PARIOLI***** (CREATIVE) – CLO MON DIN SAT SUN

LA COLLINE EMILIANE ***** VIA VENETO – SUN LUNCH ONLY

METAMORFOSI – PARIOLI – (CREATIVE) CLOSED SUN LUN SAT

RINALDI AL QUIRINALE - QUIRINALE

PIZZA

PIZZARIUM – PRATI (SNACK)

PIZZERIA LEONCINO

URBANI SFORNO

ANTICO FORNO - GHETTO

LA GATTO MANGIONA – MONTEVERDE- Sunday

FORNO LA RENELLA - TRASTEVERE

PIZZERIA AL MARMI (L’OBITORIO)

REMO PIZZERIA

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  1. All good choices. The only ones I'd take off your list would be Aroma (not really so great, and it will not appear in Eat Rome in the next version). And I've never heard of La Sella del Diavolo. Other than that, all very good for different occasions.

    One thing I'd point out is the some of your pizza choices are 'snacks' and other 'sit down' pizza.

    www.elizabethminchilli.com

    15 Replies
    1. re: minchilli

      Dear Elizabeth,
      Thank you so much for your response. I have been using your apps every day and they have been incredibly helpful.
      I am also interested in one of your market tours for my wife and I, but to quote my wife Donna, "How long is the tour, will it be just us, and we have seen a ton of markets all over? Will a tour provide us with something different?" I couldn't answer all these questions. Thus, any answers would be fantastic.

      Regarding restaurants, I have narrowed my choices:

      Sat. 3rd - Lunch Roscioli
      Dinner - Fortunato al Pantheon

      Sun. 4th - Lunch - pizza by the slice
      Dinner - Taverna di Fori Imperiale

      Mon. 5th - Lunch - La Gensola
      Dinner - Metamorfosi

      Fri. 9th - Lunch - La Colline Emiliane
      Dinner - Flavio

      Sat. 10th - Lunch - Cardona or Perilli
      Dinner - L'Asino D' Oro or All'Oro

      For lunch and dinner on Saturday, are there clear cut choices? Also, do those "on line" reservation sites in Italy work well? Is it better to try and find someone at our B & B to call and make the reservation?

      Thanks again.

      1. re: enofile

        too much food. If you do justice to Colline Emiliane, you won't have room for dinner. Nothing on your list is so wonderful you can't save it for next time, but it would be a shame to have spoiled your appetite for All'oro or Metamorfosi. La Gensola isn't even open on Monday anyway. Sunday is not the day for pizza al taglio for lunch. Do that Monday, and go to La Gensola for Sunday lunch. Flavio and Perilli back to back is silly. They are too similar, both heavy. Choose one (or Felice or Checchino, which I like better, but I'm a voice crying in the wilderness around here). You could put L'Asino d'Oro on an evening with a big lunch (there's more flexibility in the menu) and save All'Oro for a day with a light lunch (you don't want to miss a bite).

        1. re: mbfant

          Dear Mbfant,
          Thank you for your input. I appreciate your help. We are big eaters and usually eat nothing for breakfast. (I know it's terribly unhealthy, but we work out intensely) I did feel that if we eat lunch around 13:00 and cocktail in the early evening, we will want to eat dinner at 22:00.
          La Gensola did give us a Monday lunch res, so they must be open. We were concerned to go to Gensola on Sunday which is usually a bad day to eat seafood.
          Your suggestion about Sunday pizza is interesting, and I must admit I don't have enough culinary knowledge to understand. Would you be willing to explain? It reminds me when I asked a chef in Sardinia where to go for pizza & he said the weather was not right for good pizza. I looked at him like a confused puppy & he explained that the dough is effected by the humidity.
          I chose Flavio over the two venerable institutions because I always like to give the new upstart my business.
          I will certainly absorb your points and rearrange our eating and dining priorities. I have been having problems contacting Asino, All'Oro, and Metamorfosi. It may take a phone call that illuminates my language deficiencies which turns me into an insecure, helpless dumb American. My self loathing lasts for days.
          Thanks again for all your help.

          1. re: enofile

            cocktail places, good ones esp, are not common in Rome. Going for cocktails before dinner is not the best idea, I'd maybe go for an aperitivo but you have to watch what you are eating (no alcohol without food). I really would take Maureen's advice and refrain from 2 big meals a day. There is only one person I know who can do that and she is exceptional and a professional eater. Of course you can do it, but it won't be enjoyable if you want to get a good overview of what each restaurant offers (and not just have a salad). Sunday lunch is the ideal time for long, leisurely, big meals, push one of the trattorie on your list to that meal, you can always have pizzarium pizza. The bad day for seafood in Rome is Monday, not Sunday. Asino, all'oro and metamorfosi can all handle a phone call in English for taking reservations.

            1. re: vinoroma

              Thank you to both Vinorama and Mbfant. Your advice is wonderful and will be followed. Since I spent 40 years in Wisconsin, drinking before and after dinner has become almost an indigenous and intrinsic necessity. If need be, we will stop in hotel bars for a martini or two. Of course, a Negroni never hurts. Now, I have to turn some of my attention to Florence and Bologna. Thanks again.

            2. re: enofile

              Vinoroma said it all. As for pizza al taglio on Sunday, most of them are closed simply because it probably seems a little pathetic to be eating standup pizza when everybody else is eating lunch. That is why restaurants open on Sunday evening have a disproportionate number of tourists in that slot -- they haven't followed the local custom of Sunday lunch. Sit-down pizzerias are busy on Sunday evening for the same reason -- after a main meal at lunchtime, people go for something light in the evening. Those are the old ways. Things are changing, of course.

              1. re: mbfant

                I should add to Mbfant's response to pizza al taglio for lunch on Sunday, that looking pathetic is nothing new for me and thus might add to the authenticity of my Roman holiday. However, I did switch my reservation at La Gensola to Sunday lunch. Thanks.

                1. re: enofile

                  I have to say that we had (in November) a very less than delicious meal at Gensola. YAMMV. One of our pastas was virtually inedible.

                  But, directly across the the piazza, there is an American style cocktail bar that serves real cocktails. If only I could remember the name...

                  1. re: mitchleeny

                    sorry to hear about a bad experience at la Gensola somebody else reported a bad experience with a typical roman pasta dish there, but that is not their specialty - fish is. what type of pasta did you have?

            3. re: mbfant

              Hello Chowhounds,

              I've been following these threads with great interest as we will be in Rome for just 3 days in Rome. But mbfant raises a great point: how much food is too much, even in Rome? We tend to have our larger meals in the evenings as we tend to get sleepy after a big lunch. If we go to an osteria or trattoria is it acceptable to just share an antipasti and primi or are we just better off going to pizzerias or going to a cafe? We want to avail ourselves of all the variety Rome offers but don't want to run into "attitude" if we don't order sufficiently in redtaurants' eyes. Any input appreciated.

              1. re: petergins

                One antipasta and one primo shared between two people? That is a tad borderline. Can you make 2 orders of one of them? Pizzerie are (good ones at least) open only evenings (and would be more food than your proposed lunch, anyways). If you want lighter lunch than above, than your choices are a tavola calda, a panino or a pizza by the slice.

                1. re: petergins

                  First of all, an antipasto, a primo, a secondo. Antipasti, etc., are plural. "Light lunch" has entered the Italian vocabulary and restaurants are used to people eating less. It's no longer possible for most people who work in the center to go home for a family meal and a nap. Nevertheless, restaurants don't appreciate foreigners occupying a table without spending some money, Two people sharing one antipasto and one primo would be considered pretty stingy. Nevertheless, many don't mind because they have a good turnover or a modern mindset or are used to tourists or officeworkers eating and running. That would be the key, I think: if you're not going to run up a decent bill, get out fast. When you arrive, you can say you just want something light and see if they mind. Also, many restaurants nowadays have lighter lunch menus, which is a major innovation. Agata e Romeo has just introduced a €35 lunch, two courses and a glass of wine. Except that Romans are born with attitude, it's really more a question of economics than lack of hospitality.

                  But there are many alternatives to restaurants and trattorias at lunchtime. There are excellent bar-cafés with yummy sandwiches. (IMO the salads are less yummy for some reason.) There are the pizza al taglio places. There are the tavole calde, some quite elaborate. There is gelato.There are great shops where you can buy picnic materials. If you spend all your time in restaurants, you miss out on the rest of the picture. Sit-down pizza with round pizza, one pie-one portion, is traditionally served in the evening though it is increasingly available in the daytime. If you go to a restaurant for a full meal at lunch, you can go to a wine bar in the evening and have something light. Or skip dinner and take a walk or go to a concert and have gelato afterwards. Go to a market and buy some fruit to keep in your hotel room.

                  As far as how much food is too much is concerned, many people claim to be able to eat two full meals a day on their Italian vacations, but I wouldn’t recommend trying. I think it's a shame to spend so much time at the table when there is so much to see, and so many other things to eat you'll never have time or room for. Also, when choosing restaurants, pay some attention to the kind of ambience and kind of food and neighborhood. Even minimal research should tell you that Perilli and Checchino are not for the same day, and probably not even for the same week unless you are writing a magazine article on coda alla vaccinara.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    Thanks much for this helpful reply. I agree and we will "eat and run"

            4. And just an add on to all the great advice. There is no comparison in my opinion between Cadorna and Periili.

              Perilli wins hands down.

              1. When it comes to selecting good places to eat, Rome is an embarrassment of riches. Having lived there for three years, my advice is to not worry too much about finding the "best" restaurants and just rely on personal, specific recommendations for various regional and specialty restaurants (i.e., Piperno for fried artichokes in the old Jewish ghetto). My wife and I, whenever possible, tried to eat like the Italians eat each day. Coffee and a cornetto or zeppole for breakfast, serious sightseeing in the morning, a large leisurely lunch (antipasti, primi, secondi, dolce) followed by a nap, late afternoon drinks in a pretty place (think Tre Scalini on the Piazza Navona, and a modest evening meal (this is the time for pizza ronde with a trip to the antipasto table). Italians do not lack for certainty in most of their opinions but they are absolutely positive that they know how to eat properly. I tend to agree with them on this point.

                7 Replies
                1. re: sandiegomike

                  The dolce vita you describe is an ideal most Romans can no longer aspire to, much less pull off. And I can tell you there are a LOT of mediocre places to eat (but I do still love Piperno) and some of the worse I've tried, in the thirty-plus years I've lived in Rome, have been recommendations from locals. The trick there is to get the local to actually go with you.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    nevertheless its still a good eating pattern for tourists, since morning is the best time for touring, the restaurants in the centro tend to be on their game at lunchtime, and most tourist attractions (not all) and shopping is closed in the early afternoon. Also a late, heavy dinner tends to make it harder to jump out of bed and get going in the am. As I get older I become more convinced, not less that this pattern is optimum for a vacation and maybe life in general! there is nothing like sharing a bottle of wine over lunch to make me feel like I am on vacation, and, especially in the summer, it is nice to be out of the sun, eating and maybe napping, for a few hours in the middle of the day

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      For tourists, but not for regular people. The model was offered as the Italian way. It is the Italian way in their dreams. I have to say that a bottle of wine at lunchtime pretty much knocks out the afternoon, and I always think a leisurely dinner is a nice way to spend an evening when we're away from home.

                      1. re: mbfant

                        maybe I should have said a half carafe... thats our norm these days for lunch.
                        I suppose I am putting forward a saturday or sunday lunch every day model.. but I do think that its a better model for touring than grabbing a sandwich ... then the question is what to do in the early afternoon, with pretty much all churches, most museums and shops closed, and (in summer) the hot sun beating down is resolved in a pleasant relaxing way, and we are wide awake in the morning..

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Hi jen,
                          I'm a low-impact tourist: mornings can be a cup of coffee somewhere outdoors and a copy of the FT followed by grocery shopping. Hiking up and down five flights of stairs before noon substitutes for a fancy health club. Sightseeing can take the form of long walks, I'm in no rush. Sometimes I build my day around lunch, sometimes supper. One big meal a day is sufficient. Having said that, 4 p.m. is always the cocktail hour: wine, cheese, salumi and fruit on the roof-top terrace is the best antidote for a busy day. Deb and I actually talk.
                          Evening walks go without saying.
                          Although unlikely to be followed, I would encourage visitors to learn their neighborhoods, try to fit in, make a few friends and rely on discovery rather than a rigid touring/dining schedule.
                          Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot just by watching." I highly recommend a frenzy of inactivity.

                        2. re: mbfant

                          Won't get into it about Rome, but where I live in Italy, a nap after lunch is quite common for Italians, not tourists.

                          1. re: barberinibee

                            One of my favorite touring memories of of a restaruant in Terni. We arrived at the late end of the lunch hour - the place was full and we were the last folks seated so also the last to leave. When we got out to our car after a relaxed lunch the parking lot was still full, of locals snoozing or reading comic books or newspapers in their cars.