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Mar 11, 2012 01:12 AM

Gambero Rosso: Rome + Naples

To all the residents in Italy. How is the Gambero Rosso guide viewed in Italy as it is rarely referenced on CH. I am looking for restaurants in Rome and Naples and would be great to see what restaurants are rated.

The results appear quite well protected by GR as I can barely find them anywhere. The blogger Tavole Romane often references their scores.

Looking forward to hear your thoughts. I find Michelin ineffective in Rome. I care the most about the food scores and less about the others.

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  1. I live in Italy, and some years ago, I bought a copy of Gambero Rosso, and it ended up being my least-used restaurant guide after repeat bum experiences eating at restaurants I found listed in the guide. Fast forward to last year, when several posts on Chowhound (by a poster named "allende") made me curious to buy a new edition, since allende emphasized that one needed to carefully parse the recommendations to get the best use out of the guide.

    Even after some patient instruction by allende, I once again find that Gambero Rosso rarely gets packed into my travel kit when I head out to explore more of Italy. it is possible my Italian just isn't good enough to read between the lines, but as often as not, I don't like the meals I eat in restaurants recommended by Gambero Rosso. I consistently have much more fun with the Slow Food guide and Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler. I have perused Gambero Rosso's "Low Cost" guide, and while I am not a budget traveler, that guide looks more useful to me and I intend to buy a copy, but maybe I'll come to a different conclusion when I give it a road test.

    How the Gambero Rosso guide is viewed in Italy overall is really beyond my ken (or anybody's, I should think!), but its ratings are among the most chattered about among restaurant goers and people who like restaurant gossip.

    4 Replies
    1. re: barberinibee

      GR re-released its smaller guide specific to Rome and that one is useful. especially if you are interested in food shopping or not planning to limit your visiting to the historic center - it has recommendations in outlying areas as well. The Lowcost Guide is also potentially useful if you are functioning in that pricerange, its inexpensive and overlaps quite a lot with Slowfood. However because prices are high in rome it contains many fewer of the recommended restaurants, whereas in Naples, where dining is noticeably a lot cheaper (except for fish) it covers more.

      I will leave it to Italian colleagues to give their take on GR overall.

      1. re: jen kalb

        Thanks barberinibee and jenkalb.

        Where online could I view the ratings for Naples? Perhaps an Italian website?

        I do find that CH had lined reviews regarding Naples.

        Fyi Plotkin writes a great book.

        Looking forward to your response

        1. re: laubowski

          Once you register as a gr user, you can see all restaurant ratings

          1. re: laubowski

            One of the reasons I became interested in trying Gambero Rosso again was the many comments here by allende about the ratings being almost misleading if you didn't understand the subtleties of the full commentaries that went along with them. I really don't want to speak for allende, and I hope he spots your post and adds to this thread to say how he interprets the GR number assigned for the food at a restaurant or trattoria.

      2. hi Laubowski, I'm italian and quite familiar with the gambero rosso. It is a good guide and gambero rosso is certainly a very good reference. usually in italy it is very well considered. so I would not hesitate in following their suggestions

        14 Replies
        1. re: bzboston

          Here is the link to one of my comments on the Gambero Rosso.

          Here is one of the comments from that post. "You have to look beyond the score. In the case of the Gambero Rosso you have to read the entry, put it in perspective (ideally over a number of years) and then make a decision as to whether that restaurant fits with your taste. "

          There are two keys here. The first and most important is looking beyond the score. The score can be very misleading. GR is very good at giving one an overview of the restaurant. A score is just a score and those who go only by the numbers are doomed in their stomachs to regret it. We do not use it for its "recommendations."

          Furthermore, as I pointed out, the GR is slanted both in what it likes, particularly in terms of "the best" (we don't think those restaurants are "the best", whatever best means) and the wine score.

          We use the GR, the Osterie d'Italia, and to a much lesser extent L'espresso's I Ristoranti d'Italia. Now, importantly, we look at La Gola in Viaggio which has many more listings than any of the others, with one paragraph descriptions. It concentrates its listings on trattorie, osterie and restaurants that no one ever goes to unless you live in the area. With all due respect, we find Plotkin very outdated with regard to restaurants and almost never use it. We almost never use "locals" recommendations; it is very foolhardy to do so and I'm astonished that so many posts here refer to "locals" telling them where to eat.

          To get back to barberinibees question, we don't interpret the number for food in any particular way. In fact, we don't pay that much attention to it, in part because it is only a number. We also think that wine is a very important complement to a meal (why do people say they want to go to a restaurant for great food and then ask for Coca-Cola; we see this a lot with Americans and British. Why not water?). That being said, if we had a scatter diagram, most of the restaurants we enjoy seem to have a food score of between 45-50.

          As I've mentioned before, Gambero Rosso is superb with regard to trattorie and the awarding of one, two or three gamberi. There have been a few places that have two or three gamberi that we haven't enjoyed enough to go back to, but in general we've had some of our best finds in those trattorie.

          I've written before about Muraglia Conchiglia D'Oro in Varigotti (near Finale Ligure), by far our favorite fish restaurant in Liguria (actually our favorite restaurant). Another fantastic meal again last week. Rating in the Gambero Rosso? No rating, although listed. This year GR has decided not to rate a large number of restaurants that it formerly rated in prior years. Has anything changed at Conchiglia? Absolutely not. Simply a superb place.

          Look only at GR scores at your own peril.

          1. re: allende

            @ allende Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. I had lunch with a chef yesterday in HK who recently received a Michelin star and we were talking about how some Chefs completely engineer their foods to achieve certain stars. Leading to the next questions, do up and coming Italian chefs care about the stars or GR scores like the French?

            Also, I know this has been touched on a few times but any recommendations for Naples. I am staying there for four nights. I have read Plotkin's section on Naples and the region and the book is unquestionably old. I have no idea whether I should even trust has recommendations. I do appreciate the context / knowledge he has shared with me regarding each region's cuisine. I do not have access to the guides that you mentioned and would appreciate it if you could share some of their recommendations for Naples.


            1. re: laubowski

              Do up and coming Italian chefs care about the stars or GR scores like the French. You bet. What a pity.

              We've been through this topic here and many years ago on eGullet, so I won't go into detail again. Many Italian "up and coming chefs" are enamored by what they see as the glorious accolades awarded to some chefs. They have aspirations. Unfortunately, almost none has the talent because they haven't had the years and years of training and experience necessary to run a restaurant for more than a few years (a few years: that is, until very few potential clientele care if they are up and coming because the restaurant doesn't offer what their clientele want). I saw this is the 80s and early 90s with nuova cucina. Where are all those hotshots now? Gone! The same thing is happening today and the same thing will eventually happen to most of them.

              On the other hand, there is a true renaissance taking place with a lot of young people opening up restaurants and trattorie... young people who don't care for the media glory as much as the glory of pleasing their customers. They cook regionally and cook well. They cook, as much as possible, seasonally. They care about plating, but not to the extent of a fussy plate. They care about wine, wine that goes with food, not necessarily wine that has well known labels or high "Parker scores." Most of all they care about pleasing their customers as opposed to the position that "it's all about me, the chef". These places will survive in a very difficult business, particularly difficult today because Italy is in a real recession.

              This is very similar to what happened in Italy in the late 60s and throughout the 70s with Peppino Cantarelli in Samboseto ( ) and Franco Colombani at Maleo.

              These two were the spearheads of the revival of regional food. One notable example of the outgrowth of Peppino's and Franco's push, is Nadia and Antonio at Dal Pescatore. No one was more passionate than these two in the 80s and 90s. There are/were many others.

              The people doing it today are just as passionate about both food and wine and service and will be the long term successes in the restaurant world, even if they don't get a 90 score in the Gambero Rosso.

              I don't have any recommendations for Naples restaurants.

              1. re: allende

                Allende I will ask a quick question about La Gola in Viaggio, since you have mentioned it above and I had not heard of this site/book before. Are those listings tied into any paid advertising, or compromised in any other way that you know of, or do you feel that they are genuine reviews that are often on the mark? Wondering if I should try to find a copy of the 2012 guide here in the US.

                1. re: erica

                  @allende - love that you are such a straight shooter.

                  What is a good example of a young team doing regional cuisine in Rome?

                  Also, where are your favorite places to eat in Rome?

                  Hope I didn't repeat too much of what is already on the board.

                  1. re: laubowski

                    Erica and Laubowski, La gola in viaggio is online.

                    This is the link:

                    1. re: laubowski


                      I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment about Rome. My strength, if I have any, is Piemonte, Liguria, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and southern Lombardia, a sliver of the Alto-Adige, and the Veneto around Cortina.

                      Sorry I can't be of help on Rome.

                      1. re: allende


                        Fantastic. I am looking forward to your advice when I head to Piemonte some time in the next 24 months!

                    2. re: erica


                      There is no paid advertising and I don't believe it is compromised in any other way, but, of course, I can't be totally sure.

                      It is a compendium of all the guides (2000 pages!!!) with a lot more besides, but again it's only one thing that should go into making a decision to try a new place. We find it good because there are a great number of places that we've never heard of before, that sound as if they might be interesting.

                      Over a period of time we'll see if the descriptions hold up; right now I can't tell you if they will or won't.

                      1. re: allende


                        I got curious about La Gola's recommendations around my neighborhood, and one I had never heard of (tucked up in the hills) and one, Porto Prego in Camogli, is a restaurant I steer visitors away from, but La Gola's recommendations for specific dishes make me curious to try it again. I was glad to see a different restaurant in Camogli, Hostaria dei Pesce get accurately described and recommend since it's an endearing place that struggles because of a near-invisible location. Others are restaurants found in almost all guidebooks. One listing, Zefferino Kulm, may no longer be open.

                  2. re: laubowski


                    I found on a Dec. 2010 trip to Napoli that Osteria Donna Teresa was a dream come true. It is recommended by both Plotkin and Katie Parla, perhaps others as well. Plotkin also recommends Mimi Alla Ferrovia, which I enjoy immensely. Likewise Caffe Mexico, one of my favorite coffees in all of Italy. I followed some other reviewer's recommendations in Naples, and Plotkin held his own. I can't comment on Neapolitan pizza or pastries, since neither interest me much.

                    I agree that Plotkin's book shows its age, but i personally still find good meals and good experiences in the places that he first recommended many years ago, I think this is a shared sensibility. As with any critic of anything, finding someone who generally has the same approach and enjoys the same things has great value when it comes to being a guide for something so personal as food and dining preferences. To me, it's like knowing someone who shares my taste in movies -- and I don't like most Oscar-winning movies. Maybe not to everybody, but Plotkin continues to have value for me, and I sooner pack his recommendations than most of what I read on the internet.

                    That said, you might want to peruse Luciano Pignataro's webiste.

                  3. re: allende


                    Seems to be even on Chowhound, being a "local" is presumed to have authority. The Chowhound Italy board in particular is about "locals" being asked and telling others where to eat. It could be, however, that for the same reasons "locals" don't really know about hotels, that locals tend to eat in restaurants less than travelers do, and when they do eat out, they stick with old favorites close to home.

                    Also, I can't believe visiting Americans and Brits are drinking all the Coca-Cola I see stocked in Italy. I agree it's not advisable to drink it at meal time if you are eating Italian food, but the only time I have ever seen an adult doing that in Italy, she was definitely not American or British.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      I see Coke being drunk in restaurants here all the time. All the time. Sometimes it is Italians, mostly young teens, but almost always it is my fellow Americans and Brits.

                      That's not to say Coke is not being drunk by Italians. It definitely is in quantity (I see it stacked in the stores in my small town), along with other things in the fast food/bad for you food world. That's one of the reasons (and lack of exercise being another) that obesity is rearing its ugly head here too, not as bad as in The States, but catching up very quickly.

                      1. re: allende

                        I see people drinking it a bars, but not very often in restaurants with food. Maybe Coke is particularly obnoxious with seafood or pesto.

                2. Hello laubowski and thank you for the mention!
                  If you are looking to restaurants top scored by Italian gastronomic guides (including GR) the table at the following link can be helpful:
                  Unfortunately it doesn't include the city name but the region, consequently it will require some additional google research for your needs.

                  GR Rome guide (more than 250 pages, 10 euros) in my opinion is between the most comprehensive publications about food (not only restaurants) available in the city. The majority of the "big names" between chefs and owners attend each year the new guide presentation show and I'd say it is highly thought by many of them (with some exceptions of course, Bonci"anger" against GR became memorable!).
                  I totally agree with allende that the score is not relevant alone but anyhow you can be interested to know that the top food scores in Rome (2012 edition) are Il Sanlorenzo, L'Arcangelo and Al Ceppo. Between the two "gamberi" there are Armando al Pantheon, L'Asino d'Oro, Da Cesare (al Casaletto) and Matricianella (the list is not complete). There aren't trattorie rated with three gamberi in Rome.

                  In case you understand well Italian and you are staying in Italy more than few days I'd definitely suggest to buy GR, using it not as a single reference but together with other guides (such as Osterie d'Italia) and additions/updates available through the web.

                  @allende La Gola in Viaggio is a compendium based on guides published the previous year.


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: tavoleromane

                    hello Tavole Romane, would it be worth advising maybe Rome nel Piatto? I find it more specialized.

                    1. re: tavoleromane

                      I'm well aware that La Gola is, in part (but only in part), a compendium of five guides (GR, L'Espresso, Osterie, Michelin and Alberghi and Ristorante). If you look at it, however, you will see listings, and a description, for well over a thousand (thousands?) places that are not in any of those guides. Even when restaurants are in the Michelin, La Gola will often give six sentences or so to the place, far more than the Michelin does. That is what I was referring to.

                      1. re: tavoleromane

                        @cristinab Yes, absolutely! Roma nel Piatto has just released also a mobile app including content of their three 2012 publications (restaurants & pizzerie, ethnic food, food shops and street food). Great source of information for 3.99€.

                        @allende yes I undestood your point. Actually La Gola states their guide has 10.000 restaurants around Italy including contents from 12 guides. I bought it some years ago and it was helpful in some areas, but I prefer to read more detailed and specialized contents.