Rome - Restaurant for Special Dinner?
My wife and I will be in Rome for only one night and will be celebrating a special occasion. I haven't been there in a very long time, but we both love Rome. I've been researching online for months, mainly on Tripadvisor which is not necessarily the best place, but there are a lot of reviews posted. We are in our 40's, "urban", and appreciate good, authentic food.
Need a place that fits the following criteria:
-Italian food. Nothing too experimental or new age. Could have a twist, but should be Italian or Roman.
-Romantic atmosphere, not super modern, but not too casual.
-Genuine, friendly service without the attitude.
-Central, preferably close to or inside the old city or other monuments.
-No more than $200 per person including a bottle of wine.
Thank you for the suggestions.
This board is robustly populated with Rome residents, so you might want to weigh their opinions more heavily than mine. But I will suggest Pierluigi to you if you like seafood, because it is a beautifully understated but warm space -- one of the most tasteful I've ever seen -- or if it is a nice night, you can sit outside in a lovely, quiet piazza. The service is devoted to making you feel welcome. (They forgot my check -- but it was obviously the rare lapse).
There were other people there the Sunday afternoon I was having lunch who were plainly celebrating an occasion. Not a "birthday party" but a quiet shared event. A special meal. Some were foreigners, some Italians.
I thought the fish was very fresh and everything served intelligently done, with care.
Others I'm sure will have suggestions. You might want to post where your hotel is, in case you would like to walk home from dinner (which is always my preference).
Reading your criteria it looks like Pipero al Rex could be the perfect venue for your special occasion! It is located close to the Opera House (Repubblica subway stop, not far from Termini train station).
In addition I've read few minutes ago the news that Glass Hostaria, the michelin starred restaurant in Trastevere area I love for the creativity in food preparations and contemporary atmosphere, is introducing a special menu dedicated to the traditional Roman "quinto quarto" (offal). I look forward to read something more about this new menu, and hopefully to try it! It can be another good option for your night in Rome.
I would nix both ideas. Most people love Pierluigi, and I haven't been there in a million years, but my impression from a recent walk-by was that it is populated by many foreigners, and we were assaulted by a strong smell of fried fish and observed an air of bustle in the otherwise decidedly romantic piazza. I'd certainly not say to avoid it altogether, but it didn't strike me as the place for "special." If you want fish (and you didn't say you did), Il Sanlorenzo would fit "special."
I love Pipero, and it is definitely special. My only concern is it sounds as though you'd like a little more traditional menu. You might go online and look.
Given your requirements, I would recommend Il Convivio or Agata e Romeo. The food at both is recognizably of the territory, atmosphere sufficiently upscale and romantic, service courteous. Can't speak to attitude. Agata might be a tad friendlier (also smaller). Convivio is located better for romantic postprandial walks in the centro storico. Both might be very close to the limit pricewise, maybe over. If so, Antico Arco could be worth looking into. Maybe also Filippo La Mantia (Sicilian). Also All'Oro.
The contrast in perceptions about Pierluigi between mbfant and I is very likely due to the fact that I was there in the depths of January, which is relatively lightly touristed time. The restaurant was mainly full of Italians and while it was sunny enough for some diners to want to sit outdoors for lunch, only a few tables had been set up for it. I have seen pictures of Pierluigi's outdoor seating at the peak of summer, and I can imagine it bustles, so the timing of your trip may make a difference:
A picture of Pierluigi off-season
Pierluigi in peak tourist season
I did feel that the attitude of the staff was almost an assumption that you were there for a special occasion, and that it was special for them to have you there. I know that sounds corny, but I was very struck by this well-done dollop of professional graciousness, without any loss of sophistication, which is why -- plus the handsome, low-key interior -- I put into the suggestion box for the OP, for whom service seemed a concern. The staff was expert in squelching any rumors that foreigners are not welcome at the best tables in Rome.
I'm not pushing for Pierluigi for the OP, because other people's suggestions sound great, so just elaborating here for the archives for posters who come later searching for info about Pierluigi.
Finally, I want to add, regarding smells of fried fish, the apartment I rented in Rome for my January stay was almost directly opposite Pierluigi. Thus I walked past -- actually hobbled slowly past, since my foot was injured -- every single day, often more than once, and often at mealtimes. Nothing but pleasant smells in January, but I recognize that surely that could change in a time frame when many tourists have arrived to occupy the outdoor tables and share dishes of fried fish..
Had it not been for my injured foot, Pierluigi is the kind of special occasion restaurant I normally wouldn't eat at in Rome. Because it was so close, I tried it, and formed the impression it is a very reliable well-run restaurant.
I just wanted to follow up: my wife and I went to Antico Arco and it was perfect for what I was looking for. It was just the right amount of upscale feel and the dishes were grounded in local ones. And it was a lot more affordable than the other upscale places often discussed. We got the tasting menu and an affordable but excellent bottle of wine. The highlight of the menu for us was the carbonara, but everything was very, very good. It was nice to be able to select any dessert as part of the menu and they were nice enough to bring us a third dessert with a birthday candle (but not sing happy birthday, which my wife hates to see in restaurants). Thank you very much for the suggestion. Hopefully, we'll have a chance to go back and try some of the other restaurant suggestions.
Also, we ended up going to Pierluigi for lunch, mainly because the weather was excellent and we wanted to sit outside at a place near our hotel. The food was very good, but the staff pushed some of the expensive dishes/wines which was a bit annoying. Other than that, we had a great lunch there.
I agree, and think that Pierluigi is a great option. Great food, plus excellent service and if you eat outside, a very Romantic setting.
I love Glass too, but that might be too 'modern' for your tastes?
Other traditional, but special, places could include Piperno's, which is located in the Jewish Ghetto. They have excellent traditional dishes - like deep fried carciofi alla giudea. The setting is idyllic, if you sit outside in the tiny piazza.
I would second the suggestion of Glass, which is rooted in Italian cuisine and is perhaps modern by Rome standards, but not by those of cosmopolitan eaters. Pipero al Rex is excellent and for fish you cannot beat Il Sanlorenzo, though if you go all out there, you may very well exceed that $200 per person limit. The only thing that is really special about Pierluigi is its cocktail bar, which is tended by a very knowledgable and creative bartender. Too bad the bar has a screen showing an obnoxious slide show of its celebrity guests (I assume to distract from how average the food is).
So, given how little we liked Glass the one time we tried it, you think we should re-try it for our wedding anniversary? (Franco pointed out that it's not an important number this year -- he's SO romantic.) What do you like there? We just went to Pipero a couple of weeks ago, so probably wouldn't go there again so soon.
YES!! do try it indeed. let me know if you need a chaperone:) the menu changes quite frequently, but you will likely find one or both of these excellent pasta dishes: mezzelune all'amatriciana (the pasta is filled with amatriciana sauce and then topped with crispy guanciale) and ravioli filled with a cream of 60 month aged parmigiano reggiano. they are dressed in butter and served with asparagus in spring, or some other seasonal accompaniment. the "tagliatelle" di seppie are very interesting, they are strips of cuttle fish that are tossed with guanciale and sea urchin roe. the spaghetti in acqua di peperone with cetara anchovies are outstanding. the scallops with pistacchio cream are wonderful, venison is fantastic. i just saw the new quinto quarto items and am dying to try the tongue pastrami. enjoy it!
Thank you very much for the suggestions - it certainly gives me a number of options to consider. I will look at the menu and photos of each and see which one appeals to us the most. I doubt that I could go wrong with any of these great restaurants in Rome...