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May 2012: Thoughts (and help) on my choices for Rome, Florence & Venice

Hi, My husband and i (both late 30s) anf from NYC are 1 month away from our long awaited 8 nights in Italy. I have been doing exhaustive research online and with friends and am getting completely confused. We eat in restaurants about 5 nights a week, enjoy good, fresh food and restaurants with great decor/design/atmosphere. I'm not concerned about pricing and want to have some high end and casual places in each city, i just want to have solid choices on my list. We'e don't eat offal and my husband is a bit of a picky eater doesn't eat fin fish (only shellfish), doesn't really like cheese unless it's on pizza, no asparagus, no artuchokes. PS: I have the Eat Rome and Eat Florence App and have basically memorized them, i just need help to get a feel of atmosphere and to know if there is going to be something for my husband to eat.

Arrive Sat, May 5
Lunch ? (somewhere close to Portrait Suites) prefer somewhere we can sit outside if nice weather and relax after long flight
Dinner: Renato e Luisa or Vino e Camino

Sun
Lunch? La Montecarlo for pizza
Dinner: Nino (This is our "old school" Roman restaurant choice and i am so confliceted about this decision, my Italian friend chose it over La Campana, Al Moro and Dal Bolognese, what do you think?) I was looking at Flavio e V and Felice but they seem too offal centric and not sure if we can find "basic" on their menus, these restaurant websites are so awful!

Mon
Lunch in Campo dei Fiori, was looking at Taverna dei Foro Imperiali, Maccheroni & Pierluigi but not sure if they are too heavy taking into consideration our dinners
Dinner: 9pm Antico Arco

Tues
Lunch after Vatican: don't want to go to Pizzarium, is there anything else close or should we head to a different hood?
Dinner: 9pm Casa Coppelle

Wed (arrive Florence-staying at Four Seasons)
Lunch: L'Incontro at the Savoy (mainly for people watching, not so jazzed about the menu)
Dinner: 9pm Borgo San Jacopo

Thurs:
Lunch: Mario or La Bottega di Rosa or Caffe Giacosa
Dinner:9pm Il Santo Bevitore

Fri (Arrive Venice)
Lunch: at hotel (Palazzina G)
Dinner: Harry's Bar (my husband insists as we he loves Cipriani in NY, but should i change it to lunch on Sat)

Sat
Lunch: I; Refolo? lunch or dinner or not at all
Dinner: Il Refolo (need another option, prefer to sit outside?) or Osteria di Santa Marina

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  1. For Venice: there is no problem if your husband does not eat fish, cheese or certain vegetables. There are plenty of shellfish and most places will have some meat dishes for a main plate as well as other vegetables.
    As for your choices, if you are looking for "solid choices" and a little local flavor of Venice during your two day visit, neither Harry's Bar or Il Refolo fit that. Both are 'safe' choices if money is not an issue and offer a sense of being "exclusive". Nothing more need to written about Harry's Bar that has not already been written. If your husband loves Cipriani in NYC (I have not been, therefore, can't compare the two except they are own by the same) and insist on it, it will make him feel like just being in NYC. It is always packed, therefore, they are doing something right.
    Il Refolo is a glorified pizzeria with some good antipasti, couple of primi and secondi and mostly seafood based. The outside secluded terrace is pleasant, especially at night when there are no boats loading crates to the nearby Coop Supermarket. There are better and less expensive pizza in Venice because one is not paying for the Martin name. Why come to Venice to eat pizza. I would choose Santa Marina over it. Excellent Venetian cooking with non-fish choices, very good service and outside campo seating.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      Thanks for your thoughts on Venice. You make a very valid point re: Il Refolo. I will now make a reservation at Osteria Santa Marina.

      1. re: PBSF

        Why is Harry's Bar always packed? (They must be doing somethig right?)

        What they clearly do right is manage their image.

        They are a "sales led" organisation. (Key belief - there's one born every minute.) The strategy is profit through sales volume and if the customer is not satisfied? So what - there will be another one along in a minute.

        IMO good restaurants must be marketing led. The strategy is profit through customer satisfaction which is, and remains, the most important objective. The top restaurateurs understand this, although they may not articulate it in quite this way, and care deeply about their customers having a good experience.

        I'm not sure that is true of Harry's Bar.

      2. Well, you've certainly done your homework! (there will be a pop quiz at the end of this post)

        Sunday:
        Lunch: I actually don't know Montecarlo. But if its a pizza place, and open for Sunday lunch, that iisnt a good sign.
        Dinner: I think you'll love NIno's. I"m not surprised your Italian friend chose it over the others. It's mostly frequented by Romans. Double check that they are open Sunday.

        Monday:
        Lunch: If you want to have something on the light side, and stay around Campo, what about Dittirambo? They have a lot of great vegetable main courses, that aren't too heavy.

        Tuesday
        Lunch: Why not go to Gensola? It's fish, but hubbie can have shellfish.
        Dinner: Casa Copelle? I think you'd love Glass instead.

        Got to run, will sign on later to address Florence choices.

        www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com

        1. Florence:
          Nice! Four Seasons (they have fantastic breakfast in gorgeous room)
          Wednesday:
          Lunch: Definitely don't waste your time at L'Incontro. Much better choice, in same vein, is newly opened Sesto in the Westin Excelsior. AMAZING view from roof top restaurant and great people watching. Food's good too.
          Dinner: I have to say, last time I was at BSJ it wasn't that great. If you're going high end, and price isn't a problem, why not Ora d'Aria?

          Thursday:
          Lunch: If you're looking for something light, but in great setting Golden View Open Bar (don't let the name throw you off) They have excellent food, with drop dead views. Also love the interior, which is modern, full of light and comfortable.
          Dinner: Yes, Santo Bevitore. I like to ask for one of the back rooms, which are quieter. But maybe you like to be in the action?

          Have a great trip!

          www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com

          19 Replies
          1. re: minchilli

            Elizabeth, thanks so much for your thoughts. Dittirambo looks adorable. I've had it on and off my list and now that it has your stamp of approval i will put it back on. I am so torn about Glass and i've looked at their menu so many times and i just don't think my husband will find anything to eat.
            As for Florence, thanks so much for pointing out Golden View. I would never, ever give a restaurant with this name a chance. Looks super and i will amend my plans. Ora d'Aria looks superb so i will change my BSJ dinner. I was really only going there for the view, but that's solved if i have lunch at Golden View.
            I also want to thank you for putting together the Eat Rome, Eat Florence Apps, i have been using them every day for the past 2 weeks to help with my research. They are so user friendly and helpful. I love that i can sort things by category and the pictures are great!...it just makes so much sense!!!

            1. re: colly_r

              If you have any doubt about whether your husband will like Glass, assume he won't. Mine eats everything and hated it, not least for the incompetent service (though I am seriously gearing for a rematch). He hated Ditirambo too, but that was a really long time ago (they don't call this the Eternal City for nothing). Elizabeth is exactly right about pizza for Sunday lunch -- absolutely not done. Between Renato e Luisa and Vino e Camino, I would vote for the latter. It's more attractive and friendlier and the food is very tasty and sufficiently varied for all tastes.

              1. re: mbfant

                Dittirambo is good again, Maureen. They went through a iffy phase, but are back on track now.
                So, instead of Glass, how about Anatra Grassa? It's a taxi ride, but worth it. Not too too far away. Another alternative is Settembrini, since you say you like well designed interiors.
                And I ditto Maureen's choice of Vino e Camino over Renato e Luisa. Order the Antipasti della Casa to start, and I"m sure you will both find things you like on it.

                1. re: minchilli

                  Deb and I had dinner last week at Ditirambo. It's a neighborhood place for us that's clearly on the tourist track. The cacio e pepe is very good (they use ewe's milk cheese). I believe their grappa selection is one of the best in town. Daniele runs the front of the house. He's a charming guy and can help you navigate the modest but interesting wine list. The place gets SLAMMED so reservations are a good idea. Tourists eat there early, locals late so choose accordingly. Please keep in mind that Ditirambo is good neighborhood dining, not fine dining. We've been going there for years and consider it "comfortable shoes". Dial in the proper expectation level and you should enjoy a good meal.

                  1. re: steve h.

                    Steve - is there any cacio e pepe that doesnt use ewe's milk cheese (pecorino romano, specifically)? ive been making it that way for 30+ years.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      They used to use goat's milk cheese.

            2. re: minchilli

              @Elizabeth, wondering do any of these Florence choices/recommendations actually serve florentine/tuscan regional cooking? Most of them look pretty international to me. admittedly the OP seems to be going rather upscale and didnt say they were looking for regional cookingm but still..

              If OP does want to dip into traditional non-fancy Florentine cooking for lunch, Marios would be a good choice, of course there are many others it depends on where they will be at lunchtime on a given day...

              1. re: jen kalb

                Thanks for bringing this up, while i didn't specifially say i would like regional cooking, it's what i would prefer as we're in NY and eat "international" / non"American" food all the time. I think Golden View seems regional and Santo Bevitore....am i wrong? Any thoughts on Bottega di Rosa or Mario (for lunch)?

                1. re: colly_r

                  This thread seemed to be pretty active and I was hesitant to start a whole new thread on topics that have been covered here many times. In short, I am taking my girlfriend to Italy for her 40th birthday. We are in Rome, Florence, Santa Marghertia Ligure and Piedmont (and back to Rome). I co-own a winery in Oregon, she owns a wine bar in Oregon, we love eating out in Portland and cities all over the world we travel to and I cook extensively at home. I have been to many sites and been all over threads here. The subject of Rome dining is very extensive and quite controversial. I have enjoyed pouring through the topics and opinions. I am pretty confident of choices we have or will make in every place but Rome at this point. We are not overly concerned about eating at places that are traditional or purely Roman. That would be great but we simply want good food. One of our favorite restaurants in Paris is Tan Dinh even though it is about as far from traditional Parisian food as it gets. We don't want places purely aimed at tourists but certainly the best restaurants in any major city are going to attract people from all over the world so I am not concerned if a restaurant has out of towners (clearly we are going to be 2 of them). I'm just looking for some solid advice from people who know their stuff. There are a few places I will list that I have seen mentioned but a few others I have not. Feel free to be expansive or crib note it.

                  In no particular order

                  Glass

                  Ristorante La Pace dei Palato

                  Ristorante Mare-Artigiani del Pesce

                  Ristorante Tema

                  Ad Hoc

                  La Taverna dei Fori Imperiale

                  Ristorante La Fiammetta

                  Frontoni

                  Chechhino (may be farther than I want to go unless it's not to be missed)

                  These are all dinner choices. I figure we'll wing it for lunches at wine bars and the like. Thanks for any input.

                  1. re: oregonjim

                    Ciao oregonjim,
                    Do i know you? I know some oregon winemakers....
                    Winebar lunches will be different than back at home - mostly cold fingerfood. Except for roscioli, for which you can find discussions here.
                    Of your list:
                    Glass is lovely. Consider also metamorfosi, all oro and antico arco for that level. Considering wine, metamorfosi has a great somm who makes unbelievable pairings and antico arco some nice older vintages and obscure wines.
                    Pace del palato just started showing up but no one i know has actually been there, so no real feedback.
                    Stay away from mare (if it is the one on via ripetta you are talking about), showy but bad quality.
                    Tema, though i haven't been, don't think is chowhound-worthy.
                    Ad hoc is nice, i have many happy guests who have been there.
                    Taverna dei fori imperiali - you will find heated discussions about it. Just yesterday napa winemaker guests of mine were telling me how much they enjoyed it, but i do not like it at all. Find bad quality, very heavy.
                    Checchino is not further away than some others on your list. The most traditional one on your list. Some guests do not like the service, but as wine people you will find it very interesting, i think (and get good treatment). Does principe buoncompagni wine tell you anything? Then go!

                    1. re: oregonjim

                      We have discriminating friends who love Mare, but for fish Il Sanlorenzo is to be preferred. I certainly like it better. Frontoni, unfortunately, is no longer there -- if you meant the pizza al taglio on viale Trastevere. Fiammetta may be a little tame for you -- traditional trattoria (unless it's changed; I haven't been in years) -- but it was always good. Checchino is not out of town. It's in Testaccio. Since their cellar has been in existence for about 150 years, there are some amazing old bottles, and the Mariani brothers are very knowledgeable. Before the 1980s, when a new crop of fancy restaurants opened, Checchino was always renowned for its cellar, which still has a century's advantage over the others.

                      1. re: mbfant

                        Thanks both so far for the replies. I was thinking about Fiammetta as an option for the day we arrive when we are still a bit jet-lagged and an amazing dining experience is not very high up on our list of things to get done that evening. Vinoroma, I don't know if we are acquainted. I am one of the co-owners of Patricia Green Cellars. Checchino has been pretty strongly recommended by ofther people ITB so perhaps we should consider that one for sure. Mostly we are in Rome to have fun, see the historical landmarks, hopefully have some nice weather and kick off a fun trip. Hopefully a nice restaurant experience or two drops into our laps as well but I am pretty confident we will have a good time even if we live off of the simplest of fare. I think we will get more than our fill of traditional food up in our week in Piedmont.

                        1. re: oregonjim

                          I would just comment that Rome and Piedmont have completely different cuisines so that the "traditional food" in the two places will be pretty much completely different. You will be more likely to experience the same thing in the two places in experimental or international style restaurants since style trends tend to sweep through this sector.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            Yes. To clarify I meant that a) we're not huge traditionalists when it comes to dining in specific parts of the world b) the places we are going in Piedmont are almost uniformly "traditional northern Italian" in nature so as far as going the traditional route we will be getting a heaping helping (probably quite literally) of that over a course of a week.

                            1. re: oregonjim

                              Haha - Hi Jim!! As I mentioned in the report I gave to your girlfriend, we loved our lunch at Checchino and think both of you would like the traditional nature of the menu and the restaurant. It is also a great area to wander around in. And if you guys don't stop at Roscioli and eat the burrata and semi-dried tomatoes I will never buy your wine again! :-)

                              1. re: oregonjim

                                I still dont get what your Piedmont dining has to do with Rome, which is not "northern italian" - the cooking is not with the same fat for just one example, and traditional does not mean stiff it just means the typical local dishes but hey...

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  Rome has nothing to do with Piedmont. The point is I am not hung up on eating "Roman" food in Rome. If someone here said that there was an unearthly Japanese restaurant (for example) in Rome I would be happy to go eat there. In Piedmont we are pretty much sticking to representative restaurants. In Rome we're just looking to have a couple of nice dinners in Piedmont we want to live in the moment, eat locally and drink great Barbaresco, Barolo and the like.

                                  1. re: oregonjim

                                    I understand your point for Rome. My original suggestions of the finer restaurants are then even better for you. A very good (simple & lowkey but great food) restaurant in Rome is also Mesob, an Ethiopian place. But since you are already going to Piedmont, may I suggest you drink not Barolo & Barbaresco in Rome but try other wines, maybe even local? Not only it will bring some variety to your drinking, it will also go better with the food.

                                    1. re: vinoroma

                                      vinorama, that sounds terrific. I'll look it up and maybe we will bump into it when we are walking around the city (pretty much the main objective of this part of the trip). I'm partial to Barbaresco and Barolo but I sort of have my heart set on lighter wines and whites for Rome. jen, I don't know that it's that unique a perspective. Huge cities have diversity of all sorts to them. As I said I love Tan Dinh in Paris and eat there every time I go. The food is not French but the owners are certainly steeped in Parisian culture and they have an unbelievable wine list. I think I'm just not worried about Rome as far as food. Yes, some terrific meals would be great but I think that can be had at a myriad of places with styles that may range fantastically. There is going to be more than plenty of food on this trip but Rome is a little bit more carefree.

                2. Colly - congrats on staying at the Portrait Suites - it is our fav in Rome and you will love it! We had lunch at Trattoria Otello alla Concordia, at Via della Croce, 81, which is very near the hotel. The restaurant is tucked back off the street and has a nice courtyard where you can sit outside under a pergola and enjoy a leisurely lunch. The salumi platter we started with was fantastic.

                  Too bad you are skipping Pizzarium - we had a fantastic time there in October.

                  If your hubby really wants to go to Harry's, I would limit it to lunch at the most (frankly, I would just stop in for a drink and a snack).

                  No cicchetti stops while in Venice??

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: ekc

                    Thanks for the heads up re: Otello. I have a little list of vetted restaurants within walking distance to Portrait Suites so i will add this.
                    I haven't had a chance to research any cicchetti bars, but would love to hear your recos.
                    thanks

                    1. re: colly_r

                      Our 2 favorite cicchetti stops are All’ Arco (sorry, I didn't write down the address but I am sure you can find it here somewhere) and Gia Schiavi on San Trovaso (aka Vini al Bottegon).

                      We also had a fantastic lunch at Naranzaria right near the Rialto market.

                      Our 2 favorite dinners in Venice were Il Ridotto and Antiche Carampane (which we liked so much we had dinner there again on our last trip in October). Not that you need more restaurant suggestions! :-)

                      Looking forward to your rooptop aperitivo at PS in Rome!!

                      1. re: ekc

                        Thanks for the recos...and yes, i am envisioning myself on the rooftop at sunset at PS! can't wait.

                        1. re: colly_r

                          @oregonjim
                          You said: " the places we are going in Piedmont are almost uniformly "traditional northern Italian"
                          Which places are you going to?

                          1. re: allende

                            In Monforte d'Alba we are still working that out. We get in on a Monday so we might be limited a bit on our choices but there seems to be a couple of interesting and simple(esque) choices in town such as La Salita and Osteria dei Catari. We'll just have to see I think. In La Morra we will go to Osteria La Torre (Cherasco) and Ristorante Bovio. Maybe lunch or a post-Altare bite at Osteria Veglio. Alba we're playing a bit by ear and we'll decide after walking around the city that day. In Barbaresco we are at Ristorante Antine. We have an open night at the end as well where we haven't even decided where to be at this point. Lunches will either, likely, be at wineries we are visiting or places near by.

                            1. re: allende

                              Folks, we removed a number of testy, personal remarks from this thread. If anyone wants a copy of their recommendations to edit and repost, please email us at moderators@chowhound.com

                              1. re: oregonjim

                                Osteria dei Catari is a wine bar, and the food is mediocre.

                                Ristorante Antine is a very poor restaurant with regard to food, ambiance, and service. It has a good wine list, as do many other restaurants in Piemonte. We made the mistake of going there, against the advice of friends, two very prominent barolo producers in La Morra and Barolo. Very poor place and would definitely not recommend it.

                                Alba has no outstanding restaurants, just a few mediocre places that are living off of the recommendations of a few guidebooks.

                                The great restaurants around Alba are Da Renzo, Priocca, Cascinalenuovo and perhaps Borgo Antico. There are many trattorie and osterie that are excellent and have good wine lists as well.