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Suggestions for a modest group lunch in Rome, August 29th?

Just to add some more challenges to the familiar ones you experts often comment on, I thought I'd see what you might suggest for our group of about 22. Most of us will have only just arrived in Rome that morning from Vancouver, and so probably won't really know which way is up for their stomachs; nevertheless, we're trying to plan a really memorable lunch stop on our walk around the hotel we'll be staying in (near Piazza Barberini). Our walk will take us in a skinny loop to the Pantheon and back; we're hoping everyone will feel up to getting out, so as to adjust their brains and start reveling in Roma.

So we're looking for a nearby place that could accommodate a group our size for lunch, in Ferragosto--and that can deliver a really memorable overall "welcome!" experience without breaking the bank. I doubt any of us will be starving, but I think we'll really appreciate starting our holiday with some well-prepared and characteristic dishes in friendly, pleasant surroundings. I must confess that I'm not looking so much for a solely gastronomic experience as an overall "WOW--we're eating wonderful food in bella Roma!!" choice. At the same time, relatively modest pricing and a low-key, traditional style would probably trump more upscale, splashy options.

Here are some of the suggestions that have crossed my radar to this point. I'd love any insights you might be able to share on any or all of them for our situation. Thank you kindly! Laura

- Otello alla Concordia, Via della Croce, 81
- Taverna degli Amici, Piazza Margana, 37
- Babette, Via Margutta, 1
- La Quercia, Piazza della Quercia, 23
- Abruzzi (Via del Vaccharo 1),
- Enosteria Capolecase (Via di Capo le Case, 53),
- Trattoria della Stampa (Via dei Maroniti, 32),
- Santa Cristina al Quirinale (Via della Cordonata, 21), and
- Ristorante La Cabana (Via del Mancino, 7)
- Rasella, Hosteria Rasella, Via Rasella 34/35
- Hostaria Romana, Via del Boccaccio, 1
- L'Asino d'Oro, Via del Boschetto, 73
- Osteria Barberini, Via della Purificazione, 21

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  1. If Babette is open, wouldn't it be simplest? You can call ahead to reserve, maybe even reserve the courtyard (although it is possible that your group would actually prefer the interior of it is air conditioned).

    When I travel transatlantic, I never know how I am going to feel about eating when I arrive, given the unpredictability of the weather and my state of fatigue/exhiliration. So rather than be confronted with a meal where I felt pressured to eat set courses, I'd rather have a buffet where I could just pick out fruits or salad if that is all I can handle on a hot day.

    The most problematic choice might a place that serves a no-option fixed lunch menu, where a course of tripe or anchovies or high-fat cheese might not be what some people want to eat. (I believe some of your choices offer only a fixed menu at lunch.)

    The buffet option also allows some in the party to have a bite and head back to the hotel for a rest if they need one. A Roman lunch with set courses makes it harder to leave the table.

    1. its been many years since we have been there, too many years for me to give any useful info on food quality ( I mean, tasty rognoni trifolati in 1980 may not be a useful recc now!), but I think Otello would be big enough and have a wide enough menu to accommodate you, It has a fairly big menu and a nice cool courtyard, with, if this hasnt changed, a fountain. needless to say, you will need to reserve wherever you go or arrive REALLY early.

      1. Thanks, both barberinibee and jen kalb; the combination of your comments is inclining me even more strongly to Babette, since I gather it too has a nice courtyard and the air-conditioned option if it's really hot. Yes, why am I banging my head against a wall here looking for alternatives to a well-recommended buffet, where people can satisfy their own appetites, whatever they may be?! Now if only Babette would reply to my inquiries. . .

        1. Oh, I just came across M Fant's recommendation of the buffet at Open Colonna. How would that compare to Babette?

          3 Replies
          1. re: lamaba

            She can speak for herself, but she may not be following this thread. She's recommended Babette is the past as well. You could put up a separate thread asking her directly.

            My experience of Italy is that fax gets more attention than e-mail and phone call ever more than the both, and that April is way too early to get anybody thinking about reservation in August, even for 22 people.

            1. re: barberinibee

              Thanks for your suggestions, barberinibee. I won't worry about reserving yet then--though I wouldn't mind having a plan!

              So in the meantime, I'll welcome anyone's thoughts about various lunch options, especially about places that offer a weekday lunch buffet. I think that's a brilliant compromise for the various appetites we're likely to bring to this lunch.

            2. re: lamaba

              I think Open Colonna is a good idea. The buffet at Babette would certainly solve your problems of different appetites, but the space is smaller and 22 is not a small group. Open is huge, and beautiful, with both indoor and outdoor space, and the service is very efficient. It's walking distance from Piazza Barberini. I would suggest reserving if you all plan to arrive at once (and would suggest arriving before 1 pm).

            3. Jumping in late here. I'm not a huge fan of Babette;s. I don't find their courtyard very appealing, and their buffet lunch is just plain mediocre.

              Of the places you mention here, I think the most pleasant location combined with reasonable prices would be La Quercia. One of the most gorgeous settings, very relaxed. And I'm sure you could arrange ahead to get some simple mixed antipasti: prosciutto and melon, tomatoes and mozzarella etc.

              Another option is Pompiere, which would definitely be able to fit a group your size. The location is on the piano nobile of Palazzo Cenci, and so has beautiful frescoes. In other words: great setting. Again, I'd plan out some sort of fixed menu.

              In any case, you'll have to double check end of July, to make sure either of these places (or any place really) is open Aug. 29. La Querica should be.


              1. Thanks, mbfant and minchilli, for your very helpful insights. I guess from my original list of possibilities I'm down to these two, since (of course) we hope to avoid mediocre food:

                - La Quercia (arrange a light fixed menu)
                - Open Colonna (partake of the lunch buffet)

                Do I get the sense that La Quercia is more low-key and informal? If so, that would probably suit us better than Open Colonna just in terms of atmosphere.

                I gather that Pompiere's specialty is fried food, which might not be our first choice that day, for lunch anyway.

                BUT please feel free to continue to add suggestions that aren't on my original list! Every time I think I've pretty much rounded up the contenders, another few come along and take my thoughts up another notch. Lucky I've got four months still to plan!!!!

                Thank you~

                1 Reply
                1. re: lamaba

                  Open Colonna is very informal in the daytime. The space is divided into a cavernous (but bright and gorgeous) space for the buffet (you can have buffet or you can order the prix fixe meal), very casual, though there will always be some business types. It's in the evening that it gets fancy. The downstairs large space is closed and the upper level becomes a gourmet restaurant. If your group may not all want a full meal, the buffet is a good option, and the place is beautiful and near you.

                2. A quick addendum / after-action report. We tried La Querica in April of 2012 for dinner, and were impressed by the quality of the meal (wonderful!) but depressed by the quality of our service (not at all wonderful, and grudging).

                  A fantastic space that provides fantastic ingredients, presentation and taste, but does little to make guests feel comfortable. Our experience was a trade-off, although we'd give it a second go-around.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: dhcrusoe

                    Thanks very much for your comment, dhcrusoe. I'm still trying to weigh the pluses and minuses of my short list here, and I have to say you've given me more food for thought --but haven't helped me make my decision!! Oh well, at least I still have a bit more time to contemplate our choice. Thanks again.

                    1. re: lamaba

                      FYI - Open Colonna may be closed in August. On the website states "Closed in August" though doesn't specify dates.