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Apr 23, 2012 11:59 AM

Feedback on Itinerary: Rome, Genoa, Florence

Hi all,

We will be in Italy for just under 2 weeks (May 29th to June 11th), I've put together a starter list for each city from scrubbing this board:

Salumeria Roscioli
Settimo al Pellegrino (Thursday for gnocchi)
Perilli (read somewhere this is a good spot for Sunday lunch?)
L'Asino d'Oro
Antico Arco

Da Rina

Tre Soldi
Cipolla Rosa
I Due G
Le Volpe e l'Uva
Vini e Vecchi Sapori
La Casalinga
Cavolo Nero

Generally we are planning to book dinners while using the various smartphone apps recommended here to give us lunch recommendations for the areas we happen to be in when we're hungry. Is it reasonable to expect we'll be able to walk into decent app-recommended places at lunch without reservations? Are there any places I should make reservations for sooner than later, or is ~1 week out sufficient?

We're a bit light on Genoa, doesn't seem to be a lot of recs on this board - what we did find we took cues from one thread plus Batali's Expore Italy website. Anything major we are missing here? We may just end up taking recommendations from the hotel concierge if we can't dig up much else. My other concern is that we will be in Genoa for both Sunday and Monday, are restaurants there generally closed those days like they are in Rome?

Please let me know what you think of my list, I still need to edit a bit but am having difficulties deciding between many places as they all sound great on the internet. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Zefferino is really a very old fashioned throw-back, a business-expense-account kind of place -- one expects Gina Lollobrigida to walk in the door any minute -- and while I think it is fascinating for that (and it has brilliant pesto and lovely sea food), you will get socked with a high tab for food prepared just as nicely at the somewhat less expensive and equally hospitable Da Rina. (Fish is always pricey.)

    You will find that a great many restaurants in Genova are closed Sunday (for dinner especially). You should do a bit better on Monday. Some places I would recommend in addition to Da Rina are Sa Pesta, the Ostaja (on via San Vicenzo 64 -- lunch only), Trattoria della Raibetta and Ugo e Uga (but don't walk out of your way for the last) -- all of which are very modest, historic places that serve down-home Genovese dishes. La Berlocca is a very fairly priced restaurant that is open Sunday nights and serves excellent food that sometimes veers away from the Genovese classics, but you'll also find those on the menu. If you find yourselves seized by a craving for something other than Italian food, then Genova has had for centuries a significant Asian population and Yuan serves very fresh, bright Asian dishes, including nice sushi.

    If you are foodie, don't miss a spin around the Mercato Orientale, one of Italy's best covered markets. It's open Monday in the morning and in the afternoon. Fruits or olives from the vendors are often outstanding.

    Even though you will only be in Genova for a short bit, it is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with some of the local treats that you might not want to miss and which are usually unavailable in other parts of Italy. In addition to pasta with pesto, there is fish-stuffed ravioli (filled with branzino), the chick-pea torte called farinata, stuffed anchovies and stuffed vegetables (ripieni), pasta tossed with mussels and other seafoods, a warm salad of octopus with potatoes and olives-- all of which, in the right hands, can be memorable to eat -- not to mention excellent fresh fish and local scampi and lobsters, prepared as you like.

    On Sunday afternoon, if it is a beautiful day, you might want to join the Genovese in escaping the city, and take a short train ride down the beautiful coast to Nervi for a simple but delicious lunch of foccacia col formaggio at La Marinella (near the train station), or go 20 minutes further to Camogli for an more elaborate lunch of wonderful lasagne al pesto and fresh fish at Rosa's (reservations mandatory, open Monday as well).

    1 Reply
    1. re: barberinibee

      Thanks so much for this post, a wealth of valuable information! We'll update our Genoa list accordingly.

    2. You've done your homework very well!

      Rome: Good choices all. Although I tend to be off Salumeria Roscioli these days. The food is usually very good, but sometimes you get cheese or salami that is decidedly off. And I find the entire place cramped and uncomfortable. But I know others like it very much, so take this with a grain of salt.

      Regarding reservations in both Rome and Florence: For lunch you should be fine (except for L'Asino d'Oro which is always booked for lunch for their justifiably well known 12 euro fixed price menu ) But you should definitely reserve ahead for dinner. A week ahead should be fine.

      Florence: Again, all very good choices. But I've never heard of Cavolo Nero.

      2 Replies
        1. re: jerkstore

          We thoroughly loved our lunch at L'asino d'oro, and the value was fantastic. We did wish that we could order off of the menu though (only the daily set menu is available at lunch), as it looked fantastic and different from the other traditional places we ate at. Consider this when booking either lunch or dinner here.

      1. Reporting in, two and a half days through on our trip. Day one was a mixed bag, though more hits than misses. After escaping throngs of tourists at the Trevi Fountain while waiting to check into our hotel, we made our way to Osteria dell'Ingegno for wine and a quick bite on the reccomendation of the Eat Rome app (which has been a great help so far, by the way). A couple of nice (if a bit expensive) glasses of wine and plates of amatriciana and cacio e pepe were a nice start to our Roman dining experience.

        We were rather lukewarm on our dinner at L'Asino d'Oro. Starters of pork liver and eel were nice enough, but not spectacular. The saving grace of the meal for me was a primi of pasta (forgot the type) with black truffles, anchovies and almonds - great flavours and textures and more truffles than I've ever seen on a single plate. The wife, unfortunately for her, skipped the primi and went straight for secondi. We found both of our secondi (wild boar and lamb shank) terribly overcooked (dry) and oversalted, and couldn't finish either plate. Perhaps we ordered poorly but we left the meal a bit disappointed.

        Day two was wonderful start to finish. We got up a bit late and walked around the area near Piazza del Popolo for a while before hopping on the metro for a bite at Pizzarium. Here we tried 4 different pizzas - mortadella with porcini, ricotta and young zucchini, baccala with asparagus and ceci puree, and the classic mozzerella with tomato sauce and basil. All were delicious though our favourite was the latter for its simplicity.

        For dinner we made our way to Antico Arco, slightly late for our reservation after a bit of an adventure on Rome's evidently rather non-punctual bus system. After a bit of disappointment our previous night, this was the perfect remedy. Our first bite was a complimentary fritter of baccala and potato on some tomato sauce containing what seemed to be a hint of mint - very light and fresh. For antipasti I opted for the buffalo mozzarella with confit tomato and bottarga wrapped in phyllo, which was a nicely balanced combination of flavours - I can never say no to bottarga. Wife opted for a sauteed octopus dish which was perfectly cooked, light and subtle flavours that let the protein shine. Primi were also spot on - rigatoni alla carbonara with black truffles for myself (perfect al dente, the best carbonara I've ever tasted), and a fish-stuffed ravioli in arrabiata sauce for the wife - another light and subtle dish with just the right amount of spice. A secondi of tartare with young green beans for myself was lovely, the highlight surprisingly being the beans (though I struggled somewhat to finish since I was so full - perhaps I need to reconsider always ordering 3 courses). Wife opted for just a seasonal salad which was what you would expect. Washed down with a wonderful 2005 Gaja brunello we couldn't have been happier. Definite thanks to the Italy CHers for this reccomendation.

        Today we got up early and made our way to Campo dei Fiori, with a stop at Bar Farnese for a cappucino and pastry, which was great - the older gentleman behind the counter was very friendly and quite the character.

        After walking around for a while we ended up at Palatium for lunch - another great find thanks to the amazing Eat Rome app. We shared a plate of spaghetti al gricia which was perfect, then had trippa alla Romagna and a braised veal cheek with zucchini which were both delicious as well (the zucchini itself being a highlight - vegetables stealing the show seems to be becoming a trend on this trip).

        Off to Settimio al Pellegrino for dinner tonight then hopping on the train to Genoa in the morning. Will report back again in a couple of days.

        4 Replies
        1. re: jerkstore

          So nice of you to report back in while on the go.
          It sounds like you are having a great time. Sorry to hear you didn't have a stellar experience at L'Asino d'oro. It can be a bit quirky sometimes, and I've come tor realize it's not for everyone. People often find the meat dishes a bit over powering, so you're not alone. But Umbrian cooking is sometimes on the salty side...but still.

          So happy you had the full Bar Farnese experience! Doesn't the owner make you feel like all's right in the world?

          I look forward to hearing about Settimio.

          1. re: minchilli

            Yes, I was willing to forgive the overseasoning as a difference in palates, but the doneness of the meat as a matter of taste I'm not so sure about. In any event the meal was not all bad, and things have certainly been excellent across the board since.

            And yes, the owner of Bar Farnese (wasn't sure if that was him at first but seems likely given your response) was delightful. Great way to begin the day.

          2. re: jerkstore

            It would be great to have some feedback about Genoa.

            1. re: barberinibee

              Just through our first full day, will collect my thoughts and get something up here shortly. Spoiler: we love it here!

          3. The story continues...

            As promised we headed to Settimio for Thurday dinner. On arriving we were not-so-much greeted with a locked door (as we had been led to expect). That said it didn't take long for a gentleman (who I presumed was the owner) to make sure we had a reservation before letting us in. Immediately afterwards we felt at home and welcome, thanks in no small part to a wave from a little girl at most 2 (we assumed a family member of the ownership). The food was exactly as we had been led to expect - gnocchi with tomato sauce, a contorna of delicious stewed vegetables (potato, red pepper, zucchini among other), and lovely involtini of veal and grilled meatballs. Simple, fresh, tasty, and close to the cheapest meal we had in Rome. The house red was very drinkable and a steal at 7 euros.

            The following morning we dragged our groggy and slightly hung over selves to Termini to catch our train to Genoa. By the time we finally arrived (45 minutes late, hungry, and needing a stiff drink) we probably could have settled for anything dinner-wise. However, we ended up at Da Rina after managing to get a last-minute reservation and loved our meal. Starting with some fresh-out-of-the oven foccacia and a bottle of Ligurian piglio woke us right up. Antipasti of marinated anchovies and mixed seafood salad were as simple and fresh as could be. We split a primo of lobster taglierini (starting to learn from our previous overindulgent dinners) with a wonderfully rich shellfish sauce. Secondi were grilled prawns, scampi and vegetables (everything cooked to perfection), and a zuppa di pesce for the wife which was intensely flavourful (all the seafood also perfectly cooked). We felt very welcomed by the staff here and would consider returning if we had either more time here or a shorter list of restaurants to visit and things to eat.

            This morning we attempted a trip to Mercato Orientale, but it was closed for a national holiday which apparently we managed to completely miss when planning this trip. Will try again tomorrow. Instead, the wife did some (non-food-related) shopping and we eventually made our way to Enoteca Infernotto for an early lunch. The waiter recommended an absolutely divine Vietti Nebbiolo (2008) to get us started while we nibbled on the tasty bread (we both agree that we prefer Genovese bread to Roman, at least so far). To start we demolished a plate of octopus crudo with arugula and tomatoes, and a mixed salad with thinly sliced smoked fish (both tuna and swordfish). The simplicity here again was key and we loved both even though there were no surprises flavour-wise. We then went for secondi of ravioli (stuffed with something that stumped both our dictionary and palates) with a sauce of porcini and tomato, and the classic trofie al pesto. Both were spectacular - the ravioli being my wife's favourite dish of the trip thus far, and the trofie for me a close second to Antico Arco's carbonara. Rich, clean, balanced flavours all around. Very friendly service as well - highly recommended.

            We are currently enjoying a few adult beverages at our hotel bar, and off to Trattoria della Raibetto for dinner, then making a day trip into Camogli tomorrow for exploration and lunch at Rosa. Expect part three in a couple more days!

            3 Replies
            1. re: jerkstore

              I often see people post on Chowhound "Your description of your dinner made my mouth water!" but this is the first time it has happend to me. Your dinner at Da Rina sounded so good! (I really love lobster taglerini.)

              Unfortunately, the Mercato Orientale will be closed Sunday. I hope you will get a chance to stop by Monday morning.

              Is it possible that the ravioli you had was stuffed with "preboggion"--? They are wild greens or, more accurately, plain old weeds. Dandelion, nettles, borage and even lower class grasses. The word is a bit of Genovese dialect that roughly means "pre-boiled". The greens, which would otherwise be inedible, are boiled to a fare-the-well. (It is likely that the wine you drank at Da Rina was pigato.)

              I'm also glad to hear you had such a happy experience of Settimio, and hope you also like Trattoria della Raibetta di Genova, where the Genovese cooking is really very downhome, with no concessions to fashion.

              For me, nothing beats Rosa's lasagne al pesto. Hope the weather clears up for a pretty view

              1. re: barberinibee

                Ah yes, my mistake, I meant we would try again for Orientale on Monday - we already assumed (and confirmed with locals) that it would be closed tomorrow. We will be in Camogli regardless, rain or shine.

                Also, pigato is indeed the one...I knew it was pig something. The greens sound correct too. Thanks for correcting and informing. :)

                1. re: jerkstore

                  At the Mercato on Monday, keep an eye out for cherries from Vignola (pricey but fab) apricots from Basilicata and -- although it is a bit early -- a marvelous flat peach called pesca "tabaccheria" from Sicily.


                  Melons from Mantova are also special but I don't think you can buy small quantities.

            2. Part 3, turning into a small novel...hopefully I am not boring you all.

              After finding our way (eventually) through a maze of alleyways in Genoa's gothic quarter, we made it to Raibetta. The small trattoria was surprisingly busy for 8:30pm (in fact it was as full as we've seen a restaurant this trip so far). We quickly made up our minds on starters of artichoke ravioli with squid sauce, and a salad of prawns, squid and tomatoes. No surprises here, blazingly fresh and well cooked seafood, simple flavours, as we are coming to expect from Genoa. I opted for an even simpler main of fried anchovies (to satisfy a craving), while the wife picked a daily special of salmon with a lovely pink peppercorn sauce. Not a combination either of us had thought of before - but it was brilliant and (surprise surprise) perfectly cooked. Dolce were a fresh house-made strawberry banana sorbet and an excellent mint pannacotta with dark chocolate sauce. Overall yet another delightful meal in Genova.

              The following morning, after a 2.5 hour battle with the train system (missing one train after being directed to the wrong track, then having the next spontaneously cancelled), we finally made it to Camogli just in time for our reservation at Rosa. I must be starting to sound like a broken record, but simplicity reigned again here. Antipasti of fresh oysters with lemon and bottarga shaved on top of lovely fresh tomato slices were nice, but primi of taglierini with red mullet sauce and lasagna al pesto (as per barberinibee's recommendation) were definitely highlights of the meal. Secondi of grilled red bream and branzino were nice enough as well though we were a bit disappointed that the fish were not scaled before cooking, seemed a shame to let all that lovely charred skin go to waste (we tried a few bites anyways against our better judgement but quickly surrendered). Overall though the experience was pleasant and the staff very welcoming - not to mention the stellar view. Camogli was a great city to wander around on the beatiful day we were treated to - thanks again to barberinibee for the advice, we would have never thought of it otherwise.

              Initially we had planned to attempt La Berlocca for dinner, but it turned out to be closed on both Sunday and Monday (should have looked at the website more closely when planning). We were somewhat tired out from the day regardless, so opted for a quick bite in the trattoria attached to our hotel (Tralalero). Not having lofty expectations going in, we were pleasantly surprised with the low price and high quality of the food. Insalata di mare and grilled vegetables with a particular type of cheese (also grilled, the name escapes me), followed by minestrone Genovese and fresh taglierini neri with a very generous helping of porcini - all were really quite delicious. Not a bad spot for a Sunday dinner in Genova when you can't track down another open restaurant (the solid Montepulciano D'Abruzzo and Cinque Terre grappa didn't hurt, I'm sure).

              This morning we finally made it to the painfully amazing Mercato Orientale (painful becuase I wish I could shop somewhere half as good as that every day). After oggling the porcini, zucchini, beans, and other vegetables that I have found new love for since being here, we grabbed some foccacia cipolla and focaccia al formaggio for a late breakfast/early lunch nearby.

              Having seemingly not too many options for Monday dinner, we opted for a return visit to Infernotto given how much we loved it on the first try, and were not disappointed. One thing we came to realize about this place is that their antipasti are huge - we shared the bresaola and prosciutto di parma e bufala and were almost full afterwards. We couldn't resist ordering their pesto again, though this time with a dried thick/flat pasta whose name also escapes me (apologies). A spaghetti al sugo di pesce was also wonderful - we think the fish was likely sardine or something along those lines. Along with the meal went a very drinkable (if unremarkable) Ligurian grenache (our first and likely last attempt at a red from the region). In the end we were glad we returned and were made to feel very welcome by the staff - a definite trend in Genova.

              Today we leave Genova after a great few days, and are on our way to Florence, with dinners booked at Sostanza, Cipolla Rossa and Cavolo Nero - and one more remaining to be decided. We cannot wait for some red meat and Tuscan wine!

              5 Replies
              1. re: jerkstore

                Thanks for your continued updates! Looking forward to reading about Florence!

                1. re: jerkstore

                  Im really loving these detailed reports - its what I really look forward to coming to this board! so looking forward to the rest!

                  1. re: jerkstore

                    Epic indeed!

                    I cheated and looked at the online menu for Tralalero, and your grilled cheese was Tomino (from Piemonte). I can only suspect that the "dried thick/flat pasta" with pesto that you ate on your return visit to Enoteca Infernotto was testaroli, a specialty of the southernmost point of Liguria, on the tuscan border. It is actually made on a hot iron like a crepe, then dried, then cut into squares for re-boiling as a pasta.

                    I am very happy you were not disappointed in Camogli, although I winced to read that your fish at Rosa's was not scaled. Next time I recommend the restaurant to anyone, I will make of point of suggesting a mixed platter of small fried fish.

                    I was also under the impression La Berlocca was open Sunday nights -- so my apologies if I steered you wrong. If you get a chance to visit the food market in Florence, it's great you can compare it to the Mercato Orientale (and yes, it is a joy to be able to shop there regularly).

                    Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

                    1. re: jerkstore

                      Bravo for reports that are entertaining, informative, and, as they say, suggestivi. Exactly why I spend time on CH. Last in Genova in 1977 (alas!), when the waterfront and its Sottoripa was a little dicey, but want more than ever to go back to obe of Europe's great cities. Still remember wonderful trays of stuffed vegetables, pansoti alla noce, and lasagna pesto at some seaside place in Boccadasse.

                      1. re: bob96

                        The old port itself has now been turned into something of a tourist amusement park, with the addition of an acquarium and other children't attractions, and for cruise-shipping adults there is a branch of I Tre Merli (wine producers from Dolceacqua) and I believe there may also be an EATALY by now. Gentrification throughout the rest of the light-less caruggi is hit and miss, with plenty of visible vice to give you the feeling of a true Mediterranean work port.

                        Trattoria della Raibetta di Genova is down an alley where it is still possible to read, stenciled on the alley walls, a warning to WW2-era US soldiers that this area is off-limits. There has probably been a restaurant operating in that space for more than 500 years (no kidding -- maybe longer), but within a few feet you will also find trendy places and art galleries.

                        The sottoripa retains the atmosphere of a souk, and there is lots of great food sold along the street for the adventurous, including great olives and olive oil, candied fruits, Genovese salume, and the dried stuffed pastas and hard-tack biscuits Genovese sailors take to sea. Micheal Winterbottom's "A Summer in Genova" is a dull movie and portrays Genova from an "outsider's" point of view, but the visuals give you a glimpse of the mix of modern working port and medieval mystery that the city now is.

                        When it comes to food, I think Genova is one of the most conservative of all of Italy's cities. It is really hard to find a restaurant that does not serve the classics and only the classics. Genova has very badly wanted to attract the kind of tourism that Barcelona gets, but it simply will not budge when it comes to food, although like a lot of other tourist-minded places in Italy, it is trying to develop a beer culture, and even stages an "Oktoberfest" (only coincidentally in the city's largest Fascist-era square).