Rome: 5 nights with a toddler and a vegetarian
My wife (vegetarian), myself, our 2-year-old son, and my wife's parents will be spending 5 nights in Rome in two weeks as part of an Italian vacation. After spending several evenings reading the extensive archives about Rome, I am getting really excited about the food, and have a preliminary itinerary that I could use this board's help in refining. Although my wife is vegetarian, she is usually pretty happy as long as there are a few antipasti and primi that she can eat, so we are not looking for vegetarian-specific restaurants. Rather, we are looking for places that will be able to accomodate a vegetarian, and that will be okay with possibly strange requests like having two antipasti and a primi as her dinner.
We arrive on a Friday night, and depart the following Wednesday morning. We are staying in an apartment near Campo di'Fiore, so we will have the option of cooking some nights and eating in for lunch some days. Since my in-laws have never been to Rome (and my wife and I only briefly many years ago), we will be doing the tourist thing, but hope to still eat quite well. One limitation, however, is that with a toddler and in-laws who aren't in the best of shape, we will be rather mobility limited; options close to sights or close to our apartment will work much better for us.
That said, here is my tentative itinerary.
Friday dinner: Hoping for something casual and good close to our apartment (we arrive ~6 pm). Ditirambo looks very vegetarian-friendly but some reports from a couple years ago suggest maybe the execution is lacking. Any current opinions? Other options would be Settimio al Pellegrino (but would there be anything for a vegetarian?), Armando al Pantheon, or something in the Jewish Ghetto (Piperno looks too pricey for what we are looking for, maybe Giggetto, Nona Betta or Ba Ghetto? I know there are lots of varying opinions about the best Roman-Jewish places.)
Saturday lunch: Encouraged by a trip report from last year reporting a great meal at Roscioli with a 2 year old, I would like to give it a try. Is Saturday lunch a decent time for this? Alternatively, since we will likely be visiting the Forum and Colosseum Saturday morning, perhaps lunch at L'Asino D'oro?
Saturday dinner: Cook at our apartment.
Sunday lunch: Planning on having a classic Roman Sunday lunch. Although Perilli sounds wonderful, I don't think we will be able to manage to get out to Testaccio this trip. Anything similar closer to the Centro Historico? Maybe La Campana?
Sunday dinner: Thinking probably pizza, maybe pizza al taglio from Forno del Campo de Fiori? Are there any sit-down pizzerie in the Centrio Historico that are worthwhile? Or if we are really stuffed, just some simple bread and cheese at our apartment.
Monday lunch: We will probably do the Vatican Monday morning, so something nearby would be ideal. Pizzarium looks great, but a standing lunch may not really work for us, and at least based on Google Street View there doesn't really appear to be anywhere nearby to sit down. Other suggestions? Or should we plan on heading elsewhere for lunch? This might be a good day to pick up some bread and cheese for lunch at our apartment.
Monday dinner: The in-laws are watching the toddler so my wife and I can go out for a fancy dinner. Ideally we would find a place that would do a vegetarian tasting menu for my wife. Our budget for this dinner is around 100 euros per person (assuming tasting menu plus a bottle of wine), but we could push it a bit (only a bit) for really amazing food. There was a recent thread with some good suggestions, but it is quite difficult to tell based on websites which places will be likely to accommodate vegetarians, so some advice would be much appreciated here. I know some places are closed on Monday night, so if that is a limitation we could go out a different night (Saturday or Tuesday, rearranging things so as not to have a big lunch that afternoon).
Tuesday lunch: We will probably aim for Villa Borghese, so thinking a picnic would be perfect.
Tuesday dinner: Somewhere near our apartment from the Friday dinner list. It is our son's birthday on Tuesday, and he loves fish, so a place with good seafood (cooked, not raw) would be nice, but not necessary. I'm assuming a place that specializes in fish would be quite tough for vegetarians, so this may not be realistic.
Thanks in advance for any advice!
Thanks everybody for the very helpful suggestions, as well as for writing so many useful posts now living in the archives. Here is what we are leaning towards now, after some thought. We are currently only planning on reserving Friday dinner, Saturday (date night) dinner, and Sunday lunch in advance, figuring that we'll be fine for the rest of our time without a specific plan (although with Maureen's PDF, two Rome apps, and my own list culled from the archives). Decided to give Roscioli a pass this trip, given reports of cramped conditions.
Friday dinner: Ditirambo, Vino e Camino, or Armando.
Saturday dinner (date night): Probably Pipero Al Rex, but possibly Glass. Pipero Al Rex responded very quickly to my email inquiry. Still waiting to hear from Glass and a few other options.
Sunday lunch: Perilli? I keep going back and forth on this one. Among the options for Sunday lunch either in Testaccio or the historic center, is this the best choice for a toddler? He generally does very well in restaurants here at home, but it can be hard to judge when traveling. Other possibilities would be La Campana (where a previous Boston hound traveling to Rome - trublue - reported a great meal with a toddler almost exactly the same age as ours, about a year ago), Piperno, Flavio, Da Felice, something else? The outside seats at Flavio or Piperno look appealing and toddler-friendly.
Thanks again, you all have been very helpful!
Of your Friday choices, I vote Vino e Camino, and Saturday Pipero.
Sunday, Perilli is roomier than Campana. Piperno is more formal than either. Felice is rather cramped. Flavio (which I don't actually like, but admit I'm a minority) has a garden off the street, so it might be a good bet, not that I want to encourage small children to move freely around during other people's lunch.
I've taken my toddler numerous times to Perilli with no problems and have written about our experience there some where on this board. They have high chairs and my son adores the carbonara! They also have an extremely welcoming staff. I will say that they have table clothes and the atmosphere is quiet though so probably not the place for a very active toddler.
I'm really strict with my toddler- he's not allowed to walk around, make noise etc.( I usually try to bring some entertainment, like tiny coloring books and things if I expect the lunch to be long) but if I foresee a problem, I usually go with outside seating.
I haven't been to any of those other places so I can't comment on them.
In terms of toddler friendliness, there are always tons of kids at Perilli at lunch. If anything, it's the most relaxed of the bunch. Piperno has a great outdoor space, but is a much fancier situation, and more expensive. Flavio is great, and would be fine with a toddler too. But really, Perilli is family friendly.
Here are a few comments, ideas and suggestions:
Friday Dinner: Dittirambo is a great choice for vegetarian options. But it can be a little hit or miss. I've recently send others there who would very very happy with both veg and gluten free options. But then the other night there was a huge tour group there and it threw things out of whack for the kitchen.
Settimio al Pellegrino is a hard choice for a vegetarian I think. In the Ghetto I like Gigetto, which is extremely kid friendly. Especially if you sit in the room way in the back, where there are always a few toddlers running around.
But another option is Vino e Camino, which has lots of veg options.
Saturday: I find Roscioli uncomfortable under the best of circumstances, so would not recommend it with toddler in tow. If you are doing the Colosseum, then I'd suggest Taverna dei Fori Imperiali for lunch. Don't miss their camponata, which I don't think is even on the menu, but is delicious. Actually, it's part of their antipasto, which is all veg, changes seasonally and is very good.
Sunday Lunch: Really, Perilli isn't that far away at all. It's worth the effort. You can easily stroll over there with your wife and stroller, and your folks could just meet you with a cab. It wouldn't be that much. Great veg antpasti, and they always have many non-meat pastas, including caccio pepe, which is sublime.
Sunday Dinner: First of all Forno de Campo de' Fiori is closed on Sunday. Also, you will probably be full after a big lunch. But going out for pizza is a good idea. Alle Carrette in Monti is great. Right near you is Bafetto 2. There might be a long line.
Monday Lunch: you're right, Pizzarium is stand up only, so doesn't seem the right choice. You could swing by Roscioli Bakery on your way home, get some of their delicious take out food, and eat at home? (not Roscioli Restaurant).
Monday Dinner: Difficult mostly because it's Monday. I'd try to call Settembrini and see if they will do something special for you. Another option is Antico Arco.
Tuesday Dinner: La Gensola is one of the best fish restaurants in Rome, and near to your place. They won't have a ton of vegetarian options though.
Hope this helps!
Thanks so much for the advice so far. Does anyone specifically have advice for a nice restaurant that could cater to vegetarians? I've looked at menus, read the boards, and looked at Katie and Elizabeth's apps, but can't really find much useful guidance for this specific question. To me, Pipero al Rex, Glass Hostaria, Antico Arco, Il Convivio, and Agata e Romeo look great, seem about in the right price range, etc. Would I get a response if I emailed to ask if they could make a vegetarian tasting menu? Is that just unheard of in Rome, and should we lower our sights (maybe go to Roscioli)? Advice?
Roscioli is a salumeria, or rather the restaurant derives from a salumeria. What makes that more desirable for vegetarians? I believe it is worth asking the restaurants about veg options. Whether you would get a response to email is another, unrelated question. It may be better to telephone. In any case, restaurants are becoming increasingly used to special needs. Vegans might have problems, but I can't imagine a vegetarian not getting enough to eat. I once inadvertently took a vegetarian to Checchino, meat place par excellence, and he did absolutely fine with meatless pasta, vegetables, and cheeses.
You may not make it to Testaccio, but not because it is far "out." It is within the walls and easily reached by public transport, foot, and taxi from the center.
I would plan either Nerone or a picnic after the Colosseum. L'Asino d'Oro is nearby for fit adults, but I wouldn't want to drag a small child there after a morning of ruins. Also, I think L'Asino's bargain menu is not available on Saturdays. There's a park, Colle Oppio, across from the Colosseum, with fountain and coffee bar. Nerone has a nice veg buffet.
Thank you for the suggestion of Nerone, this looks perfect for a lunch after the ruins (or of course a picnic is always an option).
Thanks also for the comments re: vegetarians. As you say, I'm sure we'll be fine in most cases. Re: Roscioli - I guess I was going on lisaonthecape's suggestion to save it for our date night (as opposed to taking the toddler), and there are a decent number of veg-friendly options on the menu. But the real question I was trying to ask is whether there will be fine dining places that will do a 6+ course tasting menu for a vegetarian. If we go somewhere where I want to order a many-course tasting, the restaurant needs to be able to produce something similar for my wife. It may be unlikely, in which case we'd be fine with slightly less elaborate option.
The menu is not necessarily made up of the best-known dishes, and the reason they want everyone to order it is largely for service. If everyone is having the menu, nobody is sitting with an empty place while the others have all those little courses. Substitutions are almost always possible within a menu, and it's certainly worth asking if it's possible to replace the meat and fish with something else.
Maureen, how common are tasting menus in roman restaurants? My sense is that there are only a handful of restaurants - mostly more Euro oriented or MIchelin stars or aspirants - that offer them, but perhaps things are changing. It seems as though a vegetarian tasting menu would likely exist only in an even more rarified universe.
re: jen kalb
Vegetarian menus don't exist outside vegetarian restaurants, but that doesn't mean a restaurant is unable to create one on request. Often they will ask if you'd like them to create a tasting menu on the spot and they'll ask you what you don't eat. I'm suggesting calling ahead. Yes, of course tasting menus are high-end, but the OP is talking about a special occasion.
its really not very far to testaccio from Campo di Fiore we've walked it several times, including along the river - however I think you may still be able to take a tram over there which your son would absolutely love. Do get some transit info/bus maps or you may find yourself carrying him more than you want to.
Armando is definitely kid friendly and has a big menu - my veg daughter liked it find (saffron flavored pasta and veg soup not that good, however) Sora Margherita might be a good choice for your family - inexpensive and some good veg dishes (ravioli and cacio e pepe, artichokes etc.) but they are only open for lunch. dont expect true pizza at the places in the Campo di Fiore - its really more like focaccia - you can easily take it back to your apt to sit down and eat it with some other good stuff.. Otherwise you will be standing in the street, not good with a 2 yr old.
Maybe your son would like the fried cod at the Filette di Baccala place, quite near you - they have vegetable sides too. Maybe another takeout dinner opportunity that would work for you?
I'm just back from 3 weeks in Italy, including 7 days in Rome. Can't adequately address all of your questions, but I can offer some suggestions:
First, an apartment rather than a hotel is a great choice. We spent 2 weeks in Rome many years ago with our boys, who were then 8 and 11--much older than your toddler--but we found that having our main meal out at lunch then dinner back at the apartment generally worked really well.
Friday dinner: the only place I've tried on your list is Armando al Pantheon, but we found it welcoming to kids, and the food was great. They have a large menu, so vegetarian choices should be easy, too.
Saturday lunch: my husband and I just had lunch at Roscioli (no kids on this trip). The burrata is amazingly good, and the carbonara is delicious, although the pasta is cooked "aggressively al dente," as I once heard it described on this board--a touch too al dente for my taste. The space might be difficult for a toddler. It's a long, narrow room with very closely-spaced tables. You can't take a short walk with a child unless you go outside. Perhaps you might try this for your date night?
Sunday dinner: none of the highly-recommended pizza places are close to you. If you wanted to go out for something light, and very close, Cul de Sac would be a good choice. There is outdoor seating, and it would be easy to take your toddler out for a short walk for a break, if needed.
Monday dinner: definitely reschedule your "date night" to some day other than Monday. Choices are quite limited on Mondays.
Tuesday lunch: if the weather cooperates, a picnic is perfect. There is also a nearby zoo, which I would recommend. My kids loved it, even though they were much older at the time.
Hope this is helpful.