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May 11, 2012 10:58 PM

Rome -- in search of informal, rustic, carefully prepared, beautifully fresh cooking that doesn't break the bank

Greetings Hounds,

I see a ton of posts about restaurants in Rome but none that quite answers my particular question (at least not one I could easily find). I will be heading there for four days and nights in late June with two very adventurous kid eaters (11 and 13). We are looking for places that:

1) serve home style cooking and nothing too precious, dainty or haute -- simple food prepared well;

2) use impeccably fresh, seasonal ingredients (like our favorite haunts in San Francisco -- NOPA and Cotogna, for example);

3) do not break the bank! This will be part of a long trip, and we need to pace ourselves. I hope we'll be able to dine for under 40 Euros per person

Are Perilli, Urbana 47 and Settimio al Pellegrino places we should consider? And what others for lunch and dinner?

Thanks all,

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  1. The easy answers include Armando al Pantheon (lunch/dinner) and perhaps Colline Emiliane if you dress ok. Both places are on the tourist track, both have a local following, not unlike Cotogna. Reservations are always a good idea. An alternative is to explore your neighborhood, determine what's good there and act on your instincts. Return visitors are usually rewarded.

    3 Replies
    1. re: steve h.

      I ate at Armando al Pantheon a few days ago. It was wonderful. Fantastic service and beautiful food. Tourists do wander in, but there are also lots of locals there for business lunch and definitely a few regulars that popped in. I noticed that they always kept a few tables "reserved" for the regulars they knew were coming in and rejected some tourists as a result.

      I had tagliolini with fava beans with a beautiful white wine. The also had ox tail on the daily specials, which looked super good.

      1. re: weshoke

        The ox tail is very good. Their signature dessert is Torta Antica Roma and well worth trying.

        1. re: steve h.

          How many courses are you wanting for your 40eu/person? Wine with that?

    2. When I read your post, Settimio al Pellegrino was what popped to mind -- and i see it is on your list. However, it has a very limited daily menu, which means your family needs to be prepared for not having many choices. You need to be willing to eat what is being served. Period.

      I would also suggest Hostaria Nerone for a more extensive menu (I've seen children the same age as yours eating happily in there) and it is close to the sights of Roman antiquity.

      If your kids are adventurous eaters and like fried foods, they might enjoy eating in Rome's Jewish quarter, and you can look up on Chowhound people's varying opinions about which places are best.

      But you don't say where you are lodging, which might turn out to be quite important when it comes to choosing your dinner options. Your family may not want to trek long distances to and from your lodgings at the end of the day. If you post where you are staying, people here might be able to suggest some neighborhood places that would suit you just fine. Unlike other cities, Rome is a place where returning to the same restaurant is fun if you enjoyed your first meal there. The owners remember you and are delighted to see you return.

      By the way, if you do a google search or look up old posts on Chowhound, you can find links to Armando al Pantheon's menu online.

      Last but not least, you don't say how long your "long trip" is, but there are few things grimmer in the world of eating than facing 2 Italian restaurant meals per day, even when you are not a kid. Meals are long, multi-course affairs (and in the evening start after 8pm) -- with lots of dead time between courses and it takes forever to get the bill. In addition to scoping out sit-down places in Rome, you should get a list of alternatives to restaurant eating, including picnic, pizza, etc.

      4 Replies
      1. re: barberinibee

        Thanks for all the responses to date, and I particularly appreciate the wisdom about long meals and finding some alternatives. I assume we'll do more than a few lunches of bread, cheese, salumi, etc. and that we'll go for proper sit down dinners. Our trip is about five weeks, with the first ten days in Tunisia.

        As for our lodging in Rome, we'll be staying in an apartment near the Campo de Fiori, so recs for restaurants in that 'hood are particularly welcome, and I'm also curious to know if there's a good place for a morning coffee and pastry and an afternoon gelato.

        My kids are very adventurous eaters and can handle longish meals, I'm glad to report.

        Finally, do we need to reserve at spots like the ones mentioned thus far -- Armando al Pantheon, Settimio al Pellegrino, Hostaria Nerone, Colline Emiliane, Perilli and Urbana 47? And do Hounds concur that this is a good list given what we're after?


        1. re: Tobias

          Reservations are always a good idea (both lunch and dinner). My "goto" morning coffee place is the Caffe Farnese located on the alley that connects the Piazza Farnese and the Campo de' Fiori. I sit at a table outside, read the FT and engage in some really good people watching. La Gelateria Frigidarium, just off the Piazza Navona and a five-minute-walk from the Campo, is my "goto" gelato place.

          The Campo has quality bakeries (Il Fornaio, Forno Compo de' Fiori, etc.) that can provide mid-day snacks, sandwiches and much more at very affordable prices (counter service for the most part). Plenty of places to eat in and around the Campo. Poke around the neighborhood and see what you come up with.

          As far as getting around, the 116 bus (small, electric) is your friend.

          1. re: Tobias

            We spent two weeks in Rome with our (then) 7- and 10-year-old and found it vastly preferable to have the main meal at mid-day, so I am definitely in agreement with barberinibee. It was a necessary break after a morning of sightseeing, so that you had a chance to absorb, reflect and recharge.

            If your kids are anything like mine, they'll be ready for a break in the evening and happy to eat at the apartment. Even on my most recent trip in April (and without the kids), I still preferred my pranzo, with a little snack at an enoteca in the evening.

            1. re: Tobias

              Again, if your kids are adventurous eaters and you are staying near Campo de'Fiori, then you might want to look at recent threads for recommendations for Jewish restaurants serving fried specialties, since you're in the best neighborhood for it.

              For morning coffee and a pastry, Cafffe Camerino is close by, almost in the Largo Argentina, in via Arenula, or you might enjoy the peace and prettiness of the piazza Farnese, and your kids might enjoy contemplating the giant bathtub there, especially if you are including a trip to the baths of Caracalla in your trip, or the archeological museum in Napoli.

              I'm not sure Settimio al Pellegrino takes reservations, and if they don't, I was surprised to go there at 8:30 one evening and find the restaurant full except for 2 tables. So go early-ish if you go -- and leave room for the Monte Bianco dessert. The meal I enjoyed most there was a Thursday lunch of gnocchi.

          2. In Trastevere try the following:
            Osteria der Belli - food is amazing, the owners can be a bit moody but the food is worth it! YOu must reserve esp if it's a weekend
            Da Augusto - Simple, rustic and very inexpensive, but you must get there when they open or you'll wait for a table.
            Pizzeria Panattoni - only open at dinner. Great pizza and a true Roman experience.