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If not Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, where?

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  • pec23 Aug 24, 2012 09:54 PM

It seems that success has gone to the head of La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, and that it no longer lives up to the glowing reviews of just a few years ago. I am saddened, because the restaurant seemed so promising. But that now leaves a hole on my gastronomic schedule for September 14th. We will be at Trattoria Monti on the 13th and Roscioli on 15th, but I am hoping for someplace "Roman" on the 14th. Thanks for your suggestions.

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  1. If it doesn't have to be monti, than Flavio is a good choice. Other testaccio trattorie have their fans, too. If it has to be monti, then l'asino d'oro, but it isnot roman, more umbria.

    1. I ate there with my family in mid-July and it was fabulous. I recommend trying it. Make sure you make a reservation as we had to wait 2 days. I want to further add that we were in Italy for 3 weeks and got our best meal here.

      1. Thanks for the comments. It looks liked either L'Asino D'Oro or Da Danilo. I know that we are not quite comparing apples and oranges, but I would appreciate opinions and recommendations.
        'Thanks again.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pec23

          here's a vote against Danilo, two if you count my husband. would be an ok trat at half the price, but it's too much for what it is.

        2. I live in the neighborhood and eat at Taverna regularly. It is as delicious and friendly as always. We brought visiting foodie friends there 2 weeks ago and they raved and raved it was the best meal they had had after 2 weeks in France and a week in Italy.

          I, like vinoroma, am also a big fan of L'Asino D'oro.

          www.gillianslists.com

          1. Hi pec, i just spent the past 3 days in Rome. L'asino d'oro as i understand is not classic roman cooking but we had their set lunch there and it was absolutely wonderful (glass of decent white, bottle of water, fantastic potato soup, well-cooked cheese ravioli with some fish salsa sauce and a well grilled fillet of mackeral (i think) with fagioli. If yours is a slot for lunch then definitely here.

            If you want something very local for dinner - please try le mani in pasta (trastevere area). We went there twice for dinner out of our 3 nights in Rome - the 2nd timet was right after leaving halfway through a lousy dinner at Ristorante Eleonara. The atmosphere is great - small , elbows touching other tables , open kitchen with regulars going in to give their customary greeting to the chef (just remember to ask not to sit in the basement and have very low expectations of service - until the waiters warm up to you that is). All those aside, the food here is stellar - perfectly balanced sea bass carpaccio with black truffles, served with toast and butter, rigatoni amatriciana, whatever is on the blackboard for that day - we wanted to eat everything that was coming out from the kitchen.

            1. Taverna dei Fori Imperiali remains one of my favorites. I realize that I like it not only for the food (which I think has gotten even better over the last two years) but also for the fact that the staff are friendly (and friends) and it's in my neighborhood.

              But when I suggest to clients and friends that they go there, every single one of them not only loves it, but goes back another time during their trip if possible. So it's not just me.

              www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com

              1. Well, I am just back from Italy, and will report in more detail later, but I did want to close the loop on this posting.

                Unfortunately, I talked myself out of Taverna dei Fora, which sounds like it would have been delightful. In its place, I chose to dine at da Danilo, which turned out to be the one real mistake of my trip.

                I am attaching below what I wrote on TripAdvisor. Sorry for the duplication, but I am not sure what the overlap is between the users:

                "What should we expect in a restaurant? Is good food -- in fact, a simple good dish -- sufficient to overlook inhospitality? That is a question that confronts all of us who dine and who love gourmet cuisine. Should we overlook hostile service in pursuit of high cuisine?

                In search of preeminent pasta carbonara, I had made a reservation about two weeks ago at Trattoria da Danillo. There seemed to be a consensus that the pasta was exceptional, but opinion varied on the service. I reasoned that some of the complaints came from rude or inflexible customers, and figured, in any event, I could gently acquire the service I desired.

                We arrived at the restaurant at 8:00 -- the hour of our reservation -- and received a friendly greeting at the door by one of the owners, who confirmed the reservation. The upstairs dining room was half-filled, and we saw a lovely table for two mid-way back. The hostess promptly directed that we be seated in the basement/dugeon? I asked if we could sit upstairs, where it seemed to be more lively. No, I was told, the restaurant was filled. But I made my reservation two weeks ago and there were plenty of empty tables, couldn't we have one of those? No. They were taken. You must go downstairs.

                So downstairs we went, where one other American couple occupied the lonely space. Again, I asked the waiter and the hostess, was it not possible to sit upstairs? No, the owner, insisted it was not.

                That put me in a dilemma. To paraphrase the Clash, do I stay or do I go? Truthfully, after a solid day of sight-seeing and quite a few miles of walking, I was too tired to get up and go somewhere else. The two young waiters downstairs were apologetic and embarassed, and assured us that the would take good care of us, which they did. Still, I could not quite get my arms around the way that we had been treated.

                Soon, we were joined by three other American couples. Americans are perfectly nice, and I carry my passport with pride. That being said, I had not come to Italy to be horded into an American ghetto, where are money but not our persons were acceptable. The owners were happy to confine their American tourists to the basement, I suppose to make sure that we didn't interfere with their Roman guests' evenings.

                Now, to the food, the pasta carbonara is top notch. The rest of the meal, particularly the lamb, less so. But I must admit to my bias. I simply could not overcome having been treated so shabbily.

                I think that that is where we come in as guests. Part of the dining experience is and should be 'hospitality.' If da Danilo is unable to show its guests -- particularly its foreign guests -- hospitality, then it simply does not deserve our commerce. There are too many restaurants in this world where the proprietors will not stop to make us feel special. As da Danilo is not one, you should avoid it. "

                Long story short, Trattoria Monti was exquisite (I had lamb chops with a white wine and mustard sauce) was spectacular. L'Assina d'ora was funky and delicious. In particular, the linguini with a white pigeon sauce was delightful. Sadly, da Danilo was just not pleasant, pasta carbonara notwithstanding.

                I thank everyone for their time and efforts in helping make this a delightful vacation.

                16 Replies
                1. re: pec23

                  thanks for taking the time to report. I personally hate places that do this - I understand it - places in the centro with high recoomendations on TA and other guides can be overwhelmed and like bb notes they may be trying to leverage english-proficient waiters- but can feel unpleasant . Glad your other choices worked out. who knows whether Taverna Dei fori Imperiali would be better, there have been numerous reports of problems along with some glowing reports. At least you had some excellent meals to remember, just try to focus on that!.

                  1. re: pec23

                    @pec23

                    I sometimes feel fairly certain I've been seated among other Americans in a restaurant in Italy because the restaurant has only one English speaking server, and they have had problems in the past with non-Italian speakers not understanding the menu. (Even though I speak Italian, I speak it with an American accent, so they know when I make my reservation.) Being seated among English-speakers for that reason doesn't make me angry. But once, in Napoli, I was certain I'd been consigned to a non-client-low-status ghetto, away from the glamorous front room. Like you, feeling shabbily treated ruined my meal. (I live in Italy, so I can hardly complain when non-Italians sit down next to me. In fact, I feel sorry for tourists when I sit down next to them, because I know they came to Italy to be around Italians!)

                    Recently, in Portugal, I had to ask the hotel to make a reservation for me because I don't speak Portuguese, and the hotel clerk told me the restaurant asked to know my nationality! I feared the worst, but it turned out that they had just printed new menus, but had not yet translated any, and they wanted to know if they needed to call in an employee to work who spoke whatever we spoke. They gave us an excellent table when we arrived and did decipher the menu items we didn't recognize. Actually, in Portugal, the cities are towers of Babel. I think I heard every language on the planet in restaurants there. In an Italian restaurant in Porto, I overheard my waiter speaking German and French, in addition to speaking English to me, and the dishes on the menu were in Italian and Portuguese.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      @ pec

                      You made a classic mistake that many Americans make when going into a restaurant in Italy (only one of twelve classic mistakes that Americans make; I'll get to the others in another post some time).

                      In Italy, no specific tables are reserved for two (even if there are reservation cards on the table), and most times four, people. Larger tables are. First come, first served. At least that has been the situation in every single case (more than 1500 times) that we've stepped into a restaurant in Italy. Whether you were known to the proprietor or not, if you came in at 8:15 and wanted a particular table for two, you got it. Coincidentally, it has happened twice in the last two weeks in restaurants where we were not known.

                      The restaurants that we've gone to, even when we were well known and the proprietors knew we were coming, have not saved "our favorite tables" for us, if someone else came in before us and took the table. This is as it should be; restaurant eating in Italy is not restaurant eating in New York.

                      The fact that Danillo was willing to do this to a customer, would have said that they really don't care about me and therefore, I really do not want to eat here because it will be an unpleasant evening.

                      One other comment: the mistake you made was not going to the owner. The hostess/waiter bows to the owner, all the time. I've seen this over and over.

                      1. re: allende

                        Allende, is it possible that patrons had reserved tables specifying the upstairs space? we are constantly being advised to request reservations in particular areas in certain restaurants, for example Fiaschetteria Toscana in Venice, Antico Arco in Rome....

                        If tourists can do this, I imagine locals can too....

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Is it possible. Of course it is. I was speaking in general.

                          However, our experience, over a long period of time, in every restaurant in that we've ever been to in Italy, is what I described above.

                          Just as an aside, I would bet that very few, if any, Italians made a reservation in that restaurant more than a day before. Most made it the same day. Many don't make it before and just walk in. That's how it always is... and then they're surprised when they're turned away when the restaurant is full.

                          That's why I chuckle when I see people on this site talk about making reservations six months in advance for a trattoria in Florence, Rome or Venice. You want to show restaurateurs that you don't know anything about Italian restaurants... make a reservation six months in advance. My goodness, make a reservation a week or two in advance and if you can't go to that restaurant, go to another.

                        2. re: allende

                          @allende,

                          The one time I was seated in the losers' quarter in Napoli, it was the owner of Europeo e Mattozi himself who did it, and when we showed our displeasure with our seating, he made a big deal out of showing us the reservation card placed on the table with our name on it.

                          However, not long after, the hostess ushered a group of 4 Italians into our shabby area, and they were not happy. They made a fuss to the waiter, who couldn't help them. The owner was summoned. He soothed the group with free bubbly while he cobbled together a table for them in the lively front room.

                          Maybe if we had stood our ground with the owner the first time, we might have won. But what we really should have done was walk out, because the treatment remained rude right up to the final slam of the door at our backs when leaving.

                          I am fairly convinced that Europeo e Mattozi really is overjoyed every time a non-Neopolitan bad-mouths them on the internet. They are not happy they are mentioned in every food and tourist guidebook, especially recommended for pizza. They take the attitude it is business they do better without.

                          1. re: barberinibee

                            You should have stood your ground or walked out or... reminded the owner that he would probably be speaking Russian or German if not for your countrymen shedding a lot of blood so that Napoli could remain Italian.

                            There is no reason to go or to stay in a restaurant like that. None whatsoever.

                            1. re: allende

                              Allende, I get so tired of Chowhound mods deleting my posts -- although I do take some satisfaction in knowing I am helping preserve their jobs -- I simply cannot take the time to write you an accurate history of WW2 and Neapolitan resistance to Nazism -- plus Neapolitan resistance to being Italian! -- and the highly damaging interference of the US in Italy after WW2 (to this day) only to watch in disappear in a trice.

                              I never would have said any of those very disputable things to a Neapolitan, even if I liked arguing before dinner, which I don't. I should have walked out.

                              1. re: barberinibee

                                @barberinibee I was very glad you made that post about Matozzi, because it had been so highly recommended by people who know....and maybe that was the kiss of death. There are so many good places in Napoli with a kind welcome and fantastic food that I was happy to drop it off my list. they are hardly the only place with pizza, pasta with potatoes, etc etc.

                                ps the mods are volunteers.

                                1. re: barberinibee

                                  @ barberinibee

                                  I know a great deal about the history of Italy and the Campania and Napoli in World War ll and after. There was resistance but there was a lot of collaboration, beginning with the Racial Laws of 1938. A number of my friends, who are no longer alive, were arrested after 1938, thrown out of their positions as teachers and no longer were able to go to university. This is a fact and a very sad fact. Most Italians were good, but many were not.

                                  The "highly damaging" interference of the US in Italy after World War ll that you speak about is something new to me. But then again, I've only been coming to Italy for the last 38 years. I swear that most of my Italian friends, both living and dead, just loved the Americans and what they did for the Italians, by shedding their blood. If it weren't for the blood of Americans, Brits, New Zelanders, free Poles and Australians, and Roosevelt and Churchill and then Truman, Italy would be a far different place today. Perhaps wiener schnitzel rather than pizza.

                                  Damaging interference? You must be kidding. No, I guess you're not.

                                  Let's get back to food.

                                  1. re: allende

                                    @allende,

                                    I wouldn't want to eat at an Italian restaurant that treated today's Americans better than they treated today's Germans. And you are correct that I wasn't kidding. I don't think much of vox pop. I go with historians.

                                    But I'm sure you read, too, and it could all make for an interesting, civie discussion over along lunch at Lorenzo's, far from the mod-ding crowd.

                        3. re: pec23

                          I wouldn't take it personally. I think it's just not a very good restaurant, or at least not worth the price. My Italian husband and I were stuck downstairs too, but didn't take it as an ethnic slur. But when the bill came, we thought: for this price we could have eaten at Checchino and eaten much better.

                          1. re: mbfant

                            Thanks for the thought. I did not take it personally, but I wanted to share my experience. For me, at least, part of the dining experience is the "hospitality." What made Union Square Cafe so special was not just the food, but that Danny Meyer made you feel prized and welcomed. My wife and I still joke about the "bon soir" chorus we received when we were seated at Taillevent in Paris. Though the demand for tables at these two restaurants clearly exceeded the supply, the people at the front of the house made each diner feel special and irreplaceable. Does that mean that hospitality can overcome mediocre cooking? Not in the slightest. But even the best food becomes tougher to swallow in the wrong atmosphere.

                            It is important for us, the community of diners, to be vocal about unpleasant dining experiences. First, we should warn others so that they do not suffer the same disappointment. Second, we should hope that an interested restauranteur will take note and change its ways. Finally, however, we should help push restaurants to improve their food and service, by patronizing those restaurants with wonderful food and service, and not patronizing restaurants that fail either gastronomically or hospitality-wise. To that end, someone searching "da Danilo" on Chowhound will likely see this discussion and think twice.

                            1. re: pec23

                              Actually, I am one who thinks hospitality can overcome -- if not mediocre cooking -- at least take everyday good cooking into a different dimension of living.

                              Many, many people return to Italy many, many times because of how warmly they were treated by their Italian hosts. In fact, I think Danny Meyer learned a thing or two about making his customers feel valued from the time he lived in Italy. So I hope you will return for happier experiences.

                              1. re: barberinibee

                                not every restaurant wants to or is set up to accept a crowd of strangers, even if they are in the hospitality industry. Many are essentially rather humble local institutions primarily focussed on serving their regulars, others, like those the OP cites, are set up to accomodate and give welcome to tourists and other occasional or special event type guests and their staffs are formally trained to make this happen. It will just depend on the psychology and possibly language skills of the actual host and his staff how welcoming they will be in actuality as opposed to in theory. We see it in chinatown, we see it (occasionally) in italy, Ive felt it even in shops I wanted to shop in on the UES in NY where I am apparently assessed as unlikely to have the $ to afford the merchandise. Being overtly treated as an outsider happens

                                but fortunately in Italy, there is overall a very civilized restaurant culture which is normally welcoming to guests, so that i view the OPs experience as an anomaly in the larger scheme of things..

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  I had the opposite experience at Matozzi in Naples. I made a reservation on the phone and was seated in the main room. Everyone was very friendly and nice and it was a fairly busy night.