Italy Report - Rome, Florence, Piemonte, Venice back to Rome. (LONG) PART I
Just returned from my honeymoon to Italy, and wanted to write this report as thanks for all the great info provided on these threads. Special shout out to Katie Parma and Elizabeth Minchilli's food aps which were quite useful during out travels.
GENERAL THOUGHTS - Well I am afraid Italy has ruined Italian food in Canada for me, just like my Tokyo trip did for Japanese food. There were some flavours there I know I will never taste again until I return to Italy. Hey, all the more reason to do another trip. We ate extremely well almost every day, with some fantastic meals that have made my top ten of all time. There were some disappointments, but these were relative to the quality of the meals we had at other places.
ALITALIA - This isn't a travel site so I don't want to go to deep into this, but Alitalia has to be the worst airline I have ever flown in my life, and I have been to the chaos that is Bangladesh. They have supposedly won awards for their food, but what I had was borderline inedible. Didn't even touch the food on the way back. Didn't let that stop our enjoyment of Italy though.
ROME - We started out the trip in Rome and our very first meal was a snack at Forno Boccione in the Jewish Ghetto as it was a Sunday. Unfortunately they were already out of their ricotta cakes, but their pizza was as delicious as advertised, dense and laden with nuts and fruits.
This was followed by lunch at Perillis. I have to say, this was one of the disappointing meals. In terms of atmosphere it had it all, it was a sunday dinner with very few tourists and a lot of italian families tucking into huge bowls of carbonara and amatriciana. Our antipasti were fine, and our first taste (of many!) of buffala mozzarela was divine, there is simply no comparison between a solid, fresh Italian buffala versus a similar north American product. The grass and environment of the Italian fields simply provides a cheese that is universes ahead of what we can do locally.
Back to Perillis - I had the carbonara and the wife had the Amatriciana. The amatriciana was fine, a nicely al dente pasta with a pretty robust sauce. My carbonara was however, close to inedible. There is al dente, and then there is undercooked, and this pasta was definitely undercooked, with a sauce that was all cheese and salt, and not in a good way. We still had fun but considering the high praise this restaurant had gotten we were definitely underwhelmed.
We had dinner resos at Dei Fiori Imperiale, but considering we had an overnight flight and were jet lagged, we slept right through it! Oh well.
Next day off to the Vatican and that means a trip to Pizzarium. The crust is as advertised, complex and delicious as a good bread should be, the toppings ranged the gamut from awesome to perplexing with a highlight being their Mortadella and Hummus. It wasn't a revelatory experience, but certainly worthwhile. I would go back just to see what they had concocted that day. Just know that they don't hit it out of the park with every slice.
That night we ate at Taverna Trilussa, which was a happy mistake. The meal was solid enough, with awesome artichokes and more buffala mozzarella, followed by an amatriciana that the wife declared better than perilli's and a ravioli in a cheese sauce that was a bit too rich for me. A friend in Canada swore up and down that Trattoria Trilussa was her favourite restaurant in Italy and in my quick planning I booked us into TAVERNA Trilussa. Turns out that Trattoria Trillussa was renamed about two or three years ago. I would run into the Taverna vs Trattoria issue in Monti as well.
The next day were were off to Florence, but not before lunch at Ditirambo, which was awesome! These guys are pasta specialists through and through. Great house wine, fantastic zuccini lasagna, super flavourful pesto on their "bread" pasta, a delicious crab and artichoke cream taglioloni and a solid cacio and pepe spaghetti. This lunch would all but assure that we would sleep on the train to Florence!
FLORENCE - not sure why people are saying its become too touristy or its tough to find good food. Probably the best overall food experience we had in Italy was in Florence. Going in November was a godsend. Weather was overall fine and no hordes of tourists anywhere, Uffizi Gallery, Duomo? Walked right in. Anyways on to the food. Cippola Rossa was one of the highlights of our trip - burrata overwhelmed by an avalanche of black truffles, incredible ricotta mousse on a crispy parmesan basket, delicious ricotta/spinach ravioli and I made sure to request Elizabeths spicy wine pasta (it wasnt on the menu), which was a complex, tasty treat.
Should have listened to Elizabeth's advice on Cibreo. Interesting meal, great selection of antipasti, incredible fish soup, but not really worth the money for us. Especially when it came down to the secondis, which were a veal stew and an eggplant parmigianna. Neither was anything special. Again this is relative to the best meals we had in Italy. In no way was it a terrible meal, but when I consider the money it cost relative to other places, it would not deserve a revisit in my book.
Trattoria Mario -So much fun! Dont expect it to be a locals only type of place, its absolutely almost 100% tourist driven but the atmosphere is really fun. We sat beside a family from Washington and had a great time as we devoured comfort fare like rigatonni al pomodoro, a great meat ravioli and of course a huge bistecca Toscana swimming in pools of olive oil. An awesome, delicious time.
Much to the horror of my wife, I went across the street to the market after this to crush a boiled beef sandwich at Nebrone. Its all about that sauce!!! And looking at these guys lovingly cutting into a side of beef reminded me of the care and devotion that places like Schwartz's in Montreal and Franklin's in Austin show to Smoked Meat and Brisket.
Had lunch at the Verrazano estates after a tour. To my surprise it was so very good! Delicate Pumpkin and Sausage pasta, delicious ribs and sausage, tasty garlic bruschetta all watered down with those awesome wines. We also paired their (48 euro!) balsamic with some great cheese. All in all a very fun meal.
Vini y Vecci Sapore - Possibly one the top ten meals I have had in my life. A stunning caprese salad with buffala that was so impossibly creamy it seemed more like a burrata, zucchini flower pasta that was lick the plate good and then the best secondi I had all trip, a moist breast of pheasant wrapped in pancetta. It was so good I am jealous of my past self for enjoying it! Believe the hype on this one. Reservations a must.
Il Due G - Old school, authentic feeling trattoria with very few tourists. Finally got to try papa y pomodoro alongside a hearty, magnificent ribolita. This was followed by a great penne with rabbit while to my surprise the wife destroyed an entire tuscan steak!
Wine bar locale - what an awesome experience! We were the only two tourists there surrounded by Firenze youth drinking some great wines and devouring the best paninis I experienced all trip. I followed the lead of this sage woman and ordered a buffala mozzarela, prosciutto and basil panini with black truffle tapenade, all on a freshly baked focaccia (they occasionally would have to run across the street to get some more). We are in our late 20's early 30's, and I will say that if you are a bit older this might not be the place for you, on this particular night it felt very much like an in the know type of awesome bar filled with youth, a lot of jostling and crazyness trying to get your order in. Everyone was incredibly nice though.
Tre Soldi - Another great find thanks to the eat florence app. Only non-firenze in the place, more burrata with black truffle, pasta pomodoro for the lady and for me gnocceleti with porcini and chestnuts (incredible) and then their famous tagliatta with lardo (transcendently delicious!).
Part II will have piemonte, Venice and then the end of Rome.
Thanks so much for checking back in. These reports are so helpful!
Sorry to hear about your experience at Perilli, though. Too bad. I can't imagine what went wrong. I go there all the time and it's always great.
But very happy to hear all the rest of the recommendations from Eat Rome and Eat Florence steered you good. I love Cipolla Rossa too, especially that ricotta in the cheese basket.
And very happy you made the effort to go to Tre Soldi. Well worth it, right?
thank you so much for your detailed report! we're excited about Pizzarium and Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori. We're sad to hear the negative report of Perilli though and are now wondering if we should still visit. thanks again and looking forward to Part II
" not sure why people are saying [Florence has] become too touristy... Cippola Rossa was one of the highlights of our trip - burrata overwhelmed by an avalanche of black truffles, incredible ricotta mousse on a crispy parmesan basket ... Vini y Vecci Sapore - Possibly one the top ten meals I have had in my life. A stunning caprese salad with buffala ... "
These are not dishes I would order in Tuscany -- which isn't to say they can't be delicious in Tuscany, just that they aren't classics of Tuscany, and I'd rather track down the unique local dishes. My last experience of eating Florence (maybe 2 years ago now) was that restaurant food seemed "internationalized" to me. It met the standard for "good" restaurants throughout the well-heeled global capital cities, and was a bit showy, and I could have been in NYC or Montreal or Dubai eating the same "pan-Italia" dishes from well-trained chefs. So that is probably why people say Florence dining has become very tourist-oriented.
I am very glad you posted back because it inspired me to e-mail someone heading to Firenze for the first time who will be too busy for long lunches and doesn't eat pork -- and it had slipped my mind until this moment to tell him to head for Nerbone.
Looking forward to the rest.
Nothing touristy about Vecchia Bettola and a few others. No internationalized food. Loriano wouldn't understand either the food or the word. Has been that way for the 35 years we've been going. The last, or among the last, of the unspoiled Florentine trattorie.
Why send him to Nerbone?
re: jen kalb
Nothing to tell. As I said, one of the last unspoiled great Florentine trattoire. One would have thought that the cult like status of Nerbone on this site would have gotten people to go to Vecchia Bettola, but that is not the case. Other than me, in the last several years on this site, only a few others have mentioned it.
I haven't been to Vecchia Bettola in a very long time, but I will always remember it fondly for their graciousness on my first Italy trip with kids (my then-20-month toddler). We still make their penne with vodka/tomato/cream sauce, which I think they've been serving long before it became commonplace. Loved the long communal tables and the warmth and friendliness. Thanks for the reminder; I will make it a point to go back on my next trip.
Isn't panino bollito con salsa verde at Nerbone a sandwich made with beef?
Are you saying it is cooked in pork fat? (I can still e-mail him if it is!) He can live with knowing that the pot his beef was cooked in has been used to cook a pig or many pig parts. But he won't want to bite into a beef sandwich flecked with pork fat.
He really won't have time to get across the river and back. He needs to be mainly around the train station area, on a tight schedule. I'm just trying to help him out and he is making no pretenses of being in Florence as a food experience, much to his regret. But he will get hungry around lunchtime. If there are other choices where he can eat pretty much on the run that aren't lousy pizza slices, I can still pass them along.
In case my post was confusing, my remarks about "internationalized" had nothing to do with Vecchia Bettola.
Maybe Osteria della Suburra is what you are looking for. They are inexpensive and make their own pasta. They have old-fashioned Roman dishes. They are near your hotel. I've yet to eat there, but another Chowhounder posted this at the end of September:
"I was lucky to find a nice Osteria nearby, Osteria della suburra di Silvio (via urbana, 67); again a nice lunch meal, no frills food, Melon and Proscuito and a nice plate of tagliolini alla Gracia, simple, well made and all washed down with a pitcher of "Frizzante" wine!!
If you are willing to sit at 2 tables instead of one, I think the restaurant could accommodate you. Your hotel could call and ask. Here is a picture of the restaurant. I think there are 2 tables that seat 10 each in addition to a few smaller tables.
and here is the menu
Since this a low-budget restaurant, an Italian food blogger wrote this:
"If you stay with a the classic pasta alla gricia, or a matriciana --- or even better, the excellent pappardelle (strictly homemade) with broccoli and bacon, and then have a chicken (alla romana) or offal of lamb, or a lamb cacciatore, perhaps with two artichokes next , you will have nothing to complain about."
He gave the cost of his meal to be 25 euros.
No, but you might ask one of the Rome residents like vinoroma or Elizabeth Minchilli. Elizabeth actually lives near your hotel I believe and vinoroma has a wine tasting business near your hotel. It would be worth it to let them know your higher budget.
That inexpensive place I mentioned is a very easy walk from Hotel Grand Palatino. But somebody has to find out if they can seat your entire group.