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Apr 22, 2013 02:37 PM

Italy food recommendations needed!

Hi all! I have gone through numerous posts on food recommendations here over the past few months but it's been way too difficult to narrow down exactly which restaurants to go to. My travelers and I (3 adults total) are open to any type of food in any type of setting--preferably non-touristy ones so that we can experience true Italian dining. We will be going to Milan, Lake Como, Venice, Cinque Terre, Florence, Tuscany, and ending in Rome.

A mix of cheaper and more pricey places (that are worth it) would be perfect. It's asking for a lot but if any of you foodies could list your top "must-go" places it would help so much! Thank you!

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  1. Not intending to be rude, but "any type of food in any type of setting" isn't going to get you much response here. You need to spend some time searching each city/area, developing some lists of places you're considering, then sending a much more directed inquiry--through separate posts--for each area. That will get you some helpful information. Use the search feature in the upper right corner to get started.

    7 Replies
    1. re: lisaonthecape

      I expected this exact type of answer. I knew it was a long-shot. Thanks though.

      1. re: tnbl1475

        I'll get you started with a few suggestions for places I know best.

        In Florence, I'm very fond of Da Sergio. It's very well-located, just behind San Lorenzo, and has all the Florentine classics. Mario is worth a visit for lunch, too, but you want to get there just as it opens. Not fine dining and not a place to linger, but if you want an inexpensive but good lunch, it's a good choice. I also had a great lunch at Cipolla Rossa last spring. Another favorite is Sostanza--great steaks, and the butter chicken is to die for. If you're looking for an "off hours" meal, Coquinarius is good and one of the few places worthwhile near Il Duomo.

        If you're in Rome on a Thursday, the gnocchi at L'Arcangelo are wonderful. Trattoria Monti is very good, too. Armando al Pantheon is always a reliable choice (and very well-located).

        Cinque Terre is so overrun with tourists that it's tough to recommend a particular place. Barberinibee is a good source of info for Liguria, though.

        Just to get you started....

          1. re: tnbl1475

            how about asking the locals? I am Italian and I love to check reviews and guidebooks. However when I get to a new destination I always ask the owner/manager of my accommodation for restaurant suggestions. Invariably I find the best places this way based on most accurate descriptions. Few populations in the world love to talk about food as much as Italians, just ask and they will be happy to oblige.

            1. re: madonnadelpiatto

              I will definitely take advice from a true Italian. Thank you very much!

              1. re: madonnadelpiatto

                That works in small towns and it helps to speak Italian. But the concierge in Rome or Venice, and probably Florence and other major destinations, may well be receiving kickbacks from restaurants. Also, even when everything is aboveboard (and, of course, it often is), Italians tend to worry that foreigners won't like things and tend to recommend conservatively. There is always the risk that they will think the hole in the wall with grandma making strozzapreti by hand is too humble -- when it's exactly what you want -- and they will send you to the boring bourgeois place instead because they think you'll like it better, which you won't.
                In other words, it really helps to have done some preliminary research and to compare opinions. Yes, this can become obsessive very quickly, but it is a good idea at least to have the big picture of your destination's eating scene.

                1. re: mbfant

                  Maureen I am an innkeeper and I don't take kickbacks. Recommendations have to be taken for what they are. What someone finds best for themselves might be totally uninteresting for me. However, I have traveled all over the world and thanks to the locals have found places that no guidebook/review site would have ever even considered listing. It works for me but many feel safer asking their fellow countrymen. Nothing wrong with that.

      2. I’ve noticed many tourists obsessively go “through numerous posts on food recommendations” looking for "must-go" places. Then they express a desire for “preferably non-touristy ones so that we can experience true Italian dining”. If you want to go to the tourist’s recommended places, how can you expect it to be devoid of tourists? I would suggest that you stop worrying about where to eat. At restaurants nearby, you can consult their posted or their web-site menus to see if there is something you like and prices that meet your criteria. Italian food is wonderful: the finest ingredients prepared simply. I use the 2006 Slow Food “Osterie & Locande D’Italia English version as a guide. Finding these little restaurants is often half the fun. In our searches, my wife and I have found that almost all Italians understand English (except the police) and most speak it. As an example several years ago, we dined at Sali E Tabacchi in Mandello del Lario ten minutes (according to the guide) up a winding road above the east shore of Lake Como. The owners were convinced that we wouldn’t be able to find the place, so the wife came to our hotel and picked us up and brought us back after dinner. Mustering all the English he knew and with help from the other Italians gathered at his restaurant, Chef Gabriele came out with every course to explain the dish. He spends his time off hiking and exploring the mountains surrounding the Valtellina Valley at the north end of the Lake Como to source local foods. Among the dishes, we had the Valtellina Bitto cheese, local dried meats, and we were introduced to “Valtellina” wine, an excellent Nebbiolo that we have enjoyed on numerous occasions since that day. This year we found a little osteria in Alba on Google Maps when we couldn’t get a reservation at the places we wanted. Our appetizer selection alone was Carne Cruda Fassone, cheese with fig jam, spinach & egg omelet on salad, fried fish with mashed potato and anchovies on sweet red pepper. The place was packed when we arrived and people were waiting outside when we left. The owner not only plied us with brandy and liquore at the end of our fine meal, but he gave me a bottle of Dolcetto as a gift when I paid. Except Venice, wonderful food is easy to find.

        5 Replies
        1. re: BN1

          You rightly point out the paradoxical nature of these generic queries -- asking tourists for non-tourist restaurants. I assume that the poster is making a distinction between restaurants that "good" tourists go to and "touristy" places such as the awful bars opposite the Colosseum, scourge of the neighborhood. But, of course, those places are not on the radar of Chowhounds, much less on their lists of recommendations. And I confess it gets my hackles up at the intimation that someone on this board would suggest such a place. Otherwise, I have to say: if you don't want to eat with other tourists, stay out of the center of Rome (and Florence and Venice).

          But we have to make a further distinction between small centers of the far North and the jaded large major destinations, such as Rome, where it is very easy to eat very poorly and where people are not necessarily always very hospitable.

          Finally, I have always had good-to-wonderful food in Venice. All it takes is a little research -- to learn not just where to eat but what.

          1. re: BN1

            Perhaps I should have worded my post differently. It was my first post--I didn't know each word would be interpreted so literally. I was simply trying to ask what other Chowhounders regard as their favorites from each city (maybe one or two). I now understand that I will have to do my own searching to get that kind of information.

            I've been to Venice and a few other small towns before without any restaurant recommendations and some turned out well, while others were not as memorable. I am all for figuring it out as I go, but for restaurants that require a reservation it would be nice to make one if it is worth the visit. Nonetheless, thank you for your detailed recommendation!

            1. re: tnbl1475

              It's not that you have to do all that work yourself, but these destinations have been discussed repeatedly, so yes, you should go through the old threads and pick out names that sound interesting. You can then ask for more or more recent information (or even suggestions for places that are the complete opposite, if that's what you want). But the more specific your request for info, the more info you will receive.

              1. re: tnbl1475

                for a trip like yours, covering so much territory, some background reading such as in Fred Plotkin's book would be very helpful in giving you an idea of the special dishes and wines of each of the areas you are visiting. If you are interested in budget choices, there is an inexpensive Gambero Rosso lowcost guide that covers many choices in your destinations - with a lot of overlap with the Slowfood Osterie Guide, another useful source for delicious not-too-expensive eating..

                We had two memorable simple lunches at Latteria San Marco in Milan. Very small, in the Brera neighborhood near the San Marco street market (worth visiting if its on).

                Weve enjoyed good eating in Venice mostly in the sestieri away from San Marco over the years. Anice Stellato in Cannareggio was one place we liked very much, limited menu (some meat plus seafood, a few twists on tradition), The special seafood of the Venetian Lagoon is very much worth experiencing, so I recommend you include one of the seafood specialist places and sample these items. A search of recent posts for Venice will get you the info you need..If you have an I-phone, there is an app from the author of the Venice Osteria, Micaela Scibilia

                There is a lalready a lot of info on this site for Tuscany, Florence and Rome, and some for Cinque Terre and Lake Como.. Probably the easiest way to find it is to put each term into the search box above and read recent posts, (broaden the date range for the latter two, Id say) then ask some questions. "Tuscany" is simply too general - if you indicate some towns in Tuscany you intend to visit, you will get more answers.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  jen kalb,

                  Thanks so much for your advice. Instead of scrutinizing my post you actually gave me advice. :) Very much appreciated!

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