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7 days in Rome report (long)

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storefronteats May 14, 2013 09:26 AM

My spouse and I spent 6 nights in Rome at the end of April and had some great chow, fairly easily found with a little pre-trip research and lots of help from this board. Thank you!

I studied architecture in Rome 25 years ago and the Mister had never been there, so we covered a lot of ground in one week. Our rented studio was near the Campo since I wanted to tread again the cobblestones of my youth. My Italian is 25 years rusty, recently brushed up with podcasts and books. Hopefully I was able to graciously order food and exchange pleasantries. Romans were mostly very generous and good-humored in correcting my Italian.

We’re not keen on fussy dining but we love good food. Rome is perfect for that! I was glad to experience Roman eating as I recalled it—simple, delicious, not too expensive. Reading this board, it sounded to me as though we’d need reservations everywhere. With a couple of exceptions, we didn’t, and we ate great.

First day
Lunch: We’d lost a whole day to a flight cancellation, so we hit the ground running. First stop: Forno Campo dei Fiori, where the pizza bianca tastes just like it did 25 years ago. How do they do that? Slices of daily pizza with zucchini, and with porcini, were excellent.

Dinner: Trattoria Sergio. We got this recommendation from our apartment host. A decent spot with a few tables of Romans enjoying dinner. Service and atmostphere felt comfortingly simple, and the pasta was good. I found my amatriciana (on spaghetti instead of bucatini) a touch sweet, but the bits of meat were so good. Hubby’s fettucine with porcini mushrooms was delicious. We split an insalata mista and went to bed.

Day 2
Lunch: 00100 Pizza. After strolling up the Aventine hill, we walked down and around into Testaccio to find this spot recommended on Elizabeth Minchilli’s app. A tiny neighborhood spot with owners who fit the artisan description and seemed to care a lot about each order. You stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others and order when you can. There are a few barstools against the wall, but it was a fine day and we ate on a bench right outside. The Mister’s first suppli (classico) had him wondering why everyone doesn’t serve these treats everywhere. We also shared a big piece of potato and pancetta pizza. Delicious. The potatoes were smashed instead of sliced, and draped with slices, not cubes, of pancetta. This changes how I now make this pizza at home. Shy of offal, we ordered the pollo cacciatore trapizzino, a nice combo of crunchy bread and drippy, wine-soaked chicken. Messy and really good. We walked down Viale Aventino to Il Gelato, another of Elizabeth’s recommendations which blew us away. I love savory desserts, and this gelato was the best. I ordered poppy seed and walnut flavors; s.o. had peperone and gorgonzola.The servers helped us with pairings, with outstanding results!

Dinner: Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. We met an old friend for dinner. He happens to live near this spot and had reserved a table. Service was very warm and we enjoyed meeting the family who cook and run the place. (It helped that we were with a regular, of course.) I had a wide pasta with artichokes and delicious sausage; s.o. had what they called a carbonara, but with artichokes and fava beans. A huge and beautiful mixed salad followed, very nice ricotta tart and pear tarts followed. I loved the atmosphere here—dim lighting, festive and family vibe.

Day 3: This was our Vatican day, and rainy. Avoiding the huge lines at S. Pietro, we walked in Prati to find Sciascia Caffe, a real treat for coffee lovers. The room is vintage and charming, the baristas surly, and the house caffé served with chocolate. Just a cup with espresso and perhaps an equal measure of barely-sweetened chocolate. Great on a rainy morning.

Fa•bio. Fresh, healthy food described and served by the friendliest of owners. Green smoothies made to order, and sandwiches with organic meats & veggies on fresh-baked bread. They also had lots of alternative-grain salads, wraps, etc. to offer. Great, tiny place near the Vatican walls.

Dinner: Pizza al talgio joint on Via del Pellegrino just off the NW corner of the Campo. I had low expectations for this place, but we were starving and had little time between the Vatican and the Symphony. But wow, the pizza was great! We had sausage, mushroom, and more potato. The suppli was okay.

The bar at Parco della Musica (architect: Renzo Piano) would be the place to have a snacky dinner, perhaps. We weren’t aware. But they have a large aperetivo table and a stunning, dimly-lit room with comfy chairs and low tables to eat, drink, and visit. We had caffes at the bar and then went to find our seats. Locals, how is the food?

Day 4
Lunch: Enoteca della Provincia provided a calm, modern atmosphere and good lunch after a long morning in the Forum. My pasta with artichokes was good, but my s.o. won the day with sformata filled with broccoli romanesco, topped with pancetta and sitting in a pool of cream. Really delicious. A revelation for me was the Frascati—three cheers for much-improved Lazio wines!

Dinner: Costanza, near the Campo. We chose this place for atmosphere & proximity, and that’s what we got. The rooms are cozy and cave-like (built into the site of the Theater of Pompey) and service was very nice. But the food was just okay. It was a fine place to catch up over dinner with a former professor, but I wouldn’t go back. Asparagus was overcooked to mushy; chickpea & prawn soup tasted like canned chickpeas; etc. Disappointing.

Day 5:
Lunch: La Sibilla in Tivoli. We split town and enjoyed a 2-hour hike in the Aniene gorge, starting at one entrance to Villa Gregoriana and exiting the park on the other side. This left us right at La Sibilla, which 3 Romans had approved for its food as well as the view. Service was aloof, even crabby. But we couldn’t complain, sitting under blooming wisteria, yards from the ancient temple of Venus, overlooking the gorge on a gorgeous afternoon. And the food was great! An amuse of wood-fired pizza bianca topped with the freshest cherry tomatoes took the edge off. The zucchini flower app was one of the best dishes we had all week—fried zucchini blossoms atop slightly melted fresh mozzarella, garnished with anchovies, swirls of beet puree, and a scoop of bright red, hot pepper sorbet. My artichoke ravioli were beautifully handmade and delicious; s.o. liked his calamarata with squid and olives. The pastry cream in the millefoglie was divine and the caffe was good, too. Definitely recommended. Reservations are a good idea, though there were several good tables available when we showed up at 2:00 or so.

Dinner: Da Francesco, near S. Maria della Pace. A fun spot in the crowded area west of Piazza Navona. Street life is vibrant & enjoyable. We had a short wait for a table, and service was slow but pleasant. Fun to watch servers, cooks, and management swirling around this small place. We shared a pizza with mushrooms—thin & delicious, like I remembered them coming out of the wood-fired oven. We also shared a special pasta with fava beans, simple & good.

Day 6:
Lunch: Enoteca Corsi, near S. Maria sopra Minerva. I loved this place & meal. It’s a big, un-redecorated room next to a wine shop. Nice natural light, high ceilings, and friendly service. It felt like being in a relative’s home. The airy, chewy, but hard-crusted bread was the first example all week of how I remembered excellent table bread. We gobbled up gnocchi bolognese and pork scallopine with roasted potatoes quickly, they were so good. Followed by a huge salad with many fresh vegetables. Perfect, in an everyday way.

Dinner: Cesare al Casaletto. This was a bit of a miss for us. We didn’t have a reservation but were seated after about 20 minutes of waiting on their patio. People-watching was great here, families with small kids running around, couples on dates. But the food didn’t meet the high expectations we’d developed from reading about this place. Service from two male servers was so nonexistent that, by the time our main course arrived, a woman who’d been serving the larger tables noticed and kindly took over. We started with fried squid—great, light, perfectly salty—and fried gnocchi, heavy and sitting in a pool of congealed cheese sauce. We shared Roman-style salt cod and a plate of braised chicory. Good but not special. The dessert sampler was fantastic, pastries with the lighest crust, a trio of custardy treats, and some very fine nut brittle. Maybe we ordered wrong or it was an off night, but I wouldn’t return here unless my stay in Rome were much longer than a week.

Day 7
Lunch: Roscioli (Forno). Great for our quick lunch before having to leave for the airport. We had pizza rossa, a panino with smoked mozzarella, prosciutto, and bitter lettuce, and assorted verdure fritti from behind the counter in the back room. It was crazy crowded in there but that was part of the fun. The Mister said the panino was the best thing he’d tasted all week. We found one barstool to share, and left wanting to eat there again.

Photos here if you like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/21519888...

Thanks again for all the help on this board. Steve H., I like your practice of making it an annual trip!

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    INDIANRIVERFL May 15, 2013 07:21 AM

    You did better in the first 2 days than I did using Michelin, Let's Go, and the concierge in all ten of mine. Kudos to Chowhound and all hale the internet.

    1. steve h. May 15, 2013 02:14 PM

      Sounds like you had a super trip.
      Living on the economy, knowing your neighbors, shopping every day without the stress of extreme tourism has its appeal. Go ahead, make it an annual event. :-)

      1. gmcguireinrome May 16, 2013 12:38 AM

        Thanks for your fantastic, detailed report!

        I am so happy to hear that Enoteca Corso is still good. I love that place, but haven't been in ages.

        www.gillianslists.com

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