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May 26, 2013 02:06 PM

First time going to France/Italy--need some restaurant suggestions

I'm planning on taking a 5 day trip to Paris and Rome (maybe Nice) in August and was wondering if anyone has recommendations for places I must try. I have a flexible budget, although I don't think it's necessary to eat a michelin star dinner every night.

I also had a few questions--Is it safe to assume that most Michelin star restaurants has someone who speaks English? Might not be as enjoyable if I don't know what I'm eating....

How far in advance should I make reservations?

Are there any major dining etiquette rules that I should be aware of (that are not common in the U.S.)?


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  1. Your biggest problem would be that most restaurants are closed in August. You can wait until June to know more about which restos will close. With some of the most sought-after tables like Septîme and Abri, - if they are open - reserving 6 weeks in advance is fine, esp for lunch and non-weekend.
    There have been very recent threads on dining choices in August in Paris. Sorriest I am too lazy. Do you mind looking them up ?

    1. Paris Rome and Nice in 5 days? Better eat on the run with that schedule.

      But more seriously, there are 10,000 restaurants in Paris, a bit less in Rome. Best thing to do on your first time in both cities is check in to your hotel, and take a walk. Menus are all posted prominently in the window or on the street. Look at the menu, look in to the restaurant. After about an hour, make a decision and go back and reserve for that night.

      Michelin stars? These days, these are not considered the best food in these cities. In Paris the young-chef bistro is the place for great food. Michelin stars are very formal, require well in advance res, and vedry expensive. I don't recommend one for a first trip to Paris. (And such a short duration)

      As far as etiquette, not much different. Meals take longer in France, don't mix up that for bad service. Also, do not talk in American-loud-voice. The French speak in low tones, you can walk into a full restaurant and not hear much noise. When you hear Americans bellowing away, one could cringe. (I leave the place).

      1. Two years ago we divided our holiday between Rome and Paris -- a week in each city. We flew from Rome to Paris. I'd hesitate to divide my holiday between those two cities (let alone among three) with only five days. Nevertheless, with Paris, if I'm answering the question, I'd try Sola and Saturne, because they are two of my favorites, each was open for part of August last year, and I'm not a big fan of bistro cuisine. But, of course, that's just me.

        1. At least for Paris, I disagree with posters that simply state "one does not consider Michelin star places the best food in these cities". It is true that many talented chefs are cooking in simpler venues and producing wonderful food. It comes down to individual preferences; some prefer eating at the young-chef own bistros, others prefer the star places and many of us enjoy both. As for the star places being formal, yes they tend to be but I seldom encounter any rudeness and most of all, they want their customers to have the best experience possible. If budget is not an issue and it is very expensive, I would definitely consider dining in one of them. As for English, I wouldn't worry as just about any wait staff will speak some and able to convey what is on the plate.
          One can write a thick book on etiquette. Just to add to what others have stated: relax and be yourself; being pleasant and smile will excuse all the little faux-pas that visitors may have. Address the staff as monsieur or madame when you enter. If one takes coffee, it is usually serve as a separate course after dessert. Except in cafes, you will be presented with the check only when you ask for it. Just go and have a great time.
          Lastly, you might separating the two cities and post Rome in the Italy board. Before that, take a look at some of the earlier post on Rome, then more specific how many days you will be in Rome and what type of places in term of food and ambience you interested in.

          1. wow I didn't realize so many restaurants were closed in August. Does anyone know of any michelin star places that stay open mid-august?

            1 Reply
            1. re: flzhang

              The best is check the Michelin website:
              If there are no annual closing dates published on the restaurants you are interested in, I would email or call them to check. Depends on what you mean by star places; Michelin award restaurants from one to three. There can be a big different in all aspects between one and three.