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Aug 4, 2013 04:59 AM

The importance of trip reports (moved from Italy board)

In searching and reading these boards for a rapidly approaching month in Rome, I've been struck by how relatively few trip reports there are, compared to how much advice is sought and given. It's a shame and I think that it's actually impolite. Even a brief trip report will give both the people who gave you the information as well as your fellow travellers, a sense of what is working out there, and what is not and perhaps why not. I can usually understand from a trip report that the writer's priorities or tastes or expectations are different to mine, and I will then take that into account. I can cross reference with other reports.

My list for the month of September reads like a greatest hits of the Rome recommendations on this board. It's very, very heavily influenced by the regulars. And huge thanks to you all! BUT I would still like to know more, in advance, of how the regular punters fare at these places.

I currently have 19 restaurants on my short list. Luckily I will be in Rome for 25 days! I am aiming to report back on each one I go to...not huge essays but hopefully enough to give some ideas to others. An ambitious project perhaps? I am looking forward to it enormously!

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  1. I fully agree & have said the same on my local New York boards.

    By the way, no great news but the 2 dinners we had in Rome before coming to Firenze were at Perilli & Flavio al Velavevodetto, both in Testacchio, both recommended by Eliz. Minchilli & both excellent. This was the third time I've been to Perilli & the Pajata is still one of my all time favorite pastas. My wife's carbonara was high up on the list as well. Flavio was new to us & we'd happily return. Have a great time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Steve R

      The Pajata at Flavio was also great this year, but the pesto was the star of the show! If it's not on the menu the day you are there, just ask and they will be happy to make it. We ate there twice this summer it was so good.

      1. re: Steve R

        Steve, both Perilli and Flavio are on my list - and Flavio in particular, is a case in point: there is much debate on this board amongst the regulars about its merits, and I can only recall reading a couple of trip reports about it? I love a good bit of contrariness, so I will get along and make my own mind up and then post MY thoughts....and thanks for your recs!!

      2. While I believe a very short (a sentence or two) report is polite and helpful, asking for more than that is unrealistic. Many people do not keep food diaries like others do; also, most people are not as disciplined as some of you are to actually sit down and write out their thoughts. That said, I always come back to a board whenever I visit a place recommended on CH and at least say whether I liked it or not and cite a highlight or two. If everone did that, It would be helpful.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ttoommyy

          When I've reported back, I have taken a small book with me and made brief notes; nothing like a food diary, but I just want to be able to have some recall of the meal after a couple of glasses of vino! It's not hard or time consuming. As you say, if everyone did as you do, then even the sheer volume of replies would probably evidence a trend, which would be useful it itself.

          1. re: PixieM

            We've gone the brief notes route as well, but sometimes (ok, most times) we get caught up in eating, conversation, having a good time and just forget about taking a few notes. By the time we remember, usually the next day, we just don't have the interest to write something down. Different strokes... :)

            1. re: ttoommyy

              We've definitely done that too! Or, my notes become less and less intelligible and start not making sense....around about the 4th glass of very good wine :) These are the restaurants where I say, "mmm, it was fantastic!" I remember being quite overcome by the occasion of being at Da Amerigo and still regret not taking very many notes that night, but boy did we have a memorable time!

          2. re: ttoommyy

            That's why I take photos, to jog my memory. And frankly I don't care if people make fun of me or look down at my photo quality.

            I don't use a flash and don't make a big production out of it. But I find it a lot less intrusive to my own meal than jotting down notes and using them for a trip report later.

          3. PixieM

            I have the impression that 60 percent or more of people coming to the Chowhound Italy board for the first time are people whose main interest in asking is (a) hoping to avoid plopping down at Antica Gladiator next to the Colosseum and paying tourist prices for lousy food if someone can point them to a better place Romans might eat two steps away -- but only 2 steps away or (b) wanting more choices than offered in whatever guidebook they bought, where recommendations for sit-down meals appear to be way out of their price range per person if they are eating in restaurants twice a day.

            But I agree with the overall principal that reporting back would really improve the utility of this forum for everybody -- and I feel 100 percent positive the regular Rome contributors would like to hear how their recommendations went down. Nobody wants to go on recommending a place if a raft of recent reports indicate decline.

            Asking new posters to please report back as part of offering them advice occasionally produces the desired result. I wish more people when they reported back, even if they are uncomfortable with writing a whole paragraph for each dish, would say at a minimum what dishes they ate and WHAT THEY PAID FOR IT.

            Please don't hold back if you feel like writing "huge essays" come September. I really appreciate them and I think others do as well. "I loved it!" or "yum" is really pointless blabber I think, given how varied individuals are in their interests.

            2 Replies
            1. re: barberinibee

              Thanks Barberinibee, essays coming up then, lol. I am very bad at keeping receipts but I have been put on notice, so I shall do my best :) I agree that people use this board differently but so many times in the last month or two I have seen so lengthy threads of advice and then....nothing! Even if you can't say a lot, acknowledge whether the advice was taken or not, and at least name a few standout meals?

              1. re: PixieM

                I stole a great idea from a local food blogger -- I take a photo of the bill. Then I don't have to keep any receipts at all.

            2. That's because a lot of us don't use lists and don't bother competing with the same names, usually in touristy places, over and over again.

              I grew up in Italy, my mother was Roman, her mom prepared fresh pasta for one of Rome's finest restaurants. My father was from northern Italy, first generation. I grew up knowing a wide variety of good Italian food.

              The 3 most memorable meals I've had in Italy were, with one exception, at restaurants no one on this board has ever heard of and far from the tourist trek.

              Use your nose, walk in, take a glance. You'll know if you want to eat there or not. Exhausts vents are a gold mine.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Ray2

                You said in another post: "I could spend a year in Lucca and not get bored with the restaurants. A short drive up into the hills on the Ligurian side and another series of gems."

                What are these restaurants you like so much in Lucca and in the hills in the south of Liguria?

                1. re: allende

                  I really don't like providing recommendations. I have not found other's recommendations particularly accurate, or supported by people we trust, on too many occasions. The issues tend to be one needs to leave their expectations of Italian food at home, especially at the better Italian restaurants away from the tourist crowds. And, I have no idea what your tastes are. Nor do I even know if you're going there.

                  For Lucca here's a list of less than a third of the restaurants we've dined at. For most, several times. They vary from dirt cheap to pricy as there's little to no correlation between price and cooking quality in Italy. Good locations are expensive, those restaurants will tend to have deeper wine lists (margin) and more expensive cuts of meat. However cooking quality can be had for low as well as high prices.

                  Those not on the list are forgotten, more a function of my age than the food: Enoteca Marcucci, La Cecca, Erasmo, Buca di Sant’Antonio, Puccini, Buralli.

                  Then two restaurants that seem to get a lot of buzz but we would not return to: Da Giulio, All'Olivo

                  Lucca is an excellent town to walk the streets and use your nose. Glance at the plates and you'll know if you want to eat there or not.

                  In the hills: da Fiorella in Nicola. On the Ligurian side, seafood anywhere that's not touristy. The southern end of Liguria is very different than the rest of Liguria. Meals are lighter, more delicate and the service more gentile. We were introduced to it last year and will return at some point.

                  We've spent weeks in Chianti 4 times. We take the Granio apartment at the Coltibuono which has a functional kitchen. So we tend to forage and cook frequently.

                  I don't believe you can get a bad meal in Chianti. No matter where we eat its superb for the money. Restaurants that are our favorites and visited (often more than once) every time we're there are: Malborghetto, Osteria Alla Piazza, Badia a Coltibuono, di Lamole.

                  You can tell them to simply feed you and you can't go wrong. Unless you can handle a very heavy meal and are in-season, I don't think you'll miss much by taking a pass on the wild boar. I don't recall seeing boar on any of these menus.

                  Another note. Not knowing your Italian skills, in Chianti you will run into a lot of menu items you may not recognize. Trust works, go for it.

                2. re: Ray2

                  I'll be doing that in Rome because I have the luxury of time, and I am adventurous and I love food. But everyone has to start somewhere, and not everyone has your advantages, it seems a pity that you don't want to share? I don't think that people who don't use lists have some sort of moral high ground. Most of us have a very short period of time in which to make the most of our holiday eating. I, for one, do not want to waste time on a bad meal if I can help it, so of course I will research, plan and make a list. My point was that this is now so honed and refined on here that it would be helpful to have it balanced with traveller's reports, given that they are hopefully going to be as keen on eating well as I am.

                  1. re: PixieM

                    What I find interesting is the longest post on this thread is more or less a trip report of two locales which were specifically asked by someone who I assume is going there.

                    There is not a single comment about that reply. Which does sort of indicate responses do not generate conversation. Though, bellyaching about the lack of trip reports, does. I'm not sure I understand.

                    Why are trip reports tough to get? Probably because many of us who do travel a lot have no clue where we've eaten. I've had thousands of meals at good restaurants in Europe. My address book has perhaps 25 European restaurants in it. Quite frankly, most of the time I don't even know the name of the restaurant when I walk in, let alone remember it years later. It has no meaning for me. I almost always travel with a group of food nuts, they have no clue. For the above list my wife and I scanned a couple of lists on the web and recalled the names. Of all of them, one is in my address book. Some of us are not recorders. We love food and express it in many ways, shopping, cooking, going out to eat. When given a name of a restaurant, it becomes an address in our gps. That's all we need. To extend that to recording names for the sake of potentially providing others, who are potentially going to the same place, at some undeterminable point in time, with trip reports is simply not in the cards. Yes there are people who collect lists. But, respect the fact others don't.

                    Another reason which may attract some flak. Italian food in the USA, in the vast majority of cases, is lousy. At the best of the restaurants, lacking, sometimes seriously. The basic ingredients just don't equal what is readily available in a basic Italian grocery.

                    One year we included a chef at Alinea on our trip for a week. We all cooked together. I complemented the Alinea chef as he led the cooking. His response was it had little to do with him. "You just can't get ingredients like that in the USA." We shopped at an everyday supermarket. That's a cook at one of the best restaurants in the world essentially saying he can't source the quality available in a typical Italian supermarket.

                    Why do I bring this up? Because countless times I've listened to Americans tell me they can eat better at some place in their home town, and for a lot less. CH is full of comments like that. No amount of restaurants on a list is going to help that person. And we non-responders don't know if you're one of them. This ain't New Jersey Italian, no sugar, no acid, meats that can be grisly, offal frequently on the menus or mixed into the meals and dishes that may be USA staples but Italians have never heard of.

                    There are simply better things to do than provide trip reports to people who probably don't know what a basic egg yolk looks like, the bite and bitterness of good produce, bread made with no salt, lemons that you can squeeze in your mouth and its nothing but sweetness, non acidic tomatoes, flours with enough gluten in them to behave like rubber bands after being baked, the absense of excessive sugar and salt in foods, etc.

                    Last, we don't go near tourist areas. Not unusual for well traveled people. In my and my wife's case we refuse to go into major metropolitan areas. Again, not unusual for those who have done that decades ago. Our experience in the vast majority of cases are in towns never mentioned on CH. For places mentioned, our experience may be decades old. Asking for trip reports is fine, but we frequently have nothing to offer that's responds to the questions asked.

                    Whether we're fortunate or not has nothing to do with some sort of obligation to share.

                    1. re: Ray2

                      Ray2, i understand and even agree with much of what you say (esp. With the we don't know if you are that kind of eater). I surely agree there is no obligation to give trip reports. There are millions of tourists who come to rome every year and eat and never write about it.
                      My point as a regular advice giver on this board is that many who do ask questions (and not just one little question to clarify a detail, but whole 5 day eating plans) and get a lot of responses never come back to give feedback. I think that it is just common courtesy to come back and say we ended up here and here. Liked this here and didn't like that there.

                      1. re: Ray2

                        I agree completely with Vinoroma's response to you Ray. I would also make the point that this trip report was buried in a thread that does not say LUCCA: TRIP REPORT, therefore why would anyone comment on it? Your attitude to people who come on here is bordering on offensive. "We are so much better than all of you lesser travelled philistines." Please! I put up trip reports for people who want to read them, who take pleasure in researching a good foodie trip - which incidentally - can be had anywhere in the world if you look hard enough. And I don't need feedback from those reports to make me feel loved. I have reported on my experiences and people can either take that on board, or not. I don't need validation, but I do like to think that I am a person who can give back.

                    2. re: Ray2

                      I think OP's request is that if you take, it would be polite to give back. I strenuously try to do that. It's polite. I've gotten so many, many great recs here over the years and I want to pay it forward.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Yes, you are right. It would certainly be appreciated if people who solicit advice and recommendations would provide some feedback on how their trip went.

                        A full travelog is not necessary. Even a few sentences saying "went here and enjoyed it, went there and was disappointed" would be helpful.

                    3. I very much agree PixieM - not everyone is a resident or regular visitor to Italy, and not everybody is equally food obsessed or savvy, but every trip report offers something of value, both in give-back to those who contributed recommnedations and as a general addition to the info base here. If folks dont share info (however brief) about their meals, after a visit, the Board becomes a sterile echo chamber.