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Nov 12, 2013 05:16 PM

Rome, Florence in Dec and Venice during X'mas.. Need some help!

Will be visiting the 3 cities for 5 nights each in Dec. When I was in Rome last in 2011, the only positive restaurant experience I had was at Felice and therefore I've decided to try a few more restaurants in the Testaccio area this time around. I've never been to Florence and Venice before. So far these restaurants are on my list:

ROME - Felice, Flavio and Perilli (They won't take my reservation until a few days before my dinner. Is that normal?)
FLORENCE - Del Fagioli, Sostanza, I Due G, del Garga, Giovanni, Giorgio (for lunch), Mario (for lunch) and tripe on the street.
VENICE - Al Covo, Anice Stellato, Alla Madonna

I need a few more suggestions for Venice, especially for Dec 24.. I've contacted multiple restaurants including Oliva Nera, Carampane, Alle Testiere and none of them are open on Dec 24. Can anyone think of places that could be open on the 24th that serves good seafood? (I want to eat as much seafood as I can while in Venice and want to avoid places too touristy like Bistrot de Venise and Riviera)

Also for Dec 25, I originally planned to go to Terraza Danieli for dinner (I understand at the food and service is supposed to be quite terrible but I really need this to be an extremely romantic dinner), however after realizing that the terrace won't be open due to winter, I'm having second thoughts, especially because they won't be serving their truffle tasting menu. Has anyone been to Danieli and ate indoor? Is it still very romantic? I am considering going to Quadri instead - even though I much prefer the view at Danieli (which I'm not sure how much I can see), Quadri's food should be way better and the room looks quite nice as well. Any thoughts?

Thanks so much in advance!

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  1. Rome: First of all, yes, it's normal that simple trattoria won't take your reservations so far ahead of time. But your choice of restaurants in Rome seems extremely limited. Is there a reason you only want to eat in Testaccio? I would suggest you go to one of those restaurants (my pick is always Perilli) and then branch out to try something different. There are many suggestions on this board.

    Florence: All good choices.

    Venice: It's really hard to tell you what will be open on the 24th. You really do have to do what you are doing, call around.

    Regarding the Danieli vs Quadri: You really can't begin to compare the two in terms of food. Quadri is a michelin starred restaurant with extraordinary food while the Danieli is, in the end, a hotel restaurant. Also the prices will be very different from one to the other, with Quadri being much more expensive for their tasting menu. To answer your question, yes, Quadri is very romantic. The Danieli, even though the inside rooms are very nicely done, will still be a hotel restuauant experience and you will be surrounded by tourists.

    One place with great food that will probably be open in the Wildner. It is in a hotel, but had a great restaurant.

    For a very special occasion maybe you want to head out to Venissa? On Mazzorbo.

    2 Replies
    1. re: minchilli

      Thank you for your suggestions minchilli!

      The reason why I wanted to stick to Testaccio is because I was quite disappointed with my restaurants experiences in other areas of the city last time (or maybe I just wasn't tasteful enough to enjoy them), and I heard Testaccio is a very local area with local food. Given that I had a really good experience at Felice (although I do hear that their quality has gone down hill - is that true? I went last in May 2011 after the chef left), I decided to stick to the really local, basic roman restaurants. In fact when I was at Felice the locals next to our table asked us how we found it!

      As for Venice, thanks so much for recommending Venissa. I'll definitely take a look.

      Has anyone been to Osteria Antico Giardinetto in Venice? Is it any good? It got raved reviews on TA but doesn't seem to get mentioned in Chowhound.

      1. re: minchilli

        just realized that I missed your Wildner recommendation. I think that's where I'll go on Christmas eve!

      2. for Rome: please tell us where else you were in 2011 and didn't like (and maybe why) so we can help.

        7 Replies
        1. re: vinoroma

          Thanks vinoroma. The only place I remember right now is Roma Sparita in Trastevere (the place that serves cacio e pepe in a cheese bowl - I found it overly saltly and the cheese wasn't of that high quality. I loved Felice's cheese and pasta way more when I had their cacio e pepe). Let me try to find the rest of restaurants I went to and get back to you!

          1. re: vinoroma

            Found the list of restaurants I went to back in 2011 - Roma Sparita (cacio e pepe in cheese bowl looked interesting but taste was disappointing) and Osteria la Gensola in Trastevere (food was just OK and server was quite rude), Al 34 near Spanish Steps (way too touristy, fried zucchini flower was extremely greasy), Trattoria dal cav Gina near Pantheon (ordered the pasta with peas among other things and thought it was just so so) and Pizza Forum (recommended by a friend who lived in Rome for a few years. Again nothing to write home about). On the last day we went to Felice e Testaccio and that was the best meal we had in the whole week!

            1. re: GourmetPiggy

              ok, I understand and agree with almost all you say! so, here is a new list for you - you can find the mentioned places on here, on the rome digest and on (for reviews and detailed infos):
              Cesare al casaletto (roman trattoria, a bit of treck but worth it)
              Armando al Pantheon (roman trattoria in the center)
              da remo (sitdown roman style pizza)
              gatta mangiona or tonda (sitdown new style pizza and beer)
              pizzarium and roscioli forno (pizza by the slice, snacks)
              mordi e vai and 00100 (for snacks/lunch if you wander around testaccio - at the latter stay away from the pizza, go for trapizzini or suppli)
              checchino (for excellent offal and other traditional roman dishes - service is times a bit stiff)
              trattoria monti and colline emiliane (for non-roman trattorias)
              il san lorenzo (fish, expensive)
              metamorfosi (fine dining, expensive)

              of the ones on your list, felice is consistently bad, flavio is very inconsistent, can be great or bad, perilli has its strengths, definitely better if you are a regular.

              1. re: vinoroma

                Thank you for the recommendations vinoroma! Since I want to stick with roman food, I'm going to add Cesare and Armando on my list :)

                1. re: vinoroma

                  One more question - what are the must-try dishes at Cesare and Armando?

                  Going back to Felice, I'm actually quite surprised to hear that locals don't like it at all. It was recommended by Michelin Guide and I thought usually they are quite reliable. Maybe it is time they review their list for 2014!

                  1. re: vinoroma

                    Vinoroma: I'm wondering if you have been to Colline Emiliane recently? I'm asking since I've been getting such horrible reports from people recently. That they are now doing two seatings, rushing people out, and getting orders wrong. I haven't been in ages, so wanted to know if you had?


                    1. re: minchilli

                      Hmm, i was about a month or so ago for lunch and everything was as lovely as ever. No double seatings, no rushing. I read *one* bad report on ch somewhere and want to check out at dinner again soon. i read one bad report on a blog somewhere, but then found out they mixed it up with another very similarly named place in prati - had asked bcs the pictures didn't seem like c.e. at all. No bad reports from anyone i sent over myself.

              2. Found the list of restaurants I went to back in 2011 - Roma Sparita (cacio e pepe in cheese bowl looked interesting but taste was disappointing) and Osteria la Gensola in Trastevere (food was just OK and server was quite rude), Al 34 near Spanish Steps (way too touristy, fried zucchini flower was extremely greasy), Trattoria dal cav Gina near Pantheon (ordered the pasta with peas among other things and thought it was just so so) and Pizza Forum (recommended by a friend who lived in Rome for a few years. Again nothing to write home about). On the last day we went to Felice e Testaccio and that was the best meal we had in the whole week!

                1. Venice:
                  Christmas Eve: seafood restaurants (no meat or fowl), try Boccadoro which I've recommended frequently on this board and there was a recent positive write up on it; Al Fontego dei Pescatore or Corte Sconta (last dinner wasn't up to par but others have differed). Restaurants that have good seafood I like Vini da Gigio, Fiachetteria Toscana, Osteria San Marco, Osteria Santa Marina, Bancogiro. All are on the expensive side. I cannot vouch which of the above is open Christmas Eve, therefore, have to check each one. I am surprise that Antiche Carampane is closed on the Eve this year as they've been open in the past and serves a menu of Feast of the Seven Fishes.
                  Christmas Day Dinner: except for the expensive hotel restaurants or those that cater to 'don't care' what they are eating visitors, just about every restaurant will be closed. If the Grand Canal view is your idea of 'romantic' and budget is not an issue, then choose one of the grand hotels such as Da Pisis in the Bauer, the Gritti or the Monaco. I've had two good dinner at Da Pisis but have not eaten at the latter two or the Danieli recently. Harrys Bar if it is open would be the most fun though probably not ones idea of 'romantic'. As for the Quadri which the Alajmo of Le Calandre fame took it over, it is no more expensive than Terraza Danieli or the others mentioned above. I love the food at Le Calandre but haven't been willing to spend the large sum to eat at an outpost. It only has a few tables overlooking Piazza and I don't think the view is that great. Personally, I would rent an apartment for the 5 days and spend Christmas day eating in.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: PBSF

                    Harrys Bar is open on Christmas Day. The atmosphere is pleasantly bustling (more so than the luxury hotels would be). Last year they served a set lunch menu in addition to the standard a la carte offering. I'm not sure what they do in the evening. The food is actually very high quality, though it would be madly overpriced on any other day of the year.

                    1. re: BrianGilligan

                      Thanks for recommending Harry's Bar PBSF and Brian. I actually have considered dining at the restaurant on Christmas Day as it was also recommended in Travel + Leisure. However I got a little concerned after reading an article about the restaurant being taken over by the bank last December due to financial difficulties.

                      Do you know anyone who has been to Harry's Bar after the take over and has the service and food been affected by the change?

                      Here's the article:

                      Many thanks!

                      1. re: GourmetPiggy

                        I ate there on Christmas Day last year, and didn't notice anything different. That said, I had only been for drinks in previous years.
                        I've attached (I hope!) a photo of last year's Christmas Day menu. All of the prices are excluding tax, so you need to add another 10%.

                        1. re: BrianGilligan

                          Thanks all! Sounds like Harry's Bar is the way to go! The prices seem acceptable especially comparing to Danieli, De Pisis and Quadri :)

                        2. re: GourmetPiggy

                          I have not been to Harrys Bar on Christmas day in more than 10 years, therefore, I can't comment on what it is like recently on that Day. We had dinner there this April with visiting friends and we did not find much difference from previous times. We always request a table on in the street level bar/room rather than upstair which is a series of small low ceiling rooms. It is a bit more comfortable upstair and quieter (unless there is a loud group in the same room) but it lacks the buzz that the restaurant is known for.
                          Harrys Bar is an'institution' and like most institutions, one goes there for what is is. One doesn't go there for the food, though as the above poster states, it is good but very expensive. One can eat better at places charging about 1/3 of the price but that is not the point. We don't go there except when friends visits and they insists taking us, likewise for most of the restaurants in the luxury hotels. Be aware that you will be rubbing elbows is mostly visitors.
                          If I were in Venice during Christmas Day and staying in a hotel, given what is open, Harrys Bar would be my choice. I would order a Bellini (watch out it is around 20 euros); munch on their additive grissini, split a risotto with my partner, then the carpaccio or baked scallops, for dessert, share a slice of their torta di zabaglione.

                          1. re: PBSF

                            PBSF, I like this idea and am thinking of a late lunch (1 or 2pm) on Christmas Day there for my family of four, two teen sons. I figure we will be gouged price wise anywhere we go, might as well make it someplace we won't forget, rather than a random (nice) hotel. For us, you still recommend downstairs? (fine, we want the ambiance more than extra room) and time wise? 1? 2? guess it doesn't matter!! any other (two birds with one stone) price gouging for Christmas eve? Thinking another famous place that would be neat to have a (light) meal in, and plan to have a heavier lunch that day.

                            (hope this is useful to op!)

                            1. re: jill4137

                              I dont think you will experience price gouging on Christmas, only that there will be only a limited number of restaurants that choose to be open. Most Venetian restaurants are small and family owned so they may decide to close for the holidays - or be open - in particular years, while hotel restaurants will generally be open. (note, when Christmas falls trelative to the restaurants' weekly closing days also matters
                              I suggest you contact places you are interested in to see whether they will be open on that day. We had a fine meal the only Christmas we were there at Conte Scorto many years ago - regular menu, regular prices - and at a local pizzeria on Christmas Eve - they were serving a seafood feast to groups of locals which wasnt avaialble to us because we were walk-ins but we did nbot suffer. . So Id say if you want something special or you want to book at any place particular instead of wandering around like we did to find a seat, pre arrangement is the thing to do. It will not have to be super-luxe,

                              1. re: jill4137

                                As for where to reserve at Harry's Bar, the street floor has a bar and a few tables against the wall plus a stairway to the second floor. It is cramp, crowded, noisy and good for people watching. The second floor has low ceiling and each small room has a few tables. It is much more comfortable for a long meal. It depends what one prefer. Since there are only a few tables on the lower floor, it is not always easy to get a table there. Reservation at 1 or 2pm, don't think it matters much.
                                Most respectable restaurants don't gouge for Christmas Eve. Ones that serve the traditional seven course seafood will be expensive, otherwise, a la carte prices are the same as for other days. There should some good places open on the Eve. Anice Stellato is moderately priced with good food and warm service. Same for Trattoria da Fiore (not the Osteria in San Polo) and da Alberto. A touch more modern and little more expensive is L'Orto dei Mori and the traditional Vini da Gigio. A relatively inexpensive seafood osteria is Alla Frasca. Some of the above should be open and offer their regular menu. Inquire when making a reservation. Your teenage sons probably enjoy the above more than a stuffy highend hotel dining room. Or if good pizza and few good antipasti/secondi plus dessert is a good fit, Il Refolo is a possibility. The two small inside rooms are comfortable, cozy, lively and feel a little more upscale than most pizzerias.

                        3. re: PBSF

                          Yes Antiche Carampane is actually closed from Dec 22-26 this year! I was very disappointed when I found out. I'll contact the rest of the places you recommended and hopefully some of them will be open.

                          I totally agree with your apartment comment! Unfortunately by the time I started looking all the nice and affordable apartments were gone so ended up booking a hotel.

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