Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Italy >
Feb 17, 2014 02:58 PM

Rome trip report

Hi all,
First a thank you to those that helped with my trip planning questions.

My partner and I were in Rome Feb 5-10. After all the rainy days in Rome we were so fortunate to have beautiful weather the entire trip.

Day 1 - After settling in at the apt and showering we had lunch at Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. We started with an appetizer special that I cannot remember the name of. However, it consisted of croutons, beans, chicory, tomatoes, and burrata cheese. Also carciofi alla Romana. I had the special carbonara with fava beans, peas, and artichoke hearts. The guanciale was nice and crisp. Partner had pesto ravioli with burrata cheese. The food was delicious and the service was very friendly. Would not hesitate to eat there again.
For dinner we just ate some olives, bresola, and cheese as we needed to be up early to head to Naples and Pompeii.

Day 2 - Pompeii. After following an interesting discussion on a thread I started regarding pizza in Naples we ended up eating a slice in the train station. Our private Pompeii tour ran wonderfully long so we had no time to get to a proper restaurant in Naples. That's ok. We will definitely go back.
Dinner was at Trattoria Monti. Appetizer was the sausage stuffed fried olives, zucchini flowers, and artichoke hearts. Primis: Partner had the tortellini with egg yolk and the sage butter sauce. I had the special pappardelle with wild boar ragout. We shared a rolled beef stuffed with chicory and a provolone sauce. I am still thinking of that meal. It was the best we had this trip. Service and ambience nice. Would eat there again and again!

Day 3 - Lunch at Guadeo as we wanted something easy and not too heavy. Decent panini.
Dinner was at Armando al Pantheon. Ok, this was a weird experience and my least favorite meal of the trip. We were told of 3 specials by a waiter- 2 soups and 1 pasta. When the waitress brought our bottle of wine we asked again about the specials just to be sure. She said only 1 special a soup and left. Meanwhile we could hear the waiter telling people next to us of the 3 specials. When she came back we asked about that and she said she forgot about the other 2. Ok. Partner ordered one of the soups. A pumpkin with pecorino which she said was good. I ordered the carbonara. I am no expert but to me it was just gluey and just didn't taste very good. The guanciale seemed not cooked at all. I don't know if that is typical. I preferred the guanciale in the carbonara at La Taverna. For our secondi we had the short ribs with sausage and lentils. It was good.
Now the really weird part. They brought the check out. We were charged for 2 pane. I said we only had 1 basket, but he said because there were 2 of us we had to be charged for 2. Ok. So I put the money down and was about to pocket the check. The waiter came running out and said he needed it back. He came back a few minutes later with a new check. This time is was on Armando receipt stock. I hadn't realized the first check was just on generic receipt stock. Certainly seemed suspect. Maybe a local can shed some light. I left with a bad taste in my mouth and will not go back.

Day 4 - We did the Eating Italy tour of Testaccio. It is definitely a tour meant for newbies, but I thought it would be kind of neat to taste a bunch of things in a short period of time in Testaccio. I won't list everything here. You can see where we went and what we ate on their site if interested. Best part imo was the market and the fresh bruschetta.

Managed to walk enough to be hungry for dinner later that night at Roscioli. I'd read mixed reviews recently, but can say we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the ambience. Cool, trendy vibe there. We started with the burrata and tomatoes. Heavenly. I had the stuffed quail with mushrooms. Partner had the polpette. Everything was really good and I would definitely go back. I never felt hurried.

Day 5 - last day. We had something to do during the lunch period. So decided to end the trip with a late lunch early dinner at Pizzarium. Good choice! Everything folks are saying about the crust is true. I've never had anything like that. I had a slice with cod spread and mortadella. Partner had one with fennel and a cheese we don't remember. Delicious! I wanted to try one of everything. As we ate they kept bringing more interesting pizzas out.

Note: we had gelato one day at Fatamorgana in Monti. Very good.

It was another great trip to Rome, my favorite city in the world. I can't wait for our next visit. Several visits and we've just barely scratched the surface of this amazing city.

Thank you all! Sorry for the long read.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have photos of everything we ate should anyone want to see any meal in particular.

    1. The charge for bread is for "pane e coperto" ("bread and cover") and is charged per person. No reason to be upset because that is standard in Italy.

      4 Replies
      1. re: alohatoall

        Actually, the automatic "pane e coperto" charge is not standard in Rome. It is illegal in Rome. You cannot charge for the bread at the table if the diners ask that it be taken away, and you cannot charge a "coperto" at all.

        However, if angelz or partner ate some of the bread, or failed to ask to have it removed at the beginning, any restaurant will charge them for the bread left on the table.

        1. re: kmzed

          We did not wave it away. I don't mind paying the usual 2 euro or whatever for it. But, we have only ever been charged for 1 pane... even for 2 people. Just a new experience.

          1. re: kmzed

            I'll defer to Katie Parla about the pane e coperto charge: "The 'bread and cover charge' was officially banned by the regional government of Lazio in 2006, yet it continues to appear on many bills, both for visitors as well as locals. Traditionally, the charge was seen as a “tax” for taking up a spot in the restaurant and as a means to pay the servers. The charge ranges between €1-3 and I found it on around two-thirds of my recent restaurant bills." My much more limited experience is similar to Katie's.

            1. re: alohatoall

              Well, you may defer to Katie Parla but I don't.
              It often continues to appear on SOME bills in Rome because machines are set up to print it out that way, but check to see if the charge was actually made. It often is not. If it is, have it removed. The origin of the pane e coperto charge is disputed, but it was never a tax, nor to my knowledge was it ever passed on to servers, and it not unique to Italy.

              For some visitors and ex-pat bloggers in Italy this has been a big hobbyhorse for them, to the point of McCarthyism. Even when they get correct bills, it becomes a gleeful occasion to slur Roman restauranteurs as rip off artists and tax evaders (see Katie Parla's most recent blog post on the subject, link below). And yet we don't get the names of the offending restaurants. Just the daisy chain report that we bloggers know it goes on all the time.

              As for your much more limited experience, if you were traveling in Italy in more places than Rome, then yes, the pane e coperto is standard practice as you originally reported and it is upfront. If you are saying you went to Rome and found illegal pane e coperto charges on two-thirds of the restaurant bills you received, then name names. Until then, I am doubtful you did.

        2. By law, any Italian vendor must record your purchases on their cash register or ledger and present you with a receipt that shows you paid the tax. In a great many restaurants in Italy, there is a hierarchy or certain fixed division of labor, and it varies from place to place. The person who explains the menu or takes your order may not necessarily be the person who brings you your food and -- more importantly -- the person who actually totes up your bill is usually not your waiter, but a manager or owner.

          Typically, the person who takes your order might write down your order on whatever they are carrying (or not even write it down at all), and when you ask for the check, they go to the manger/owner, who totes up everything you owe on the register or an official receipt book, gives everything back to the server, who usually then presents you with the entire lot. (If you pay with a credit card, you may yet receive even more pieces of paper.) The restaurant often insists that you leave with the piece of paper that shows you paid the tax (for reasons I won't bore you by explaining).

          It is possible that the server got confused about picking up all the pieces of paper from the manager, or the manager lost track of his or her pieces of paper if more than one table was being toted up at the same time. When someone noticed you hadn't been handed the manager's final receipt, they ran back to find it for you. (If you were a Rome food blogger and had not been given that receipt, you would have noticed and made a big stink about it on your blog, rightly or wrongly).

          I actually lost track of how many different people you talked to at the beginning of your meal. It's not great form that the person who brought you your wine and water didn't have the evening specials down pat when you asked, but she may not normally do that job in the restaurant.

          But what I really want to hear about is the train station pizza in Napoli! I suspected something like that might happen to you which is why I suggested that you not make a huge project of tracking down a particular address. Was it a Chef Express or something slightly more local? Did you take a picture?

          PS; Just found a picture of Naples train station pizza taken by another traveler in your predicament. They thought the pizza was "too salty" but a better choice than eating from the McDonald's in the Naples train station.

          6 Replies
          1. re: kmzed

            Thanks for the replies. I've only been to Rome 5 times. I can say that this was the first time I was charge for 2 pane. Every other time it was just for 1 in all of our trips. I didn't care enough other than to inquire about it.

            Now as far as the receipt thing. Again, I'm still a novice, but this was the first time this has ever happened to me. I am relieved to hear it isn't out of the ordinary.

            kmzed, we started with a waiter who relayed the specials. I ordered our bottle of wine a bit later with him. A waitress brought the wine out and we asked her to tell us the specials again. The waiter brought the food and check. We saw the manager back where the kitchen is but never dealt with him. Just the waiter and waitress.

            Naples. Here is a pic of the pizza. I forgot I ordered a salad too. Then we got a fried thing (no pic) of what I thought was a suppli or arancini but was fried pasta. That was not my fav. The salad and pizza were fine. At that point we new we needed to eat, but also had 8:30 reservations at Trattoria Monti so just wanted to take the edge off. I believe this would be considered Chef Express. Café to the left of entrance where the taxi rank is. Had a guy come over and try to sell us his lighter...

            1. re: angiez

              You might be interested to read this blog entry on a long-running Rome food blog by an ex-pat. Read it to the end, which is where you will find a discussing of receiving an official receipt/bill in Rome.


              Sorry I can't help you out with either the questions about carbonara (it is not a dish I like so I haven't eaten it in years) or the bread charge for 2 instead of one. I have never paid much attention to the bread charge because I usually eat with my partner and we both eat bread and we would expect to be charged for what we both ate.

              PS: Thanks for the pic of the pizza! Looks more interesting than most train station pizza. The salad looks like train station salad. I've eaten my share.

              1. re: kmzed

                I will read this. I actually have her app and follow her. I just haven't seen this blog post.

                The pizza at the station wasn't bad. And actually the salad wasn't bad either. The mozz and tomatoes had some flavor. If you've ever had a salad in America that looked like that... not one item would taste as it should. At least this salad did. Even the packaged olive oil was ok. Or! Maybe I was starving.

                Thanks kmzed!

                1. re: angiez

                  I should hope that in the land of true mozzarella that even a train station salad would have flavor!

                  I just caught the part about somebody trying to sell you their lighter. It is also true in Naples there are still many desperately poor people, too many to hide, which is an essential part of the history of its pizza as the daily bread. It is still possible to find in Naples pizza that is a euro or less. Maybe not topped with something as fancy as cheese though. That is for the well off, let alone Pizzarium's cod spread in Rome.

                2. re: kmzed

                  I read the blog entry you linked. We received a receipt like that from Roscioli.

              2. re: kmzed

                I'm actually interested in the guanciale in the carbonara. This was the first trip I've had carbonara. I try and focus on different things each trip. Should it be rendered more and crispy or barely cooked and soft?

              3. Very happy to hear that you had a great meal at Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. That appetizer that you had is new on the menu, and is perfect for sharing at the start of the meal.I don't think it even has a name yet!

                I'd love to give you an answer to your question about receipts and bread and service charges. Should you be charged for bread and cover? Is it legal? Should you get a legal, written receipt? Yes, there are laws on the books that cover all these issues, but as anyone who lives in Italy knows, laws mean very little if there is a) no one to enforce them and b) most people ignore them.

                It would be nice if all restaurants wrote out very detailed bills with each line item clearly written out on a receipt that comes out of the cash register. Unfortunately these rules are often ignored. You can get mad about it, and make an issue of it. But for better or worse this is part of the culture of the country that is Italy.

                We are getting a brand new government this week. I'll let you know if anything changes. :)


                2 Replies
                1. re: minchilli

                  It appears that Italians are damned if they do and damned if they don't when it comes to the ricevuta fiscale. In this case, the restaurant went out of its way to get the correct receipt for the tourist. And the reaction is to put down all of Italy and all of Italian culture, and Italians.

                  I don't think any new government is going to change the Italian practice of making an individual pay for what one consumes in Italy, whether it be bread or utiltties or miles on the autostrade. If anything, it is going the other way, with more detailed itemization of what has been consumed and being charged for, rather than adopting the American practice of giving consumables for "free" -- water, bread, coffee and soda refills -- while secretly inflating the cost of everything else on the menu to cover the real expense, so that I pay for your "free" soda whether I drink soda or not.

                  The customer here was presented with a LEGAL and CLEARLY ITEMIZED bill for the food consumed by two people, and was given a truthful explanation of the charge on the bill that when it was questioned. You cannot honestly ask for more than that!

                  I hereby declare myself heartily tired of the ex-pat blogger narrative of constantly insinuating that Italy is some kind of culturally shady place. If you or other bloggers have some factual reason to publish that Armando al Pantheon is shady, or other restaurants are shady, then do so. Just don't throw up your hands and roll your eyes slamming all of Italy parroting some familiar cliche that angelz's real life experience actually just contradicted in every detail.

                  1. re: kmzed

                    I think you misunderstood me. I was in no way criticizing Armando's practice. I believe they did everything by the book, and never said otherwise.

                    I was commenting instead the very common practice in Italy of not giving receipts. But again, I was not criticizing restaurants that do or do not do this. I was merely stating it as a fact, and part of a legal system that probably should change. And I'm not talking about it being a culturally shady place. Just a financially shady one. And it would be difficult to argue with that.

                    I think that when you live in a country where even your own accountant doesn't really understand the tax laws (which get more and more convaluted every day), then in the end no one is accountable.

                    I'm not ranting, nor criticizing. Just reporting on personal experience.

                2. Receipt at armando: seems to be 100% correct behavior, as explained by kmzed.

                  Carbonara: guanciale should be slowly rendered and crisp. The sauce - preferences vary, some like it more liquid, some denser, but it should never be gluey. Sorry you had a less than stellar carbonara at armando. As a side note, i want to add the dish you had at taverna was not carbonara (even if they called it such). It sounds more like a (too early) version of a popular roman spring time dish with the vegetables you named, the vignaiola, usually available for a few weeks when all three are available around april (artichokes on their way out, fava and peas on their way in).

                  The scontrino fiscale discussion: kmzed, yes, i am one of those expats. I think fiscal evasion is an issue to disapprove of. I do not write a personal blog and the group blog i contribute to has a "no negatives" policy, but on social media i do mention it when it happens. It doesn't happen daily, but surely weekly. I have a business myself and know exactly how difficult it is to run a business with the enormous amount of taxes and other expenses the italian bureaucracy imposes, so i have empathy, i do understand, and am all for simplifying these things, but i don't have sympathy; as long the laws are there, they should be abided by all, don't you think?

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: vinoroma

                    I do think it should be reported when laws aren't followed but where are the names in the reporting? Here we are on social media, so it is a perfect opportunity for you tell us where fiscal evasion happened to you this week and last and the week before that. This space doesn't have a no negatives policy. Just the opposite. Warn us specifically about the cheating restaurants you encountered in February and January.

                    I have ZERO objection to calling out tax evaders by name and address. I have a lot of objection to accusing business owners like yourself of being cheats when they are not. I don't think you would like it if I spent all my time on social media alluding to some unspecified bunch of unlicensed tax evading expat tour operators in Rome -- which actually do exist, yes? Or the blogs that have a whole myriad of undisclosed financial and personal connections to the places they tout -- while supposedly "objectively" accusing all the other places of being rip offs? Wouldn't you object after awhile if that's what I did on social media and lumped you in with all the rest by implication and made it look the majority of you in the center of Rome were shady dealers?

                    1. re: kmzed

                      Oh, i surely would! The thing is, i have been out of rome since beginning of january and will be till the end of feb, so i have nothing to report for now. Surely will keep on doing as i did before once i am back. Have to say though that i only report on ch places where i had more substantial experiences - not every little case of no scontrino that happens in bars, shops etc. for example, bar amore on via cavour was my last experience of the sort, where i had heard things and explicitly went in to test this, and yes, they don't give out scontrino fiscale. But i won't come over to ch everytime this happens to report, if that is what you are expecting.

                      1. re: vinoroma

                        no, I wasn't expecting a running report. Just that if people are going to make the accusation and paint the situation as endemic, they should include right alongside it exactly where it recently happened to them. As it stands now, people are claiming, without a shred of proof, that the experience of Rome is that the majority of restaurants are doing this. If it is that common, then people who make their living keep the world up to date on restaurants in Rome should be able to come up with plenty of specific examples and addresses without breaking a sweat and not just generally smear other businesses.

                        1. re: kmzed

                          Amen. Also to your earlier post, as i answered that, i was in a hurry. I would like to add my explicit amen to that, too. There are people dissing guides in general, and there are really few of us out there that are qualified and independent and correct by the books - but we get thrown in with all others.

                          1. re: kmzed

                            here is one for you, kmzed: da augusto in trastevere. Have eaten there before and then stopped going, this weekend we were going by and stopped to observe that the system is still the same: your bill is written on the paper covering the table and only cash is accepted. Seems like some tourists especially love this, see this as a folkloric sign or whatever.

                      2. re: vinoroma

                        Thanks for the response regarding carbonara. The dish that I ate at La Taverna may not have been "authentic" carbonara, but it was really good. A better dish than the "authentic" carbonara I had at Armando. And I must say Flavio too. Their guanciale was also soft and very fatty. The guide thought it was to "eggy". We tried 3 pasta dishes there on the walking tour. Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana, and Carbonara. The cacio e pepe and amatrician were very good.

                        1. re: angiez

                          Not sure a pasta carbonara requires the guanciale to be rendered and fried until fully crisp - I think I prefer it at a softer stage (browned at the edge but still with a visible fat portion and the meat not hardened) and one frequently gets it that way. Either way, the fat winds up in your dish! Ultimately, as you found out, its up to the consumer to decide what version of the dish he/she prefers.

                          1. re: angiez

                            :) i don't want to start the carbonara wars here, and i truly believe you had a delicious pasta and liked it much better than the others, i really do. But just let me give the following example: you know steak, right? Now, if i mince a raw steak and grill it and serve it in a bun with a slice of bacon, cheese, pickle, tomato, onion, lettuce, mayo and bbq sauce, would anyone discuss if it is an authentic steak or would it be clear we left steak behind us and are talking about a hamburger? "Authentic" carbonara discussions are around how many eggs, yolk or whole, only pecorino romano or mixed with parmiggiano, rigatoni or spaghetti, etc etc. The addition of peas, artichokes and fava beans gives you a completely new pasta dish, not a version of carbonara.

                            1. re: vinoroma

                              Well I am certainly not trying to start a carbonara war! ;) And I am no expert which is why I was asking about the guanciale. All I know is whatever that pasta dish Taverna served me and called it carbonara was delicious!

                              I do see your bigger point though about the basic ingredients for a "real" carbonara.