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Mar 24, 2014 03:44 PM

Recommendations - Whirlwind Rome / Florence / Venice Food Tour

Hi everyone,

My wife and I are going for a short whirlwind tour in Italy that will be mostly centered around food. We'll have 3 nights in Rome, 2 nights in Florence, and 1 night in Venice.

I have been spending a lot of time researching restaurants, and I'm VERY overwhelmed by the options! It's my wife's first time in Italy and I really want to show her some of the best food that Italy has to offer.

Our focus is mainly on finding amazing food, we don't care much about atmosphere or service, and we're willing to travel out of the way for good food.

We're hoping to select a good "mix" of experiences: high-end restaurants, casual dining, standing, off-the-beaten-path. And we're especially interested in trying some "must-eat" options (e.g. don't leave Rome/Florence/Venice without trying this!).

Can anyone recommend their top choices for a short itinerary like ours?

I know there are a ton of similar posts, and I've honestly read through many of them, but I was hoping this post could trigger some advice for our specific scenario. And hopefully this could help others with similar scenarios.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

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  1. Based on all the research that you’ve already done, which restaurants in Rome, Florence, and Venice do you find appealing?

    You’ll receive much more feedback if you broach the topic with specific questions about certain restaurants, rather then dealing with generalities such as “must eat” and “off the beaten path”. For example, in Rome, Mesob fits both criteria perfectly, but I doubt it’s what you seek.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Il Duomo

      Yes - definitely see your point. However, to be honest I don't exactly know what I'm looking for, and wouldn't want any pre-defined selections to limit my options.

      Although I should have clarified that I'm primarily looking for Italian options. Other than that, we're pretty open.

      In Bourdain's Layover Rome episode, I thought Beto e Mary looked good - looked like a nice unpretentious place, authentic Roman fare, great stuff like tripe and sweetbreads. Although, at the same time, we wouldn't really be hung up on eating "only" Roman food in Rome.

      Seems like we must try a cacio e pepe. Felice a Testaccio sounds pretty popular. We'd also want to find good porchetta (Panificio Bonci?), good gelato (San Crispino?)....

      We would also be interested in trying a couple michelin starred restaurants - Il Pagliaccio seems like a good choice. But I think in general we would be going to more affordable Trattoria's.

      We would probably be less inclined to go to really experimental / trendy restaurants, but would not be against it if there's a really amazing spot.

      In general, we're really open to suggestions. I think our lack of requirements has made it pretty difficult to filter through all of the options!

      1. re: analogarsonist

        I live here, but recently was absent for 2 months in a very different food culture, so upon my return my "3 days" (more or less) looked like this (a sort of short-list, if you will): metamorfosi for the fine-dining; cesare al casaletto for roman; pizzarium, tonda (my sit-down pizza favorite at the moment (the fritti, suppli and trapizzini are great, too), but it is not roman style pizza and out of the way), forno roscioli and panificio bonci, for various types of pizza (and porchetta, like you noted, at the latter); fata morgana and vice for gelato. If you are after a very good cacio e pepe (and ready for very al dente pasta), try roscioli. L'arcangelo is another very good "roman" option (suppli, gnocchi, amatriciana). Maybe by the time you are here he will have finally opened his informal suppli place (supplizio), which will be cheaper and done as a snack, maximizing your meal opportunities :). San crispino is not as bad as giolitti, but definitely not the "one" gelateria to try.

    2. For such a short "whirlwind" visit, a better approach is to a
      little research on the food of these cities. Focus what you want to eat, then look for restaurants that match that. For Rome, do you want to each classic Roman food, Jewish Roman, pizza; do you want to eat bisteca in Florence and is seafood a priority in Venice.
      For highend dining, Rome has the most choices, yet you want to decide if you want to eat more traditional or more modern. Venice not many. If you and your wife like seafood, eat it in Venice. Go to Antiche Carampane or Alle Testiere and ask the staff for recommendations. Skip the farmed seafood such as branzino and dorada. If moleche, canoce, tiny squids, crab, schie, goby are in season and available, order them because they are unique to the lagoon. If you have a lunch, go to the numerous bacari and eat cecchetti. There are bacari in every area of Venice.
      For two days here, a day there, you want to concentrate in the city center and not waste a lot of time for out of way places.
      What day of the week are you in each city is important since many places are closed Sundays, some Mondays. You don't have much flexibility, therefore, narrow you focus and skip the "best of what Italy has to offer" or "willing to travel far". Try not to put too much pressure on having the "best". A trattoria/osteria that delivers good food and an enjoyable evening is a win.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        Took your advice to heart and started with the "types" of food first. :) And requested a reservation for Antiche Carampane...

        1. re: analogarsonist

          Make sure to ask your hotel staff for a very precise direction to Anttiche Carampane. It is difficult to find, hidden in a maze of tiny calle.

      2. If I have one thing to recommend it would be to try to experience italian eating culture which is mostly very relaxed and not about rushing or collecting iconic meals.. Have your cornetti and coffee at a a bar for breakfast. Plan your lunch locations around your touring schedule - but make sure to have some relaxed lunches in trattorias with wine. Have pizza one evening. Have a seafood meal (or two) in venice at one of the places that will offer a variety of the unique local lagoon specialties. Dont worry about Michelin, its not very reliable in Italy.

        There are plenty of reccs here for these types of meals as well as more deluxe establishements as well as in and Elizabeth Minchelli's and Katie Parla's apps and Maureen Fant's website which are well worth consulting.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jen kalb

          Thanks! Yep we're always pretty relaxed and definitely never rushed on our 'gastro-tours', we prepare the restaurant itinerary ahead of time and we don't really worry much about missing any iconic sights. We just take our time travelling to each restaurant and exploring the neighbourhood or any sights that happen to be nearby... I'm definitely downloading those apps, and have referenced Maureen Fant's website extensively :)

        2. Thanks very much for all of the suggestions so far.

          Here's what I'm thinking for Rome, any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

          - Dinner at a traditional trattoria: Felice a Testaccio - Will look at specific menu recommendations for each, but hoping to try some classic Roman dishes.
          - High-End Dinner: Pipero - to try some more modern high-end cuisine
          - Pizza Dinner: Dar Poeta - seemed like a popular option
          - Lunch: Roscioli - looks like an interesting option for cured meats, cheese, pastas (target to get there early)
          - Lunch: Testaccio Market - hoping to find some good food (porchetta, etc.) while wandering the market.

          Still need to figure out Florence and Venice. And thinking of stopping in Bologna for lunch.

          12 Replies
          1. re: analogarsonist

            felice al testaccio is not what it used to be. On a recent visit almost all dishes were very lacking, esp the pastas and secondi.
            Pipero al rex is a great fine dining option with its roots in roman dishes, you can have a very very very good carbonara there.
            Dar poeta is terrible pizza, it is very popular with tourists, especially american style pizza lovers. It is neither roman style, nor naples style, nor one of the new "long leavening, all organic toppings" style. There really is no attraction in eating your one pizza there. I already listed my top choices above, will add da remo for roman style.
            Roscioli: wrote above; make a reservation.
            Testaccio market is not that interesting and pretty run over by huge tour groups. The only two good food options in there are mordi e vai (sandwiches with very roman dishes as fillings), and a stand where there is very good panelle (a sicilian specialty, chickpea flour fritters).

            1. re: vinoroma

              Thanks! I am truly suffering from information overload :)

              Lots of mixed reviews on Felice. I was debating between that an Cesare al Casaletto which you recommended for typical Roman fare, I think I chose Felice because it was highly recommended on Maureen Fant's blog. Although if it has gone downhill then perhaps Cesare al Casaletto is a better option (Parla calls it the perfect Roman trattoria).

              Re: Dar Poeta, yes I came to that conclusion after more reading last night. I did look up Pizzarium, but I think I read somewhere that it's very good, but it's a bit of a modern twist on Roman pizza. I'm leaning towards Da Remo right now since I just wanted to try the classic Roman style pizza.

              Roscioli: Yep, requested a reservation.

              Re: Market - what do you think of the market on Via San Teodoro? Good food options? Or is there another market you could recommend? (especially if there is good porchetta)

              Thanks again for the help!!

              1. re: analogarsonist

                I haven't turned against Felice -- I ate just fine last time I went -- but the two seatings and sort of frenetic atmosphere and perfunctory service are getting to be a bore. I wouldn't recommend it as your one foray into old Rome. In Testaccio I always favor Checchino. Next week I have to go to lunch in the area on Monday, when it's closed, and will probably go to Pecorino, which is very old fashioned and right across from the market. Another good trattoria I'm going to add to my list is called Piatto Romano. In the market, which is as Vinoroma says but it's my market and I shop there, I like Mordi e Vai. Despite the indisputably superior ingredients, I have never warmed to Roscioli. I have been to Cesare once and am not hurrying back. Nothing against it -- we would go there with other people who wanted to, but for ourselves we'd see no reason to go there in preference to Nerone. I like Pipero (bring money). I like Agata e Romeo (less money needed than formerly). Our anniversary dinner at Il Pagliaccio almost a year ago was an expensive disappointment (previous visits had been great). Go early to S. Teodoro, or else maybe after everyone has left to have lunch. The mid-late-morning chaos factor definitely keeps me away. There is porchetta. Metamorfosi is very good but a bit outré for a first visit to Italy. I'd go to Il Convivio (or Pipero).

                As someone else has suggested, read up on the local cuisines where you're going. The fact that you even use the word "Italian" in connection with your food expectations tells me you still have some boning up to do before you'll truly enjoy your trip. But you're on the right track, and you'll definitely have a ball.

                1. re: mbfant

                  Lol - I would definitely have the same comment if someone asked me for recommendations for "chinese food" options when visiting a specific city in China :)

                  What I meant to say is that I'm not that fussed about eating food from the specific region that I'm visiting (i.e. I don't necessarily need to eat Roman food in Rome if there are amazing non-Roman options). But, I'd like to limit my search to Italian options (i.e. I'm not looking for Chinese, Japanese, French, ...).

                  That being said, I now realize that I should not have cast such a wide net, and should have started with more specific requirements. (I just didn't want to 'miss' any good recommendations by narrowing down the requirements)

                  Thanks very much for your recommendations, more reading to do :)

                  1. re: mbfant

                    mbfant - any recommendations on what to order at Pecorino? Can't seen to find reviews online, probably because of the name of the restaurant :)

                    1. re: analogarsonist

                      The menu is the standard Roman. It seems to me they have the very traditional but hard to find "frittata" of potato and tomato, no egg. I'll let you know after my lunch there. I've only been once. As I said, I always go to Checchino except that it's closed on Sunday and Monday.
                      The website is


                      1. re: mbfant

                        (responded using my wife's account by accident)

                        From analogarsonist - Thanks! We're heading on a Sunday.

                        1. re: mbfant

                          Hi mbfant - did you get a chance to eat lunch at Pecorino? Any stand-out dishes you would recommend? We're headed there on Sunday.


                          1. re: analogarsonist

                            No, I wound up not going that day when I had planned to. The other time I went, I recall everything being pretty good, very traditional (and in such cases, i.e., really traditional places, it's risky to order dishes that suggest someone in the kitchen is getting fancy ideas; order conservatively). I recall they had the elusive eggless frittata of potato and tomato. That's tasty and worth trying, probably to share as a little goes a long way.

                2. re: analogarsonist

                  Nothing against Bologna, why add another city when you only have 6 day for three of the great cities of the world. As it is, you will only get a glance of each. Get an early start from Florence to Venice and spent the morning visiting the Rialto market. The market is closed Sundays and the pescheria also Mondays.

                  1. re: PBSF

                    I have to agree with PBSF - as it is you are cramming a lot of content into a trip where you will be spending at least a day travelling city to city already - and each of the places you are visiting has enormous attractions other than food. Dont stint on Venice, when you are already spending only a tiny bit of time there, for a bowl of tortellini.Besides, some of our posters dont think the emilian food in the city of Bologna is all that. Sacrilege maybe on a food board, but I mean it! You and your wife have many years to revisit and explore the whole country.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      Yeah I'm reaching that conclusion as well. My wife just really wanted to try a tagliatelle al ragu from Bologna since it was her favourite dish growing up (well, the australian bastardized version of it anyway)

                      And yeah, we're not really expecting to really experience any of the 3 cities, just catching a glimpse. We really just meant for this to be a gastronimic side-trip from a business trip in France.

                  2. I second the recommendation for Antiche Carampane in Venice. It is one of our "go-to" places there. For lunch, I would certainly have a cicchetti crawl - Al Arco and Vini Al Bottegon being our 2 favorites.

                    Sostanza in Florence is certainly one of our favorites - we have made a day trip to Florence from Rome just to have lunch there. We also love stopping for a snack or aperitivo at Procacci.

                    Roscioli, Piperno and Pizzarium are some of our faves in Rome.

                    I can highly recommend the Eat Rome, Eat Florence and Eat Venice apps by Elizabeth Minchilli and the Katie Parla's Rome app by (uh) Katie Parla. Great to have not only for planning and mapping, but also for on-the-go decisions.