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May 8, 2014 03:40 PM

Rome - Top Dining Spots

My boyfriend and I will be in Rome with his parents for 4 nights in Sept before boarding a cruise. We are looking for high quality traditional Rome/Italy restaurants. Any price point is okay. Interested in having the best food in a comfortable environment at whatever cost that may be - but not interested in a formal dining experience. All suggestions would be greatly appreciated. We are staying not far from the Spanish Steps at the St. Regis Hotel. Thank you!!!

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  1. I would definitely consider Al Ceppo, in Parioli. It's gracious and comfortable, and the food is mainly classic but varied and not boring.

    Checchio dal 1887 should also suit you. It's very traditional Roman fare, but with great wines and good service.

    I would also consider Fortunato al Pantheon and La Campana.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mbfant

      "Checchio dal 1887 should also suit you."

      It's actually "checchino" for search purposes here and elsewhere. :)

    2. Taverna Truilussa in the Trastavere area. A warm and inviting place with the best food I had when I was in Rome. The pasta is wonderful. I had the Amatricana and though it's been some time, am still dreaming of it. We also had beef in Balsamic, their mozz and their proscuitto. All was amazing. The service is also top-notch.

      . It's on Via del Politeama 23-25 Phone: 06 5818918

      It's on Via del Politeama 23-25 Phone: 06 5818918

      1. Armando al Pantheon has excellent Roman dishes and a comfortable, elegant dining room.

        2 Replies
          1. re: gmcguireinrome

            I too heatily agree. Make your reservation on line at its website.

          2. As much as I respect Maureen, La Campana coughed up the worst meal I have had in Rome - with indifferent service - several years ago. I would never go back and could not suggest you add that to your list.

            L'asino d'oro, under Mr. Sforza's command, is churning out very interesting dishes these days in an informal setting on the fringe of Monti. Its more a bistro than a more formalized ristorante. Lunch is a pre-set menu at a bargain price of 13 euros. We had a terrific time there just days ago - food and service were top notch - and I urge anyone to consider this place. One of the best meals we have had in Rome in many, many years.

            Al Ceppo is a good suggestion but far from the St. Regis - you will need to taxi to/from. I just posted about our most enjoyable lunch outside at Piperno's three days ago so I recommend you consider getting reserving a table outside on their charming but tiny piazza. Weather in Sept. should be ideal for fine dining at Piperno's for lunch or dinner. The food is first rate, especially the fish and seasonal specials (now, their vignarole was superb), wine list is impressive, service is impeccable.

            I do agree with Maureen's prior comments voicing ambivalence on Armando. My experience has been the same as hers. Location is good but the food never measures up to what is repeatedly hyped here. Our lunch last week was yet another mediocre experience. I urge you to avoid the cult ravings to consider other options nearby. I realize there are strong feelings about the place but after two recent disappointing meals, I'm done.

            If you want to lunch near the Pantheon as an alternative to Armando's, I echo the suggestion of Da Fortunato. Its expensive but reliable, there are tables outside to watch the parade to/from the Pantheon, the food is always good over the many times we have eaten there mid-day. Nothing spectacular but a reliable and upscale choice for fish and pasta. I have noticed (and was told sotte voce by waiters) other diners are frequently politicians from their offices nearby. If that is a recommendation or a diss...your call!

            Another good option in that vicinity is La Capranica, footsteps away from the Pantheon and only inside dining but there are innovative dishes, crafty takes on Roman regular menu items, that are elegantly prepared.

            Finally, I would also recommend highly Il Convivio. The two brothers operate a first class joint and the food is both creative yet solidly Roman. Michelin stars for good reason and a place to celebrate your good fortune.

            BTW, the St. Regis is nowhere near the Spanish Steps. The Steps are walkable - about 1.5 miles away - but you should look at the map. There is little available near the St. Regis but it is a beautiful property. Two swish hotels very close to the Steps are the Hassler and Intercontinental. That said, Rome is easy to get around by foot, subway, bus or taxi. Enjoy your stay this fall!

            8 Replies
            1. re: wristband

              Good catch about proximity of hotel to Spanish Steps -- not.

              La Campana goes up and down. I hadn't been there for years but went recently with about ten people, all of whom were quite pleased, and service was good. And I've heard good reports recently too. And it's open on Sunday evening.

              I certainly second the recommendation of Il Convivio.

              1. re: mbfant

                I ate at La Campana Easter Sunday. I had a fine meal.

                jrlevitt has said that she doesn't want a "a formal dining experience", which might exclude Il Convivio. I urge her to reconsider. If the wine steward Massimo is there, ask him to choose a wine for you, and then have him choose what matches the wine on the menu. Ask for the waiter Eric. Tell Massimo and Eric that "Mr. Sidney from North Carolina" sent you. Make your reservation on Il Convivio's website.

                1. re: sidcundiff

                  Will do!!! I just wanted to avoid anything VERY stuffy - formal is probably too loose of a term. planning a visit to Il Convivo per all of these wonderful testimonials.

              2. re: wristband

                Armando al Pantheon and Il Convivio have been 2 of my reliable old standbys.

                Worth noting, however, that in a recent trip, while Armando was lovely as usual, Il Convivio seemed to be suffering from a rash of new staff: maybe wait a few months for them to bed in? They were all a bit on edge and clumsy.

                Can't say that I've ever been ambivalent about Armando. BUT, you do have to take it for what it is: a simple trattoria that happens to be in one of the tourist epicentres in Rome. I have to give them a lot of credit for not capitulating to any temptation to turn into a cynical tourist exploitation vehicle.

                Generally, though, trattorie, of which Armando is one, serve basic food prepared basically. You're not coming for, nor should expect, culinary fireworks or expositions of dazzling technical skill. This is simply ordinary Roman cuisine cooked to an admirable level. Which you'll also find at any of dozens of other good trattorie in Rome. There's nothing miraculous Armando, or any other place, is going to be able to do to make themselves a quantum leap above anywhere else.

                But what makes Armando al Pantheon really stand out is that the food really is up to the standard of a quality trattoria, in a location that makes it unrivalled. Usually for quality like that you have to comb the unknown neighbourhoods - not because it's only in unknown trattorie in unknown neighbourhoods that quality is to be found as such, but rather because in a random sample you're going to have to cast a wide net to get the truly good places. There's going to be one really cracking trattoria, most likely, in each neighbourhood of Rome, and it so happens that for the Centro Storico, that trattoria happens to be Armando al Pantheon, which makes it a very strategic choice - one you don't have to consider transport logistics before deciding whether it's worthwhile to go.

                1. re: wristband

                  Actually, the St. Regis is only a 20 minute walk from the Spanish Steps. I think it's very doable. And Ceppo is walkable as well, only a half hour walk. In Rome, walking is part of the charm.

                  Just want to chime in here to say that I've had two outstanding meals at Armando in the last three weeks. Both meals were spot on, and the service is always excellent.

                  I also am not sure why you call L'Asino d'Oro a bistrot? It's very much a real restaurant, with impeccable professional service. It is very modern looking, and doesn't have traditional table clothes, etc. But I'm not sure I'd call it a bistrot, which implies simply made fare, no?

                  Happy to hear you liked Fortunato, which I don't think I've been to in about 10 years. I used to love it, and its old fashioned, old Rome vibe.


                  1. re: wristband

                    To me, the experience at Armando is highly dependent on what you order. Some of the items on their specialty menus are not nearly as good as their Roman specialties, (like lamb, pastas, tripe) which are reliable and to us delicious. We have enjoyed their "ancient roman" dishes, others have not had such good experiences. Desserts are better than aveage for a trattoria. We have also always liked the ambiance at lunch time very much - enjoy the mix of people and the kind service. I guess it is possible to become jaded with the classics and I would never claim that this is "the best" in any way, but it is worth the visit if a classic trattoria experience is wanted. La Campana is in the same category - it had a down cycle, but it also serves up very good food, maybe a tad more varied than Armando. I cant answer for either of these places at dinner time when they are more likely to be patronized mainly by tourists.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Agree 100% @jen kalb.
                      My observation about Armando and other restaurants like it, be it in Rome, Florence, Bologna or wherever in Italy, is that it is a trattoria. And being a trattoria, my expectations are for good, solid food. Nothing fancy or over the top. I do not expect my meal to "blow me away" as I have seen others write about Armando and their disappointment. The dishes served in a trattoria should be reminiscent of home cooking and nothing more. That is what I expected from Armando and that is what I got. We really enjoyed the restaurant. And you are right about the desserts. We shared the torta antica Roma and I remember thinking at the time that it was one of the best desserts I had ever had in Italy in the 10+ years we have been going there.

                  2. thank you everyone!!!! these are great ideas