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Venice/ Florence/ Rome Trip report (very long)

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I want to thank those of you who helped me figure out where to eat in Venice, Florence and Rome. I used Elizabeth Minchilli’s apps for Venice, Florence and Rome and Katie Parla’s Rome app. I also searched Chowhound and various other sites. We had a great time in Italy made that much better by the exquisite foods that we ate. We were a couple traveling with my mother and 18 year old niece. My husband’s drink of choice is craft beer—and there is good craft beer in Italy…just not everywhere. I include prices if I have the receipt, we were always a party of four.

Venice:
Pantagruelica, Campo Santa Barnaba
This is a great little food shop where we bought delicious meats, cheeses and breads for our lunch the first day. I think the man who helped us was named Maurizio—he was passionate about his beautifully selected, lovingly created foods. This shop is a little jewel. Had Venice been our last city I would have bought lots of treats to bring home. (€31.55)

Gelateria Il Doge, Campo Santa Margherita
Got gelato here the first day and kept going back for more.

Hotel Wildner (lunch)
After stumbling out of the Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries tour (meh) I had three starving companions on my hands. Panic. Where to eat? I used EM’s app to find this place and it did not disappoint. It was far enough from the craziness of the Bridge of Sigh’s, it was a gorgeous day and a perfect setting. The beautiful thing (for us) was it was not crowded. It should have been. I had a delicious turbot with zucchini, my companions had caprese salad and pastas. (€102)

Café Florian
We sat in the Square and had snacks and coffees and hot chocolates. I had a strawberry bellini (not amazing)—but it came with salty snacks (chips and olives). I love salty snacks. We listened to the music to the tune of six euros each (except our niece who must have looked too young). The nice thing was I felt like we could have sat there forever. We sat there long enough for the line at the campanile to go down—absolutely amazing view, worth the wait. (€72.50)

Antiche Carampene
Delicious seafood. Had read it was hard to find. I followed the directions from the San Silvestro vaporetto stop and had no trouble, had a hard look at the map in advance, which was helpful. We asked the waiter to help us order and were not disappointed. Lots of seafood, a few pastas, some fried seafood, a chocolate torte, amaretto (delicious!). I ordered the lemon sorbet and was surprised by the lemon sorbet mixed with vodka (later found out it was a sgroppino). The service was lovely, very helpful. I should have kept better notes on the beer…they did have some interesting beer.
(€200)

Al Covo
Delicious seafood again. Very similar to Antiche Carapene—again we asked the wait staff to help us order. Lovely service. My favorite thing was the cheese course at the end—there was this amazing blue cheese, very soft and delicious. Thought about it for days after.
(€275)

Florence
Zeb (lunch)
I loved Zeb even though the owner did not love us…or anyone! Maybe he loved the locals. This is a small, very modern place with bar seating. It is like a swiss army knife—everything slots in perfectly. I liked that it was a little off the beaten path…though it was not too far off the beaten path. We went for lunch. Everything looked delicious, I wanted to taste everything. The owner recited the menu to us in English which is nice except that I could only understand every fifth word or so. And then I could not remember anything that he said. Because we had such good luck in Venice with waiters helping us order I asked if he would help us. But no! “How can I choose” was the look/ body language he gave us? It is all delicious! So then I proceeded to order meats and cheeses and a pasta to share…which only disappointed him more. If only he had helped us order we would not have disappointed! I was not flummoxed by his bad attitude because I saw him berate customers in front of us. It made me laugh to myself inside. That said, I would recommend this place. Everything was delicious, the place is gorgeous and it was a real deal—only €38 for four for lunch (I had a glass of white wine). Don’t let the owner/ waiter/ chef get you down.

‘Ino
Well located place to have a Panini/ quick lunch near the Piazza della Signoria.

La Carraia
This was our favorite gelato in Florence.

Mercato Centrale
We tried to go to Nerbone for lunch, but the market closes at 2pm. We had lunch upstairs in the food court which is bright and airy. Did not wow me but it is a central place to stop for a bite to eat.

Il Santo Bevitore
Loved this place. Excellent selection of wines AND beers. Food was delicious, atmosphere was terrific, lively setting. Service was warm and welcoming. We would have gone here every night but did not want to miss out on other opportunities. (€130)

Trattoria Sostanza
Loved this place too. I had read that the butter chicken was the thing. Could not imagine how something named butter chicken that looked bland in pictures could be destination worthy. Boy was I wrong, it was delicious. We should have ordered two butter chickens and skipped the bistecca fiorentina. There were nice side vegetables (sautéed spinach and fresh tomatoes, not together) and salads. I was disappointed we did not try the artichoke torta—apparently it is to die for. There is communal table seating. We were seated with some locals so spied what they were ordering. (€117)

Al Tranvai
Going here gave us real street cred with the locals. Everyone wondered how we ever heard about this place, thank you Elizabeth Minchilli! I liked it because it was so different from our other destinations. It is very small and local, low key, not fancy. The menu is posted on the wall. I would call the food honest. I cannot remember everything we had (and forgot to take pics)—there were pastas (one cooked in red wine), the spinach gnudi, and fried zucchini. We were seated in the very, very small backroom (four tables). One of the wait staff from Il Santo Bevitore was in the back room with us—he recognized us from a few evenings prior. I always like to know where restaurant people go. (no idea of cost)

Rome:
Pizzarium (lunch)
Did not disappoint. Had no idea what to order so told the guy (who spoke every language) what should we get for four people. He selected our pizzas. My hands down favorite was the potato pizza. Close-ish to the Vatican. (€19)

Beer Tasting with Katie Parla
As I mentioned, my husband loves craft beer. Often restaurants only have an inspired selection so he never has a libation that he enjoys. When I saw that Katie Parla had a craft beer tasting I knew this would be a huge hit, the experience did not disappoint. Katie took us to Open Baladin for a tasting of four Italian beers we would have never tried. We had small snacks to pair with the beers. She told us all about the brewers, beer in Italy, life in Italy, it was definitely informative. She also gave us the names of several other craft beer places to try. From the list, we only got to no.au— it was a fun.

Roscioli
I kept reading about this place and wanted to try it. Some people love it and some people hate it. It seemed so hit or miss. We loved it. We went here after the beer tasting, right around the corner from Open Baladin. Katie told us to follow the suggestions from her website and we would not be disappointed. It was delicious. I would love to find where I can get small semi sun dried tomatoes like those served with the burrata. They were divine. They have beautiful meat and cheese counter and small array of items to buy. So wish I could have lingered but it was late and they were very busy. Their Antico Forno just down the street is also delicious. The breads at dinner (and later at the Il Sanlorenzo) were divine. I bought taralli to bring back for gifts—everyone said how much they enjoyed them. Wish we could have stopped here for lunch…but never any time, or calories to spare. (dinner was €91)

Armando al Pantheon
We enjoyed this meal very much. We had a booth. The design is fresh. The restaurant bustles in a good way. The service was friendly Loved the bruschetta, the pastas and the desserts (Torta Antica Roma and Tiramisu). We had the rolled beef with peas and the oxtails—I much preferred the other items we ordered. It was fun to be able to walk out and see the Pantheon at night. (€125)

Ristorante Vecchia Roma (via della Tribuna Campitelli)
Our guide from the Colosseum and Forum recommended this place. It is walk-able from these sights. We loved it. My mom had requested to eat lunch outside on the last day. This place was perfect. It was in a quiet-ish small square off the beaten path. Our guide aid they were had great vegratables. We shared and antipasti with fried artichoke/ crostini with vegetables, pastas and a risotto. This was the best risotto of our trip, I wish I could remember what was in it—all I remember was that it was green and had pistachios as a garnish. The green beans with tomatoes and the mixed green salad were so fresh and welcome. Service was very warm and friendly. (lunch was €123)

Il Sanlorenzo
This was our blowout last night. I did not know it was going to be such a blowout—but it was the favorite meal of several in our party. I had dithered on where to go. I kept making reservations and then getting swayed by opinions. In the end this was the opinion that prevailed, and we were glad that it did. This is a swell crowd. I kept marveling at the gorgeous outfits of the women, and their high heels. (How do they walk on cobblestones in these high heels? Maybe a car drops them at the door?) The atmosphere and service were swell too. We had the whole nine yards—the appetizers selected by the owners, two pastas, some calamari and zucchini (fried) and then a whole cooked fish. By the time the fish came I could barely eat another bite…I should point out it was a touch overdone (just a teeny bit). It broke my heart not to be able to indulge in the gorgeous little sweets at the end. Two revelations (for me)—the fried anchovies and the carpaccio of shrimp with orange, salt and oil. The breads from Rosicoli were divine. At one point we each got a tiny croissant which was beyond delicious. Thank goodness they did not give us a second croissant—we would have devoured that too. The only sad note was that they have one beer—Heineken. Are you kidding? A place this nice has one shot at a beer and they serve Heineken?!! (€349, which includes a mere three glasses of wine)

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  1. Nice report! Looking forward to trying out a few of those restaurants soon.

      1. great to have these very detailed reports. Lots of good info.

        1. Nice report. Can you compare your meals at Antiche Carampene and Al Covo a bit more? What did you order specifically? If you could choose to eat at only one, where would it be?

          I will be in Venice in October and I'm debating between those two for dinner. Right now I am leaning towards Antiche Carampene since the food seems comparable and Al Covo is a bit more expensive.

          3 Replies
          1. re: FoodDude2

            Antiche Carampene: (These are notes I sent a friend that night. i am also attaching pics of food.)
            They started us off with cornets of small fried shrimp—you ate everything, heads, tails, eyes. We started with two seafood dishes—baby scallops and a Venetian seafood platter (cod dish redfish dish, spider crabs, cuttlefish, calamari, shrimp, some sweet and sour thing with onions). Then we had two pastas— a spider crab and a tiny octopus with sepia (squid ink type thing). For the main we had a fried seafood—these delicious tiny soft shelled crabs and other seafoods. then we had one espresso, one amaretto, a chocolate torte and I ordered a lemon sorbet which ended up being the sgroppino.

            Al Covo: (I was better at pictures than taking here than notes.)
            We started with an amuse of garden snails, not my thing. I like snails soaked in butter and garlic. We then had items very similar to Antiche Carampene—scallops, Venetian seafood platter, pastas, fried seafood. We did have the small fried soft shell crabs which I believe are called meloche. We had two desserts and the divine cheese plate.

            Overall these restaurants are so similar in menu, service and the pleasant evening that was had. The big differences are location—Al Covo is closer to St. Mark's, Antiche Carampene is a little farther from the center. We were staying Dorsoduro so were trying to make the last vaporetto home from Al Covo, but walked home from Antiche Carampene. The atmosphere at Al Covo is a touch fancier. Antiche Carampene's dining room has a smaller, homier feeling. Things at Al Covo were a little more expensive—we ordered a more expensive bottle of wine, the beer, water. The coperto to at Al Covo was €5 to Antiche's €16 (totals for our party of four).

            I would hate to choose between one of these restaurants because in the end they are so similar and you will not be disappointed with either. The major differences are location and price.

            I am attaching pictures, probably will be in two posts. (I took pics with my iPhone without a flash...so some are a little blurry and unfocused.)

             
             
             
             
             
             
             
            1. re: FoodDude2

              More pics from Al Covo (to go with my detailed post about Al Covo and Antiche Carampene)

               
               
               
               
               
              1. re: FoodDude2

                PS—I see that the pics do not have titles. All before the garden snails are from Antiche Carampene, all after are from Al Covo.

              2. Thank you for the wonderful and detail write up. Glad that you ate well in Venice. Gelateria Il Doge is a favorite. Besides the excellent gelati (especially their signature Crema del Doge, chocolate fondante and pistachio), it is own by two charming and friendliest guys. The benches in the Cp is perfect for gelato and watching the lively scene.