Just finishing 3 days in Rome as part of a voyage to Sicily and Corsica. Minimal reservations and maximum flexibility were our guideposts. Afternoon respites/naps were a must as escapes from the impressive heat and humidity.
Breakfasts: minimize the carbs. (I love carbs. They don't love me.). So, sliced turkey and the egg whites from the hotel's buffet spread. Nutella? No grazie.
Lunch: all out effort, including pasta and wine.
Dinner: informal with wine bars and pizza playing a major role.
Resulting hits and misses:
Hit: La Pratolina, charming local place in Prati. Features "Pinsa" rather than pizza. I don't understand the difference but different flour is supposed to be better for me. Pristine ingredients, excellent fresh salads. Reasonable prices and zero tourists. Appetizer, salad, bottle of wine and two oval shaped pizzas were €36 all in. Relaxed, friendly and repeatable.
Miss: Palatium Enoteca. Lazio government's stylish wine bar featuring food and wine of the local region. Small pizza option was a tortured attempt to deconstruct pizza into a vertically stacked combo of sausage and chicory under a pizza dough topper. Strange. Difficult to eat. Not appetizing.
Hit: Roscioli. Focaccia and chewy and crusty brown bread. Delicious in all regards.
Miss: everywhere else. White, soft, tasteless and devoid of crust and crumbs.
Hit: simple spaghetti with tomato and basil at Hotel de Russie. I know, I know. This is an overpriced, over self-impressed hotel catering to rich Romans and rich tourists. Fresh lunch pasta served without pretension overlooking the magnificent gardens erased all doubts about this place. Excellent, friendly service.
Miss: ok. Shoot me now. I didn't enjoy the carbonara at Roscioli. Heresy, I admit. But, my tastes have evolved and I can't take the heavy cheese, cream and salty pancetta combination. Further admission: I was seriously disappointed in the Jamon Iberico Pata Negra at Roscioli as well. This delicacy is so hard to find in the US. Indeed, I've only had it before at Harrod's food halls and l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon -- fabulous. This version was rough cut and almost impossible to cut or chew. The flavor was rich but much too chewy to enjoy.
Hit: Trebbiano d'Abbruzzo, Valentini, 2007. Chowhound inspired choice at Roscioli. Textured, complex and utterly delicious.
Miss: Watery Pinot Grigio served commonly everywhere.
Hit: Antica Enoteca. I admit, I sat at the long wooden bar three times to escape the heat and sample some of the 15 whites and 15 reds available by the glass. A €6 Gavi di Gavi and a €10 Barolo were major hits. Friendly, unpretentious and welcoming near the Spanish Steps.
Miss: Palatium Enoteca. See above. Uninteresting wines. Dumbed down English menu (1/3 the size of the local version) and wine list offered to non-Italian speakers. Stylish but not interesting.
Food shopping: Eataly! I loved the contentious Chowhound posts on Eataly before this trip and just had to check it out. We wandered on foot towards Eataly from the Aventino after terrific, quiet visits to Santa Sabina (our favorite church in Rome), Knights of Malta peephole and San Anselmo. As the weather got hotter, the graffiti grew thicker and our confusion expanded to the point of discouragement. We poked and probed past the Pyramid, around the train station and at last through the underground tunnels of the station, abandoned and a bit scary, towards Eataly. At last, we found the elusive "uscita" and emerged.
We loved it. Clean, elegant design featuring the regional products of all parts of Italy. The fish counter was a highlight of freshness. Likewise, the bread station was much better than we found elsewhere. We had lunch at the pop up restaurant sponsored this month by Chef Anna Dente of San Cesario. Fun and delicious, though a bit confusing. You pick your table then order at the register. The friendly staff then brings your food to you. Although we were the only English speakers, the locals seemed more confused by this system than we were. Coffee and dessert? Back to the register. No matter. The atmosphere was welcoming and a true celebration of all foods Italian. If I lived in Rome, I would drive (not walk) there often.