Thanks so much to all the Chowhounders who have contributed their experiences and expertise. Thanks also to Elizabeth Minchilli for her marvelous app. We arrived Sunday (November 11, 2013) toured the Coliseum and Roman Forum, and had our first meal at Taverna Fori Imperiali, which is nearby. The checkered tablecloths are what you would find in any Italian restaurant in the States and the pictures of actors and directors who have dined at the restaurant scream “Carnegie Deli.” It was very comfortable and the service was efficient and gracious. My husband has the large gabaroni shrimp as an appetizer. They were fine but a tad soggy and missing that satisfying snap and crunch. I had an artichoke appetizer that was very good. The waiter recommended a lasagna special to my husband. He is a lasagna aficionado and pronounced it “excellent.” I had the Fettuccine alla Romana that was wonderful: salty, porky with the crunch of pine nuts. We washed it down with a slightly peppery red wine that helped balance out the high salt content.
Monday after a long morning that spread into the afternoon at the Vatican, we walked to Pizzarium. Even at 3pm, there was a substantial line. It was quite chilly so you should be aware that without the outside counter, there is virtually no place to sit or stand (Though everyone seems used to just packing as many people as possible at the small counters on each side). Many of the locals were taking it to go. The crowd was international with visitors from Turkey, France, United States (us) and many from the neighborhood. We ordered three slices and one arancini each. This worked well because by the time we had moved to the front to order we were starving and were given the arancini to munch on while we waited for our slices to be heated. I had an artichoke and my husband had pesto. They were crunchy outside and mushy inside and satisfying but not up to the standard set by the pizza. The pizza was incredible and different than anything we had ever had. We ordered mozzarella and tomato, prosciutto, marinara cod and pine nut, and two types of artichokes one with caramelized onion and the other with pecorino cheese. The best were the cod and the artichoke with caramelized onion but all were terrific. The crust is awesome and both my husband and I agreed that we would happily eat it even without the marvelous toppings. We washed everything down with a refreshing lemon soda. Pizzarium is not inexpensive (our meal was 46 Euros) but worth every penny. Looking back, my husband summed it up as one of his favorite meals of the trip.
Even though we were completely stuffed we stopped for gelato at Fatamorgana on the way back to the Metro. My husband had the darkest of the three chocolate offerings and I had pistachio. It was fresh and delicious and the people in the shop were lovely about describing their flavors.
Dinner on Monday was at Localino. The restaurant was distinctive, comfortable with a server who was anxious to please. He even brought out a whole fish to show us when we failed in Italian, English, and French to understand what type of fish it was he was recommending. We had wanted to order the moscardini given the recommendation by both Elizabeth Minchilli and my brother in law who had been there a month before. Unfortunately, they were out. Instead, my husband had the grilled octopus, which was a huge portion and could have easily served two people. It was flavorful but somewhat dry and chewy. I had the tuna carpaccio that recommended by the waiter. The slivers of silky bright pink tuna were sublime. It came with a soy dipping sauce but my feeling was why tamper with perfection? Our pastas were vongole for the hub and an anchovy, pesto pine nut for me. My husband felt that his was ho hum and he has had better clam sauce elsewhere (Cape Cod and Venice come to mind); mine was very tasty if you can handle the high salt level – which I could. We shared the recommended whole, fish in a tomato broth that was wonderful. Fragrant, fresh with perfectly cooked morsels of white fish. Highly recommended! Finally, ended with the apple crumble, which was wonderful. The service and ambiance was so pleasant and with careful ordering, the meal could be perfection. As it was, it was very very good. It was the priciest of our meals in Rome but still felt like a good value.
Tuesday we toured the Ghetto and Camp de’ Fiori so ended up quite late (2:30pm) at Sora Margherita for lunch. The Rome Film Festival was in town so the restaurant was filled with film people and their families from around the world. They were all chatting between tables. We had two artichoke-one braised and one fried-appetizers and lasagna for the husband and Cacio e Peppe con Ricotta for me. Everything was delicious but the fried artichokes were an inspiration. They were almost like fresh warm homemade potato chips. I wish we had doubled the order. Our somewhat taciturn waitperson endeared herself to everyone by tickling the children in the room and bringing them treats to try.
Tuesday dinner was at Trattoria Monti. The décor was elegant and attractive and the service friendly and efficient. It had a hipper-in a good way-vibe than our other choices. My husband began with a zucchini sformatini. It was light and flavorful as well as interesting. I began with the tortolloni with a runny egg inside being a sucker for anything with egg yolk. It was rich and delicious but a bit bland. A little extra pepper improved it a lot. My husband had the rigatoni and sausage and I had duck. The rigatoni was flavorful with the noodles cooked perfectly. The duck was good but had an adequate but uninspiring gravy. It was perfectly fine but did not reach the heights of the other offerings. Many other diners were getting the rabbit and it looked outstanding. We shared the apple cake in a zabaglione sauce that made both of us want to lick the plate.
We had hoped to stop at the patisserie Regoli to buy something to take back to our hotel but found it was closed on Tuesday. Very sad…
We stayed at the Albergo del Senato that overlooks the square in front of the Pantheon. The hotel was comfortable and surprisingly quiet, given its location. The staff was helpful and friendly and breakfast was quite good. It was a good value, especially for Rome. On Wednesday we left for Florence and I will report on that in my next posting.