I just returned from two food filled weeks in Italy and wanted to share some experiences with everyone. I typically prefer trattoria type restaurants in Italy over fine dining ristoranti, and used the Slow Food guide and this board for reference. Most restaurants I have noted cost around 100Euro for three courses and a very good wine(My Husband is a wine-nut and we had Brunello or Barolo or a Super Tuscan with every meal at about 35Euro/bottle), so fewer courses or ordering the house wine would be less.
Gianni - Was closed for the Holidays! I very much wanted to try this restaurant based on this board's recommendations.
Grassilli - This is a trattoria disguised as a restaurant. They have fine crystal, china, tablecloths and very proper service, but the prices are reasonable and the room is cozy. The chef is actually french trained and the pastas are extra sinfully rich here. The cotoletta bolognese veal cutlet smothered with parma prosciutto and melted cheese was delicious, as were the white truffles, a heaping portion for a pittance shaved onto the pasta.
Meloncello - Slow Food spot. Rustic wooden tables and a homey feel in this welcoming trattoria outside the city gates at the foot of the San Luca climb. No menus, all is recited by the friendly waitstaff, so know your food items in Italian! In lieu of a wine list, they drag you to a back room where the wine is piled up everywhere to choose. Food is good and homey, too. Excellent tagliatelle con ragu, tortellini, meatballs, roast veal.
Trattoria Del Rosso - Slow Food. A casual slightly modern take on a rustic trattoria. Service is somewhat indifferent as college students appear to be the entire staff. Food flys out of the kitchen in no particular order, but there are no complaints as soon as you taste it. Try the HUGE portion of Gnocco Fritto, which they call cresanze? Fried dough puffs with parma proscuitto to stuff inside-delicious! Rustic pastas and roasted & grilled meats are excellent and prices are VERY low here.
Tamburini - The deli of the gods! (And yes, DavidT, we know you can eat there, too) I bought tons of sausages and meats that were lovingly vacuum packed and wrapped in paper and ribbon - that were all CONFISCATED from my checked luggage by the USDA at the airport! They left behind in the suitcase a note that stated that any meat is not allowed into the country, so BEWARE. They mercifully left me the cheese.
Leonida - Arts & crafts decor and lively brasserie vibe with an interesting local clientele of characters at this friendly restaurant. Very large menu with at least 20 pasta choices and perhaps 30 entrees. Many grilled items, if you must take a break from the heavy bolognese cooking. Consistently very good.
Trattoria Mario - If I could eat here for every meal while in Florence, I would, but they are only open for lunch! Get there early or get in line and be prepared to be well fed. There are communal TIGHT tables and you sit on barrels in a cramped room 1/2 kitchen and 1/2 dining room, split almost down the center with the kitchen on full display, and it is FUN. The food is basic florentine, I especially love the pappardelle with whatever game ragu they have that day, pasta e fagioli, raviolis, and they offer a monster bistecca fiorentina which they will present to you raw for your approval prior to grilling. Do not miss this true chowhound experience.
Antica Mescita Osteria San Niccolo - This was a find far from the tourist clogged center of Florence. In the Oltrano, near Porto San Miniato but only a 20 min walk from center, no tourist throngs and only Italians here at this lively rustic Osteria open until late. Basic rib-sticking tuscan fare with friendly service. You may have to share a table if they are busy.
Osteria del Bricco - Also near Porto San Miniato on Oltrano. Warm and inviting spot with brick walls and arches with a cozy feel. No one speaks english but they are eager to please. Great cheese plate, crostinis, and entrees like tagliata with arugula and bacon. The owner does not know the value of his wines and they are severely underpriced. He will also not let you leave without an apertif toast or giving you a bottle of his family's wine.
Buca di San Antonio - This venerable restaurant lives up to every accolade it has received. A warm reception leads to one of the lovely dimly lit rooms with copper pots hanging from the ceiling and a formally set table and service. The best pasta of the trip was had here, a ravioli filled with meat in a bolognese ragu. We also tried two luccan dishes, the fried lamb chops with artichokes and guinea hen roasted with grapes and bacon, unbelievably delectable. Despite this restaurant's status as best in town and formal settings, prices were very reasonable. We will go out of our way to return here.
Le Grotto - Slow Food. After being turned away by the very unfriendly proprietor of Asino d'Oro, we found this inviting restaurant. They have a good selection of umbrian meats and cheeses for antipasti, we loved the luccan sausages with beans, game pastas, and especially the excellent famous Orvieto wine made locally.
To preface my Rome comments, I have been to Rome over 10 times in far less years and do have some experience with dining there. I only offer a couple of mentions here as most places have been well noted already.
Da Sergio - Crowded but fun and lively trattoria near the Campo with basic pastas, good grilled meats and a great antipasto vegetable offering. No gourmet dining by a long shot, but great for a cheap lunch in an authentic roman aptmosphere.
Armando Al Pantheon - This is a fantastic restaurant, a stone's throw from the Pantheon. The small wood paneled room is intimate and welcoming from the tourist throngs outside. Traditional roman food with perfect carbonara, cacio e pepe and roasted meats. I can't believe I thought Matricianella was acceptable before I dined here. Friendly staff speaks english, reasonably priced wines, but very small so reservations essential.
Matricianella - An overrated tourist trap. I have been here many, many times, and it is always passable, but never exceptional, and never consistent. If you have a dry cacio e pepe one visit, it will be a soupy version the next. Fritte light and airy one visit, cold, soggy with grease and dredged in salt the next. I have been served saltimbocca with veal that was spoiled and the smell nearly made me swoon when it arrived but they argued about taking it back, and then I have had saltimbocca there that was the best ever in Rome before that. They do not present the wine from their extremely overpriced wine list (nor store it at proper temperature) and have, on two occasions, tried to bring bottles that were twice the cost of the bottle we ordered, opened it away from the table and came over, flashed it quickly and started pouring. This is "great roman food" for tourists who are afraid to venture outside the Veneto and Tridente areas. For all of you that love it, keep going, I hope you enjoy it, but you may eventually be disappointed.
Fiaschetteria Beltramme - Same opinion as Matricianella. Do not bother waiting in that line.
Taverna Romana - A rustic, crowded, frenetic little spot near the Collosium with slapdash service but great pastas. The NYT raved about the cacio e pepe and we agree, ditto the carbonara. Entrees run out early, so we settled on lamb and veal involtini, both very good. No wine list, only house white or red plonk. Very reasonably priced.
Acchiappiafantasmi - I do not go to Rome for pizza, and don't care for Baffetto or Monteleone, but this Calabrian restaurant near the Campo is a bit different. They have a menu of pizzas, not paper thin roman, but also not thick. They also have an interesting Calabrian list of appetizers such as spicy sausages, n'duja, bruschettas and seafood, all very good. Desserts are special, too, they import a special Sicillian gelato and offer true sicillian cannolis. Wine list is good and cheap, as is the final bill.
Colline Emilliane - This Emillian Romagnan restaurant is excellent. The kind owners make all the items, including pastas and desserts, fresh every day. The tortellini and tagliatelle dishes are possibly better than in Bologna, and the grilled, roasted, and bollito entrees are all delicious as well. Attentive service from the owners themselves, reasonable prices and consistently wonderful food make this one of our all time favorites in Rome.