I'm on a 3 week trip with my wife through Italy, and France. I'll add new posts as I find time to write.
Our first dinner in Italy was at Armando Al Pantheon. I'm aware that this has become somewhat of a tourist destination but it seems not to have become a tourist trap. Even surrounded by tables ordering 'Chicken with wine and a side salad,' there are great dishes being served here and I have never been to Rome without eating here are least once. The owner is cordial and the space comfortable enough.
We started with a Bruschetta with black truffle. This was a nearly perfect dish. Very good olive oil and several small slices of black truffle over good bread. Delicious.
Next we shared two pastas. The carbonara here is wonderfully rich with a clear 'eggy' taste. I love the saltiness of the food in Rome and this dish was a wonderful beginning. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the pancetta crisped just slightly.
The second pasta was a spaghetti with tomatoes and arugula. Far lighter than the carbonara, this dish is refreshing and may have even had a bit of lemon in it. Nice choice for a hot night.
We then shared the Abbacchio a scottadito (lamb chops). The lamb is served about medium and simply seasoned with salt and pepper and some very good olive oil. The chops have a fair amount of fat (they are trimmed differently than American lamb chops usually are). I know that lamb chops in the US can be a tiny and even dainty dish but they always feel hearty in Italy and require a decent amount of knife and fork work. The payoff is well worth it. : )
I don't know a huge amount about wine but I recently tried a red from Alto Adige which I don't see that often. We noticed another one on Armando's list and were very pleased. Unlike many of the big Italian wines, these reds seem to maintain a fair amount of complexity without ever becoming overwhelmingly rich and the alcohol content is quite low. Not a bad a idea when you're jet-lagged.
A couple more Rome recs to come followed by Tuscany and then Venice.