Same deal as the Venice post I just put up:
Non-Chowhound friends are on a trip to Italy, and before they left I volunteered to skim Chowhound and find some recommendations for them. They are travelling with a 4-year old, so I was trying to pick out more casual places and screen out expensive high-end places.
The list that follows was gleaned from a bunch of posts (none of which are mine) and I apologize that no-one is attributed. I wish now I'd thought to keep the URLs of the posts I used, but I didn't. I edited info to just have what I thought was useful to my friends, and I was crunched for time, so there are some odd jumps. There's repetition as well, and different input from different posters. I was doing it just for my friends' use and then it occurred to me that the list might be useful or provide a launching point for further updated discussion. This isn't a comprehensive list, just the ones I copied before I burned out on the task :-) Anyone planning a Rome trip should take the time to read the archives and find the info that meets their specific needs.
If my friends come back with feedback, I'll post back here, but they are the types to enjoy a fantastic meal and not remember little details like the name of the place.
(i) Matricanella: Mentioned previously on this Board, this small, reasonably-priced restaurant located near the Spanish Steps provided the best dining experience in Rome during our stay. In particular, this retarurants excells at the art of frying various vegetables and meats. Although I did not indulge in the fried lamb's brains mentioned by a previous poster, the fried artichokes and vegetables (including porcini) were delicious. I nice mix of tourists and locals (every local table was covered in various fried foods). The fried dishes were followed by your spaghetti carbonara and buccantini alla amatricana. The buccantini was delicious while the spaghetti was a bit over-salted (a problem I found common with most pasta dishes in Italy).
(ii) Al Moro: After reading last year's article in Gourmet, I thought a visit to this traditional Roman trattoria would be quite an experience. Upon entering, we were assaulted by the smell of white truffles which were displayed in a basket as you entered the restaurant. Although the truffles were small and their quality did not appear to be high, my pavlovian response to them manadated that I order a dish that included them. Before that, we ordered artichokes in the traditional roman style (marinated), fresh mozzarella and various grilled mushrooms (porcini, oliveti (sp?). The dishes were simple but the quality of the ingredients was very high which made for a great beginning. These dishes were followed by spaghetti al moro for my wife and taglietelli white white truffles for myself. Spaghetti al moro is a version of spaghetti carbonara and was one of the few pasta dishes I tasted in Italy that contained the right amount of salt. Moreover, Al Moro's version was better and lighter than the version I had at Matricannella the night before. The white truffle dish, however, was a tremendous letdown. The white truffles did not live up to my expectations and the pasta was undercooked.
(iii) Al Ceppo: Since it was a Sunday night, our dining options were limited. This restaurant located in the Paroli district provided an average meal that did not leave a lasting impression. The meal started was a baccala appetizer over whipped potatotes that was good but was followed by an average grilled "queen fish" and beef tenderloin dish. One item of note at this restaurant was their diverse wine list that contained a high number of wines from Le Marche region (were the owner's are from) including a number of Verdicchio's that you cannot find in the U.S.
checcino dal 1887 in marmorata (by the pyramid train station) should give you a chance for classic roman fare. i had oxtail and tripe and was blown away by both. let the maitre d recommend the wine - he selected a 1997 chianti for me that was outstanding. if you go for lunch, then you can shop at the nearby volpetti store for amazing cheeses and salami.
i'd also enthusiastically recommend dal toscano, on via germanico. its a tuscan restaurant very near the vatican museum, has great grilled meats and a very reasonable looking wine lists. my barbera was an excellent match with our meal. very conveniently located to recover from the sistine chapel ... tuscan food, nice wine list, and my veal steak was superb.
finally, i wish i had more time to explore the trattoria da armando al pantheon, which is on the right hand side of the square as you look at the pantheon. this is a place i wish i could have gone back to - the customers all looked way to happy. i unfortunately settled for a light meal that night, starting with spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chillis (wonderful). i bet theres some very serious stuff they're good at - perhaps its off menu, god knows, but the place is hiding treasure.
had a blast eating pizza at da baffetto, which turned out to be a hop, skip and a jump away from where we were staying. the family lurved the pizzas, man, just the bruschetta had me in tears. exactly like me mom made, how uncanny. and real tomatoes.
Shopping- the volpetti store in marmorata. i first thought of carrying cold cuts and cheeses back home, but 300 or so euros later took the owners advice and had my goodies shipped to me. they'll offer you tons of stuff to try and its all uniformly delicious.
Try Grappolo d'Oro Zampano' off of piazza della Cancelleria, right near Campo de' Fiori. They have an eclectic menu and one of the nicest staffs in Rome (good service here can be surprisingly hard to find). They recently expanded to include a pizzeria as well, for something a little less formal.
I keep reading about 'Gusto, which is supposed to be a large and varied venue, with pizza, store, wine, and I think, another restaurant. It is supposed to be fun to look at, so I'm guessing that it might be good for kids, especially ones who are "adventurous." ;-)
We have had a good meal at Orso 80 (the grilled scampi were memorable) and the kids might get a kick out of the endless antipasto if you decide to order it. Bowls and dishes keep coming and coming. I didn't have it, but it looked like fun.
I've often seen families at La Rampa at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. I think it is pretty good; the antipasto buffet is huge, and the pastas are tasty; service isn't bad.
The latter two places are popular with tourists as well as Italians, as far as I can judge (we were the only non-Italians in the area we were seated in at Orso 80 on the Sunday night we ate there). For what that's worth, I think they qualify for casual and good for kids.
go to Marcello. It is on Via Aurora. Great food very cheap. Tell them to bring you whatever is good and you will get so much food you won't be able to finish it all. They have wonderful antipasti, the three Roman pastas are wonderful and the roast veal is so delicious and tender. My husband and I just returned from Rome and went there from a recommendation from this board and we weren't disappointed. In fact we ate there 3 nights during our stay because we enjoyed it so much. The bill was usually around 75 Euro with a bottle of wine.
der Pallauro in Largo Febo- a family run place for lunch and dinner, with one price and a set meal, with several courses yes mama is in the kitchen and husband is the maitre d and waiter
d' Augusto in Trastevere- in piazza Augusto(I think)- good inexpensive lunch and dinner a choce of three to four pastas, and then one selects off a menu the secondo
Da Baffetto is on Via Governo Vecchio, in the Piazza Navona area - and is justly famous for its pizza. Open evenings only. Casual Roman atmosphere. Baffetto is not a restaurant but has great pizza, calzoni ("pizza pockets") and appetizers typical of pizzerie: beans; olives; fried rice balls (supplì), etc. - Via del Governo Vecchio 114 /tel. 06-686-1617
Der Pallaro is in the area of Campo de' Fiori, several blocks from Largo Febo.
Largo Febo is a charming square just beyond at the north end of Piazza Navona, in front of the Hotel Raphael. There is a restaurant there but can't recommend it as I've never eaten there but a great location, especially for outdoor dining in good weather.
Augusto in Trastevere is located in Piazza de' Renzi (near Santa Maria in Trastevere) and is a very characteristic place with locals and tourists alike -- paper table cloths, quick service, but you can linger over your wine or espresso at the end of a meal. Simple, home cooking, and good. Not a wide variety of pastas -- just rigatoni (short tubular pasta) with various sauces: amatriciana; carbonara; with tomato sauce; with meat/tomato sauce; with grated pecorino cheese and black pepper for those with cast iron stomachs. No spaghetti. No fettuccine. Usually an excellent soup of the day. The second course meat dishes are also quite good. And the atmosphere is very laid back and Roman. They will add up your inexpensive bill on the paper table cloth when you are ready to leave. Closed Saturday evening and all day Sunday.
On Via del Moro, near Augusto in Trastevere, there is a famous bakery shop making fresh bread, cookies and pizza open 7 days a week. They make very thick crust pizza with a wide variety of toppings. Just indicate which type you want and how big you want the slice and they will cut it for you, wrap it in paper and you can sit at the counter along the wall and enjoy it or eat it as you stroll through Trastevere's tiny streets.
Also on Via del Moro, walking toward Santa Maria in Trastevere is Valzani pastry shop: a variety of home made chocolates, including orange peels; cookies; crostate (jam pies); wonderful Sacher tort with or without whipped cream; cannoli. Usually closed Monday and Tuesday. They make their own Easter eggs of dark or milk chocolate. After Easter they break up the unsold eggs and sell the shards (broken pieces of milk or dark chocolate).
Pizzaria Remo in Testaccio. Take the Metro to Piramide, walk a few blocks down Via Marmoratta, turn left into the Testaccio neishborhood and ask anyone you see for directions. It will be very nearby. Its a local institution that rocks every evening.
1. Best dinner value in Rome: Ristorante Marcello (Via Aurora 37; tel. 06 481.94.67) located on Aurora between Ludovisi and Lombardia, 2 blocks in from Via Veneto and the high-class hotels. Third visit, had the same meal. They offer a set meal which your waiter will know of if you ask for it. Starts with mixed antipasti (they brought us 7 bowls to help ourselves from: lentils, cannellini, grilled zucchini with parsley, a very creamy ricotta, grilled red peppers, peas with lima beans, and grilled eggplant). Primo piatti is a large platter with 3 different pastas in 3 different sauces (we got fusilli with a red sauce & olives, penne with creamy asparagus sauce, and rigatoni with a fresh tomato sauce). By this time, you can barely eat any more, but then they bring the meat course: a large chunk of roast veal (which they slice for you) on a platter with roasted potatoes and a bunch of arugula/corn kernels/tomatoes. There is so much on this platter that we always ask them to wrap up what's left; it was enough for the next day's lunch for 2 people. We drank the house wine in glass pitchers: 1/2 liter white, 1/2 liter red. This was the best price of any meal we ate in Rome: 60 Euros (service not included). The restaurant, being in a classy neighborhood, has a very nice ambiance and there are lots of locals eating there.
2. New to us this year: Da Robertino (Via Panispernia 231 between Via Cavour and Via Nazionale, but closer to Nazionale; tel. 06.47.40.620) Roberto himself is there and will provide you with a great sample of his specialties (do a Google search and find the website with a picture of him, then tell him you saw him on the internet - a very gracious man). Seafood is his thing. He served us a selection of antipasti: seafood salad (strips of calamari, shrimp, etc. in oil), grilled octopus (the most exquisite flavor I ever had, served hot, the flesh tender not chewy), smoked halibut sliced very thin, and zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies. One of the house specialties is carpaccio of swordfish, but he did not have it that night so I can't judge it. Primos were a spagetti with clams and mussels (nothing extraordinary, but good)for me and a seafood risotto for my wife (we both liked it a lot). We made one mistake in allowing Roberto to order for us: he suggested an oven-baked seabass with potatoes which was quite good, but we were already quite full and this one dish added 44 Euros to the bill! Total with a bottle of Roberto's Frascati house wine was 104 Euros plus service.
3. Ditirambo (address is in Piazza della Cancelleria, but it is not in the square itself, rather on a short street that extends from the center of the square. This is just outside the Campo de' Fiori.) When we walked in just before 1 PM for lunch, they were not yet open, but a lady was making ravioli in the front. This restaurant was a good find for lunch: to start, we tried a "soufflé of anchovies and cauliflower" but there was nothing about it that resembles an egg-based soufflé. The cauliflower was a purée which surrounded the mounded anchovy dish. Unusual but good. They also offer a serving of duck and goose meats in a salami and bresciaole style. Primo offerings include the ravioli made as we entered: it is stuffed with pumpkin and a slight taste of almonds - very flavorful and pleasant to eat. Also had tonnarelli (long noodles) with black pepper and goat cheese, the pepper being very flavorful and the cheese serving to bind. Ate paccheri de Gragnano (like rigatoni) with duck sauce, very enjoyable. Can't comment on main course, as we stopped with pasta.
4. Pasqualino (Via dei Santi Quattro 66, a street which runs into the Piazza del Colosseo on back side of Colosseum). Not a bad place for a lunch. Had fettucini with fresh porcini mushrooms which was outstanding. But second time I was not happy with the meat dish ordered: this time I ordered oxtails, last time rabbit. Both times there was far too much bone vs. meat. this is somewhat to be expected with the oxtail, but the rabbit was more bone than meat.
5. Girarrosto dal Toscano (Via Germanico 56, just 3 doors from Via Ottaviano and very near Vatican Museum) Always a wood fire in the large grill and most Romans know this as a good place for grilled steak or other meats. Pastas are also good, especially Giulio Cesare and rabbit sauce varieties. Loaded with locals, not tourists. Two doors away is a nice grocery store/café/candy store with an excellent selection of foods to stock up on.
6. Cannavota (Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, on the square facing the side of the Basilica, not its facade) Good family restaurant with nice atmosphere and mostly local clientele. Excellent pasta is linquine alla reviglio (sometimes other pastas used alla cannavota)with nice seafood-based sauce.
7. Not a restaurant, but worth a stop: Panella "L'Arte del Pane" (Via Merulana 54-55, on a corner about 5 blocks down Merulana from Santa Maria Maggiore) A very fine bakery which offers foods you can take away: multiple pizza styles you won't find elsewhere (cut to your order), delectable rice balls with prosciutto and cheese or other ingredients, and daily specials, all of which are delicious. They will heat them up for you if you ask. Their pastries and chocolates are very rich and worth a splurge. There is also a small grocery section of the store with multiple varieties of pasta, flour, etc.
In the Campo di Fiori (old Rome toward the Tiber)- a market square, go to the baker "Il Forno di Campo di Fiori 22; people stand in line for the great focaccia (PIzza bianco e rossa - red and white- and breads. I think pizza , like fruit, is often ordered by "etti" - about cinque etti would be a pound, I suppose. You can just ask for a piece show size with your hands etc. Probably even better eaten there in the square. In the morning there is an excellent fruit and veg market in that same square - probably still have some good grapes, apples and pears, not to mention citrus. Yum!
You remember that we first stayed in the Testaccio district (near the Piramide Metro station, south of the center. There is also the Testaccio market and smaller street markets around the city for fruit, etc. Definitely go get some delish fruits!
The coffee house near the Pantheon is called La Casa del Caffe-Tazza d'Oro, on Via dei Orfani 84 (closed Sunday) - have the granita di caffe with the whipped cream
Also Sant' Eustachio Il Caffe, Piazza Sant'Eustachio 82 (nr Pantheon) closed Monday - also fine granita di caffe
Another coffee bar - Bar Marco Polo, Largo Santa Susanna 108 (nr Piazza della Repubblica) - cornetti, coconut pastry are specialties
Go to a coffee bar in the morning for a caffe latte and cornetti - start your day right. They are all over the place. Once again, stand up .
Many of these small bars also sell panini (small sandwiches) and "toasts" - grilled sandwiches, wonderful for a snack as you are walking around.
Giolitti on Via Uffici del Vicario 40 (in central Rome near the Piazza Colonna and Via del Corso, closed Monday!
Gelateria della Palma - Via della Maddalena 23. closed Wed (about 3 blocks north(?) from Giolitti and Pantheon
Canova (Piazza del Popolo 1- gelati and drinks
from Chowhound - Finally, a plug for the best undiscovered gelato in Rome - Gelateria Duse on Via Eleonora Duse, in Parioli, just north of Piazza Ungheria. Get a cup of the mixed fruit flavors
I believe the best pizza in Rome is to be found at Pizzaria Remo in the middle of Testaccio. Take the Metro to Piramide and walk west into Testaccio. Ask anyone on the street for directions. This cavernous place ROCKS in the evening. The thin crust Margharita is memorable.
If you are staying near Piazza Navona, you must have lunch, or at least a snack, at Vini e Olii, a hole in the wall on Via del Governo Vecchio, not far from the Baffetto pizzeria. The owner Silvano pulls fresh, piping hot pizza bianca six feet long from a great old wood burning forno in the back, slices them down the middle, and makes incredible sandwiches with prosciutto, mortadella, salami, rughetta, tomatoes, all manner of cheeses (mozzarella, gorgonzola, caciotta, parmigiano, etc), and various vegetables. The place is always packed and chaotic, but is not to be missed.
Frulatti (Fruit shakes):
Pascucci, Via Torre Argentina - fresh fruit shakes loaded with fruit, less milky than in US
In Testaccio - I went to the sausage/cheese Volpetti store right on the Via Marmorata (where the trams and buses run) a lot. Next door to it on the side street Via Alessandro Volta, 8/10 is Volpetti Piu (more), which is a deli and self serve restraurant. Probably best at lunchtime, most food sold by the "etti" - piazza bianca, daily dishes and cheeses.
In the Jewish Quarter (old rome, walking distance from forum), we ate lunch at a restaurant called Al Pompiere -Via D. Maria dei Calderari 38 open Mon-Sat it is upstairs in an old palace and quite fancy but they have a menu turistico (YOU HAVE TO ASK SPECIFICALLY) at lunch only. the meats were really good, I loved the oxtail and I think you had steak - either buy by the course or take the full menu turistico meal.
The little trattoria at Via Terme di Tito (near the colliseum and forum) is called Ostaria da Nerone 96 - daily specials including gnocci on Thursday - I think I had great oxtail (coda di vaccinara) there , a great Roman dish.
Tri Arche di Loreto - at Via dei Coronari 233 - a little unpretintios trattoria - it may be closed in August - we had a nice meal there on our visit
Lilli - at Via Tor di Nona 26 - near the above -and right near the Tiber bridge - Ponti dei Angeli that you cross to go over the river toward the Vatican- we tried to go there twice but it was closed for Christmas holidays. It should be open now!!!! Supposedly a good, cheap family restaurant with good pastas including vongole (with clams) arrabiata (spicey red tomato sauce, a popular dish in Rome.
Orso 80 (pronounced Orso Ottante) (closed Mondays). I had a truly delicious Sunday lunch there about a month ago, based on a recommendation on this board. They were busy but very gracious about accomodating a single diner. I looked at the menu and then looked around the tables -- everyone seemed to have the same multi-plate thing. I asked the waiter and he said it was the house special antipasto. I ordered it and got the following: a bowl of 5 of the second-best meatballs I've ever had, a bowl of beautiful fresh mozerella balls, and a huge platter with 8 (count'em) different vegetable antipasti, every single one of them delicious, and a bowl of wonderful cannellini beans in tomato sauce. I couldn't begin to finish everything, much as I wanted to. I apologized to the waiter for being unable to order anything else and he waved off the apology very pleasantly. Bill with large mineral water, a glass of house red and a cappucino, 19 euros. Fab meal, very good value. I noticed that most of the other tables with the antipasto had also ordered a plate of wonderful-looking prosciutto di San Daniele (9 euros) -- I would have loved that additional taste but no way could I have eaten anything else. Highly recommended. (Ignore the unprepossessing exterior.)
The most memorable meal i had in rome was at santo padre, a few blocks away from the St. Regis, recommended by the concierge at the St REgis. It was homey, rustic, simple, but delicious food. It was run by the family--daughters serving the food, uncle being the maitre'd, etc. I enjoyed it much more than la pergola.
La Matricianella in historic downtown is perhaps the best restaurant I have eaten in downtown. Their rigatoni with codda is amazing as are all the typical Roman dishes such as pajata, abbacchio, scottaditi, etc. Great wine list, including some top lesser know Lazzio producers such as Kron and Seta e Ferri.
for simple meals made and served by people who could be your Italian grand-parents try da Pallauro near campodi fiore or Ada's on (i think ) governo vecchio(this place doesnot have a sign but if you see a white haired older woman running around serving people in a very small -6 tables- room thats the place.
Before dinner, have your Happy Hour at the tiny but wonderful marble bar of the Hotel Ingleterre. Then proceed to AL 34 nearby for a wonderful, inexpensive meal at a trattoria where locals and tourists commingle and enjoy delicious pastas and seafood in a convivial, festive atmosphere. Both of these memorable establishments are down the street from the Piazza di Spagna.
Dal Bolognese is a really good restaurant near your hotel facing the Piazza del Popolo. Order anything with bolognese sauce and you cannot go wrong. It may be a bit crowded as it tends to attract a very Italian fashionista crowd. You may need to make reservations, although we did not have a problem with a late lunch.
Da Francesco is a very casual trattoria/pizzeria located near the Piazza Navona in a small little piazza called Piazza del Fico. Pizzas are only served at dinner time and the Bar del Fico in the same Piazza was hopping with the "cool Italian crowd" last time we were there.
Trattoria Giggetto near the Portico d'Ottavio (old Jewish ghetto area). They serve the best Jewish-style fried artichokes I've ever had in Rome and stuffed zucchini flowers to die for. In fact, I have never had anything I didn't think was great in about 6 or 8 visits over serveral years. They pack in the locals on a Sunday so go early or make reservations. Other days not so hard to get in. I have always found the service particularly warm. Closed Mondays. Moderately priced.
Massenzio on the Largo Corrado Ricci (Cavour) has the best saltimbocca I've ever had (again, two-year-old info) and is very attractive. Closed Wednesdays. Moderately priced
Sora Margherita, a really traditional one-room trattoria with zero atmosphere but good food. No sign, but it's at Piazza Cinque Scole 30 in the Jewish Ghetto area. There's a handwritten list of about 3 choices each for antipasti, primi, etc. Can't remember my antipasto now but I went for the abbacchio scottadito, chops from a very young lamb. Delicious. Because it's been declared a cultural institution or some such thing you have to fill out a form to get a "membership card" (no charge to do so), but don't be frightened off by that; seemed like almost everyone was local in there.