Thanks to all here who offered advice and also to the websites of Mss. Minchelli, Parla, and Fant we ate a lot of great food during our recent trip. In brief, we were a party of three: myself, my husband, and our 8 year old - all chowhounds. We used Rome as a base, took an Italo train to Florence one day, and did another half day in Orvieto.
Arrival day: Disoriented and hungry for lunch we struck out from our hotel near Campo de Fiori. I was just looking for something that didn't seem too touristy and didn't seem like it would have a wait. We stumbled into Ristorante 433 and ordered some basics: bruschetta, cacio e pepe, and gricia. It hit the spot, but we definitely didn't get the same level of service as the locals. No worries, we were not in a hurry.
That night I had made reservations at Emma. The food was all awesome, especially the pizza, especially the Zibello e Bufala. But the service was lousy. We couldn’t get a plate for our daughter or a second glass of wine. Still, my husband said the pizza and suppli may have been his favorite thing all week. Second only to amarena gelato from Frigidarium.
First full day for lunch we were near the Vatican and had Trapizzini and beer at Be.Re. Like Katie Parla I loved the chicken cacciatore. We had no dinner reservations but during a lull at the hotel I returned to Ms. Fant's list looking for something a little nontraditional and decided on Grano. Unlike the previous evening, service was amazing. It was a great choice and I encourage others to try it. They have a starter that is a grilled octopus with potato cream that would have made it worth it even if the rest of the meal had been bad (which it wasn't).
Next day, there were no plans for lunch. We took our chances to get into Colline Emiliane, but arrived at 1:36 and were informed the last lunch seatings were at 1:30. Oh well, I checked my list and we walked over to Al Moro. I know some have bad luck here with service, but we were welcomed and treated very kindly. I got the feeling that maybe sometimes we were smiled upon a bit more because of our super cute kid? But I'm biased. Great pasta fueled us for the rest of the day. That night I made last minute reservations at Piperno. It got mentioned so much here, I felt like I had to. Carciofi alla giudia aside (never had them before and they were great), maybe we ordered wrong, none of us favored Piperno; the secundi were just very forgettable.
Wednesday we went to Florence and got to Sergio Gozzi right when they opened for lunch in order to secure our bistecca alla fiorentina. It was awesome! Also later in the afternoon we went to Enotecca Alessi for a snack and wine and would highly recommend them too.
Thursday for lunch we were in Orvieto. Every place I had jotted down turned out to either be closed on Thursday or just…closed? But we kept walking and found Duca di Orvieto which turned out to be great! We had a ravioli with a wild boar ragu that was one of my favorite things all week. They also were the only place we went that had a kid's menu. Our daughter doesn't need a kids menu but it sounded cute so we got it for her. She was so charmed. Animal shaped raviolis and a little fried chicken cutlet with olive eyes and carrot hair. I would go back here in a heartbeat.
Thursday night was Thanksgiving. I had tried to get us reservations at Antonello Colonna before the trip but had a very weird email exchange with them in the weeks before. They kept telling me they would need to get back to me in a week, sorry next week, now in a couple days? I gave up and chose Al Ceppo, definitely the most beautiful place we dined. I LOVED my entrée - Iberian pig shoulder - and so did my family members. But the dessert was a letdown; an afterthought on their part it seemed.
Our last dinner on Friday turned out to be the best overall experience: food, service, price, all considered. Armando al Pantheon. I can't find any faults at all, the food was consistently good throughout and we were treated very well. As much as it gets talked about, I was surprised at how small it was. I'm glad I made reservations a couple weeks out.
Overall takeaways: I probably wouldn't do things any differently, but I'm glad I did my research ahead of time. I did try and like puntarelle (thanks Chowhound). Wine markup is much lower than in the US so we got to try some really great bottles. I do wish I had tried more flavors of gelato though. :)