Thank you to all the wonderful Chowhounders who helped us extensively! We had an amazing time in Italy and would love to visit again. I hope you enjoy reading our trip report below:
Taormina: to our disappointment most of the restaurants we researched were closed when we visited in December, due to the low season (including Ristorante Pizzeria Villa Zuccaro and Laboratorio Pasticceria Roberto). We wasted more than an hour looking for closed restaurants. Locals also recommended the restaurant Granduca for pizza which happened to be closed on Tuesday (the day we were there). We finally bought pizza at a random restaurant and it was terrible. However, locals also recommend D'Amore for cannolis and we really enjoyed the freshly filled cannolis at this pretty bakery. The cannoli filling is a little lighter and sweeter than the US (in places such as Veniero's in nyc), but still excellent. We also went to Bam Bar for granita and found the strawberry too sweet, but we ordered the dark chocolate, and the lovely owners made us fresh whipped cream on top. It was a nice treat but we much prefer a true gelato/ice cream.
Bar Rita is a really cute bakery with lots of yummy savory and sweet treats. It was packed when we went around 2pm on a weekday. We tried various items including the arranchini (fried rice ball) which was interesting but we probably wouldn't order it again. The croquette and cannoli were mediocre. The sfogliatella was quite good.
Pizza Da Franco: cute small pizzeria with long wooden benches. You can see the real brick pizza oven which is neat. The restaurant was about 1/5 full when we went on a weekday around 3pm. We had excellent margheurita pizza with thin crust. We also ordered a pizza with a lot of toppings and that was good too!
Taverna dei Fori Imperiali: due to our limited time, we skipped the L'Asino d'Oro daily menu in favor of eating here. I was a little nervous due to the mixed reviews but the restaurant did not disappoint. My fiance ordered a papperdelle with bacon, egg, and pecorino cheese and I ordered a ravioli with duck ragu and both were excellent (though slightly salty)! We would have come back here again for another meal if our stay was longer.
Roscioli Bakery: the white pizza was horrible, stale and tasteless. I think we bought an old piece. The pizza with sauce/cheese was one of the best (if not the best) pizza we had on our trip. It was so delicious! Make sure you wait for fresh pizza to be brought out before ordering. We later ordered pizza with sauce, but no cheese and that was good, but not as memorable. I wanted to try an apple crostada but they didn't have it.
Grom: amazing hot chocolate! I wish we had this in nyc. thanks for the rec gmcguireinrome:)
Giolitti: mediocre ice cream. The coconut was too sweet - do not order. Also, they yelled at us for not paying first. The lady at the teller was really rude to tourists but was really friendly to a local Italian.
San Crispino: really friendly server but the ice cream was mediocre as well. We ordered pear, orange/mandarin orange, and concord grape. The mandarin orange was the best.
Trattoria Perilli: we came for dinner after a tiring day of sightseeing. The nice waiter seemed to be used to tourists and ordered a carbonara rigatoni and amatriciana rigatoni for us. He ordered so fast and authoritatively that we didn't realize he ordered both rigatoni dishes. I'm not a fan of rigatoni and we should have ordered a different noodle like spaghetti. Many other patrons ordered a giant artichoke heart to share. The pasta was good/hearty but just too much rigatoni altogether (our fault!). Then he recommended a meat dish, veal or pork, which was mediocre. We ordered the tiramisu which was excellent but different from the cake variety in the US. Their tiramisu comes in a tin bowl and has a marshmallow consistency on top. I would recommend Perilli but next time we would order different types of pastas.
Romeo: thank you minchilli for this rec! It was only a few blocks from the Vatican and very easy to find (much easier than the directions to Pizzarium looked to be). We ordered some pizza and a panini at the first counter on the right which were really tasty, and it was nice to be able to sit. We also ordered a spaghetti with red sauce from the actual restaurant and it had the sweetest sundried tomatoes. There was no seating available at the restaurant inside but the nice waiter ordered it for us and bought it over to the communal tables where you eat your takeout food.
All'Antico Vinaio: best sandwich ever! This is one of our favorite things we ate on our trip. The server was so nice and helped us make the most yummy concoctions on foccacia bread. We had half a porchetta sandiwch with truffle spread and half a prosciutto sandwich with amazing eggplant. A MUST visit after the Uffizzi museum!
Gelateria dei Neri: much better gelato than what we had in Rome. The Fig&Cheese flavor was AMAZING! It sounds odd but is really good. I wish we had some right now. The chocolate with chili was spicy and interesting but I wish they made it with dark chocolate instead of milk. My fiance ordered the mixed berry sorbet but he really wish he ordered my fig&cheese flavor.
Gelateria Santa Trinita: really good gelato again! There seems to be a really good gelato shop on every block in Florence. We ordered the mascarpone gelato which was fantastic! The pistachio was good, but not memorable. I ordered the hot chocolate on a whim but it was mediocre, not like Grom's in Rome (and it got all over my coat/bag).
Vini e Vecchi Sapori: a tiny, cute restaurant! Do not go unless you make a reservation. They turned many people away. We had an amazing experience here, mostly due to the Italian patrons next to us and the service. We ordered the fresh pappardelle with duck ragu (papperdelle con ragu di anatra) for 9e and it was good but I think we slightly prefer the pappardelle we had in Rome. The patrons next to us recommended a beef stew they were all ordering and it was good, but not amazing. We couldn't decide on a dessert so our new Italian friends asked the server to make us a mixed plate of three desserts which was really nice! One was a tiramisu and one was an ice cream pastry (I forgot the last one). Then they had the servers give us a shot of a strong liquor, which we couldn't finish. They also played a magic trick on us with a coffee cup. It was a really fun time and we were stuffed!