Overview: There are two Romes, the one on the menu and then what everyone else is eating. Stay away from the obvious menu choices — arrabbiata and amatriciana for example — and look around at what is on the dinner plates of locals. No, I did not love the ravioli stuffed with sea bass I had for lunch one day but at least it was interesting. The good news is that we discovered a wonderful salad of shredded escarole that was tossed with olive oil and mashed anchovies as well as a simple platter of thinly sliced rich pork served with bruschetta. Delicious. Try to order seasonally — no surprise there — so artichokes were big in March and we had them every day. Pears for dessert. There is a lot of very mediocre food in Rome so where you eat is critical. Our two favorite spots were Ginos and Antico Falcone.
Checco er Carrettiere, Via Benedetta 10, fone: 06.5817018. Good but not great restaurant. The fried squash blossoms were great but the pastas were mediocre. Mix of locals and tourists. Not high on our list of places to eat.
Le Mani in Pasta, Via Dei Genovesi 37, fone: 06.5816017; The “cacio e pepe” (cheese [pecorino] and pepper) was fabulous. Small space, good atmosphere, modern, not old-fashioned. Also try the escarole with the anchovy dressing — very nice. The sea bass — we tried two different versions — were nicely done although not particularly Roman. Solid.
Antico Falcone, Via Trionfale, 60 north of the Vatican; fone: 06.39736404. The “Raviole Verde” were the best thing in Rome — they looked like large Gnocchi but were indeed pasta filled with greens in a simple tomato sauce. Also loved the frittata which was thin and slightly wet, not thick and dry. Artichokes very nice but main dishes so-so. They serve the Panna Cotta with chocolate sauce on top like a ice cream sundae.
Weird but not the only spot to do this. An apricot tart I saw in the kitchen looked better. Order OFF the menu here — let the owner bring you food.
Trattoria Monti, near Santa Maria Maggiore, fone: 06.4466573. Highly recommended by several sources but was mediocre at best. Had the rabbit which was second-rate.
Il Pagliaccio, fone: 06.68809595. VERY expensive. Had a menu for the bottled water! Main courses were $38 Euro — they wanted to push diners into 4 course (0r more) tastings. Very competent chef but silly food (John Dory with Rhubarb anyone?) that one can find in New York, London…just about any big city. Not cheap eats by any stretch and not particularly Roman.
Forno Campo De’ Fiori, Campo e’ Fiori, fone: 06.68806662, http://www.fornocampodefiori.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org (contact: Fabrizio Roscioli) Pizza Bianca, among other pizzas. You buy a length of a 6-foot pizza, they fold it in half, and then you eat it standing just outside. When hot/warm, these pizzas are fabulous; slightly less great when cooled off. They have a sister bakery in NYC at Farinella. Contact: Alberto Cretara, 90 Worth Street, between Bway & Church. 212-608-3222
Da Enzo, Via dei Vascellari 29, in Trastevere, fone: 06.5818355 BRIGHT lights. Packed with Italians and lots of people waiting outside. Great real Roman trattoria. Noisy, cramped for space, and authentic. The marinated peppers were excellent (peperoni) and food overall was good to very good. Don’t go for a brilliant culinary experience, just go for the experience. Cheap too.
La Matricianella, Via dei Leone 4, off Piazza San Lorenzo which is off Via del Corso (go to far right corner and take little side street that runs parallel with the right side of the piazza. It’s about a block up on right, with outdoor seating in front). Fone: 06.6832100 This is place recommended by EVERYone and it was good but not as good as Gino (see next listing). Excellent artichokes here — definitely look around to see what others are eating. One place that really had desserts (most trattorias just serve fruit and a couple of standbys). The ricotta cheesecake (Dolce a la Nonna) was fabulous. The oranges with caramelized peel were great as was the red wine-poached pear.
Trattoria Da Gino, Vicolo Rossini 4 (near P.zza del Parlamento off D. Prefetti). Fone: 06.6873434. Lunch Friday, only Italians, great waiter, even if he got the order of our courses all mixed up. NO credit cards, cash only! BEST BLOODY MEAL IN ROME. Mostly suits from the Parliament which is just a few blocks away. The pastas with peas and mushrooms was a revelation. Fabulous service, fabulous experience — would eat there every day. A MUST visit.
Girarrosto Toscano, Via Campania, 29, fone: 06.4821899 OR 06.42013045; Up hill from Piazza Barbarini just inside the Aurelean Wall. Great mozz, generous anti-pasti, etc. Veal chop excellent. Touristy and upscale with obsequious waiters from “Roman Holiday” but good food. The apps were the best part of the meal.
Naples Pizzeria: Da Pizzeria Michele, Via Cesare Sersale, 1, Naples. Take train station exit off highway (as heading North from Pompeii). Pass train station on right and enter the main square. Go to opposite end of square from entered end, far left corner and take Corso Umberto which leads out of square, parallel to the left side. Go several blocks, turning right on Via Pietro Colletta (Quartiere Pendino, there’s a upscale children’s clothing store on the corner). Within a block, there’s a 4-way intersection and the street name will change to Via Cesare Sersale. The pizzeria is immediately on the left side of this intersection. Beware, they take numbers, so be sure to get one on arrival….we waited an hour and that was at 2+PM. Fabulous pizza but it is very SOFT and it ain’t crispy. Bakes at 750 degrees for 55 seconds. Few tourists. Cheap. Fun. And you eat your pizza with knife and fork. A must visit.
Tazza d’Oro, Via Degli Organi 84, around corner from Pantheon. Fone: 06.6792768 OR 06.5835869 Best cappuccino in Rome.
Sant’Eustachio Café, at Piazzo/Largo? Eustachio: NYT’s hails it as the place to get the perfect espresso….we might argue otherwise. Do NOT order a cappuccino here — too much milk, not enough espresso. Like Tazza better overall.
Il Gelato di San Crispino, Via Della Panetteria 42. Fone: 06.6793924. Located a couple of blocks up from Trevi Fountain. Small place — by far the best ice cream in Rome. Pistachio is outstanding.
Gelateria Artigianale. L.go Arenula, 27, fone: 06.68808054. This is a dumpy, out of the way gelateria but has cinnamon/chocolate/orange, coconut, ricotta & rice (riso) gelatis. The last flavor was excellent.
Giolitti, Via degli Ufficio di Vicario, off Piazza Colonna. Gelati tasted like it’s flavored artificially. A real tourist dump. You can tell by the HUGE portions and the fact that they use ice cream cones, not small containers. Annoying!