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May 2014 in Rome -trip report

Thanks for the reminder about Arthur avenue (not exactly around the corner but "it can be done". Tx.

I did get some farmed asparagus last week at my corner green market (not union square). Not bad but not like the taste in Rome. I grant the possibility of romanticizing Rome!

Jul 05, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

May 2014 in Rome -trip report

Rome 2014

After short flight from Paris / airport lunch, without dinner reservations and out for a walk, we fell into Cul de Sac. It was drizzlng. Gruff person in charge misunderstood my English attempt to be agreeable to eating inside or out, whatever came first. (Serves us right for knowing no Italian.) While others took the open outside tables, we were not seated. Finally an outside table opened up and I made for it. We sat in the rain. Gruff service turned accommodatingly friendly as umbrellas were arranged to shield us. We split partridge pate with juniper berries (excellent), green salad, homemade meat lasagne, and two different glasses of interesting red wine from among the hundreds on the list. An enjoyable first meal. Cul de Sac demands a lot of decisions. It is easy to gorge on delicious rich choices and get dizzy from the wine list. I appreciated the initially “gruff” server’s advice. 37 Euros.

Three weeks of cooking once a day in the kitchen of our apartment was one of my favorite pleasures this trip. Macelleria Il Fiorentino, the fabulous butcher shop on the Campo, provided meat (and kudos for figuring out the pantomimes of what and how I wanted it). Bread came from FORNO or BAKERY ROSCIOLI. The nearest stand to the butcher provided all my vegetables (Elizabeth Minchilli has a photo but I failed the upload task). They were not so thrilled with my pickiness and lack of Italian but we managed.

I’ve selected a few meals to report, leaving out the many I cooked for spouse/guests and those where we were entertained at homes:

Lunch at Ditirambo, reserved the day before. We shared a wonderfully memorable “triple platter” appetizer: steak tartar with truffles; fried zucchini blossom stuffed with cheese (burrata?); and prosciutto (didn’t note what kind but it was unusual) with diced melon and hazelnuts. Then we shared the special of the day: Tagliolino (thin pasta) with spring vegetables —not especially memorable — our neighbor’s cacio e pepe looked better. Two glasses of house wine and one espresso. This restaurant for whatever reason seems to take longer than others that may bend more to our pace. This meal took an hour and 45 minutes —a long time when there are places to go and people to see. 57 Euros.

Dinner at Constanza, unreserved, after spouse's long work day. The weather was pleasant and we accepted an outside table, missing out entirely on the atmospheric inside until an after dinner look. Service was prompt, efficient, and the opposite of Ditirambo—even a bit too quick for our mood but better than the reverse. They were out of Roman artichokes, but we split an excellent Jewish artichoke, cacio e pepe which came pre-divided in parmesan cheese cups, veal with lemon sauce, glass of house wine, and a good tiramisu. I’d choose this restaurant again on a night whenI wanted a warm inviting inside space. Reservations probably necessary for inside on such a night. 50 Euros.

Dinner at Pace del Palato, reserved the day before. I wrote a (rather snarky) post on someone else’s thread about this restaurant and inadvertently (and probably wisely) deleted it. With the passing of time the edge has softened. It was our favorite meal last year - romantic, delicious, special. This year it wasn’t, mostly because the two servers could not handle us and the party of 6 and the party of 12. We got left behind. Overworked staff makes ME anxious for them, even if no one else cares. Off night for food, most likely, so I’ll forgo the description. (IMHO they still have the best, freshest salad greens in Rome.) 77 Euros.

Baffetto 2. Having never been to the original Baffetto, it took a conversation with a tout on the street to get the difference. Apparently, the original serves only pizza — many, many kinds. Baffetto 2 has an antipasto buffet, fewer pasta choices, and other main dishes that we never ate. When tired and hungry, Baffetto 2 served our purposes well. Quick edible pizza, long opening hours, no lines, no complaints. However, if we had arrived at the same time as large family/school group, who knows. About 24 Euros.

Fortunato Al Pantheon for lunch. Professional service warmed my heart. Split Carbonara (richer than I like but very good), and excellent chunky steak tartar which probably meant hand cut. An ok salad and mediocre asparagus which I ordered off the menu (serves me right). Half bottle of (to me) a boring Frascati chosen by the waiter. 85 Euros.

Lunch, etc. at Gusto. Split excellent spicy salami pizza, a salad, and roasted vegetables. Yum. Took home a roast chicken for dinner. Served the purpose but frankly not as good as the take out roast chicken in Paris. C’est la vie. (About 40 euros for lunch, I think) The chicken and the two square pizza pans I persuaded them to sell me make the bill confusing. FYI - the pans designed for their hot, hot wood burning pizza oven are terrific for roasting vegetables at home. Those pans are not sold at their otherwise impressive kitchen store.

We always like lunch at Piperno. (Just like we go to Shun Lee Palace in NYC - good old-fashioned service, familiar setting and food. Entirely predictable.) We split an artichoke, I had handmade fettuccine and spouse had spinach ravioli, then split veal saltimbocco, and a vegetable. I had my favorite wild strawberries with lemon sauce and spouse had good blueberry tart. Glass of Prosecco and another of white wine. Coffee. 88 Euros.

After a heavy last morning of sightseeing, we passed up several nondescript places to eat and in mid-afternoon stumbled on Hostaria Isidoro, of which we had never heard. (Via di S. Giovanni in Laterano) Exactly the right choice. They were kind enough to serve us, even though the lunch meal was almost finished. Spouse had ravioli in a rich sauce (“velluata”)— he liked it. I had sea bream baked in a potato crust. I loved it. We split a green salad. A carafe of house wine and an espresso. 41 Euros.

Spent an afternoon with a friend in an outdoor cafe on the Campo. I was yearning for a taste of touristy Tartufo (Chocolate and whipped cream — I ate every morsel.) One espresso, and that Tartufo plus 5.50 euros for water cost 20 plus euros, but we were there for almost three hours. Worth every euro. (Hard to get spouse to ever sit in an expensive cafe because we would have been done in 20 minutes.)

A shout out to a very good conference dinner at Hotel Fenix. Cocktails in the lovely garden, then pasta with calamari, clams, and shrimp, then dentrice (a fish I loved), and a carpaccio of pineapple with coconut ice cream.

Some random comments. I write these reports as much for my records as for readers (though I like readers). I also write for my own understanding; here is what I learned from writing this post:

—Service matters inordinately to me, at this point, especially servers who can pick up cues about pacing our split meals. Not too fast but not too slow. I don’t want to have to flag down someone for another glass of wine; I want it offered.

—We order in a very narrow range — which almost excludes me from being a true Chowhounder. I am a more adventurous eater than my spouse but when we travel I try to eat things we can share.

—It seems as if we habitually skipped desserts. Not so. Lots of gelato and treats from the Campo bakeries, especially the Sicilian bakery Nonna Vincenza (Via Dell’Arco del Monte 98a, 00186)

—What I liked best about food in Rome this trip (after two weeks in Venice and two weeks in Paris) was cooking in a beautiful kitchen with wonderful ingredients. And home cooked meals at other people’s houses.

—We ate a lot of raw meat in Europe, possibly because we both grew up eating it weekly and it is pesty to get a NY butcher these days to grind a small amount.

—Back in NY I am wistful for all those fresh ingredients and Marcella Hazan’s cookbook advice to let no time elapse between buying the asparagus and putting it in the pot (wild from Sicily, at the above mentioned market in Campo). The sell by dated NYC “fresh” pasta makes me sad.

—We’ve been home for 6 weeks and have not had one bit of dried or fresh pasta. Perhaps tonight…..

Jul 05, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy
1

Mostly meat in Venice -trip report

I can never figure out why some trip reports get comments and others don't. I added this trip report to my original "Meat in Venice" post and from what I can tell it didn't get a single reader. Trying again with trip report label just because a couple of clicks can do it. A bit of context: we were there for two weeks-meat-eating spouse worked. We were in an apt. but didn't eat there. The following is just a selection .. I left out many meals which were hosted --seemed ungracious to critique. So:

I figured out how to reserve at La Bitta before we arrived (I asked a guide to do it). Most special at La Bitta was the owner's advice when we hesitated in a jet-lagged stupor. We eagerly drank Piovene Porto Godi Vigneto Ribcaelle Colli Berici Tai Rosso 2012. No half bottles available and we accepted the whole and drank half. When the bill came, I said the rest of the bottle should go to the staff and magically was only charged for half. A nice gesture. We split four courses: smoked carpaccio with greens, pasta with veal ragu, and duck with a chicken liver sauce, all plated separately for each of us. Excellent tiramisu for dessert. This is indeed a meat restaurant (a table of four next to us left when they realized there was no fish; lucky for some walk-ins). First night in Europe, everything is wonderful, but it was not my favorite meal -- there was a heaviness about every course that is just the way it is there. The friendly helpful service was memorable.

Now to Oniga, which was suggested and strongly rebuffed on this board. I forgot that whole discussion until I returned. However, a random person I met in a queue my first full day recommended Oniga and it became my favorite lunch place in Venice--a four-time repeat. Mostly we ordered the huge special salad (farro, San Danielo ham, and fresh greens, parmesan) and meat lasagne. Each time it was a little different but basically simple fresh food outside in a pleasant piazza. Service was not more than adequate but I never felt (as some said here) that the servers "don't like tourists". That said, we brought 6 friends on Good Friday (reserved ahead) and that was a stretch for the overworked server. Oniga was totally full inside and out and it was indeed irritating as lots of details slipped through cracks. But the food was good, portions generous, and the bill moderate. I had spaghetti with mussels -- a specialty along with the salad for the table. Lots of fish for this group and everyone enjoyed it. I have fond memories and would recommend it despite the service glitches.

Al Fontego dei Pescatori -- a Saturday lunch with friends. As reported elsewhere on the internet, this restaurant is mostly empty. Others wonder why, but almost empty suits me fine as service is often better and the noise level is comfortable. The outside space is pleasant, we ate and drank a lot and well. My sea bream with capers, olives, and tomatoes was delicious, as was sea bass baked in salt. Lots of fried options for the table -- not as pleasing to me as the baked or sautéed, but a variety of different tastes that I usually don't get with my meat-only spouse.

One night wandering we got the last table for dinner at Al Artisti. Wonderful wild asparagus ravioli in butter sauce with sage- a favorite. Steak tartar served beautifully with a gorgeous egg to mix in, delicious grilled vegetables. An unexpected standout meal in a warm comforting space.

Lunch at Aqua Pazza -- beautiful weather on the terrace. We were taken by a native and regular so can't judge the service--which was spot on for us. Split a delicate whole fish which was memorable. (Ordering was done in Italian with no reference to menu so I have no idea what kind but their fish is reputedly famous.) Dessert was also memorable: small scoops of of different flavored gelato (walnut, clementine or perhaps kumquat, plum, banana). After that an array of different flavored digestives including a house-made special of melon cello. I chased after that flavor for the rest of the trip but nothing came close. (I'm not dwelling on my spouse's steak which was huge but not particularly good. This restaurant is famous for fish, after all.)

We had excellent rare beef fillet two nights in a row in two different restaurants each with slightly different name and the same menu. Al Casin die Nobili and Terrazza del casino die Nobili. Excellent meat--simple meals but satisfying.

In Bologna at Da Silvio, we had lunch at a family restaurant with no menu and a famous array of desserts. Large group, huge amount of good food. I am still dreaming about the bowl of a marscapone-based dessert, quite yellow in color that I could have eaten all by myself and almost did. Worth returning in another life.

The rest of our trip was filled with pizza, snacks from the local salumeria, and leftover passover charoses made for a large group with Manishevitz purchased from my local NYC store and nuts from Fresh Direct.

And there was Tonolo, the "best pastry shop in Venice" that was a few meters from our apartment: capuccino and a pastry for standup breakfast every day. And then exquisite goodies from VizoVirtu, an amazing artisanal chocolate shop near Tonolo.

Spouse got taken to Harry's Bar upstairs and raved. I chose a massage instead, probably a mistake. But two weeks in Venice with a meat-eater turned out to be fine.

Jun 27, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy
1

Meat in Venice?

Trip report from Venice...just a few meals relevant to this thread, some with fish.

I figured out how to reserve at La Bitta before we arrived (I asked a guide to do it). Most special at La Bitta was the owner's advice when we hesitated in a jet-lagged stupor. We eagerly drank Piovene Porto Godi Vigneto Ribcaelle Colli Berici Tai Rosso 2012. No half bottles available and we accepted the whole and drank half. When the bill came, I said the rest of the bottle should go to the staff and magically was only charged for half. A nice gesture. We split four courses: smoked carpaccio with greens, pasta with veal ragu, and duck with a chicken liver sauce, all plated separately for us. Excellent tiramisu for dessert. This is indeed a meat restaurant (a table of four next to us left when they realized there was no fish; lucky for some walk-ins). First night in Europe, everything is wonderful, but it was not my favorite meal -- there was a heaviness about every course that is just the way it is there. The friendly helpful service was memorable.

Now to Oniga, which was suggested and strongly rebuffed on this thread. I forgot that whole discussion until I returned. However, a random person I met in a queue my first full day recommended Oniga and it became my favorite lunch place in Venice--a four-time repeat. Mostly we ordered the huge special salad (farro, San Danielo ham, and fresh greens, parmesan) and meat lasagne. Each time it was a little different but basically simple fresh food outside in a pleasant piazza. Service was not more than adequate but I never felt (as some said here) that the servers "don't like tourists". That said, we brought 6 friends on Good Friday (reserved ahead) and that was a stretch for the overworked server. Oniga was totally full inside and out and it was indeed irritating as lots of details slipped through cracks. But the food was good, portions generous, and the bill moderate. I had spaghetti with mussels -- a specialty along with the salad for the table. Lots of fish for this group and everyone enjoyed it. I have fond memories and would recommend it despite the service glitches.

Al Fontego dei Pescatori -- a Saturday lunch with friends. As reported elsewhere on the internet, this restaurant is mostly empty. Others wonder why, but almost empty suits me fine as service is often better and the noise level is comfortable. The outside space is pleasant, we ate and drank a lot and well. My sea bream with capers, olives, and tomatoes was delicious, as was sea bass baked in salt. Lots of fried options for the table -- not as pleasing to me as the baked or sautéed, but a variety of different tastes that I usually don't get with my meat-only spouse.

One night wandering we got the last table for dinner at Al Artisti. Wonderful wild asparagus ravioli in butter sauce with sage- a favorite. Steak tartar served beautifully with a gorgeous egg to mix in, delicious grilled vegetables. An unexpected standout meal in a warm comforting space.

Lunch at Aqua Pazza -- beautiful weather on the terrace. We were taken by a native and regular so can't judge the service--which was spot on for us. Split a delicate whole fish which was memorable. (Ordering was done in Italian with no reference to menu so I have no idea what kind but their fish is reputedly famous.) Dessert was also memorable: small scoops of of different flavored gelato (walnut, clementine or perhaps kumquat, plum, banana). After that an array of different flavored digestives including a house-made special of melon cello. I chased after that flavor for the rest of the trip but nothing came close. (I'm not dwelling on my spouse's steak which was huge but not particularly good. This restaurant is famous for fish, after all.)

We had excellent rare beef fillet two nights in a row in two different restaurants each with slightly different name and the same menu. Al Casin die Nobili and Terrazza del casino die Nobili. Excellent meat--simple meals but satisfying.

In Bologna at Da Silvio, we had lunch a family restaurant with no menu and a famous array of desserts. Large group, huge amount of good food. I am still dreaming about the bowl of a marscapone-based dessert, quite yellow in color that I could have eaten all by myself and almost did. Worth returning in another life.

The rest of our trip was filled with pizza, snacks from the local salumeria, and leftover passover charoses made for a large group with Manishevitz purchased from my local NYC store and nuts from Fresh Direct.

And there was Tonolo, the "best pastry shop in Venice" that was a few meters from our apartment: capuccino and a pastry for standup breakfast every day. And then exquisite goodies from VizoVirtu, an amazing artisanal chocolate shop near Tonolo.

Spouse got taken to Harry's Bar upstairs and raved. I chose a massage instead, probably a mistake. But two weeks in Venice with a meat-eater turned out to be fine.

May 31, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

We like Piperno. Where else?

I'm gearing up to write a report..but as I get into a Chowhound mood, I have to agree with you about my choice of "creamy" to describe the pasta at Fortunata al Pantheon. Never meant to say it had cream. "Rich" was a much better word.

I am wondering about other variables. I am remembering the Carbonara as dried pasta. Is that likely? In broken Italian I asked if my fetticine in the the pepe and ceci was "handmade" and was told "of course". But it have been
fresh machine made. What is more likely?

May 28, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

We like Piperno. Where else?

Thanks. Renato and Luisa appealed but not open for lunch. Stumbled on Fortunata al Pantheon, reserved, and returned. Fit our needs well -good view of Pantheon (a plus), homemade pasta-pepe and Ceci for me and spouse had carbonara to start. (Both creamier than I prefer but good.) steak tartar to split -special enough, ok salad and only ok asparagus sides. Excellent personalized service. (85 euros which included an 8 euros split of Frascati chosen by the waiter). We were happy.

May 17, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

We like Piperno. Where else?

We've been traveling 6 weeks and have 5 more days in Rome left of our three weeks here. Recently we have been mostly cooking in our lovely apartment with a full kitchen and Campo ingredients. But now we need new suggestions. We've eaten besides Piperno (our favorite for service, comfortable quiet and handmade pasta) at Constanza, Ditirambo, La Pace Del Palato. Gusto and Buffeto 2 for pizza, among some others that don't stand out. All good enough and suited us, but we want something different. Don't want formal dining (but spouse does wear a jacket). We like it when the service bends to our American pace. (I know "when in Rome...", but after almost 7 weeks!)

We would taxi or walk to a destination. No specialty fish restaurants. I would entertain (even welcome) a good ethnic restaurant with non-Roman food. Price only a variable at some starred high end place and that isn't what we are looking for.

Thanks much for any suggestions.

May 16, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Meat in Venice?

Thanks all -- I'm getting the lay of the land and I'm sure we will eat very well. As the OP I have to admit my reluctance to call ahead is merely because I don't have a cheap european calling plan from NY. I'll figure it out.

Mar 21, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Meat in Venice?

Thanks for the reservations advice. I tried to find out how to reserve for La Bitta. No success. Will the afternoon of the April 7th be enough time to reserve for that night at 7:00? If not, any advice how to reserve on-line?

Mar 20, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Meat in Venice?

Thanks jangita. Perfect suggestion and a six minute walk from our apartment. I cannot find any way to make a reservation on-line but I assume a phone call when we arrive mid-day will do for a 7:00 seating. I appreciate heads up about cash. I'm still interested in others -- we have lots of eating to do.

Mar 19, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Meat in Venice?

Soon to be in Venice for two weeks with spouse who does not eat fish. (He's working in Venice and inviting me along -- can't complain.) We need some casual / delicious restaurants in any location that are reliably good for meat. Family-owned perhaps, not touristy (I know, I know), that will be open for early (7:30ish) dinner. Preferably they won't need advance reservations so we can decide at the last minute with only a phone call to book.
Thanks much.

Mar 19, 2014
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Rome in June

You are on top of things. Nothing substantial to add except to remind you that Armando al Pantheon is a short pleasant walk from Quirnale. If you are interested, do reserve.

May 21, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Florence / Rome report - May 2013 (Long Trip, Long Post)

PROLOGUE

Too many details here, but as I re-lived these meals, I noted whether we had/needed a reservation. I thought about any “touristy” vibe (obviously we added to it), but some places felt more “local” than others. I tracked prices as an exercise in personal and inflationary economics – no conclusions. But if there is economic disaster in Italy, we couldn’t tell. I have not recorded tips as that discussion probably belongs in a separate thread; not easy to figure out the right thing to do.

Location determines our eating: Santa Croce neighborhood in Florence and Piazza Navona in Rome. Our goal is to enjoy good food without starchy formal service or the latest culinary innovations so we don’t seek super high end dining with either of those features. We try to avoid eating mediocre food just because it is cheap and convenient. A caveat: Tabs may be misleading since “split” is our MO as we have aged out (had a 46th anniversary) of eating ourselves into a perpetual stupor. Thanks to all the Chowhounders who contributed to our list over the years.

FLORENCE

Day 1- Dinner at Casalinga. Reservation. Seated at 7:30 in the half-full back room between an English (as in UK) foursome of a certain age and an Italian mother and father, tourists with, let's say, a 12 year old daughter. Waiter was a particularly cheerful Italian who had learned his colloquial English in Australia and New York. A lively and fun dinner, one of our best.

Had mixed crostini and tomato bruschetta (so did everyone else). Rich liver pate especially terrific. My eyes had bulged out when the waiter brought the kilo of steak he proposed as ours. Yes, of course. So we had beef cooked bleu inside and charred crust outside with salty oily zucchini I ordered on impulse that really complemented the meat. We took more than half that steak home. Total was 66 Euros, of which 5.50 covered both a half-liter of good but abandoned house white (ordered after a jet-lagged senior moment of forgetting the metrics of a liter) and a glass of pretty weak red. Much figuring out to do about wine--we don’t drink a whole bottle--even a half is a stretch.

Day 2 - Dinner. I posted earlier asking for a quiet restaurant. Many helpful suggestions offered but after some off-Chowhound advice we settled on Trattoria Roberto (via Castellani 4). Worked perfectly: tables far apart; no neighbors; no noise; pretty enough with vibrant turquoise tablecloths; unobtrusive service, convenient location. Food was only fair (both the bland halibut and bland veal were in the same bland lemon sauce) but the setting was exactly right. 88 Euros for 3, including an 18 Euro bottle of red.

Day 3 - Lunch from a cheerful patient salumeria vendor inside the Mercato Sant‘ Ambrogio. We ate in a nearby park--my favorite eating if the transaction of buying is pleasurable. Then a rich cone at Grom (not my favorite gelato).

Dinner at Valle Dei Cedri (Borgo S. Croce 11/R). Yes, I know. Lebanese in Florence. Crazy. At 8:00 we kept our 7:30 reservation --having stopped by earlier on our way to the Uffizi to reserve. We were identified only as "the Americans"; we were indeed the only ones. FYI for anyone interested in raw Kibbeh on the menu: it has to be requested in advance so the “right lamb” can be procured. We split hot and cold mixed appetizer plate, tabouleh, kibbeh pie, rice, and mixed sweets plate for dessert. One beer and a glass of white wine. Satisfying dinner in a pleasant surround with good service. 62 Euros.

Day 4 - Not a Chowhound-worthy day (well maybe the yummy market strawberries and leftover steak snack). On the Uffizi terrace water was the point. FYI: No water allowed in the galleries. We had to trash our bottles on entry and we encountered no drinking fountains. 19 Euros for our water/coffee break.

At the top of the Bardini Gardens a surprisingly good prepackaged gelato -- brand “Baby”. OUTSTANDING view. 15 Euros for a prosecco, the gelato and a capuccino.

Hearty early dinner at the touristy pizza place on our corner (Le Colonnine Via De Benci 6R). Pizza with four cheeses, a Margherita, salad and a glass of wine. 27 Euros. (Better pizza than we had in Rome.)

Day 5 - Lunch at Quelo on Borgo S. Croce. Perhaps quite the bar at night with its hip urban name, but at a quiet quick lunch we each had a warming bowl of minestrone and split a HUGE mozzarella and tomato crostini. Cash. No receipt. Off to Rome on the high speed train.

ROME

Day 1 - Dinner on a Monday night near Piazza Navona without a reservation. Hmm. We were hungry and delighted to be in a huge city again -- could have eaten anything and loved it. Wandered past Restaurant Fico and remembered a friend recommended it. Pretty empty at 8:00. Pasta with “regular pesto” was the special as the waiter translated it. (Now comes the embarrassing admission that we speak no Italian at all.) It was better than the amatriciana, but neither was memorable. Split a salad and semifreddo. We had a good time–chatted with a honeymooning couple from Berlin--he a sushi chef trained in Israel. Cash. Lost receipt.

Day 2 - Lunch After our much-repeated search for the best imaginable 2008 take-away porchetta on the west side of the Pantheon, we split an ok porchetta and salad at Aristocampo, efficiently served among lots of tourists. (We possibly found the original place but the offering was pre-made sandwiches from a a puny cold pig –I asked to see–rather than from the whole-just-arrived-from-the-countryside warm pig that we dream of). 23 Euros, including a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Dinner at Etabli on Viccolo delle Vacche, thanks to Rome Eats app. Pretty empty for us earlybirds. Split: creamy small artichoke flan (I’d eat it again in a heartbeat), a yummy ricotta crostini, a tasty hamburger, one glass of of good wine. “Hit the Road Jack” played in the background. Live music as we left when it began to fill up. I would return. Low key at the time we were there. Charming waiter. Friendly vibe. Quirky decor. 27 Euros.

Day 3 - Lunch. Stumbled on a holiday into Piperno without a reservation. Gorgeous day. Outside full. No other Americans inside and a large Italian three-generation family with babies and grandparents set the tone (nice). I ordered off-menu handmade fettucine with oil and cheese. (Learned before at Piperno to pay attention to handmade versus homemade.) This simple but perfectly done pasta was among the best things I ate in Rome. I’d love to be able to duplicate it but can’t get my dressed pasta hot enough. Husband had taglioni with tomato sauce. We also split a refreshing lemony room temperature spinach side. I had wild strawberries with lemon sauce. (My almost favorite desert of the trip.) Spouse had a not too sweet purple cherry tart. One glass of white wine -- elegantly served in a serious wine glass by a serious waiter. Best (though only) Caffe Americano I had in Rome. Would love that coffee at home. 65 Euros.

Dinner: Memorable. Our wonderful guide for a tour of the Celian Churches (Carolina Vincenti) reserved for us at La Pace Del Palato (Via Del Teatro Pace). Our 8:00 reservation found us in a mostly empty small restaurant, seated in a little alcove near an open door, psychologically between the outside and the inside. This is not a particularly “touristy” restaurant and I thought this must have been a place to seat tourists, but no -- it was a gesture to give us a beautifully lit quiet table. Lovely. Romantic. We split: delicate ravioli with butter and sage, juicy meatballs with a potato napoleon, a salad (the best freshest greens of the whole trip), tirimisu, half bottle of good white wine, and a comped lemoncello. (We had to beg the server not to give us two.) 70 Euros.

Day 4 - Trattoria Monti. Reserved. We always have a good time here--the only time we drink almost a whole bottle-- perhaps an explanation. We split ravioli with sage and butter, as good as anything we ate anywhere. Spouse had heavenly piglet. I had the rabbit wrapped around ground meat. A bit dry (which is not the first time I have had a disappointing main here) but I ate enough of the piglet so all was well. My husband always choses a tiramisu. I chose a delicious frozen cantaloupe mousse-incredibly light and refreshing. Caused me to order cantaloupe gelato elsewhere but none as intensely melon-flavored as this dessert. We were there for a good 2 1/2 hours, including a complimentary Grappa. (Is Grappa odd after lunch? Another (American) couple leaving with us had watched and said it was very odd.) 85 Euros, including the tasty 18 euro bottle of white wine.

Dinner -- we stumbled into Cul de Sac and ordered a bean/artichoke dish and broccolini. Good, hearty portions. Plus an antipasto with two kinds of rich mozzarella and two kinds of prosciutto. I chose a 6 euro glass of Rosso Poggio Alle Mura which was the best red I drank all trip. (Wine bars may be my solution for good wine – but the food not so much.) Only time we heard a lot of American English. 31 Euros.

Day 5 - Dinner - after an (FYI) relatively uncrowded open-to-the-public May evening at the Vatican, we headed back to La Pace Del Palato and, as “regulars” without a reservation and were seated outside in the last empty space. It was fashionably late and we watched with amazement the young folks eating course after course after course. We split: salad (again tender greens, self-dressed), artichoke, carbonara, and a glass of wine, all of which still took two hours. Had we not gotten the vibe that it always takes two hours to eat here, we might have returned. A gem of a family-owned restaurant. 43 Euros plus a tip handed directly to the over-worked waitress.

Day 6 - a respite from eating out.

Day 7 - Weekend Brunch with local friends at a fixed price buffet at Fabrica on Via Savonarola. An old factory - interesting setting. Pleasant, quiet (we were early). Food was a home-made mix of hummus and other mezze, frittatas, bacon, scrambled eggs, savory and sweet tarts. As tourists, it was a unique neighborhood experience. 87 Euros for four, including one 5 Euro glass of wine.

Day 8 - simple lunch at the Bramante Cloister on Via Della Pace. I recommend it -- spouse not so enamored. Small menu. I chose a warm salad: green beans and smashed potatoes garnished with almonds, sweet berries, sour berries, and pickled red onions (will try this at home). Spouse chose a creamy rich asparagus risotto and found it too monotonous as a whole meal. 23 Euros. No wine.

Dinner at locals’ home. Best meal, except for dessert, provided by me, as an American touch. I took cupcakes from Creative Bakery on Via Coronati. Sorry to report they were variable -- some less fresh than others. In chatting through language barriers I am guessing this bakery accepts a longer than I think appropriate “sell by” date. But the venue did have an exquisite tiny cup of made-on-the-spot pistachio gelato that I could eat forever (two flavors offered each day). Alas, the next day, the machine was broken.

Day 9 - After the Capitoline museums, we found ourselves unexpectedly in the Ghetto again. So we ate at Giggetto and split the famous artichoke. YUM. Rest was on the heavy side. My husband’s cannelloni had just the right amount of char. My saltimbocca was tasty enough with a side of spinach. Not a light meal; not even close to a favorite, but artichoke is still in my dreams. One glass of wine. 52 Euros.

Dinner at Armando al Pantheon, reserved days earlier in person and almost full even then. I had to beg a little for 8:00. Small/cozy/charming/could become a favorite. However, wasn’t our favorite meal. Spouse ordered (at my urging) cacio e pepe which I make from Cucina Simpatica (Il Forno, Providence RI). It was hotter than mine (mea culpa), also more al dente -- most al dente pasta we ate. Interesting as a standard. I was intrigued by the waiter’s description to order the special grouper (not split with my husband who does not eat fish) but as an inexperienced fish eater, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. Not their fault. Semifreddo was only okay. House wine. We were not rushed by the staff in any way and were in and out in an hour. The staff took signals from us. I think we weren’t hungry enough after gorging ourselves on Titian at the Quirinal, or perhaps at Giggetto. 63 Euros.

Day 10 - Larry River’s exhibit opening at Jewish Museum with passed hors d’oeuvres. Interesting to me but possibly predictable to Romans: eggplant mash on really fresh soft bread, individual servings of mashed bean presented in small ramekins with long-handled tiny spoons, one-bite tartlets, tiny crostini, peanuts, full open bar including Bellini’s, and nut biscotti. In the Synagogue courtyard with beautiful weather and astoundingly elegant attendees.

Day 11 - Lunch at Al Moro. We split the perfect carbonara which was indeed “more soft” than others, by which the waiter probably meant “delicate.” It was the best, as predicted. Spouse had veal with lemon sauce and I had baby lamb in a mildly spicy sauce. Both excellent. And some too oily asparagus. I ordered wild strawberries in lemon juice (not “sauce” as at Piperno) and alas declined the choice of ice cream of whipped cream which was clearly a necessary addition. Spouse had a sour cherry tart in the same league as Piperno, but sweeter. He couldn’t choose a favorite. A glass of prosecco, 1/2 bottle of white chosen by the waiter, and one limoncello (not comped). A long relaxed meal, professionally served. We could hear banking business conducted around us in accented English but if there were American tourists, we couldn’t hear them. Total with the 15 Euro half bottle was 137 Euros. We actually ate a lot, hence the large check.

Day 12 - Lunch. After a late opera night with no dinner, we wandered a bit thinking about lunch. We called for a (necessary) reservation to start in 20 minutes at Ditirambo (Piazza della Cancelleria). We split the steak tartar appetizer which was one of the best tartars I’ve eaten -- maybe ever. It is a home staple but this one had NO fat at all in the very tasty beef -- the fat came from porcinis in truffle oil. I ordered cacio e pepe for comparison to Armando. Fatter pasta (tonnarelli, I believe), not so al dente but not overcooked either. I prefer the thinner pasta at Armando. Spouse had pappardelle with rabbit, cheese, and tomatoes. Pretty good, but for me simpler is better. One glass of wine. 49 Euros.

Day 13 -- Back to US

Misc.: Espresso at St. Eustachio -- I finally get why it is considered the best. Naturally, gelato at Frigidarium (2 euros per small cone) with amaretto the highlight. Our favorite gelato place was the newly opened Via Coronari location of Gelateria del Teatro. Smaller portions than Frigidarium, less rich than Grom, and wonderful flavor combinations served purposely side-by-side. 2.50 euros per small cone; no lines as yet.

Mediocre pizza not worth reporting.

When we skipped eating out, we ate delicious nuts (especially fresh walnuts) from the Campo stand Spezie e Frutta Fresca Da Berardi Mauro and antipasti from Roscioli. We made multiple trips to the salumeria facing the Pantheon that purportedly stays open till 2:00 am. I owe thanks to the patient English speaking cashier there who cajoled her colleagues into putting up with me and picky slow ordering.

I want to live in Rome. I want to learn to make my pasta properly. I want to eat more Roman artichokes and more steak tartar at Ditirambo. More of it all. And it may even become possible next spring. I’m hoping.

May 17, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Italy

3 Nights in Florence

Just returned from Florence -- loved Casalinga. Would love that bloody rare Florentine beef right now. A lively restaurant -- yes, there are tourists, not all of them Americans.

No room left for us at Sostanza, alas. I have no other experience to share except this: for a great view go to the terrace at the top of the Bardini gardens. Food is not the point there.

May 16, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Friday night dinner in Florence

Thank you all. We will indeed eat at every one of these good suggestions. I'll report back on our choice for Friday when I return.

Apr 22, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Friday night dinner in Florence

I'd take your recommendation in a minute. Will we be able to walk out of our Borgo San Croce apartment and get a taxi on the street NY style?

Apr 20, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Friday night dinner in Florence

Need recommendation for relatively quiet comfortable restaurant for 8:00 dinner in or near San Croce neighborhood next Friday night for 3. Pasta/meat is fine. This is not to be a cutting edge culinary experience but a place for old (slightly hard of hearing) friends to be together. Don't want it too be too formal a setting, though the actual cost of the meal is not the deciding variable. I need a local to fill me in on the noise level of Fagioli, for instance. Any other suggestions welcome.

Apr 20, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Restaurant Recommendations for Florence and Santa Margherita

No one has mentioned Cantinetta Antinori which is right there on Via Tornabuoni. One of the Antinori cousins in NYC recommended it to me today. I haven't yet done a search but I am wondering why it isn't on the list. Authentic it must be as the family has been doing this for generations.

Apr 17, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Rome Report ~ March 2013 (Long)

Lovely -- your enthusiasm for everything stands out and graciousness about the disappointments. I printed it our for our trip in April-May. Thanks for taking time to be so complete.

Mar 23, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Italy

Halal restaurants in NYC

Have a Muslim vistor coming from Cambodia. Needs food to be Halal. Other than the famous 53rd street food cart, where should I point her. Can be fancy or not -- both are appropriate. Outer borough restaurants ok.

Jan 09, 2013
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

anniversary lunch in a fun walking neighborhood?

Very helpful, Pan. Tx. Just began to follow the Hakkasan debate. Part of me thinks that is where I want to go -- somewhere so expensive I can only eat a few things. But I can easily forgo the music and disneyland vibe. Plus my loving DH doesn't eat any fish and resists odd ingredients. Excludes Hakkasan and probably Jungsik and Madangsui. (I may have to go solo to one of those -- which is the secret of 45 years.)

Hard to beat our wedding 45 years ago at Lutece when all that rich French food was a treat.

So - and this will further confuse you - reservation is for the pretty roof garden at Gramercy Park Hotel. Menu is simple lunch -- but we've known the new chef since he was a toddler.

I also realize (an insight from writing this post) is that I've gotten over the need to celebrate at "the most expensive restaurant in the world" as Lutece was billed 45 years ago (causing my father to question "lunatic prices" just like Pete Wells et. al.). This lunch is meant to be a low key break in the routine to mark the day and do something fun together.

Jun 15, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

anniversary lunch in a fun walking neighborhood?

Thanks Pan for the suggestions. I'll check the outer borough site and maybe even the Chennai Garden. As for Riverman's suggestion of Babbo...hmm. haven't been there. Sounds rich and heavy but it is a thought. Of course the responses make me focus on the throwaway "could be spicy ethnic". That is probably best done in a group to taste lots of different things if food were the super main point. (How is this for a mixed message: I want a super restaurant experience without eating too much.) But upscale indian or upscale chinese is probably what I mean -- just somewhere I've never been in a neighborhood that is mostly unfamiliar. ( Shun Lee Palace Palace in Tribeca?) Meanwhile I reserved at a pretty space run by a young chef I know -- which could make it a bit special – but I'm still looking for an imaginative alternative.

Jun 12, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

anniversary lunch in a fun walking neighborhood?

45th anniversary -- don't want to spend it sitting eating rich elaborate food but would like to have a tasty weekday meal in restaurant in or near any lively neighborhood. Could be spicy ethnic food. We've never been to Queens to eat -- that might work if we had some guidance. Downtown might feel like a vacation from our usual neighborhood. Budget not particularly an issue, given that we are not heading to Per Se or EMP. Table cloths and good service might be a nice plus. Oh...I almost forgot. Noisy is not okay at this stage.

Jun 11, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

Where to take west coast foodie -- fresh fruit and veggies and few carbs

snagged an early reservation at Mas (Grillade). looks promising despite mixed reviews.

May 07, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

Where to take west coast foodie -- fresh fruit and veggies and few carbs

Thanks for all the ideas -- finally dawned on me why Wed. the 16th is so impossible to book: Columbia graduation. Looks like i'll be cooking....

May 07, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

Where to take west coast foodie -- fresh fruit and veggies and few carbs

Good idea -- neither available on the day we need.

May 06, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

Where to take west coast foodie -- fresh fruit and veggies and few carbs

MId-May spur-of-the-moment trip for foodie who swears by fresh California fruits and veggies , eats some meat, few carbs or dairy. Too late to reserve for Blue Hill NYC (where we had a terrific meal last week that would have been perfect). What is the next best choice with hope of a reservation 12 days hence. No Italian and no fish restaurants. Will be five of us. Thanks in advance.

May 06, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

pre-theater near 59th and 10th?

I didn't check in after March 23 after we decided to "take one for the team" and go to Hanci. David W's report hits it exactly. "Pleasant" is exactly the right word and we all agreed on that descriptor as we left. Not overdecorated, quiet and mostly empty early on, we had efficient service from our Ecuadorian server, a clean bathroom, and a check that came to about 35.00 a person including tip for four of us. We had an $18 appetizer for the table, 4 entrees at an average of $18 each, and two $7 glasses of wine. (I especially liked my generous pour of Turkish house red served in a large wine glass). No dessert or coffee. Mixed appetizer had good smoky eggplant and the above-mentioned tasty eggplant and pepper salad. I ordered an extra tomato and cucumber salad with memories of fresh salads in Istanbul. (Sorry, New York modestly-priced restaurants can't duplicate it.) Mixed grill entree, grilled bronzini, stuffed cabbage, were all "basic and solid."

Uskudar on the Upper East Side is better–and more money. (We ate there on a first-ever-for-us Amazon deal to save 50%. The food was fine but even in an empty restaurant at 4 in the afternoon, they refused to budge on even a slight substitution from the "deal" menu, even if we paid extra. It made the experience unpleasant. We would probably never go back -- or even sign up for another Amazon deal no matter how attractive. So "pleasant" wins out every time.

Apr 18, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

pre-theater near 59th and 10th?

I did a search for Hanci before I posted and the only mention was (like a few on the above replies): "We haven't eaten there, but we hear it is good...."

Mar 23, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan

pre-theater near 59th and 10th?

So many choices. I think we'll cross off Molyvos (eaten there several times with same group and have never been unhappy. Truth in posting -- we are AARP certified. However that means the walk is not such a good idea. No one has mentioned Hanci. Any info?

Mar 23, 2012
elizabeth2929 in Manhattan