Florence, Rome recs?

Good morning.
We are setting off on our first international family vacation(!) in about a month. I am about to start researching restaurants in these 2 cities but I suspect there is a ton of information out there and I’m hoping that I can pick your brains to get some initial ideas.

I realize it’s a big ask, and I’m supposed to do my homework first and present you with a list for your perusal and comments, but I’m doing it backwards because I am overwhelmed with the other logistics of planning the trip, and 2 jobs and 2 kids and life :slight_smile:

Here is what I’m looking for. CASUAL lunch and dinner places in the old town portion of Rome, plus the city limits of Florence (so south of the river is fine). No fancy white tablecloth type places at all, where they plate the food beautifully on the left 1/8 of an otherwise blank white plate.

We like homemade pastas, pizzas, meats and seafood, and particularly beautiful produce treated gently to let its quality shine. Impressive wine lists are not at all necessary. We are novices at wine, and would likely be happy with a glass of the house wine.

Also a logistical question for you guys who have travelled in Italy. Would you recommend making reservations for both meals, or dinner only?

I’m very grateful for your thoughts, and promise to do a trip report afterwards. Grazie!

It was 2011 when we were in Rome so things may have changed. Most of our meals were fairly upscale so not what you’re looking for.

One, not too far up the scale and not up its own arse, was Sprito di Vino. We made reservations but then we usually make reservations for places. Place follows the principles of the Slow Food Movement. And we were welcomed with:

“So, where are you from?”
“Near Manchester”, I reply
“United or City?”

At which point we had several minutes discussion about how good a team manager Robert Mancini was.

We had a decent casual lunch at Trattoria da Luigi, Piazza Sforza Cesarina, off the Vittorio Emanuele. No need to book.

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Are you looking to plan your sightseeing around restaurants, or the other way around? Given that you’re not looking for destination dining, I would recommend you do the latter - there are likely to be multiple good places near your various sightseeing destinations and it doesn’t really make sense to hoof it across town for a casual lunch when there’s an equally good place right near the Colosseum (or whatever). This is what I recommend to people who come to visit my fair city (NYC) unless they are doing destination dining, and it really works out well.

I haven’t been to Florence or Rome recently so I can’t recommend specific restaurants, but on my last trip to Italy (Venice and Bologna), reservations for lunches at casual places were not really required. Definitely try to reserve dinner, though!

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Husband is planning the Rome sightseeing, so I don’t know where he is taking us besides the Colosseum and the Vatican. I’m doing the Florence planning, and we are likely going to look for good places near the sights, rather than traipsing across town to eat, as you say.
We’re also big on markets, so there’s that. But we will want some sit-downs too, with service. We’ll be touring near the Uffizi, the Duomo, the Bargello, Pitti Palace at the least, and will do a couple of walking tours north and south of the Arno. I guess this is for the benefit of other posters, since you say you haven’t been recently. I haven’t been for 40 years!

My favorite restaurant in Rome is Tullio, on Via di San Nicola da Tolentino, just off Piazza Barberini, at the foot of Via Veneto. It is not the cheapest in Rome, but it is, in my opinion, one of the best. Another great place is Armando al Pantheon, but you will need a reservation to get in: 0039 06 6880 3034. Another absolute favorite, not too expensive and not too formal, but only open in the evenings is Le Tre Zucche, Via Mengarini 43. Unfortunately it’s a long taxi ride to get there, but the food is exquisite.
I also recommend Cesare al Casaletto, which is at the end of tram line 8. And there is Emma, a centrally located pizza place. Food is quite good, but it is a bit loud.

There are a lot of good places to eat in Rome, and a LOT to see!

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And btw, I am aware of the Elizabeth Minchilli blogs and will read up on those, but it appears at first blush she mostly covers the fancy joints. I’m not anti-fancy, but 2 kids… And it will be hot and we will be walking all day and underdressed. I imagine we’ll just want to take it easy with the meals. Good stuff, but not pretentious or overly precious. Those places we save for date night :wink:

Elizabeth Minchilli covers the simple joints, too.,

If you’re going to The Vatican, Pizzarium is close and the pizzas are very good. I was in Rome in Dec 15. My report was mainly fairly cheap and casual places. Also posted separately on Checcchino dal 1887, probably not what you’re after but not at all fussy or too expensive. it was so good the first time we went again before we left Rome.

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I’ve seen Armando and Emma mentioned in other places. Multiple mentions are a good sign! You say make a res for Armando - even for lunch?

Good to know! Do you prefer the blog or the app?

I would recommend reserving at Armando even for lunch. As far as Elizabeth Minchilli is concerned, I have only used the blog, which is where I discovered Le Tre Zucche. You can also look at Maureen Fant’s blog.

just wanted to bump this, as we’ll be going with our two children (11, 15) to florence only in a few weeks, staying about 1/4 mile north of the duomo.

my wife has been before, so we’ve got a handle on the gelato, but any recommended places in that area are welcomed.

Just happened across this post. You might like to check out the Elizabeth Minchilli Eat Italy app for Florence ($2.99). I took a look at her Milan app, which is free at the moment. Based on that sample, it could be worth giving her Florence module a try. Info here: http://www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com/apps-rome-venice-florence/

We just returned. I can give you a few details on meals we had in Florence. I’ll try to post tomorrow. Assuming you are ok with the no-muss, no-fuss criteria that I had… btw - my kiddos are the same age :slight_smile:

sasha - that would work perfectly, since we’re leaving later this week. we’re not going super high end either, my youngest has already eaten papardelle with boar ragu (though he didn’t finish) so i’m sure he’ll enjoy trying it in italy.

tomatotomato - thanks for the app rec, i may still wind up purchasing it. i’ve gone through her site, and gotten some good ideas when we are a little away from our residence.

i will likely be making a couple reservations before we leave or soon after we arrive, and then leaving time open since our plans are very fluid.

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Bob-g: Here goes. We stayed in the Piazza della Republica, to orient you. I know you said you had gelato covered, but I’ll just touch on that too. Grom near the Duomo is very good. Vivoli, near the Bargello, is even better. Fyi Carapina is closed for construction, and another we found through prior research - Arte de Ciocollato or similar (on the north bank of the Arno, to the west a little) is just plain closed and gone.

We generally breakfasted at our hotel. Our favorite restaurant was Osteria Cipolla Rosa. Their pastas were lovely (we got a meat sauce and one that read like a carbonara but had a different name), and it was a good place to get the bistec fiorentina. The grilled pork was ok, but pretty bland. I believe it was a Minchilli rec.

We also ate at Trattoria Sostanza. Their pasta comes only with butter or meat sauce, only penne or tortellini. The latter are filled with cheese and are tasty if you like that kind of thing. Very tiny tortellinis. The meat sauce was good. The butter chicken was also excellent. We tried the carciofi torta but were underwhelmed.

We also tried Ristorante del Fagioli, and had an assortment of pastas and some of their contorni, including the signature fagioli beans. Pretty tasty. No particular dishes stand out in my memory (and I didn’t take any notes).

Finally, we grabbed sandwiches and drinks to go at Amble, and I highly recommend. Very affordable. You get a paper list with ingredients to check off, building your own sandwich. Meats, fishes and cheeses, lots of veg toppings, etc. Be prepared to pucker for the lemonade. Italians rely much less on sugar than Americans.

The melon is currently in season. We ordered that, with prosciutto, in several places. You may also find, as we did, that the food is fairly heavy, and that you won’t want a full 3 meals a day if you’re also regulating your temperature with gelato :slight_smile: We did gelato daily. It is HOT there right now, and humid.

Enjoy your trip!

sasha - thanks for the tips! our residence is about 1/2 mile north of there (san gallo), but we’re definitely planning on being in the center part (other than oltrarno, when we walk there once) unless someone my wife knows recommends something which is easily accessible for tired kids.

i’ve read lots of sostanza, and that was one place i definitely want to go - glad to know to avoid the torta. kids split how they eat pasta already (one eats only with butter, the other only with meat sauce) so we’re good for that.

our breakfasts will either be fruits picked up at the local market or croissant/etc. at whatever local bakery we find. very light.

i’ve written down the others to check out later today; part of my concerns has been for reservations, so a place might be amazing and awesome, but if the only way to get in is a 2100 reservation 5 days in advance, it’s more effort there than i want to deal with. we’re more likely to eat a larger meal at lunch and something small at dinner.

we’re dealing with 85-90 temps in my section of the country, so i’m hoping the extra degrees + humidity + no a/c doesn’t knock us too much. we’ll deal.

thanks for all of that, and especially the tip on the sugar / melon in season! i’ll post some highlights when we come back…

Please note that a croissant or breakfast roll is “una pasta”. They are usually filled with creme patisserie, “una pasta con crema”.

Do your oltrarno walk first thing in the am, before it gets hot, and trek up to the Piazza Michaelangelo for an outstanding view of the city center. If you walk over the Ponte Veccio and follow the signs to the piazza, shortly after you cross the river and before you start the serious uphill, there is a little bar/bakery on the left side with excellent breakfast pastries. I don’t know the name, but we stopped on the way up AND on the way down again :slight_smile:

Also, we did not have the same experience as bcc below. I believe the croissants are known as cornetta/o, but in any case, point works as well as identify by name. Some are filled with pastry creme. But also, plain, with chocolate, with marmalade, etc. Lots of choices.

hey - thanks for all the help on places in florence. came back from a couple weeks over there with kids, and wanted to give a small report.

we were located a little more than 1/2 a mile north of the duomo. therefore, i was looking for places that weren’t too far, and where we could get in relatively easy. that’s why sostanza didn’t happen, mario had too long a line for us and gozzi was closed.

what I noticed was that there were no places which absolutely blew me away. however, at almost EVERY place we went, the quality of the food was at least good, and often better. what flashes in my mind is if you’re eating at someone’s home and they are not a chef, but have cooked some same dishes for years. it’s made there, made fresh, and gives a good feeling.

so some places and thoughts…

trattoria zaza - had a risotto with asparagus and fresh truffles (really good), and tortellini with ham/white truffle sauce. was there twice, all dishes (pasta, pizza, cheeses) a hit.

il vezzo was slightly more upscale than the other places we ate at, and the food reflected that. i had a baked (I think?) octopus which was properly cooked and tasty. probably the ‘best’ of the places we ate at.

osterio pepe - actually had to leave (before ordering / bread and service) because one of our children was cranky and knew it wouldn’t work well - i apologized, said we’d back, and we were. i had the beef filet dish which was wonderful; cooked quite rare with a little cheese on top, and some flavoring. i believe it’s quite similar in flavor to the bistec ala fiorentina, and it was great.

trattoria il pocospino - my wife has eaten at before. she had a pair ravioli, i had a very good peposo. Word of warning (which we saw before we sat down) - they charge bread /service AND a 12% tip. interestingly enough, service and conversation with our server was outstanding, so the 12% wasn’t as painful - but i was surprised by this.

a different experience was at osteria cipolla rossa, where service was disinterested. it wasn’t just us, there were a two other tables there who received the same sort of (non) attention. food was fine, but negative service in an area with a ton of restaurants isn’t helpful.

ara had out of this world arancini. the pizzole was a hit as well, i was the only one liking the scacce. someone my wife knows went there a ton during their time in florence, and it’s very true to sicilian street food. gelato was top notch as well, and very nice people there.

mercato centrale:
tried lamprodetto at the mercato centrale, the bread, salsa and dipping sauce was great, but i couldn’t get through more than a few pieces of it. i felt the chewiness was worse than lobster (which i love) and the meat, when the salsa flavor was gone, didn’t taste that good.

the pizza at sud was fine, but i didn’t get it as “best of florence” - in fact, the pizza at other non-pizza places tasted almost as good - i thought simbiosi was a bit better. had some shrimp cooked on the grill and loved it. downstairs, tried some of the culatello which reminded me a lot of jamon iberico, and sbriciolona, a local salami unique to tuscan region - tasted better than regular salami, which i’m not a fan of. i hadn’t had buffalo mozzarella before, and loved it.

had a zillion types of gelato. agree with the general tip of “look for places with metal containers” because those were all good. the best (creamiest) we had was at a place poorly-named “time for gelato”. other standouts were my sugar, il re de gelato, la strega nocciola (best flavor I had here; cinammon and white chocolate), carabe, grom (when we visited venice) also had good granita, which was NOT the case at venchi. le botteghe di leonardo wasn’t as creamy but the fruits were more prominent.

sandwiches - sandwichic was not too far from us. three people there, the main person at the register was super friendly to all, fluent in at least three languages (french/italian/english), and wonderful sandwich selections along with schiacciata bread no more than 5 euro a sandwich and quite filling.

wasn’t knocked out by i fratellini. we went there on a sunday, i think (no line) and my guess is that lots of the accolades are because it’s ok food near the duomo. definitely wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

i went to la menagere and saw their menu. the hostess told me it was “contemporary tuscan” and i saw the menu which rang true to how many “good” restaurants have been serving / plating things here (u.s.) in cities / metropolitan areas. i suspect that since they are in an area which is known for traditional pasta / meat dishes, dishes with smaller amounts of food might encounter resistance.

had my pastries at vecchio forno and across the street. 1 euro for fruit filled croissant!

and we made it across to oltrarno for the farmer’s market on sunday, but too early to stay for pizza/gelato or anything else.

thanks again for feedback.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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