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Finding good restaurants while out and about in Rome?

I went to Rome in April and one thing we struggled with was finding good restaurants on a whim. We would decide we were hungry, aimlessly walk, and read menus (huge time waste to me). We found 1 great place like this, but sadly at least 2 or 3 not so great places. I don't want to be so planned I have to travel across town to recommended restaurants when I'm hungry. I also don't want to eat in the tourist type places with 20 different languages on the menu. Do you carry a guidebook? An iPad/iphone and use a certain app to find things in your vicinity? Or do you have a few choices in the area you think you are gonna be in at mealtimes? I'm not a fan of carrying a backpack, so a thick travel book seems to be a pain. Suggestions?

Posted by
541 posts

My husband and I spent 2-3 weeks in Tuscany and Rome this past spring. We had been to both areas several times but this trip, it was all about the food and wine and had maybe 2 not so great experiences in the 25 or so places we ate. I used the TripAdvisor & Yelp apps on my iphone and used the Michelin guide books and website for some of the fancier lunches & dinners. I haven't had great results with the RS recommendations but I'd check them against TA or Yelp. My guess is they are great when he reviews them and they slide as the volume of tourists increase. Michelin has been the most consistent for me anywhere. They aren't that heavy and I would just carry it around in Tuscany. In Rome, I tore out the pages of the areas I was going to be in that day. If you don't have a smartphone, you can just mark names and addresses on your map before you leave for the day. That's what I did until a couple of years ago. Hope this helps on your next trip!

Posted by
131 posts

Thanks Leslie. I can take my iPad in my daily bag.

Posted by
7743 posts

Before my trip to Italy I used the NOTES app on my iPod Touch to note restaurants that people recommended for each location I was traveling to. For Rome I grouped them by neighborhood, so no matter where I was when hungry, I could locate a place I was interested in. No data needed, as the app works offline. The iPod was no problem to carry around.

Posted by
1127 posts

http://www.parlafood.com is great food resource. There is now an app for the Apple devices as well. In general stay away from any restaurant on a main square, explore the tiny side street. And skip any place where the waiter is aggressively trying to drum up business - the good places don't need to do that. I love Rick Steves for sightseeing but I'm not crazy about Rick's restaurant recommendations.

Posted by
9454 posts

L'Asino d'Oro is close and fabulous. Go for lunch, especially, Mon-Fri. 12€ includes wine and a set menu (no choices but all good! We still like Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, down toward Trajan's Forum. Farther afield from your apartment, Cul de Sac near Piazza Navona and Antica Taverna west of Piazza Navona are good choices. Recently discovered Enoteca Provincia Romana is a wine bar with tasty options much like a tapas place. Unique for Rome and quite nice. It is also near Trajan's Column. For lunch, we often stop in a bar that has good looking sandwiches on display. Very good quality at a better-than-fast-food price.

Posted by
653 posts

If you are winging it in a particular neighborhood, I suggest going off the tourist path by a street or two and you will find great places. Restaurants on main piazze or streets don't usually have a strong local following.

Posted by
31073 posts

Sarah, I've spent many hours pouring over ratings on Trip Advisor and in Guidebooks, in order to compile a list that I could save in Word format and pack along in my iPod Touch. However, the reality is that I hardly ever referred to it, and on those occasions when I did visit restaurants "on the list", the experience wasn't always enjoyable. In some cases, the restaurant had "changed hands" since I compiled the information, the quality had deteriorated or perhaps they were just having "a bad night" (for whatever reason). In other cases I've found myself in neighborhoods with none of the restaurants on my list. Based on my experiences so far, I'm questioning how much value there is in travelling with pre-formatted lists. On more recent trips, I've been using a few different methods to choose restaurants. Especially in Italy, I usually have the Guidebook with me, so I'll try a few of the restaurants in the same neighborhood as the Hotel. These have always been good. One of the best methods I've found is to ask the Hotel staff, as they always have good suggestions. Another way to find good restaurants is to ask other guests at the Hotel. Some of them often rave about the place they visited for dinner the previous night. I sometimes take a chance and visit a place that "seems" good. As the others have said, it's usually best to avoid the overpriced places on the main piazzas that are trying to "herd" travellers to a table. I like to read the Menu first to see if they have menu items I might be interested in. If the staff approach me while I'm reading and try to "badger" me to sit down, I usually continue walking. Generally speaking it's usually a good policy to go at least one street behind the main piazza. Happy travels!

Posted by
131 posts

Thanks all. I'm staying in an apartment, so asking around the hotel won't be happening. We did get off main squares, but still found not so great places. Plus sometimes when we got off the main square we walked forever to find something. Guess winging it sounds like the way to go.

Posted by
9454 posts

Where is your apartment, Sarah? We might be able to guide you to some winners.

Posted by
131 posts

On Via Urbana near the Colosseum. I'd love suggestions, at least for when we are near our apartment.

Posted by
541 posts

That's the Monti area and that's where I usually rent apartments too. It's a gold mine for great eateries and gourmet grocery stores. It's also got a lot of not so great places so worth a little research before you venture out. I'm usually in that area 1-2 times a year and the restaurants seem to change yearly so be sure to check them out on yelp and TA for the most recent reviews. This past spring we rented an apartment next to Trajan's Market on Piazza del Grillo and across the road was Ristorante Mario's. It was great for lunch. Full of government types. You'll see the body guards trying to blend in not so well everywhere in that area. Best meal of that trip, Rome part, was The Library. Better than the couple of Michelin starred places we ate at and half the price. I'd make reservations though as it's small and not a secret, but worth the effort. Loved E Tutto Qua on Broadway in your back yard this summer!

Posted by
7737 posts

Good for you for asking this. Contrary to what you might here from time to time, it's definitely possible to get bad food in Italy. I've yet to figure out a foolproof way to find a good restaurant (I know all the tricks and tips), plus you never know if maybe the item you ordered just isn't to your taste as much as something else might have been. A good inexpensive option for lunch is the many pizza-by-the-slice places you'll see. You can see the pizzas for yourself before you order. They're rectangular pieces, and you tell the person behind the counter how big a piece you want by gesturing. Then you pay by weight. That's how lots of the locals eat.

Posted by
1127 posts

Another vote for L'Asino D'Oro and La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali in the Monti neighborhood. Great suggestions Lauren!

Posted by
774 posts

We're pretty picky about places to eat on our travels, as we really enjoy good, local cuisine (usually moderately priced, but not always). I cull all sorts of resources prior to our trips, including chowhound as the main internet resource, plus Fred Plotkin's book, Faith Willinger, not so much the michelin guide stuff (I think they're better assessing French or French-influenced cuisine), plus an Italian website (in Italian) that I can't remember the name of. Over the course of several trips to Rome, I have a way-too-huge list that includes restaurants in all the areas we're likely to be at lunchtime, plus more in the area where we're staying (usually near Piazza Navona). That combination of resources usually works for us; I do believe that just wandering around doesn't necessarily lead to good choices. Eating on a main piazza, I would agree, leads to over-priced, less-good food. But sometimes it's worth it for the ambiance. But mostly for drinks, then, not an entire meal. A nice little pasta-focused near the Colosseum that we had lunch at was Hostaria Isidoro,
via di San Giovanni in Laterano, 59/a-61-63

Posted by
131 posts

You are all awesome! Thanks! I'm going to start compiling a list. I didn't find this to be a problem in other Italian towns. Seems everything in those are pretty authentic....do you agree? I'm going to Lucca, CT, Pisa, and possibly a couple other small towns. I'll add my fav Roman restaurant for you all to try as well (which we did wander upon). Matter of fact, we ate there one night, went to a restaurant recommended in Frommers we hated, and went back to the place we loved for a good meal after! Osteria dell ingegno - near the Pantheon. Best food I ate in Italy hands down.

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9454 posts

Sarah, Thanks for the reminder about Osteria dell Ingegno. We stopped there for an aperitivi and meant to make it back for dinner because it looked so promising. They have a really great selection of snacks served with drinks in the bar. Another great out of the way place is Taverna le Coppelle, north of the Pantheon.

Posted by
31073 posts

Sarah, If you'd like to try a good restaurant in Lucca, I'd recommend Trattoria da Francesco, which is outside the wall and just a few minutes from the train station. I dined there several times at the end of September, and found both the food and the service to be great. There seemed to be lots of locals eating there, and the place was absolutely packed on the Saturday night. Given the number of patrons the service was a bit slow at times, but the staff were literally "running" so they were doing their best. Cheers!

Posted by
1020 posts

Rome for Foodies is the app that SamSn referred to. Looks good. Can't wait to try it out.

Posted by
131 posts

I'm reviving this post to see if anyone has any good, recent Rome restaurant recommendations since I'm officially a month out! Any new updates or suggestions?

Posted by
5351 posts

Before I travel I read food blogs which pertain to the city I am going to visit. Parla Food. Elizabeth Minchilli (who does have apps for Florence and Rome), Chowhound and MaureenB. Fant were a few I perused about Rome. Also looked at travel sections of major newspapers or certain columnists. Diner's Journal in the NY Times is a favorite. Other than that I look for spots with locals, no tourists and walk in. Ciao.

Posted by
15 posts

I just came back from Rome two days ago. The best food I ate was in Trastevere- hands down! Try La Scala. The pasta carbonara and buccatini all' amatriciana was excellent.

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14036 posts

I think it's hit-or-miss all too often. In February, I went to 3 restaurants in Sorrento recommended by the hotel staff, all were very good to excellent with moderate prices. In Rome, I returned to a restaurant I had had a great meal at 2 years earlier and the food was mediocre. I went to 2 others on my hotel's recommendations, one was fabulous and the other was poor food, poor service and exhorbitant prices. By accident (took the wrong street on a self-guided walking tour) I found the best Sicilian canolli ever in the Trastevere.

Posted by
782 posts

There's a good one near the Vatican called Vito e Dina. Food is good and Dino is a trip.

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37 posts

We learned years ago (before Internet) that wandering around reading menus led to arguments, frustration, and hunger. For our trip to Italy last October I spent hours reading recent Internet postings (Rick's Travel Helpline/Graffiti Wall, SlowTravel, Trip Advisor) for suggestions on reasonably priced restaurants in all of the ares we would be visiting and compiled a lengthy lists of possibilities (32 pages). I culled the list shortly before the trip to the most recent positive reviews that were mentioned in more than one source. The list was invaluable for our party of five as we always had a recommendation at hand. We also asked the hotel or the person renting us our apartments for suggestions in the immediate area. The only bad dining experience we had was the day we landed in Venice and forgot to consult the list due to jet lag. We had wonderful dining experiences, didn't break the bank, and met wonderful locals. Amazingly, due to the amount of walking we did, we returned to the US weighing less than when we left!

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7737 posts

I have a rule of thumb about whether to ask at the front desk for a restaurant recommendation: The larger the hotel, the less reliable the recommendation; the smaller the B&B, the more reliable the recommendation. That's because the B&B owner/front desk person relies on their reputation and knows that they will have to face their guests the next morning if they recommend a lousy place. Hotel staff don't really care, and they often have a kickback kind of relationship with local restaurants that aren't good enough to get clientele on their own. This happened to us when we stayed on the Lido in Venice. The front desk recommended a certain restaurant to us. As we were walking there, we passed restaurant after restaurant that was crowded with people. When we got to the one they recommended, it was empty. We turned around and went back to one of the crowded ones.