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Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

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Bombay, India
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Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

I have read the DK Eyewitness Guide to Rome (not the Top 10) & the Rick Steves Guide. Both are current & both have an extensive section with Restaurant recommendations. I’ve also earmarked the Slowtravel website for restaurants recommendations. There are the TA Restaurant Recommendations, but they seem a little suspect. I have searched old threads, but there are vast & varied recommendations.

Food is important to us on a vacation & we enjoy eating well. I suspect most of our lunches will be wherever we are sightseeing, maybe a quick panini or a slice of pizza or some such. We would like to have sit-down dinners, not necessarily fancy, but great food. I understand that the thumb rule is to walk away from restaurants that are very close to the Main Sights & also to steer clear of restaurants that obviously pander up to tourists... ‘we speak english’... ‘we serve hamburgers’ & so forth. Also, to go where it seems crowded with locals.

We will be in Rome for 6 nights, followed by 4 in Tuscany, then 3 in Como & finally 5 in Venice. So my questions are these:

1.Which would you say was the singlemost reliable restaurant source of the ones mentioned above?

2.Are there any, obvious tell tale signs for a good restaurants?

3.We are not big wine drinkers, infact we rarely drink except on holiday. I’m sorry if this sounds silly, but would some cocktails, like a margarita for example, be commonly available in the smaller bars etc?

I’m a little overwhelmed by the mass of research I have to do to ‘do Rome well’ [yes, I'm a bit nerdy that way : ) ]... It would be super convenient to just have one source of information for the restaurants. Any advice?

Austin, Texas
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1. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

Food is incredibly subjective, I don't think there is any one source as taste can differ so much, what you may love I may not love. We have always managed to eat very well by wandering away from main tourist areas and follow our noses when in Italy. Ordering well is also key. There are some great books out there that talk about the different styles of different regions and what foods are in season when. We find that in many places if you ask for a recommendation, they won't steer you too wrong. Some waiters will push whatever isn't moving, this is when it helps to have a clue about what may be local and in season and trying those types of dishes, wild game and rabbit dishes in Tuscan for example. A margarita may be more difficult to come by but you can find other liquors and drinks in the various bars.

New York City, New...
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2. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

I pretty much have always winged it as I find it a fun part of traveling -

One other thing to never do is just let the servers bring you food without asking the price - that can sometimes come with a nasty surprise as you find yourself paying more than you want to for your meal. If they suggest something that isn't on the menu, just always ask the price.

As a wine drinker only for the most part, I can't answer about the cocktails.

Most restaurants - good and bad - will include an English translation under the item listed on the menu. Having that English translation doesn't mean the food/restaurant isn't good. Just stay away from the places with the menu boards outside offering "menus" (full pre-determined meals) in English and, as you note, stay away from the main squares especially. There are many good places just a few streets away from these spots where you will find a good meal.

Fish is usually sold by the gram weight (for the most part) - except for shellfish.

Rome, Italy
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3. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

I've been in Rome since 2005 (and before that visited as a student) and i can tell you that the number of bad restaurants i have eaten at I can count on one hand...that's pretty good odds, no?

Sure there are some places with specialties...ie: known for seafood, known for serving a particular plate in a special way (ie: cacio e pepe" in a bowl made of Parmesan cheese or fried artichokes in the Jewish Quarter tradition...mm!)...but other than that if you choose wisely you should do just fine. Avoid places that have waiters outside trying to "catch" you and pull you in...these are normally along very touristy areas and piazzas and are no indication you will have a good experience. Main Piazzas here, like by the Pantheon, or Piazza Navona tend to offer expensive food that lacks any personality or quality. Don't accept food or wine without asking the price from staff, and take a good look before parking yourself somewhere and you shouldn't be disappointed!

New York City, New...
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4. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

you will not find cocktails in restaurants only wine and after dinner digestifs.

and stay away from soda, esp in restaurants... it costs more than wine!!!

I would say winging it is a bit risky.....

here are my top favorite restaurants you can research them and decide for yourself:

osteria der belli - trastevere

da augusto - trastevere

da armando - pantheon

le mani in pasta - trastevere

pizzeria san marco - prati

la sicilia in bocca - prati

il pompiere - ghetto

la piazzetta - colosseum

il varesino - termini

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5. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

We've always been "wingers" and honestly have never had a bad meal. I would stay off the main piazzas though, only because the food will be more expensive (you're paying for the view). That being said though, I have eaten at Tre Scalini in the Piazza Navona (fabulous view, edible food, sneaky waiter) and have also been suckered into a place by a waiter on the street (surprisingly good food, and not expensive).

I also think, as nparmalee, that it is subjective. I always enter a restaurant expecting to enjoy whatever I get; I usually do. My advice is to look over the menu thoroughly before entering; I find that if they advertise homemade pasta, the rest of the stuff is pretty tasty too!!!

Norwich, United...
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6. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

If you're in Rome and hoping to eat local food, try this leaflet produced a few years ago by the Tourist Board (but be sure to cross-check the opening days, times etc!), which lists restaurants that specialise in the city's traditional cuisine...


At those who also get a mention in those popular guides and on foodie websites you may well need a reservation!

And, particularly to get one of an outdoor table anywhere we especially like, we'll often stop by at lunchtime, or the evening before.

It's rare however for a restaurant to up sticks and move, merely because some place nearby has become visitors' latest "must see" sight or site - so don't rely too heavily on thumb rules and other such sweeping advice.

Any half-decent barman should be able to knock out a margarita - although you might find a mojito more refreshing!

Or perhaps something more in keeping with the location? Not sure how authentic a few of these are, but we often order one each of the first and second....



PS - Can't imagine these being of any help, although they may maintain your enthusiam....


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7. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

I'm also a planner, and had a long list of places we wanted to try. Guess what? We ended up eating wherever looked good and we didn't have a bad meal on the entire trip! We did make it to a few of the places I wanted to try and they were very good, but the serendipitous places were just as good!

San Diego
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8. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

I LOVE finding restaurant recs before I travel.

Slow Travel and the foodie site Chowhound.com are great resources.

I also ask in the forums here on Trip Advisor for recs from others who also like

good food. I don't use the restaurant numbered ratings on Trip Advisor at all because not everyone travels and eats in the same way.

I might read the reviews after I have a list of possibilities from the other sites.

I also ask my hotels to make dinner reservations for me as many of the restaurants (especially in Venice) are VERY small and don't have web sites where you can make a res.

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9. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

Do you want to try and taste real local roman dishes? Are you willing to move a little bit away from the center of Rome? If so i can give you 3 or 4 restaurants addresses or i'd say osterie romane where you'll not find other tourists but only locals and the food is genuine (no frozen food, only genuine ingredients).

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10. Re: Should We Wing It With The Restaurants?

If I were to "wing" it as you say, I would look for those stickers that several establishments post on their doors/windows to signal that the restaurant/trattoria has been found worthy to be included in some of the main Italian food guides ("Gambero Rosso", "Osterie d'Italia", "L'Espresso"). This is a very simple (if dumb) rule of thumb that 95% of times works well to me (an Italian) as well. There is, in my view, no tell-tale sign for a good restaurant, apart from those the other posters have already pointed out (pushy waiters outside, placards with menus in English, etc. ). With pizzerie it is a different story, as they cater to a different public. Some of the best pizzerie in Rome are actually not to be found in downtown, as they are mostly in the suburbs; those usually referred to (like the one in Prati mentioned by another poster) are anyhow perfectly OK.