Our Readers' Favorite Restaurants

If you have a favorite restaurant in Italy you'd like to share with the rest of us, write it up and send it. We'll post it here for others to read. Don't worry if you're not sure of the name (or even if it still exists!). Other readers can have just as much fun searching for it as you'll have remembering it for us.

Two restaurants in Rome (May 2005) we enjoyed were Santopadre and Re degli Amici. Santopadre is a few blocks off Via Nazionale not too far from Piazza della Republica. A real home style family place with Mama in the kitchen. They made a reservation for us at the hotel and antipasti was on the table waiting for us when we arrived. They kept bringing more and more antipasti - highlighted by buffallo mozzarella and rigotta cheeses, fagiolini, and polpette. The service was great and personable (Dina spoke good english). There were four of us and we all agreed that it was our best meal in Italy. It wasn't cheap (over E200), but was worth it. Re degli Amici is near Piazza del Popolo and is another home-style place. Excellent food, great service, fairly reasonable prices, and nice atmosphere. What is a neat new wrinkle in the non-tourist trap restaurants is a complimentary glass of Spumante before dinner and (if the waiter likes you), free limoncello after. We saw this all over Italy.

John and Terry Innocenti

Just came back from two weeks in Florence; we ate at this restaurant 4 nights: RISTORANTE PAOLI, Via deTavolini, 12r, 055-216-215, just off Via Dei Calzaiuoli. Great place Florences oldest restaurant waiters are delightful, food is unbelievable. Ask for Alberto! Hell give you great menu ideas. Not inexpensive, but well worth it! Pastas are very inventive and light, fresh! All the meat dishes are fabulous! We would have eaten there every night if we could fit it into our schedule. Love this place! Reservations a must!

Stephanie Zimmerman

 

I just came back from florence, and being an Italian woman raised in an Italian household I won't pay crazy prices for plates of pasta. In Florence some places wanted to charge 7 euro for pasta with tomato sauce!

Anyway my friends and I found a great cheap place by the Duomo, they have great risotto, and tortellini, and each dish was about 3.30 euro. They also have good meat dishes for about 4 Euro.

Leonardo ristorante self-service
Via Pecori, 5- Firenze
tel 055/28.44.46

Granted the restaurant was like a school cafeteria, but it was clean, comfortable and good.

I think you should include it on your list.

Carolina Prinzivalli

Dear In Italy,

I thought that I would share with you a couple of the restaurants that we discovered during our trip to Italy.

In Florence we had a very memorable meal at an excellent restaurant called Trattoria Quattro Leoni which was a very short walk from our hotel, Florentine Palazzo. After a couple of disappointing meals at restaurants recommended by the hotel another guest told us about this restaurant. The ambiance was one of casual elegance, the service was friendly and attentive, and the food was excellent. We also felt that it was reasonably priced. Phone # is 055.218.562. The same owners also own a trattoria in Santa Croce that is called il Francescano Trattoria. We did not eat there but were told that it was also excellent by one of our guides in Florence. It is located at largo Bargellini, 16 (Piazza S. Croce), 055.241.605.

Two restaurants that I would avoid in Florence:

Parione (Via Parione 74176) where we ate the most expensive meal of our trip. It was also one of the worse. The food was totally overpriced and unexceptional. In addition, we had a dishonest waiter making for a unpleasant evening.

Osteria de Macci (Via de Macci,77r) where, after our first course, we had to wait an hour and 15 minutes for our second course to be served. Appalling service and mediocre food at best. The restaurant manager was unconcerned and totally unapologetic and only removed the 10% service charge from our bill for our trouble.

One of the most visually appealing reastaurants that we ate at was the lovely Buca di San Antonio (Via della Cervia) in Lucca. It came highly recommended by the hotel and friends and was very worthy of all the praise. Fantastic atmosphere was coupled with delicious cuisine and very attentive service. The Phone # 0583.55881.

We had the absolute best meal of our trip at a wonderful restaurant in Naples. It was a small restaurant with a very comfortable and unassuming atmosphere called Ristorante Amici Miei (Via Monte di Dio, 77/78). The service was very attentive and accommodating, and the pasta and veal dishes were exquisite. I would not go back to Naples without returning to this excellent restaurant. The phone # 081.764.60.63.

Best Regards,
Kathy C.


Had a wonderful, memorable dinner in Florence last June Restaurant Mama Gina, not inexpensive but excellent, good service, and homemade desserts.

Sandy sandyaussi@cs.com

In Chianti

"Gallopapa" in Castellina
This is a small crowded place located in the sottoporto (underground walkway) of the old town. The specialty here is beef from a great butcher in Panzano. Great food and a fun place

"The Legend of the Brothers" in Isole di Abbadia (Just outside of Monteriggioni)
This is in a tiny borgo with a wonderful church to visit. The food was imaginative with outstanding pasta and braised game dishes. Gnocchi with two mushrooms, Malfadi with ricotta, Rabbit all very good

"Bar Orso" in Castellina Scalo
Right near the Quatro Corso (the Siena - Florence freeway) Great place to start the day. Great espresso, wonderful sandwich shop in the back.

"IL Pestello" on the Castellina - Poggibonsi Road.
I have recommended this place before but its even better now after a remodel although the atmosphere is not as much fun. One of the best lamb dishes I have ever had. Great pasta and soups. Ribolita, Zuppa di Cippoline and Papa al Pomodoro are all great. Roast lamb is what I always get there but the piccione (Pigeon) was crusty and properly gamy, very rich and tasty. The porcini in season are superb. Excellent local Chianti like Fonterutoli.

"La Chiusa" in Montefollonico
We were visiting Monteoliveto Maggiore, a wonderful monastery with incredible fresco cycles. Driving from there to Montepulciano we saw the signs for La Chiusa and happily turned off to enjoy one of the great culinary experiences of our lives. We sat down and because we ordered the local winery's Vino nobile di Montepulciano (from Innocenti) we were dubbed "angels" by the owner who looked like Robert Mitchum. We put ourselves in their hands for two delux menus. All the dishes but one were absolutely astounding. The feeling from the experience is that it just wasn't right that we had to wait this long to experience the perfect meal. After 20 years of eating in great restaurants, how could this meal be so much better than any we had ever had before. Part of the answer is that all the food either comes off the property or from nearby farms. Nothing came from more than 10 kilometers away. We had 2 different dishes in each course but oone. The dishes were highly decorated (something I hate) but it worked!
The dishes: eggplant flan in a rich tomato sauce, zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese in a fresh tomato sauce loaded with herbs (stunning!),
-grilled porcini with olive oil, torte of porcini with porcini slices,
-porcini soup and bean and barley soup,
-ravioli of pumpkin with local truffle, ravioli of ricotta and local truffle
-Pappardelle with tomatoes, garlic, peppers (this was the weakest dish and it was very very good)
-Insanely good sorbettos to clear our palates-- melon with black pepper and pear
-Veal Carpaccio with a herbed vinaigrette (wonderful!) and boiled and then roasted Goose with tomato chutney (even better)
-Duck Breast roasted with fennel, Grilled Lamb
-Caramel Gelato with Raspberries, Vanilla gelato with ChocolateNocino and Grappa followed. The meal lasted 3 and a half hours and is the highlight of 6 trips to Italy. It cost $250 US and was worth every penny!!!!! We will be back this year and I can't wait!!!!!


Venice

In Venice, there is really no such thing as an unknown restaurant. All of them are in one guide book or another. There is a lot of terrible food in Venice and most of that is at high prices. There is also a lot of bad service. We have found these to be our favorites. They may not be cheap but they offer superb value and lots of fun.

Cantine Do Mori
This is a superb wine bar and snack bar near the fish market in Rialto. Great wines by the glass and a bar full of chicchetti (little snack) that you just point to. They also make tiny sandwiches that make a great breakfast snack. They serve the best fragolino in Venice (a syrupy sweet white wine made from a local grape, poured from an unlabeled bottle). Some of the great dishes they have are meat balls, the frittata, musetto with fagioli (sausage and beans), corno di toro (pickled pepper and onion with an anchovy on a toothpick), grilled vegetables, roasted tomatoes, canocchie (mantis prawns).

Vini Da Pinto
Looks like a tourist trap across from the fish market but its a real find. They have great everyday wines at incredible prices (about half of what you would pay at retail in the states!!) Try anything from Doro Princic. Pinto is the owner, busboy, waiter, etc., so may wait a little. The thing to order here are the dishes listed on the wall on wooden plaques and then fresh fish. The pizza looks awful and the pasta worse. But the fish is the freshest you will ever taste and incredibly cheap. We had alici marinati (marinated anchovies, bracingly flavored with vinegar and oil) and bacala mantecato (salt cod whipped with olive oil until it is buttery rich and smooth, spread on bread) and a plate of salami "nostrani" or homemade. We also had a porchetta which is roast pork loin and then a plate of octopus with lemon and oil. We were happy campers. On a return visit, we had sarde in saor (sardines marinated in onions with pine nuts, some of the best we had in Venice where they are a classic appetizer), gamberetti and bacala (shrimp and more of that salt cod), artichoke sott olio (in oil), Calamari and Scampi fritti, excellent if a bit chewy, and a mixed grill of scampi, cuttlefish, anchovy and monkfish that would cost 50.00 in some Manhattan fish house and not be half as good.

The Anchovy (or Achiugette)
This is our other favorite wine bar in Venice. Just put your trust in Gianni and let him turn you on to one great wine after another. The food here tends more to seafood. Super pizzette (mini pizzas with anchovies) Great shrimp, alici, sarde in saor, marinated peppers, marinated anchovies, roast vegetables and usually some spectacular cheeses, but be warned, these are serious cheeses-- stinky, sharp, pungent. I have been in the cheese business a long time and these are great hard to find cheeses. You just stand at the tiny bar, point at what you want and you eat very well for not a lot of money. Wine bars in Venice are meant to be for just a snack and a glass of wine to tide you over but my wife and I find ourselves eating mini meals there as the food is super and the prices are much lower than most restaurants.

Alla Testiere
A tiny 30 seat restaurant that serves great, very modern alta cucina foods. Three partners do it all. Superb wine list. A little on the modern side for me but highly recommended.

Fiaschetteria Toscana
This is one of my favorite four restaurants in all of Italy (La Chiusa in Chianti, La Rosetta in Rome and Il Cibreo round out the group). The best thing at Fiaschetteria Toscana is Roberto, the head waiter, wine guru and cheese monger. He is a man in constant motion and we love him dearly. The thing to do is to put him in charge and just give him your credit card and let him hurt you!!! He has turned us on to wines that we just could not believe (Maso Poli Traminer and Valpolicella from Dal Forno Romano just to name a couple!). The food is stellar with fish being the thing to order. Just a few of the antipasti we have had include grilled razor clams called capesante lunghi or long scallops- tiny, not at all like the ones you get in the states but more like pencil sized! grilled tiny scallops in the shell with capers and bubtter, large scallops in butter sauce, sole al saor, Spider crab, fried brown shrimps unbelievably delicious, crisp as a potato chip, just as salty with the flavor of tiny shrimp caught live that morning!

Pastas have included shrimp burano style, in cream, on home made pasta and tagliolini with alba truffles, gnocchi (wonderful delicate pillowy not at all gummy) Entrees have included fried monkfish tails, Shi Drum (a local fish) with artichoke sauce, branzino filet with clam and tomato sauce, Anguilla all'Ora- eel cut into chunks, rolled in salt, roasted with laurel- words cannot describe this dish, it was addictive and one of the greatest flavors we have ever had!

But the best part of Fiaschetteria Toscana is the cheese course. I have been in the cheese business off and on for the last 23 years and this is the best cheeses I have ever had in a restaurant. Lots of sharp and stinky cheeses that are just too good to describe. If they ahve it you must have castelmagno or aged bitto. These are cheese made on tiny farms, maybe 2-3 wheels a day for the castelmagno and maybe 5 wheels a week for the bitto. They have an amazing array of sheep's milk cheeses, many marinated in wine. Its a treat drinking the wine the cheese is marinated in along with that cheese. We always order a 6 cheese course and wind up with about 13 to 17 selections. Roberto also make a wonderful berries marinated in aged balsamico. The desserts are decadent but we rarely have room to try them. A meal for 2 with 2 bottles of wine can run between $200 and $300 US, lots more if you order the big name wines on the list. We always let Roberto find some wines for about L 100,000 to 140,000 ($45 to $65 US) and are very happy.

Dean Gold

Hotel Fiorita in Bardolino, Lago di Garda, was a wonderful place to stay, and the breakfast was the most extravagant and attractive, as well as delicious, that we found in our tour. The gracious host and hostess were kind and accomodating. English, German, French and Italian languages. Bardolino is a mideval lakeside town with a beautiful harbor and wonderful restaurants and gelaterias. Fabulous fun! I recommend this location to any traveler in northern Italy.

prosper@cwnet.com

Pass on Hotel Unicorno if you go to Florence!!! We trekked from the train station with our luggage, only to be told that we had no room! They had pencilled a line over our name in their reservation book (also handwritten in pencil)! We had to threaten to cal the police (our reservation was guaranteed, and had been posted on our charge a few weeks earlier), until they finally gave us a room. They squeezed 3 of us into a room for 2, already small by European standards, situated by the breakfast room. The clanking of china woke us up. Had beter lick in Venice, on Lido. The Riviera Hotel was Quaint, the staff wonderful. And just one stop from St. Marks Square.

lberg5362@aol.com

In Venice, in Cannareggio (from the Ca'd'oro stop go up and take the alley right next to the McDonald's, to the right of the luggage shop) there is a FABULOUS restaurant named Alla Vedova. (this is the local name for it, the official name is something different.) There is often no menu, and you may need a little Italian, depending on who's working, but two people can eat a full meal with wine and dessert, plus three courses for around 55,000 lira, and you will not find better food anywhere!!! This is where all the locals eat dinner. They are closed Sunday morning, and I believe on Thursday. If you do go, don't miss the meatballs or the Zibibbo (a sicilian dessert!) YUMMY!!!!!!

Melody
miller@frontierfinance.com

When I was in Florence, I also ate a very nice restaurant. La Repubblica was a nice, small restaurant about two blocks from The Duomo. The only problem that we encountered was slow service, but with a group of 100, what could I expect?!?! Our hotel in Florence, however, was another story. We stayed at Hotel Castri and encountered rude hotel clerks among other things. They were constantly yelling at us, for no apparent reason and never once smiled at us. The hotel itself was beautiful and very comfortable, but the staff definitely needs to learn some manners.

Since I am currently planning my next trip to Italy, I will definitely return to this site to do my planning. Thank you for all of your valuable information!!!

Tina Grigsby
pooh@bayou.com

Our favorite restaurant in Bologna, our favorite Italian city next to Rome, is the Antico Ristaurante Benso in the Viccolo San Giobbe, 3D. It's right off one of the portici near the piazza with Nettuno watching over it. Great lamb dishes. Lots of business people doing lunch and a basketball hoop and photos of players-the owner is a basketball nut.

Ciao,
Bernie L.

I was surprised to read that one of your readers had such a great meal at Trattoria Benso in Bologna. We have just returned from 3 lovely days in that city and our meal there was the absolute lowpoint. After making 3 choices off the menu which couldn't be supplied I agreed on a mixed grilled seafood platter. It was awful - the fish while not off was just plain old. The waiter took it away and asked me if I wanted something else. I finally agreed to have what my partner was eating steak and salad - it was fine, but not particularly innovative or Italian! Technically though it was fine.

Imagine our surprise when the bill came with the fish and the steak on it for me. We challenged hard but in the end were unable to convince them to remove the charge. In retrospect we should have subtracted the charge for the fish from the bill. When you're on holiday it's easy to be lulled into relaxation. I would strongly recommend readers avoid this restaurant. Shoddy food and dishonest service.

Thanks,
Liz Grant

Il Pestello is a restaurant just outside Castello on the road from Poggibonsi to Castellina. Its an old hunting lodge with great food at reasonable prices (Dinner for 2, 3 courses with a bottle of Chianti ran about L110,000). The most amazing Tuscan grilled lamb, and fresh Porcini. We ate there twice in 5 days.

Enoteca Fortezza in Montalcino. You can taste assorted Brunelli for L8,000/glass, rosso di Montalcino for L3,000. This is cheaper than retail! Great salumi, prosciutto and pecorino paltes for about L7,000. This was one of our favorite meals (the cute dog begging at every table was a big plus!). Be sure to go to the top of the Fortezza for an amazing view of Southwestern Toscanna.

DL17200@aol.com

My wife and I spent three years in Sicily in the village of Camporotondo. Our daughter, Ashlyn, was born there in 1994. We have numerous scanned photos of Sicily that we would be happy to send for use on your Sicily page. The market, a local bar, Mt Etna, festivals, towns, people, etc. If you are interested, just let me know.

We would like to recommended Il Buongustiao restaurant in Motta St Anastasia near the city of Catania. While we were in Italy, we ate at restaraunts from Rome to Catania and throughout Sicily. Il Buongustiao was by far our favorite for both service and quality of food. Good prices too!

Thanks for bringing a little bit of Italy into our home!

Nick, Heather, and Ashlyn

I have seen your guide to Italy on the internet, and I would like to suggest an exellent restaurant that really deserves a place on your site about Rome.

La Scaletta degli artisti, owned by it's chef, Stefano Mannoni, gives you delicious meals in the roman tradition. Specialities are meatballs in tomato sauce, fresh fish, and a great number of pasta and meat dishes from the roman kitchen. The cost of a full meal with two dishes and beverages is about 30.000.

La scaletta degli artisti is situated in Via S. Maria dell' anima 56, behind Piazza Navona, and will be a natural place to eat after having visited this part of Rome. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, every day, except wednesday. Phone 68 80 18 72.

I would be very greatful if you would put this information on your web sites!

Yours sincerly

Nina Haugdahl

Don't miss eating at Orso 80, located at via dell'Orso, 33, a few blocks from the Piazza Navona. Just order the antipasti, which is what most of the Italians do! (In fact, the waiter will probably assume you just want antipasto, and start hauling out the food!) It's the most unbelievable spread you'll ever see...dishes and dishes, some hot and some cold. They literally stack plates on top of one another to get them all on your table. You never know exactly what you'll be given, and the people at the next table are likely to have a different selection, but trust me, it will all be delicious. You may have 3 or 4 or 5 different eggplant dishes, a couple of artichoke plates, green beans, white beans swimming in a tomato sauce, prosciutto and melon, etc, etc. The waiter will bring you seconds if you ask. It's a noisy, totally authentic Roman experience, and you shouldn't miss it.

Our other favorite is Gioia Mia, at via degli Avignonesi 34, near the via Veneto. It's also noisy, crowded, and a not to be missed. Actually, it's usually about half filled with tourists and half locals (for some reason a lot of Japanese frequent the place, so perhaps it's listed in a Japanese guidebook.) The tables are so close together that you'll practically bump elbows with the people next to you. The room is painted an ugly dark flamingo, circa 1953, and has a patina of cigarette smoke that must be at least 40 years old. The food is unpretentious but totally delicious. The menu is huge, but I don't think you could go wrong ordering anything at random. We've never had a bad meal at Gioia Mia.

Delbert

Let me add two to your list of wonderful Romani restaurants; Da Tullio, where the artichokes alla romana and the cannelloni were to die for (the only restaurant we visited on the whole trip), and Santopadre, a home-style seafood house, where they keep placing plates of antipasto di mare in front of you, and then ask you to choose the fresh fish, scampi or calamari from a table, and then cook it to your liking. We would have returned to this one, also, but we found it on our last night in Rome.

In Rome, the least expensive meal we had was at I Tre Moschettieri, at about ItL 95,000. (It was also the least flavorful also, in our opinion.) Next in order of cost would be Santopadre's, at about ItL 120,000; then both trips to Tullio's (ItL 140,000), La Campana (150,000) and Costanza (180,000).

In Milan we ate at Rigolo, (ItL 180,000) which was wonderful, and at Bagutta, which at ItL 245,000 (mostly because of the fettucine con tartufo), was the most expensive meal we had in Italy, and was worth every lire. In my opinion it was the best meal we had in Italy; David would say Santopadre's because of the fresh seafood.

In Venice, we ate at Da Raffaele (about Itl 220,000) and was not real exciting (good--definately not great) and at Trattoria Montin, which was very, very good at about 200,000.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and if and when we go back, be sure that we will talk to you first.

We can recommend two restaurants near Maratea. One I mentioned was in Massa di Maratea. It is called Il Giardino di Epicuro. Phone 0973 87 01 30. Papa grows all his own produce and farm animals, makes very good rich red wine and fresh pasta every night, and Mama makes her own Lemoncella. Everything is done just right, and he has just finished a little back porch outside, with vines growing all over the top, with tables outside to sit and eat. It was wonderful, very quiet and tranquil. We ordered fresh linguini pasta with wild mushrooms, roasted lamb, cheese ravioli and grilled tomatoes, and a very fresh arrugula salad that Grandma picked for us while she showed us her vegetable and rose gardens. It was so lovely and they were all perfect hosts. Cost about 90,000 lire, including their excellent hardy red wine and dessert (fresh mulberries & lemon cake). Their daughter speaks English and interprets her parents Italian for us, she is only 16 and raised talking minah birds in a huge back yard cage.

The other good restaurant we ate at was called Collinetta in Tortora, just outside Praia a Mare. We ate lunch outside on the front porch and had way too much food, we were there almost 3 hours for lunch. Very fresh seafood (great fried calimari, and a huge marinated seafood salad appitizer) and excellent fresh salad and pasta. We both ordered the penne arrabbiata (very hot and spicy) with pancetta and pretzimolo. It was great. Also had a bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. Cost including the wine was about 75,000 lire for lunch.

Diane Vanepps

We just got back from Italy and a memorable experience in Verona. We ate at a great and inexpensive tiny place called Enocibus on Vicolo Pomo d'Oro 3, very near the Arena and Centro. They brought out great antipasti to go with wonderful wine. We were served a wonderful cheese from Switzerland that was presented in the form of flowers. The owners Claudio and Titti are very friendly and knowledgable about wine and food. Trust them to choose for you. Don't forget to try the Pungitopo Grappa and find out what the name means.

J and K


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