Ciao Tutti! Welcome back to the second post about Rome, where I will revisit the amazing restaurants we enjoyed during our last trip. If you have not read the first post with all the travel trips on traveling to Rome with kids, click here!
I don’t know about you, but I know I plan my trips around food! Ha! I have no shame to admit that I LOVE to eat, and I truly pride myself in enjoying life to the fullest when it comes to savoring each and every meal. It is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and I take it “very seriously”! But before we dive into the delicious world of Italian food, I want to share a bit about the great hotel I discovered – and happened to LOVE! We stayed at the “87 Hotel” just a couple of blocks away from the Fontana Di Trevi.
The 87 Hotel is a boutique hotel that has recently been fully renovated. The rooms are modern and tasetfully decorated, the staff is extremely friendly and we absolutely loved our stay. The rates were wonderful – I booked directly through their website – and by doing so I was able to secure a discounted rate that included a full breakfast.
Although I had been in Rome previously, I wanted to try different restaurants than the ones I had been to before. Not because they weren’t wonderful on previous trips – on the contrary, they were. The reason why is to try new places and discover new restaurants to add to a ever growing list of recommendations.
On the very first night, we went to a famous restaurant that had been recommended to us by a friend who like me, loves fine dining. Ristorante Piperno is a high end restaurant in the center of Rome, near the Jewish Ghetto, offering traditional roman dishes since 1860. Our table was located in the “Ultima Sala”, one of the three dining rooms at Piperno. The intimate and yet traditional decoration adds a special touch to the incredible food. Make sure you make a reservation if you would like to dine there, otherwise you may not get a table.
For appetizers we tried their house specialty “Carciofi alla Giudia” – their artichoke “jewish” style which was delicious. We also tried Fiori di Zucca Ripieni di Mozzarella e Alici – Zuchini flowers filled with mozzarella and anchovies. Those were to die for! Every course was better than the next.
My 11 year old son had the Tagliolini alla Pescatora – sea food tagliolini – and according to him, it was the best he has ever had. He then had the Saltimbocca di Vitello alla Romana for his second. Yes, the boy can eat! My daughter had the most delicious Fettuccine al Ragu and for the first time I witnessed her finishing her plate. We all had incredibly delicious food and we knew we were off to a great start with our dining choices.
The next day, we had spent most of our morning and early afternoon touring the Vatican. We needed to grab a quick lunch, as we had dinner reservations at 8:30PM. I had heard wonderful reviews of the pizza at “Forno” in the beautiful Piazza Navona. We arrived suitably famished a few minutes before 3 PM, unaware that the sit down restaurant closes at 2:30PM. But, that couldn’t keep me from trying the famous pizza, and we went to their bakery right next door. As we got closer, you could smell the scent of freshly baked breads, focaccias and cookies from the outside. We ended up buying an assortment of focaccia pizzas, cookies and arancini (rice balls with mozzarella and prosciutto) “to-go”. We brought the food to a bar around the corner and there we ate while the kids watched the comings and goings of people on the piazza, and I enjoyed a couple delicious Aperol Spritz – my absolute favorite!
Needless to say, we missed our dinner reservation that evening. We arrived at the hotel after sightseeing all day and once everyone was showered and dressed to leave, it was way past 9PM. We then had to improvise and find a new restaurant for that evening. Lucky enough, you can’t really go wrong in Rome – unless you end up in a “tourist trap“! And how would you know if the restaurant is a tourist trap or not? Here are a few signs to keep in mind:
- Pictures on a board at the front door. Food in Rome is amazing, so if the restaurant is known for its traditional food, they do not need to resort to visual aids to attract customers.
- Hosts calling you on the street to come into the restaurant: Come on now. No reputable restaurant needs anyone soliciting customers outside. In fact, you will need reservations for great restaurants in Rome.
- Dishes on display on tables outside the restaurant: all I have to say about this is “RUN”.
We searched Trip Advisor and found a true gem around the hotel area. Piccolo Arancio is one of those little restaurants you would just pass by and not think much of it. But how wrong you would have been, myself included. It was definitely one of the best dinners of our trip!
The owners were absolutely adorable and welcoming. When the hotel concierge called to make a reservation for a table of 4 at 9:30PM, they were very accommodating and even though they were full that evening, they encouraged us to come in. When we arrived, the place was packed. Some tables were almost ready to leave so we didn’t have to wait long. We were taken to the small adjacent room in the restaurant where there were only 3 tables, but we loved being in a more private area. The food is nothing short of excellent, and once again we ate as if there was no tomorrow. Their desserts were absolute heaven: best tiramisu and pana cotta I have had so far anywhere.
For lunch the next day, I had reservations to a restaurant I truly was anticipating. My brother, who had lived in Italy a few years back, told me this pizza place was a must-go and that one cannot get in without reservations. I was able to witness a family of 4 being turned away as we were coming into the restaurant because they didn’t have reservations. Well, we did! So if you want to try amazing pizza and food at Dal Pollarolo I suggest you make your reservations.
Let me tell you about this place. We came in for pizza – which we had. We started out by ordering a Margherita and a Prosciutto and Mozzarella. We literally inhaled the two as soon as they came to the table. We then decided to order one of their fresh pastas and house specialty: the Rigatoni Amatriciana. Absolutely to die for! A few moments later, we noticed every table around us (we were the only tourists there, everyone around were locals or at least Italians) was ordering the same crostini appetizer. Of course, I had to try it and we ordered one for the table. I don’t remember what the crostini were called, but they were amazing! Not satisfied yet, we ordered another one of the house specialties: the spaghetti alla carbonara. Excellent! Our feast was then finally over.
The last recommendation I could not leave out of this post is a gelato spot that anyone in Rome must go to: Giolitti. No, this is NOT your average gelato. This will be the best gelato you have ever had…. Ever. We ended up going there twice in a 3 day trip. The other gelato places we tried were good but not worth mentioning compared to Giolitti.
On our last night, my kids “demanded” to go back to Giolitti for the sit down experience after dinner. Our waiter was the friendliest and sweetest waiter in all of Rome and the kids had a blast with him. The size of the cups were ginormous – but no one had a problem finishing. I should warn you that during the day, the place is absolutely crazy. The lines are out the door and you will need to exercise your patience knowing the end result is worth it.
Well, all I have to say is that we spent more than half of our days in Rome “eating” as you can tell. If there is one thing Italians know well is how to appreciate excellent food, and that they have mastered. Everywhere we ate in Rome had incredibly fresh, robust and flavorful food with the best ingredients, and prepared with “molto gusto”. I am so proud to say I am half Italian, and even more proud to admit I am not afraid to eat! Enjoy life to the fullest and as I say, Travel, Eat, Repeat!