We had no specific goals for our 1.5 days in Rome, except to eat well and relax. My last several trips to Rome were on business, so it was nice to reestablish this city as a place of leisure. There wasn’t any advanced planning involved beyond the hotel. It was nice. Especially the food.
All three restaurants we ate at this time came via an old copy of Fodor’s Italy. I’m usually not one to rely exclusively on guidebooks, but Fodor’s did us quite well on this particular trip.
Ditirambo – near Campo dei Fiori, we were a little skeptical of this cavernous locale when we arrived to find the only other patrons were a large group of old German men. Skepticism soon gave way to marvel; my appetizer of burratina (a soft cheese sort of like mozzarella) millefoglie with sundried tomato pesto was insanely amazing. I will remember that dish for a long, long time.
Arancia Blu – the first thing that struck me was the gorgeous, cozy interior; the second was the elaborate vegetarian menu. From our experience, the tasting menu is the way to go. So many delicious flavors. It was a bit of a hike from Termini, but the neighborhood was quite vibrant with nightlife.
Margutta Vegetariano - [Edited to add: after a second visit, I can no longer recommend this restaurant. Service was slow and inattentive, and every bottle of white wine we ordered was brought to our table warm, without so much as an apology (when we asked what was up, we got a shrug and a “the refrigerator is broken.” The food was still good, but not enough to make up for the other problems.] Italian vegetarian restaurants two nights in a row! Margutta seemed to be having some service problems the evening we were there, given that we overheard complaints from the tables on either side of us. Although a couple of our (many) courses took a little too long to arrive, we otherwise found the meal itself to be fabulous. Each dish on the extensive tasting menus we ordered was delicate, artful, and yummy. The chic modern decor was also quite impressive. But what I really want to know is, who spends so much time and effort on a restaurant’s food and presentation, but then can’t be bothered to put a seat on the freakin’ toilet? Seriously, people. Despite the menacing unseated peeing arrangements and slightly slow service, our overall experience at Margutta was quite stellar.
In contrast to the guidebook-recommended restaurants, the gelato we ate was chosen purely based on my gelatodar (like gaydar, but for gelato), a skill I have honed through much practice, and which almost never fails. Subtle cues such as the colors, the signage, and the number of locals in line are all part of my elaborate system for sussing out the best gelato around.
Gelateria San Crispino – if a gelateria is so cocky as to not even pile its gelato up for display, there’s a good chance that the flavor speaks for itself. The shiny covered containers at Gelateria San Crispino drew us in, and the exotic flavors got us pushing to the front of the line. Flavors like honey whisky, ginger cinnamon, and pear sorbet. Mmmmm.
Fior di Luna – here I went for my old standby gelato order: chocolate and pistachio. Pistachio is a very hit-or-miss flavor. Done well, it’s heavenly; done poorly, it’s not even worth my time. This is why gelatodar is so important. Fior di Luna passed the pistachio test.
name unknown – on the Isola Tiberia in the middle of the Tiber river, this gelateria looked unassuming, but offered up a solid version of my all-time favorite flavor: dark chocolate chili. Mmmm again.
Did we do anything in Rome besides eat? Yes, a little. Mostly we wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere. The Pantheon was a treat as always. And given that La Dolce Vita is one of my all-time favorite movies, a swing by the (insanely tourist-overrun) Trevi Fountain was practically predestined. We considered going into St. Peter’s, but given the long line we opted for people-watching in the piazza instead (easy to do when you’ve been inside multiple times before). I love vacations with no obligations!