Take Sushi Ristorante Giapponese [Trastevere]: We might have gone a little overboard, after having very little lunch on the train to Rome. So, B got gyoza dumplings and seaweed salad and a salmon/avocado roll. I ordered an oshinko (pickled radish) roll, and sea bass, salmon and scallop nigiri. We also split a spicy tuna roll, which was barely spicy, and way too much food. (What was I thinking?) Very fresh, and the service was good – perhaps because we came right at their opening time of 7 pm. A 7 pm dinner in Italy is like a 4:30 pm dinner in the US. A few nights later, we went back, mostly because I needed something absolutely tasteless for my sick self: I ate broth and plain rice and was quite satisfied with my meal. B had a salad with salmon slices and the substantive part of my soup.
Ristorante alle Fratte de Trastevere [Trastevere]: This place has nice outdoor seating, right on a smaller semi-pedestrian street. B ordered the spaghetti carbonara as a primi and the Roman tripe as the secondi – just to try the local specialty. He ate all of the former and some of the latter, which was incredibly rich. I ordered a scaloppini with mushrooms and a side of veggies, which were pretty good and especially well-seasoned. The only slightly weird thing was that because my dish was a secondi, they brought B’s pasta and waited for him to finish all of it before bringing me anything to eat. Maybe the other restaurants at which we’ve eaten should have been doing this too, but I was a bit put off, given how ravenous I was. However, still recommended: just share your dishes (I can’t eat pasta, unfortunately) or order the same number course.
Kebab Shop (near via Florida 23 and Largo Arenula) [Jewish Ghetto]: Solid kebab, and open at 3:30, so already a winner. They even had pizza!
BellaCarne [Jewish Ghetto]: One of the ‘famous’ dishes of this city is Roman-Jewish style artichokes. I’m not certain what makes them Jewish, unless it’s just that there is a type of artichoke called a Jerusalem artichoke? Anyway, B and I split one at this Kosher eatery in the former Jewish Ghetto of Rome. It was pretty good: fried all the way, but without breading, and the inner heart still soft. I personally think it could have had a bit more spice, but that’s me. B also had a red beef sausage, and I had Israeli salad and mixed (beef and chicken) shish kabob. Like at many a Kosher restaurant, I found the spices to be under-utilized. However, the place was hopping – with observant Jews and tourists alike.
Papa Re [Trastevere]: We were picking between this place and another in the square, and our decision was based solely on the price of their panna cotta. It was a brilliant idea by B, because we would be kidding ourselves if we pretended I wouldn’t be ordering it. Decent choice overall. His Papa Re pizza (mozzarella, tomato sauce, mushrooms, eggs, ham) was very good, and my grilled lamb was likely the way it’s supposed to be: very fatty. The aforementioned panna cotta was good (hard to mess up, unless it’s the kind in a cup from the grocery store), but the fruit sauce was a bit much for me. We (read: I) might have had the chocolate mousse too. What? The edible portion of the lamb chops was laughably small. Overall, passable, but I wouldn’t go out of your way.
Osteria Antica Rugantino [Trastevere]: I am sad to say that I agree with these reviews. Cheap and a good location it may be, but the food was not good. I ordered a small lettuce salad and a side of baked potatoes. You would think it would be difficult to mess up, especially given how much I love potatoes, but they were drowning in oil. B’s pasta was passable, and the panna cotta had the same horrid fruit sauce as the place before. Is it any wonder that I’m not loving Italian food so much right now?
Trattoria da Teo [Trastevere]: We sat outside at this restaurant, which turned out to be a bad idea. I’m not sure why, but Italians seems to have a hard time understanding what happens to smoke in the wind. I mean, I’m terrible at physics, but it’s not a mystery even to me that when you smoke, and the wind is blowing it behind you, that it might go directly into the face of a diner. I can’t say that B much appreciated a face full of smoke as he was trying to chew his spaghetti with tuna – which is too bad, since the food seemed to be well-prepared, with the pasta the appropriate level of al dente. My porcini mushroom plate was fairly well-spiced too, though – again – way too oily and entirely too large for a side dish. The meatballs in lemon sauce were a hit with B, who helped out since the mushrooms defeated me. Portion sizes here were nothing to sneeze at: an American man next to us had a huge plate of tempura shrimp as his appetizer, and then they brought him spaghetti with lobster larger than my head. Most appropriate for dinner after a hike through the never-ending Vatican Museum, like a modern day Iliad.
Sette Oche [Trastevere]: The most fun thing about this restaurant was its menu translation. I prefer a combined Italian/English menu, but this was English only, leading us to question what an ‘Appetizer of the Geese’ was: Did all of their appetizers consist of different types of goose dishes? Some items on the list I gave up on understanding entirely, but we managed to order a cheese plate for two, a salad for me, and a plate of sausage and veggie skewers for B. Because apparently all of this was not enough cheese for me, we ordered the ricotta and pear cake for dessert, which tasted more like whipped cream cake than anything else. Food quality was pretty good, though non-bread options were fairly limited. The decor is archival photos of movie stars on set too, which is interesting for a restaurant called ‘Seven Geese’ – which, incidentally, is what the Appetizer heading referred to.
Flavio al Velavevodetto [Testaccio]: The ambiance and service could have used work, but the food was good. We got there exactly when they opened at 7:30, like the quintessential Americans. They wondered whether they could seat us without a reservation, which seemed pretty silly when we went downstairs into a completely empty cellar-like seating area. It seems that reservations are mandatory in the more desirable upstairs eating section – though I’m not sure why that’s true at 7:30, since Italians don’t generally arrive until 9. Anyway, the cellar had some nice descriptions of the neighborhood, which has a giant hill that was originally formed by millions of shards of clay urns that had brought food goods into the town, but were too expensive to ship out. Service was fine during the bulk of our meal, but at the start and end, they mostly forgot about us. However, the reviews don’t lie about the food: it was good-tasting. I ate a cod and pickled veggie platter (that they call a ‘salad:’ ha!), and B had homemade ravioli with ricotta salata. Then, we split three delicious, giant meatballs in a good tomato sauce, which I considered the highlight of the evening. The house wine was pretty high-quality, if not particularly interesting, and we passed on dessert, so I could have zephyr. No comments from the peanut gallery please.
Orsetto SNC [Center]: This seemed like a local place that was used to tourists. When a table of seven German tourists came in, the waitress immediately picked up and moved a local, before he even had time to agree to being displaced. I ordered ‘risotto with fishy things,’ which turned out to be regular rice cooked in a pound of butter, with some grainy mussels and one giant prawn that wigged me out. It was a good thing I was hungry. B got pasta with ham and peas, and he liked them, but it seemed like a dish that would have been easy to make at home. For dessert, we had a ‘white truffle,’ which was a ball of vanilla and coffee ice cream, with sprinkles-like things coating it on the outside. Seemed hit-or-miss for me, but at least it was a fairly affordable option for this part of town.
Berzitello Ristorante [Center]: In our tradition of having lunch at 3:30 pm, we found ourselves here. We were hungry and tired enough that we would have eaten just about anything. It’s Sardino-Roman, which seems to mean that they serve fish and seafood. B ordered the gnocchi in lamb sauce, which was good. I had the salmon carpaccio and artichoke appetizer, with a side of baked potatoes. The dish wasn’t so much carpaccio as it was not-overcooked-salmon and artichokes seemingly out of a jar from the grocery store. And the potatoes, I’m very sorry to say, were so over-salted that I actually stopped eating them (B’s note: I liked them, but I think I inadvertently stole some of the less salty ones). I know: almost inconceivable. The staff was very nice, and I very much appreciated them being open, but I can’t say that I loved this meal.
La Lampada [Center]: I wandered in here because they had a sign proclaiming a black truffle pasta, and we had somehow missed eating anything truffle-related. My waiter was a very kind man, who even tried to hold a conversation with me, in my horrible Italian. (Unclear if he spoke English; he definitely knew the word for ‘take away,’ but that’s all I can confirm.) The pasta was good, even if I did make a mess eating it; I haven’t felt that uncouth in a long time. I got meatballs to bring back for B, and he said they were good too. This is the first eating establishment in Rome that I truly liked.
Casa Bleve [Center]: And this is the second. On our final night in Rome, I found a restaurant on Yelp with all 5-star reviews, so we took a chance. This place had high-quality food. That doesn’t seem that exciting, I know, but I’m not talking about one well-conceived dish nor do I mean fanciness; I mean food prepared by someone who is a talented cook. My lamb chops were prepared the way they should be: tender, with a great sauce. The potatoes were not over-salted! The spinach was not bitter! I wanted to hug the chef. B’s pasta was good too, as was our cheese plate appetizer. They even brought us free candies at the end. I highly recommend going here! My favorite place in all of Rome.