During our recent trip to Italy, PJ and I ate really well. With only one or two exceptions, all of our lunches and dinners were delicious, but five of our dinners stand out as our favorites. Although I have friends who have encouraged me to take pictures at restaurants and then use them on my blog, I didn’t end up taking many pictures of our food. Unfortunately, that means I don’t have a lot of pictures to back up all of the praise I’m going to give these restaurants. So, I’ve “borrowed” a couple of pics from the restaurants’ websites. In those cases, you can click on the picture to go to the restaurant’s site.
We were surprised by the lack of diversity in the cuisine at the restaurants we saw. Almost everything is Italian. After 10 days or so, we started getting a little tired of pasta and pizza, but as I said we ate really well so we can’t really complain all that much. Generally, we each had a primi piatti, or first course, of pasta and a secondi piatti of fish or meat. We also usually had gelato for dessert as we walked around after dinner.
Before briefly discussing my favorite eateries in Rome, Florence, and Venice, I should explain how we chose where to eat each evening. The first night we were in Rome, we just walked around for a while and then picked a place that looked ok. It turned out to be our worst meal in Italy! A second strategy was to go to a main plaza or square and eat at one of the outdoor restaurants that mostly served tourists. This strategy worked pretty well for us when we were in Spain a few years ago, but most of our meals in these restaurants in Italy were only adequate to ok.
Mostly, we looked up restaurants in Rick Steve’s guidebooks. Usually we chose a restaurant that he recommends, but instead of making a reservation ahead of time we showed up just after they opened for the evening. This meant eating a little early by Italian standards — usually around 7:30 or 8 pm — but it worked fine for us. We always got a good table, and we often had the satisfaction of seeing later arrivals turned away or told to come back later. With only one exception, this was a winning strategy. All five of our favorite restaurants from this trip were the results of this method.
My favorite restaurant from this trip was Ristorante il Gabriello, a great little restaurant in near the Spanish Steps in Rome. It’s down in a basement, but is quite charming. Here’s a picture of the restaurant from their website:
This was actually the first restaurant we chose based on Rick Steve’s recommendation and the one that convinced us to continue employing this strategy. It was also the place that convinced us to just order the house wine at each place we ate: it’s cheap and delicious.
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