Deciding where to sit at La Veranda isn't easy, because both the shady courtyard, torch-lit at night, and the frescoed dining room are among Rome's most spectacular settings. While La Veranda is known for classic Roman cuisine, some dishes are served with refreshing twists on the familiar. The seasonal menu may include an eggplant caponata with burrata (fresh cheese made from mozzarella and cream) and bottarga (salted fish roe) from Sardinia; Piedmontese oxtail soup; or a risotto with Barolo wine, blue cheese, and quail carpaccio with mustard seeds. Call ahead, especially on Saturday, because the hotel often hosts weddings, which close the restaurant.
Jun 21, 2010
What a horrible dining experience! After reading good reviews, we chose this restaurant to splurge our last night in Rome. What a mistake. Prices were ridiculous for bland unimaginative food, and service was downright hostile. What a shame, because the setting itself is exquisite. Inside the old building, 20+-foot arched plaster ceilings and walls are covered with beautiful old frescoes. Outside the patio is cloistered in a quiet courtyard and covered
by trees. Just steps from St. Peter's Square, this could be a lovely respite from the crowds there. Alas, the ruder than rude staff and the mediocre food, combined with sky-high prices made for an altogether unpleasant experience. We arrived at our appointed reservation time and were told our table was not ready, but we could sit "upstairs" (an empty hall above the lovely area where all the other diners enjoyed their meals, with tables either unset or set for breakfast -- also on the path to the WC) or we could wait on the (empty) patio and enjoy an aperitif while awaiting our table. We cheerfully opted for the latter. We were waived in the direction of a patio table, but no opportunity for ordering aperitifs arrived. After 10 or so minutes, we were escorted to our table -- UPSTAIRS. Still cheerfully making the best of things, we settled in to our view over the other diners. It was more than ten minutes before we could even get a bottle of water, and the server (the hostess) made it abundantly clear to us how unhappy she was about having to climb the stairs to serve us. WE SHOULD HAVE WALKED OUT THEN. Another 20 minutes elapsed before we had our first glass of wine. (Though we were rushed into ordering before having that pleasure.) Our glasses were not once refilled after the initial pour, and we had a lengthy wait with empty glasses before procuring a second bottle of wine. Everything, in fact, required a lengthy wait. We are accustomed to 2-hour+ dinners, but the pace of this service was far beyond leisurely. We watched Italian diners, who arrived an hour after we did, served their first and second course before our entrees arrived. All could be forgiven if the food had come even close to matching its prices ($25 appetizers, $40-$45 entrees). Zucchini blossoms with prawns were soggy tempura-fried blandness just a cut above Red Dragon takeout at home. Cold white asparagus soup with sea urchin was hot and rather ordinary, not as fresh as other asparagus soup we have had on this trip. Baked white fish with crustaceans was likewise not fresh and also lacking any crustaceans (the mussels were, however, tasty). The accompanying potatoes and spinach were soggy and flavorless. Zupi di Pesci was mainly loaded with shells. Little edible seafood was to be found. After sitting with our dirty plates 20 minutes or so, we decided to forgo dessert, but would have welcomed an espresso. We were, it seems, undeserving of this simple service, and after waiting another 20 minutes for our bill, decided to walk up front and pay, before they turned the lights out on us. My husband and I travel in the US and Europe a fair amount, and consider ourselves amateur foodies. We invest significant research into locating exceptional dining choices and are somewhat adventurous eaters. I'm not sure what about us offended the staff at La Veranda We arrived on time, were better dressed than a number of the other diners, were pleasant and agreeable and made an attempt at basic Italian. I can only conclude a distaste by the staff -- the hostess in particular -- for Americans. This is not our first experience of this in Italy (though we have also enjoyed many divine meals there, as well). I only wish La Veranda had declined our reservation, rather than sticking us with a not insubstantial bill and, much worse, spoiling our last evening in Rome.