Rome Restaurant Recognizance

Old Dec 11th, 2012, 07:05 PM
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Rome Restaurant Recognizance

When I found roundtrip airfare on Delta from Savannah, Georgia to Rome for under $800 per ticket, how could mom and I not have the immediate desire to return to Rome for a second visit this year? It took about a nanno-second to click the purchase button and our dates were set. Mom and I would spend Thanksgiving in Bella Roma.

Just like our March 2012 trip to Rome, this trip in November was a very food-focused week, with a few visits to churches and an archeological site brought to life with 21st century technology.

We departed Savannah on Wednesday, November 21st, which was the day before the (USA) Thanksgiving holiday. When I booked the flights I didn’t even think about it being the day before the holiday, heck at less than $800 per ticket I would have booked any date Delta wanted me to fly! It was only about a week before departure that it dawned on me we would be traveling on one of the most (if not the most) busy travel days of the year, but have I got a story about that!

I typically am the traveler who gets to the airport waaaaaay in advance of the stated departure time; I’m talking minimum 2 hours. With my “over-abundance of caution” philosophy and thinking there may be a lot of traffic on the way too the airport (I-95 highway) we left for the airport at 8am for our 11:30am departure. Well, I could have taxi-ed a plane down I-95 with the lack of other cars on the road and we pulled into the parking lot at the Savannah airport at 8:35am.

We decided prior to the trip, since we would only be away for 1 week and the airports would probably be crowded, we would do carry-on bags only. This has worked for us on other trips, so it’s not a stretch for us to not check our bags.

We were shocked when we entered the ticket counter area of the airport to find no lines at all, unbelievable to us. We had already checked in on-line, but because we were on an international ticket, I knew an agent had to look at our passports and stamp “Docs OK” on our boarding passes. Since we had plenty of time and there was no line at the front counters we got our passports checked there instead of at the gate.

The security line had slightly more people than the check-in counter, but we were through security in about 15 minutes and heading to our gate to “camp-out” for a few hours.

I left mom sitting at the gate while I went to get coffee. I couldn’t have been gone more than 15 minutes when I come back and she is chatting it up with Stephen the Delta gate agent. It turns out there is space on the 9:30am flight to Atlanta (where we will connect to a 4pm flight to Rome) and he was offering us 2 seats on that plane. Here’s the glitch, I’m standing there now with 2 cups of coffee, 2 rolling bags, 2 shoulder bags, a mom who doesn’t like to walk and drink/hold coffee at the same time and a line of people boarding the 9:30am flight that stretches half the concourse. Stephen then tells us, the 9:30am flight doesn’t have business class, and since we had been upgraded on the 11:30am flight we wouldn’t get the “nice” seats on the 9:30am flight. Honestly this didn’t bother me. What did concern me was that if mom and I were at the end of the boarding line with our 2 roll-aboard carry-on bags, would there be any space left for our bags? I profusely thanked Stephen but tell him we’ll wait for the 11:30am flight. Mom and I go back to our seats and sit back slurping our coffee.

Not 10 minutes go by and Stephen is back standing next to us, leaning down and quietly asking us if we’d like a “private plane” to Atlanta? WHAT??? Mom and I look at each other, then look at Stephen and he says, “Follow me”, so we do. Over to the next gate we go with Stephen.

It turns out there was a 5:30am flight schedule to go to Atlanta that was “delayed” due to maintenance; there was a minor problem with the ignition. While that was being fixed, the passengers from the 5:30am flight were placed on other flights to Atlanta that morning. Now at 10am the 5:30am plane was empty, but the crew and the plane had to get to Atlanta, it was after all, the busiest travel day of the year! Since we didn’t have checked bags, Stephen put us on this plane, we left Savannah about an hour earlier than expected at 10:30am, with only me and mom and the crew of 5 on the plane! Yes, I could have roller-skated down the aisle because there was no one else on the plane.

The crew asked us first if we had a tight connection in Atlanta and was that why we were on this plane, our reply, “No, our Rome flight doesn’t leave until 4pm”, then they asked, “Do you work for the airline?” our reply again was, “No”. We were just at the right place at the right time and only had carry-on bags. I had to take pictures of the completely empty plane because we knew no one would believe us!

We can happily say, we arrived in Atlanta with plenty of time to spare and settled into the newly renovated and very comfortable sky lounge in Terminal E to wait for our 4pm flight to Rome.

Arrival Day in Rome – Thursday, November 22nd

The flight to Rome was uneventful. We paid the extra fee to be in the comfort economy seats, which are only a slight improvement over the regular economy seats. We landed on time, and whizzed through passport control (they didn’t even stamp our passports). Since we didn’t check bags, a stop at baggage claim was unnecessary and we were meeting our Rome Cabs ( http://www.romecabs.com/ ) driver less than 30 minutes after de-planing. Rush hour traffic into the historic center of Rome was fairly heavy on this Thursday morning, but it only took about 1 hour to get from the airport to our hotel, the Albergo del Senato at Piazza della Rotonda ( http://www.albergodelsenato.it/ )

We arrived at the Albergo del Senato at about 9:15am and as we had assumed, our room was not quite ready. We left our bags and headed straight to Café Camilloni for a proper cappuccino and cornetti. I found this café, through Elizabeth Minchilli’s Eat Rome App ( http://www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com/ ), which was a huge resource for me this trip, along with Katie Parla’s Rome for Foodies App ( http://www.parlafood.com/ ). Café Camilloni is in Piazza St. Eustachio, yes, it is a neighbor to the more famous Café St. Eustachio, which I used to flock to on prior visits, but I’ve got to say, Café Camilloni made an outstanding cappuccino and the apple and cream filled cornetti was deliciously fresh. It was the perfect way to refuel ourselves. The café is definitely worth a visit, it’s a bit “old school” and kind of like stepping back in time a bit, but in a good way. If you’re in the area, do give it a try.

After our caffeine “fix” we made a couple stops, to access cash, buy a few postcard stamps and a couple books my Italian teacher asked me to pick up for her. We also made a visit to the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minera. It’s a favorite of ours and since it’s just “down the street” from our hotel it was an easy stop.

On our way to the church we could hear a lot of music. As we got closer we could see an American college (or maybe it was high school) marching band in full regalia lined up in front of the church playing a variety of snappy tunes. They were really good. Our first thought was…”Guess they didn’t make the cut for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade so came to Rome instead”, not a bad trade-off! We don’t really know why they were there, but it was a pleasant diversion.

By noon we were really dragging and fortunately by this time our room was ready so we checked in and settled into our room and promptly took a nap for a few hours. I know a lot of people don’t think this is the best way to tackle the arrival day in Europe, but we find if we can get a few hours of shut-eye in the afternoon then get up, got to aperitivo and dinner then to bed we function pretty well.

Next up will be our fantastic food finds!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Old Dec 11th, 2012, 07:58 PM
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Are you seriously starting this trip report the day after I told my husband that it was time to start finalizing our restaurant plans? Fantastic! Since I'm already plagiarizing so many aspects of your other Rome/Bologna trips, I'm in! You had me at food...
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Old Dec 11th, 2012, 08:31 PM
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Your report comes at a good time for us, too! We will be staying in the same neighbourhood in September 2013. So, I will be following along closely with pen in hand!
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 12:03 AM
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I too am reading and taking notes.
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 12:46 AM
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me too! I'm making notes for my trip to a Rome language school in February with my italian class, so i'm really after tips for cheap eats!
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 01:09 AM
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That sounds like fun, Ann. I assume you are in charge of travel arrangements?

I know it's very popular and busy, but Da Baffetto on Via Governo Vecchio has absolutely wonderful pizza and is cheap. Maybe in Feb it wouldn't be too crowded, at off hours anyway. I wouldn't eat in the Campo dei Fiori area anymore after several disappointing experiences. Perilli on Via Marmorata is good for Roman specialities and not expensive at all.
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 01:09 AM
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I forgot the most important thing, this is a great trip report.
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 02:22 AM
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I can't wait to read more!
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 02:27 AM
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That sounds like fun, Ann. I assume you are in charge of travel arrangements?>>

no I get to take a back seat as it's all been organised through the local further education college where I go to evening classes. our teacher, who is italian but not from Rome, will be making all the arrangements except, I suspect, evening meals, which is where you all come in!

Da Buffetto is a good suggestion - and I know where the Via Governo Vecchio is, having stayed nearby last time we went to Rome. We will actually be staying near the Vatican somewhere [a new area for me] and the language school is near Piazza Bologna [to the east of the centre of Rome] so i think that we will be using the metro quite a lot.

[for anyone who's interested, here's a link to the school:http://www.clidante.it/]
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 05:42 AM
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Thanks everyone for the trip report encouragement. We really did well in finding a few restaurant gems this trip. All our dinners were under 100 euro for the two of us and this included bottled water and wine. There was one exception when we had lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant, but it was really worth the splurge! We did get off the tourist track with several restaurants this time. We traversed Rome from the Monteverde and Parioli neighborhoods, which are more residential areas of Rome, to the Monti and Centro Storico areas.

We purchased two 7 day transit tickets for 24 euro each and we really did get more than our money's worth out of them. The ATAC (Rome's transit system) website ( http://www.atac.roma.it/ ) has a helpful route planner option where if you know your starting address and ending address you can enter the information and get which bus/tram/metro options to use to get where you want to go.

This was our 7th visit to Rome and now I'm really getting to know the bus routes. We rarely take the metro because it doesn't service the centro storico area very well and we find the buses are a good alternative to get us within easy walking distance of where we need to go.

I will mention, that I also look at Google maps before going to get an idea or feel for locations of restaurants in comparison to bus routes, so I'm pretty good with knowing my direction in Rome, which came in handy one day when there were demonstrations and buses, trams and metros were closed or re-routed (more about that experience later!)

Annhig...if you are going to be staying near the Vatican, have I got a pizza place for your...Pizzarium. We didn't get there on this trip, but did back in March. The pizza is fantastic. I wrote about it in my March Rome trip report. It's not really a "sit down" type of place, better to get a slice and go, but there area a few benches outside and a small area inside where you can stand and eat. Gabriele Bonci is the pizza "maestro" here and he has revolutionized pizza by the slice in Rome...his ingredients are exceptional, the pizza toppings change daily and the dough is the best I've ever had. Check out my March report for more on Pizzarium.
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 12:08 PM
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You know there is always one big problem with any trip to Rome ...no matter how many days one stays....not enough time to try all the restaurants and eat enough gelato.

Anxious to read more as you always have great trips and are kind enough to share them with us.
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 12:30 PM
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I am staying nearing the Vatican and I will definitely mark the Pizzarium! I love looking forward to having something to read about Rome when I get home from work. Planning is half of the fun!
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 01:12 PM
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thanks, LC, that's two excellent suggestions already.

looking forward to more!
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 03:03 PM
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Young lady, I was just about to email you and chastise you for making me wait on your T/R! I just happened to be watching a little travel thing on TV about Rome that I DVRd last night.....and thinking where it that report? and, it is here....I need a fix since I am going nowhere anytime soon.

Can't wait to hear all about it. If you go again at Christmas, well, I won't hate you but it will be hard not to!
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 05:33 PM
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lowcountrycarol...boy are you ever right...I could spend months in Rome and still not have enough time for all the restaurants I'd like to try! It's always a tough decision for me whether to go back to an old favorite or try a new place. This trip we did have a couple repeats, but I tried to squeeze in as many new spots as humanly possible to do in one week!

Denise...I must be a mind reader ;-) I wish I could say I was going back at Christmas, instead mom and I are off to NYC for Christmas...not a bad alternative, IMHO!
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 06:45 PM
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LCI: another great report. Love the Albergo del Senato, and want to go back, but i think for now my return trip will be with you.
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Old Dec 12th, 2012, 06:50 PM
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taconictraveler...happy to have you along for the ride! ;-)

And now for the rest of Thursday, November 22nd:


After a few hours of “shut-eye” mom and I were ready to hit the town for aperitivo. Instead of venturing into a café, we decided to go to a cheese shop, yes, a cheese shop, but believe me this was an extraordinary cheese shop. To be fair, it really is more than a typical cheese shop, it’s also an enotecca that serves light lunches, light dinners and aperitivo.

At about 6pm we walked into Beppe e i suoi Formaggi, this translates to Beppe and His Cheeses, at Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9A/11, which was about a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel. When we walked in, the display cases presented a sea of cheeses, which are all lovingly cared for.

After ogling the vast variety of cheeses, we walked into the adjacent room and sat down at a table, we ordered a couple glasses of wine and a mixed plate of cheeses. We were presented with a beautiful plate of 5 different cheeses, some cow’s milk, some sheep’s milk, but all were delicious. Our plan to have a glass of wine each, turned into 2 glasses each and before we knew it, it was close to 7:30pm and we needed to get moving for our 8pm dinner reservation. Our aperitivo came to €33 for 4 glasses of wine and a cheese plate with 5 exceptionally delicious cheeses. As we were leaving mom commented, “I’d like to eat my way through Beppe’s cheese counter”, well, mom we better plan on moving to Rome then, because it would probably take close to a year of daily visits to try them all!

Fortunately Beppe’s cheese shop is not far from one of the stops for the #8 tram and within minutes we were boarding the tram heading in the Casaletto direction. The trattoria, Cesare al Casaletto (Via del Casaletto, 45) in the Monteverde neighborhood, although not in the centro storico, is incredibly easy to get to. If you take the #8 tram from Largo Argentina (which is the first stop [or last depending on the direction] on that tram line) and go all the way to the very last stop (Casaletto) get off the tram, walk across the tram tracks, cross the street and walk a few feet you will be at the front door of Cesare al Casaletto, it couldn’t be easier!

I read about this trattoria on both the Eat Rome and Rome for Foodies Apps, where it was highly recommended. The specialty here are the tasty fried tid-bits on the starter menu. I had heard/read so many good things about all the fritti on the menu, I wanted to try them all, but mom was the voice of reason, because she also wanted to try the highly regarded buccatini alla amatriciana, which got more praise on the Tavole Romane website (http://tavoleromane.wordpress.com/ ).

I will admit when we got off the tram, I “zigged” when I should have “zagged” and walked in the wrong direction for about 3 minutes when I realized we should have turned right when we got off the tram not left, but it was not a big blunder and a few minutes after 8pm we were walking through the door of Cesare al Casaletto.

We were greeted warmly and in my fractured Italian I managed to communicate that we had a reservation. We were seated in the bright, warm, friendly dining room and in one quick glance around the room we knew we were the only non-Italian speaking diners, we loved this place already! The restaurant was not at maximum capacity, but it seemed to us it was definitely a neighborhood place, with tables full of what appeared to be happy Italian families or friends having a good time.

Once we were settled in, one of the servers, who I believe was the owner, came over to tell us the daily specials. We established that mom and I had a limited Italian vocabulary and he was kind enough to speak very sloooooowly to us. We decided to have fried meatballs with pesto, also known as polpette di bollito con pesto di basilico, which is their signature dish and the eggplant croquettes with a spicy marinara sauce. All we could say was WOW! The meatballs were delicious, the best part was the pesto, but our favorite of the two were the eggplant croquettes. The croquettes not only had great flavor, but they were creamy smooth on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside and the sauce had just the perfect kick to it.

We asked the owner to help us select a wine and he picked a great red for us. For main dishes, mom had the buccatini alla amatriciana which she proclaimed was excellent, which was right in line with the readers of the Tavole Romane website read poll. I had the coda alla vacinara, also known as braised ox tails and they were tender, tender, tender and the sauce was full of flavor.

Based on a perfectly timed blog article about this restaurant, by Katie Parla, the day before we arrived in Rome, I knew the panna cotta was a “not to be missed” dessert here, so I ordered one with frutti di bosco (mixed fruits/berries), it was silky smooth. As usual, mom and I finished the meal with espresso.

Mom and I really enjoyed this place and it was a perfect way to start our week in Rome. The service was friendly and they were interested in knowing how we found out about them. When the bill arrived at our table we were in for a happy surprise, the total cost of the meal was €60.

We left the trattoria two very happy ladies, boarded the awaiting tram and took it to the last stop, Largo Argentina and walked back to the hotel. Of course our first night in Rome wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the bar next to the hotel for a limoncello. All seemed right on this Thanksgiving night, even though a turkey wasn’t in our sights!
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Old Dec 13th, 2012, 01:24 AM
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OK, well now you are just hurting me! Beppe in the Ghetto? Green with envy! Cesare al Casaletto sounds wonderful and you had panna cotta? how could you?

I have to say that I feel better to hear you zigged when you should have zagged, since we zigged all over Rome....it's not just me!
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Old Dec 13th, 2012, 06:20 AM
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I love reading all about what you and your mom eat but it is a form of torture.
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Old Dec 13th, 2012, 06:37 AM
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You are to Rome what I have been Paris for many years--totally devoted, drop everything for a cheap fare and go any time, explore every nook and cranny, ride the buses to be able to see even more and eat,eat,eat! In short totally hooked. Nothing better than a trip report from someone totally in love with a city. Thanks so much for this. A wonderful read.

And your Mom. What a charmer to make friends with the gate agent and snag you such a special, all on your own, deal. That has to be one of the most unique flights I've ever heard of. Congrats. And keep it coming.
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