Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

ROME..Trip report with emphasis on food..January 2007

ROME..Trip report with emphasis on food..January 2007

Jan 19th, 2007, 01:56 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,026
ROME..Trip report with emphasis on food..January 2007

I have recently returned from a glorious week in Rome. This is the beginning of what promises to be a fairly long and perhaps somewhat disjointed report detailing our week in the city.

We flew from JFK to Rome on Saturday, January 6. The flight on Alitalia, economy class, was quite good. Unlike many others here, I have not had any problem with Alitalia in recent years. I originally phoned Delta to book but did not complete the booking due to the price quoted of $1200. round trip. (That is per ticket). I then phoned Alitalia and booked tickets on the SAME flight for $800-plus..still high for January but my fault for waiting until late October to book. The flight was Alitalia 611, a code share with Delta. Contray to what has been written here, Alitalia did assign seats to us at the time of booking.

Part of the reason that the flight was not disagreeable was the individual video sets located in the seats in front of us. For the first time, I was able to watch an entire film en route (The Devil Wears Prada..good airline fare, in case anyone is interested..) The food is no better and no worse than on any other airline; far better than on Iberia, which holds the 2006 booby prize for economy food, in my opinion.

We landed in Rome and were met in the arrival hall by the driver from Rome Shuttle Limos, who was holding a (rather tattered) cardboard sign (faintly) scrawled with our names. For 35 Euro, this was one of the finds of the trip. (our hotel had offered to arrange pickup for 55 Euro!)Thank you, Eloise, and others who recommended this company:


The drive to the central city took less than 30 minutes; there was no traffic since this was a Sunday. While I do not believe the driver spoke much English, he was most informative and pointed out various sites along the route. The drive passes EUR and if I had not been so tired, I might have asked for a small detour through the area (note to myself for next time..)

We arrived without problem at the much vaunted Albergo del Senato. The rate in January was 225 Euro for a superior double room with a balcony overlooking the Pantheon and the Piazza della Rotunda. The location of this hotel cannot be improved upon. The room (#603)was, as has been noted, not large, but it was nicely appointed. Terry robes and slippers are provided. The bathroom is marble and, while it does not have a hand-held shower, there is a bidet and a tub.

Later in the trip, I had a chance to look at the adjacent large corner room/suite, #602. This would be ideal for a family of three and has double exposure. Rooms not facing the Pantheon are much larger and, by all reports, lovely. And less costly.

What makes this hotel shine is the staff at the front desk. Mauro was one of the most professional and helpful hotel employees I have met in a long while. After several days here, the place really felt like home.

The weather in Rome was wonderful during the week we were there. Daytime temperatures were in the 60s and it never got in the lest bit cold at night. Most days were clear, although we did have some light rain on two days which did not interfere with our plans. It is truly a pleasure to be in Italy during the "low' season.

The first afternoon we were tired after our flight, as I mentioned, and did not do much apart from relaxing in the room and admiring the view. For our first meal in Rome, I had made dinner reservations by e-mail at Ditirambo. While I usually prefer a more traditional place, the options for Sunday dinner are rather limited (La Campana is also open, I believe). We had enjoyed a meal at Ditirambo a few years ago and, at the appointed hour, made our way to the nearby Piazza Cancelleria, about 10 minutes walk from the hotel near the Camp dei Fiori. Our reservation was for 8pm and, as expected at that early hour, we were the first diners in the restaurant.

Ditirambo, Piazza Cancelleria, 74, is a cozy place with three diminutive dining rooms under dark-wood-beamed ceilings. The atmosphere might be described as youthful..akin to a small neighborhood place in New York's East Village (this may be a stretch but bear with me..) The food is (forgive me, Eloise and Franco..I will get to the pajata later in the week!!) slightly innovative but never strays too far from the vernacular Roman menu; let's call it "traditional light."

This is what two of us ate that night:


Sformato de cavalofiore with lardo di Colonnata and Parmesan croquette. This flan-type dish is a favorite here and they do it really, really well. I am a big fan of lardo, and of cauliflower, and I ws very very happy, to be back in Rome, and to be at Ditimrambo that night.

Pumpkin ravioli Mantovana...speaks for itself. We were very happy..a somewhat sweet dish sprinkled with Amaretti..very, very good. Very good. (I can see the shuddering in certain quarters now)


Seppie con grano e salsa de mariscos (I think I am mixing up Spanish and Italian here so forgive me now and in the future, please). This was marvelous stuffed squid; the stuffing may have been bread crumbs. There were clams in the light sauce. Excellent.

Osso Buco. Good.

Half liter of house wine..my notes appear to read "Le Treccole Azienda le Quinte." Anyway, it was decent local white wine.

The bill was 59 Euro.

Several things about dining in Italy were reinforced on this trip. The first was, not surprisingly, ALWAYS MAKE A RESERVATION. By the time were were well into our meal, the place had filled up and people were turned away at the door. This happened during every dinner we ate, and most of the lunches as well. You will ensure a place, you will often get a better table, and you will alert the restaurant to your arrival, which helps them plan. I made two reservations before we arrived, this one by direct e-mail and another, for Trattoria Monti, through the hotel, and I was very glad I did. On the other nights and for a few lunches, I reserved at least one day ahead by phone or in person. On the one night that we did not have a reservation, we were not able to get into any of the places we wanted to sample and were directed to a nearby spot by the hotel staff..more on this later.

After the meal, we strolled back to the Senato and went to sleep, with plans for the Scavi tour the next morning.

To be continued.

ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 02:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,026
Yet again I am having trouble with the "Edit" function so forgive me...(please read reference to Ditirambo as being akin to the village in NYC, not the East Village)
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 02:12 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 6,117
Welcome home. My hunger pangs are now in full symphony!! Regarding the edit function, I've noticed that it doesn't work once my posts get over a certain length, altho I have no idea what that point is.
dcd is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 02:19 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,355
Great, ek. THIS is a truly thrilling sequel story (other than all those boring TV series!!). Can't wait for the next installment.
franco is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 02:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,442
Nice beginning. I'm starving already!
StCirq is online now  
Jan 19th, 2007, 02:32 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,355
Ah, StCirq! (Forgive me, ek, the question is Roman-food-related!) You never told us how your meal at Sora Lella's was, though I asked you on the very thread where I had given you the recommendation! I was so curious because some people on Fodor's reported on a recent negative newspaper (NYT?) report on that restaurant, but nobody could provide a recent personal experience... Would you, please?
franco is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 04:39 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 794
Can't wait to read more!
plafield is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 05:19 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,850
ekscrunchy -
I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip report. I'm in the doldrums because this time last year we were getting ready for our trip to Rome. This will be a good antidote for my Romesickness!
LCBoniti is offline  
Jan 19th, 2007, 08:31 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4,255
Enjoying your report. Getting hungry...
travelgirl2 is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 03:37 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,026
Thanks very much, everyone. Sorry I am making you all hungry! I will be back soon with Scavi tour, food shopping at Via Andrea Doria market, and lunch.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 06:09 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,414
Thanks for sharing, EK.

ira is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 06:34 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,932
You had me at "glorious week!" I can't wait to read your full report!
emcash is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 06:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,349
ek, this is great. Waiting for more...
SusanP is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 07:00 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 4,717
Ek, I donít know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh because Iím enjoying this so much; cry because Iím not in Rome doing and eating all these wonderful things.

More, more!
Eloise is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 07:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 952
Ah, just in time for my April trip to Rome! Can't wait for more Eks. You were very helpful to me in my trip planning for Sicily last year.

grosenb is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 08:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,026
I booked reservations for the 9:15 Vatican Scavi tour a few months in advance. The price is 10 Euro per person. We enjoyed breakfast in the lovely high-ceilinged lemon yellow dining room of the Senato, with its glittery chandeliers and intricate white woodwork. Breakfast is included in the room price. The cornetto and other pastries were excellent. The tables are piled with fresh fruit, eggs, the usual cereals, mediocre sliced hams and cheeses, etc. The orange and grapefruit juices are not fresh. The hotel provides daily newspapers in Italian (several) and English (IHT) as well as a few Italian fashion magazines.

Dawdling at breakfast, we missed our chance to take public transport to the Vatican (the famed #64 bus stops a few short blocks south of the hotel) so we walked across the Piazza to the taxi stand and piled in for the short ride across the river to St. Peters. The ride cost about 5 Euro if I am remembering correctly. (Traffic was light that morning; the ride back to the hotel cost about 10 Euro in traffic). At no time did we have any problems with taxi drivers in Rome. {One night, en route to a restaurant, the driver became a bit confused finding a small street (Via S. Vito), so if you are venturing somewhat off the beaten path, you might want to have a general idea of where you are going, or of nearby landmarks, so you can help direct the driver.}

We arrived with no problem at the entrance to the Scavi excavations and picked up our tickets. Much has been written about this tour here (in fact I do not recall reading about it anywhere else BUT here) so I will not go into details. Suffice to say it was an unforgettable experience that was both fascinating and emotionally moving. The group was small, probably no more than 10 people, and was led by an American who was teaching at a university in Austria but who visits Rome often to "help out at the Vatican..." He was informative and possessed of a sense of humor, poking fun at the printed regulation on the entrance ticket that admonishes tour-goers not to interrupt the guide for any reason. I was surprised, actually, to be as moved as I was and several members of the tour became overcome with emotion at the end of the tour.

Separate note: Two American members of our tour group were scheduled to take a private Vatican Museum Tour later that day. They invited us to join the tour as apparently there was space but we declined because of the cost, about 480 Euro.
We ran into this couple by chance at the Borghese Gallery the following day and they gushed about how fabulous the experience had been to be in the Museums with so few people around. Their guide's first name was Helen Donegan and I see that she has been mentioned here.

After the Scavi tour, we visited the tomb of John Paul II before heading into the Basilica. From the Scavi tour, you can access the Basilica without standing on the line that had begun to form outside by 11am or thereabouts. (This is contrary to what I believe I read on this site in the past.)

After St. Peter's, our next destination was the food market on Via Andrea Doria. So we set off along the perimeter of the Vatican to the Museum entrance, a walk of about 15 minutes. This large market is accessible by descending a flight of steps across the street from the entrance to the Vatican Museums, where there was no entrance line visible on the morning we walked by. Walk down the steps and you will be on Via Tunisi. Continue straight for a few blocks; this may take a while as there are several food shops of interest along the way. One of these is located at #47-53 and has fresh meats and cheeses and a variety of grocery items. From my notes, I see that I paid 6.90 euro for two three-packs of Callipo tuna packed in olive oil and one bag of farro. {The same tuna costs me $4.49 for a three-pack of small cans at home in NYC. I do realize that this is of interest to no one except myself so read on, please}.

By the time we reached the Via Andrea Doria and the market itself, it had begun to rain. Curiously, when I am shopping the rain drops appear to avoid me but my partner was getting damp and because he does not share my ineterest in sniffing out the best quality-price ratio on the dried procini, my time was more limited here than I had planned.

We spent about 40 minutes walking several blocks of the market, which stretches along the Via Andrea Doria. We saw no other tourists and a few of the vendors appeared surprised to spot such obvious non-residents at the market. This being January, highlights included artichokes, Sicilian blood oranges, puntarelle, and cardoons...all of which I love. Prices for dried porcini vary a great deal within the city; part of the price differential, of course, is the quality of the mushrooms (how intact they are) and their origin. At the market stall where I bought a bag (10 Euro for what I estimate is 250 gms) I was given a tutorial as to the difference between Calabrian and Tuscan porcini which stressed the superiority of the latter. Unfortunately, I could understand every three words.

For anyone interested in buying dried porcini in the US, this web site has some of the best prices I have seen; the porcini are from France and sell for $28 per pound.


Looking at all this food was making us hungry, so we hopped into a taxi at the stand a few blocks north of via Tunisi, headed back to the hotel to drop off the farro and the tuna fish, and made our way across the Piazza to Armando al Pantheon....

More soon....
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 11:30 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,026
Although Da Armando al Pantheon sits smack in the center of the most touristed part of Rome, it feels very much like a local trattoria and was, in fact, packed mostly with what appeared to be local diners on the two occasions we ate here last week. Located a few steps from the Pantheon and a few additional steps from the hotel, it was a welcome beacon on what had become a fairly dreary day by early afternoon. Armando's, a SlowFood selection, is a tiny and cozy one-room restaurant run by a pair of brothers, sons of the original owner. Arriving towards the end of the lunch hours, we were lucky to nab the last empty table. (From here on, I vowed to make reservations for the rest of the week's Roman meals, a promise I kept with one dinner exception).

At the back of the restaurant there is a display of antipasti including seasonal dishes such as the artichokes and puntarella mentioned earlier. {Interesting fact: On the few occasions when I bought and served this green in a salad, I sliced in across the leaves. Wrong, wrong! In Rome it is sliced thinkly lengthwise and left to sit in a bath of ice water to curl up the leaves for presentation. Imagine..I learned something interesting and important within a minute of taking my seat!} Here lies another MUST: Take a look at the antipasti selection, if there is one, before you order. {Equally important, take a look at what others are eating..more on this in a few days}

On to lunch:


Artichoke alla Romana. A smash hit that would prove to be the best version I sampled, and I sampled quite a few in one week. (The variations in this one simple dish are staggering, and I am not talking about Artichokes alla Giudia which is an entirely different, fried, preparation (I also sampled that a few times!!). A fabulous "stop-all-conversation-and-concentrate-on what-is-in-your-mouth dish."


Farro. ( I am a big fan of this once-maligned historic grain, (emmer in English), and make it often at home. I had thought it to be a specialty of the Garafagnana around Lucca and also of Umbria and was a bit surprised to see it on the menu here. In addition to the farro soup, farro makes an appearance on Armando's menu as a "Polpette" with a Gorgonzola sauce.) My farro is pretty good, if I may say so myself, but of course Armando's puts me to shame. Another four-star success.

Stracciatella. Excellent classic soup with eggs.


Abacchio a Scottadito. Delicious Roman specialty. Deliciously oily baby lamb chops that "burn your fingers" straight off the grill.

Grilled Scamorza. We had this as a main course although it is probably more of a primi. What can I say? The best melted cheese you've ever eaten. I have only enjoyed this previously in a slightly fancier preparation at a restaurant in the Bronx, New York..maybe Eloise or Franco can tell us if it is a specialty of Rome..(??) It is not too dissimilar to a grilled cheese dish (provoleta) popular in Argentina so perhaps its origin is more Southern Italian. Enough debating..it was luscious!!

With a bottle of water, cover, and a half liter of the house wine, the bill for lunch was 49 Euro.

After lunch one of us retired to the room for a rest while ekscrunchy made a beeline to the Rome branch of the celebrated Florentine pharmacy, Santa Maria Novella.

More on my shopping expedition, and on dinner at Matricianella, soon.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 11:32 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 6,117
Let's see, tuna fish or Armando's for dinner................ Great choice!! But please don't tell me the tuna fish is for the cats in "cat park", LOL!
dcd is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 11:40 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,793
Excellent report, ekscrunchy!

We will be in Rome in March and will be taking both the Scavi tour and the private tour with Helen Donegan. Did the couple mention anything specific about their tour with her? Was it the after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel? There is very little information on this tour, and I would appreciate any insight.

Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Jan 20th, 2007, 11:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,227
Piu, piu per favore!
Betsy is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:36 AM.