a VirtualTourist member asked on Nov 14, 2016
I will travel to Rome with my family next month. It is my first time in Rome, and I would like to find a really nice restaurant, not too expensive, to celebrate my birthday. Any suggestions will be wellcome.
Our hotel is near Teatro dell´Opera.
Thanks in advance.
Here's a good restaurant; [original VT link] It is one of my favourite restaurants in Rome.
In a town with a zillion restaurants, it is to be expected that each person will have his or her own favorite. Mine is Tre Scalini in Piazza Navona. But it's not just the restaurant, it's the whole evening you can make of it.
First, you go to the piazza early and join the hordes of Romans and tourists walking in large circles (well, ovals) around the piazza, This is the descendent of the Mediterranean tradition of walking through the town square in the evening, to see and be seen. Often there are artists in the piazza who you can stop at and watch, and at Christmas there may even be stalls (it has been way too many years since I have been in Rome in December). If the weather is nice, you can stop at a bar on the piazza or even at the bar out front of Tre Scalini and have a drink, all the while admiring the passersby. If you stop at Tre Scalini, you can tell the staff that you want to eat there and work out a time to do it.
Now, if you are going in December, you probably don't want to eat dinner outside (lunch on a sunny day might be OK), so you'll want a table inside, perhaps near a window. Order a traditional three course meal: primo, secondo, and dolce (first plate, second plate, and dessert). The primo will be a soup or a pasta (I love penne alla carbonara, which I had there for lunch last time I was in Rome); the secondo will be a meat and a vegetable and possibly a salad (yes, in the old days, the salad was served with the main course and not as a first course); and the dessert will be fruit or a Macedonia (fruit cocktail) or gelato (ice cream) or whatever. In your case, if calories for the week (er, month) are not a problem, order the tartufo cioccolato, a chocolate bomb that is a chocolate shell around ice cream (often chocolate) which is around a dark chocolate center. It's made on site, and is worth the wait.
Normally, you would have a white wine to start - I typically order a quarter or half liter of the house white wine - the hills around Rome are well-known for white wines. For the main course, depending on whether I have meat or fish, I order a red or more white. Again, I order the house red, because good red wines are made not far away. After dessert, if you are full, you can order a digestivo, a liquor designed to relax the stomach muscles so that you don't feel so full any more. Yeah, yeah, it's supposed to help you digest, but I know what it's really doing.
Of course, you can have coffee after dinner (I don't drink coffee so that part of the experience is alien to me), but please don't order a cappuccino as that is traditionally served only up to 11:00 in the morning...yeah, they'll serve it to you, but it will ruin all the positive vibes you built up with the staff when you ordered a traditional three course meal.
Along with the wine, you normally order water by the bottle: either "con gas" (sparking) or "senza gas" (still). Yes, you can order tap water - it's quite safe - but that isn't part of the restaurant experience. Note that Italians don't call all eating places "restaurants" (ristorante) like we do in English; instead, a "ristorante" is the highest level of eating establishment, higher than trattoria osteria, tavola calda, and the other places to eat like, glurp, McDonalds (yes, there are 26 in the greater Roman area - yikes!). So there is a certain expectation that when you go there - like for a birthday which is very appropriate - you are making an evening of it. Tap water just isn't part of it. Don't worry, bottled water isn't expensive...
And, of course, you don't have to have your post dinner drink at Tre Scalini but after you pay the bill, you can wander back out into the piazza - now a little bit full and unsteady ;-) - and wander around, seeing and being seen, until you come to a bar to sit down, hear the buzz, have a coffee or digestivo, then go up to the north end of the piazza to take a taxi back to your hotel.
Oh, you could walk, but by this point, I've got you so liquored up that you'll appreciate the taxi ;-)
OK. sounds all complicated, right? Well, nowadays, Romans are more laid back and you can pretty much order whatever you want...but please don't go to a nice restaurant and order a beer and some French Fries like the couple next to me did the last time - that is a total waste of the experience. The waiters were eye-rolling to everyone in the restaurant and the piazza. But this is how you make an evening of it that you won't forget...and that's what you want, right?
Oh, you may have heard about the restaurant that charged a young Japanese couple something like 700 euro (at the time, over $1,000USD) for a meal. This caused quite a stink in Italy, and it had to do with the couple never asking the prices or to see a menu. Prices are required to be posted (normally at the door), and at 99% of the restaurants like Tre Scalini, you will be handed a menu. I mention this only because the offending restaurant in question was literally just a couple of blocks away. :-(
December in Rome is fun; the first year I lived there, the shepherds came down from the hills to play their one pipe bagpipes and beg for money...sigh, I guess they don't do that any more, but the cool/cold nights in the lights of Rome are a sight to remember...have fun!