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Best bets for dining in Rome

Best bets for dining in Rome: Frommer's top picks for the finest bites in the city
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Best for Romance: A great place to pop the question or just enjoy a romantic evening is Sapori del Lord Byron, in the Hotel Lord Byron, Via G. de Notaris 5 (tel. 06-3613041), a stunner of a place that also just happens to serve the best Italian cuisine in town. The decor is as romantic as the atmosphere; it's all white lattice and bold Italian colors highlighted by masses of fresh flowers. The setting is in a Relais & Châteaux-member hotel, an Art Deco villa set on a residential hilltop in Parioli, an area of embassies and exclusive town houses at the edge of the Villa Borghese.

Best of the Best: Food critics can never agree on the best restaurant in Rome. But the more discerning cite La Pergola, in the Cavalieri Hilton, Via Cadolo 101 (tel. 06-3509221), opening onto a panoramic view at night from its perch atop Monte Mario. The talented chef's take on Mediterranean cuisine is sublime.

Best Seasonal Menus: Market-fresh ingredients await you at Il Convivio, Vicolo dei Soldati 31 (tel. 06-6869432), one of Rome's most acclaimed restaurants. The Troiano brothers are truly inspired, shopping the markets for the best in any season and adjusting their menus accordingly. The location is in walking distance of Piazza di Spagna.

Best Offbeat Choice: A lay sisterhood of missionary Christians from five continents operates L'Eau Vive, Via Monterone 85 (tel. 06-68801095), where various popes have dined. A fine French and international cuisine is served in a subdued, refined atmosphere under frescoed ceilings. You never know what will be on the menu.

Best for a Celebration: Romans have been flocking to Checchino dal 1887, Via di Monte Testaccio 30 (tel. 06-5746318), since the early 19th century for fun and hearty food. With a bountiful array of wine and foodstuffs, every meal seems like a party. The tables are packed nightly, and the place is a local legend. You'll have fun while still enjoying some of the best cuisine in town.

Best Decor: By night, chic Romans and savvy foreign visitors alike show up at El Toulà (The Hayloft), Via della Lupa 29B (tel. 06-6873498), an elegant establishment set near the fabled Caffé Greco and some of the most upscale boutiques in Rome. It's no bargain, but once you see the sumptuous setting and, more important, enjoy the cuisine, you'll think you've gotten your money's worth. Haute cuisine is served in a subdued, tasteful setting of antiques, paintings, ever-so-discreet lighting, and to-die-for flower arrangements.

Best View: The stars really do come out at night at Les Etoiles (The Stars), in the Hotel Atlante Star (tel. 06-6873233), which has been called "the most beautiful rooftop in Italy." This restaurant is a virtual garden in the sky, with a 360-degree view of Roman landmarks, including the floodlit dome of St. Peter's. Try for an alfresco table in summer, but even in winter, the same incredible view can be seen through picture windows. Fortunately, the food -- delicately prepared Mediterranean cuisine using the freshest of ingredients -- lives up to the setting.

Best Pizzeria: Even the hardest-to-please Roman pizza lovers head for Pizzeria Baffetto, Via del Governo Vecchio 114 (tel. 06-6861617). This is a popular and fun place, drawing a young crowd. The crusts are delightfully thin.

Best Wine List: The food is secondary to the fabulous wine list at the Trimani Wine Bar, Via Cernaia 37B (tel. 06-4469630). One of the best tasting centers in Rome for both French and Italian vintages, this elegant wine bar offers a dazzling array of wines at reasonable prices. The Trimani family has had a prestigious name in the wine business since 1821; just sit down and let the pouring begin.

Best Value: Twenty dollars gets you one of the finest fixed-price menus in Rome at the Ristorante del Pallaro, Largo del Pallaro 15 (tel. 06-68801488). Each dish is prepared by the chef-owner, Paola Fazi, who sternly urges her diners to "Mangia! Mangia!" The moment you're seated at the table, the dishes start to arrive -- first a selection of antipasto; then the homemade, succulent pastas of the day; followed by such meat courses as tender roast veal. Everything's included, even a carafe of the house wine.

Best for the Kids: After their tour of the Vatican or St. Peter's, many savvy Roman families head for the Ristorante Il Matriciano, Via dei Gracchi 55 (tel. 06-3212327). It's not fancy, but the price is right, and in summer you can opt for a sidewalk table. Let your kids feast on good, reasonably priced homemade fare that includes such crowd pleasers as ricotta-stuffed ravioli. At the next table you're likely to see some priests from the Vatican dining.

Best Continental Cuisine: The city's finest restaurant is now La Terrazza, in the Hotel Eden, Via Ludovisi 49 (tel. 06-478121), edging out a position long held by Sans Souci. In the newly and fabulously restored Hotel Eden, you can dine on Continental cuisine that is both bold and innovative. The seasonal menu offers the most polished, sophisticated cuisine in Rome; perhaps you'll choose a "symphony" of seafood or a warm salad of grilled vegetables.

Best Emilia-Romagna Cuisine: The area around Bologna has long been celebrated for serving the finest cuisine in Italy, and the little trattoria Colline Emiliane, Via Avignonesi 22 (tel. 06-4817538), maintains that stellar reputation among Romans. The pastas here are among the best in Rome, especially the handmade tortellini alla panna (with cream sauce) with truffles. You can order less expensive pastas as well, all of them good. The prosciutto comes from a small town near Parma and is considered by many the best in the world.

Best Roman Cuisine: The tempting selection of antipasti alone is enough to lure you to Al Ceppo (The Log), Via Panama 2 (tel. 06-8419696). Try such appetizers as stuffed yellow or red peppers, or finely minced cold spinach blended with ricotta. Only 2 blocks from the Villa Borghese, this is a dining address jealously guarded by Romans, who often bring friends from out of town here. They feast on the succulent lamb chops, charcoal-grilled to perfection, or other grilled meats, such as quail, liver, and bacon.

Best Seafood: In the heart of ancient Rome, Quinzi & Gabrieli, Via delle Coppelle 5-6 (tel. 06-6879389), serves the city's finest and freshest seafood from a restored and elegant building dating from the 1400s. The fish is simply cooked and presented, and it's heavenly. Expect everything from deep-sea shrimp to sea urchins and octopus.

Best Nuova Cucina: Near the Vittorio Emanuele monument, Agata e Romeo, Via Carlo Alberto 45 (tel. 06-4466115), serves one of Rome's most inventive and creative cuisines in a striking dining room done in Liberty style. If you'd like a sampling of the best selections of the day, you can order one of the fixed-price menus, available with or without wine. The menu reflects the agrarian bounty of Italy, with ample choices for everyone: meat eaters, fish fanciers, and vegetarians.

Best in the Jewish Ghetto: For centuries, Romans have flocked to the Jewish Ghetto to sample Jerusalem artichokes. No one prepares them better than Piperno, Via Monte de' Cenci 9 (tel. 06-68806629), which serves savory (though nonkosher) Roman food. Of course, you can order more than these deep-fried artichokes here. A full array of delights includes everything from stuffed squash blossoms to succulent pastas.

Best Alfresco Dining: In Trastevere, Piazza Santa Maria comes alive at night. If you reserve a sidewalk table at Sabatini, Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere 13 (tel. 06-5812026), you'll have a view of all the action, including the floodlit golden mosaics of the church on the piazza, Santa Maria in Trastevere. At the next table you're likely to see . . . well, just about anybody (on our most recent visit, Roman Polanski). In addition to the view, you can enjoy terrific grilled fish and Florentine steaks here.

Best for People-Watching: Join the beautiful people -- young actors, models, and artists from nearby Via Margutta -- who descend at night on Piazza del Popolo. Young men with their silk shirts unbuttoned alight from sports cars to go on the prowl. At Dal Bolognese, Piazza del Popolo 1-2 (tel. 06-3611426), not only can you take in this fascinating scene, but you'll also enjoy fine Bolognese cuisine as enticing as the people-watching. In the 1950s, Via Veneto was the place to be for Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and other Hollywood types. Today the celebs are long gone, and Via Veneto is more about overpriced tourist traps than genuine hip. But lots of folks like to stroll this strip anyway, or enjoy the passing parade from a table at the Caffé de Paris, Via Vittorio Veneto 90 (tel. 06-4815631).

Best for a Cappuccino with a View: The best-located cafe in Rome is Di Rienzo, Piazza della Rotonda 8-9 (tel. 06-6869097), which stands directly on Piazza della Rotonda, fronting the Pantheon. On a summer night, there's no better place to be than "the living room" of Rome, as the square before you has been dubbed, as you sit and slowly sip your cappuccino.

Best Picnic Fare: When the weather is cool and the day is sunny, it's time for an alfresco meal, and there's no better place to purchase the makings of a picnic than the Campo de' Fiori open-air market, between Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Tiber. The luscious produce of Lazio is on display here right in the heart of the old city. If you wish, you can purchase vegetables already chopped and ready to be dropped into the minestrone pot. There are also several excellent delicatessen shops on the square. Visit one of the shops selling freshly baked Roman bread, pick up a bottle of wine and a companion -- and off you go.

Best for Celebrity-Spotting: A chic choice is Café Riccioli, Piazza delle Coppelle 10A (tel. 06-68210313), where you'll often spot models and other beautiful people having a light dinner of sashimi.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.

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