I'm often asked where I like to go when I visit Italy. So, I wanted to share some of my family's favorite places to visit. We hope you use these recommendations to create your own Italy experience.
Ask for the owner Severino and send him along my regards please. This is a very casual place near the Pantheon that is really delicious. There is also a cute little wine bar nearby called Enoteca Spiriti.
The Palatium Regional Wine Bar can be found in Via Frattina 94, 00184 Roma and is a great casual wine bar with products that are only from around Rome. They are also dedicated to Jewish/Roman cuisine and have quite a few Kosher products that are rooted in Roman history for sale in their retail section.
Our favorite pizzeria, which is very casual and always packed, is Pizzeria Ai Marmi Viale Trastevere, 53-59, most locals call it Orbitorio because the tables are all white marble and orbitorio means morgue. Strange, I know but great pizza. Its cash only.
Off the beaten track in Rome, we love the Testaccio Market. In an old working class neighborhood, this market is where you see more Italians than tourists. Also near the Testaccio Market is the incredible food, wine and cheese shop, Volpetti..
While in Testaccio, have lunch at Checchino dal 1887 for traditional Roman offal cuisine. Great seasonal Roman dishes as well as a good wine cellar and fine cheese cart.
For 3-star Michelin dining, plus a great view of the city, head for the Rome Cavalieri's restaurant, La Pergola (). Chef Heinz Beck truly is talented. This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of meal.
For dining in Florence, we always recommend a little, out of the way pizzeria called Pizzeria La Spera on Via della Cernia, 9r. ( closed Monday ). The owner is the first woman to win a national pizza competition and has even appeared on the Tonight Show in America. It's a small subterranean place, but lots of fun and very casual. Il Latini at 6 Via del Palchetti, is very casual with communal seating. There is no menu, we usually just follow the other diners and order antipasti and steak tagliata (grilled steak).
For the most incredible personal tour of the Uffizi, where you can see Da Vinci, Michelangelo and other masters, we have a friend who is an art professor at Syracuse University based in Florence. For a donation to Friends of Florence, an organization committed to art restoration, you will be taken on the most worthwhile tour that I have ever been on. Ask to see the statue that Cathy and I helped to renovate. Please contact Spiaggia if you would like more information.
In Viareggio, a town on the Tuscan coast about 100 kilometers from Florence is a small family-owned restaurant called Romano. The Franceschini family offers the freshest seafood anywhere in a beautiful setting. Their wine made in their vineyard nearby is delicious. My wife Cathy and I worked here before opening Spiaggia. You can read more about them in The Spiaggia Cookbook.
We like Fiaschetteria Toscana a little more expensive, as is everything in Venice! They serve great seafood and its casual but not cheap.
Our favorite place is Osteria alle Testiere (http://www.osterialletestiere.it/testiere/Home.html) On Calle del Mondo Novo off Salizzada San Lio, Castello/Riva Degli Schiavoni. They have only 24 seats! Hard to find even tougher to get into, we recommend going there for lunch, it's easier to get a table then.
Near Venice, in the region of Trentino, in the wine producing area known as the Val di Cembra is a fantastic gourmet restaurant and hotel called Maso Franch () (in the town of Giovo). It is a small, modern facility amid acres of peaceful vineyards, with a 1-star Michelin restaurant and a wine bar offering a wide selection of fantastic wines of the surrounding hills. We stayed here last year and can't wait to go back. Nearby in the town of La Vis (a 5 Euro cab ride from Maso Franch) is the sweet Trattoria Vecchia Sorni. They serve local traditional dishes, using the great aromatics of the region. Dining in the summer is a must on the panoramic terrace that offers more views of the hills and vineyards. Be sure to try the traditional dumpling, Canederli.
Dal Pescatore Cathy and I worked here prior to opening Spiaggia, There are three generations of the Santini family running this small, elegant restaurant just outside of Cremona, near Mantua. One of the finest restaurants in Italy. Defintley worth a trip.