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Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila on researching where to eat in Rome

April 12, 2011 |  6:00 am

A reader recently wrote in saying that she was off to Rome and that since I seemed like such an Italophile, could I suggest where to eat there? Truth is, and it's a terrible lapse, I haven't been to Rome in a while and I know much has changed. The city seems to be waking up, culinarily speaking. I'd love to go -- and soon.

I could suggest a few of the classic restaurants, but better she check out what's happening now. So I referred her to a blog I've been following lately, mostly via Twitter. That's Katie Parla -- Rome-based art historian, food and travel writer and sommelier, at Parla Food. (She has some good tips about Istanbul and Turkey on her site too.)

Also, check  "Food Wine Rome" (Terroir Guides: $24.95) from David D. Downie, an expat journalist and novelist who lives in France and Italy. If you go, you might want to pick up his new guidebook to "Quiet Corners of Rome" (Little Bookroom: $16.95) too.

I also suggested she check out the travel pages at Faith Willinger's site, www.faithwillinger.com. Hit "travel" and then beneath the little map of Italy, you'll find a search box. Willinger is a food writer and cookbook author who has lived in Florence for more than 25 years and now contributes stories on Italian food and wine to the Atlantic Monthly's online Atlantic Life Channel.

Also, the well-traveled chef Mario Batali's Rome restaurant suggestions can be found at babbonyc.com. I don't know how up to date they are, but restaurants in Italy don't change as much as they do here from year to year.

Lastly, I checked the "not to miss" list of Italian restaurants that an editor of Italy's "Guida dei Ristoranti L'Espresso" had given a friend (who gave it to me) last year when I was on my way to Sicily. One Rome restaurant is included: Il Pagliaccio from chef Anthony Genovese. The restaurant has just 28 seats, so this one requires reserving well ahead. 

And if you can read Italian with the help of a dictionary, check out L'Espresso, where you can search by region and town for reviews published in the magazine. It took me forever, but I finally found the link to the book "L'Espresso Guida Ristoranti d'Italia 2011." You can pick it up at bookstores in Italy for 25 euros. Another worthy and reliable guide is Slow Food's "Osterie d'Italia 2011" (available only in Italian), which collects casual and/or rustic restaurants that subscribe to the Slow Food philosophy.

Anybody out there have other Rome favorites?


Six days, six Bay Area restaurants

Top reviewed restaurants of the L.A. Times

113 wine picks

-- S. Irene Virbila

Follow me on twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Julia Roberts in "Eat, Pray, Love," eating gelato in Rome. Credit: Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures.