Rome Sweet Rome
When his wife was invited to study in Rome rent-free, Stephen Heuser took a six-month sabbatical and tagged along. 'La vita' doesn't get much more 'dolce' than that.
Sora Margherita There's no sign outside this small temple of traditional Roman cuisine, and technically you need to be a member to eat there, but if you know how to find it they'll let you join on the spot. (Membership is free.) The menu changes every day, but as with much Roman cooking, simple is good--we liked fried artichokes, meat agnolotti in red sauce, and the house wine. If you get to Piazza delle Cinque Scole, in the Jewish Ghetto, and can't find it, look for a doorway draped with long, red, lei-like strands. Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30, 011-39/06-687-4216, agnolotti $9.
Granitas at Tazza d'Oro The most famous cup of coffee is at nearby Sant'Eustachio, but for my money--about half as much per espresso--the most consistently rich and perfect cup is at Tazza d'Oro, near the Pantheon. On a summer's day, the cult item is the granita di caffè, a slushy hit of intense, frozen coffee topped with stiff whipped cream ($2.50). Via degli Orfani 84, 011-39/06-678-9792.
Da Ivo Arguments rage about the best traditional Roman pizza, a flat-crusted pie baked quickly in a searing wood oven. But if you follow the Romans, they're heading to Ivo--a cheap, busy, and fun joint, full of soccer memorabilia, in Trastevere. Call ahead and they'll often have a table ready; favorite pizzas are the apple-Gorgonzola and the sausage-and-mushroom with red sauce ($8.50 each). Afterward, stroll up the street to Santa Maria, one of the prettiest piazzas in the city. Via di San Francesco a Ripa 158, 011-39/06-581-7082.
Antica Roma Veal saltimbocca, fried appetizers, pasta all'amatriciana: Trattoria menus are remarkably similar, so the goal is to find a place that does the classics well and gives you an authentic Roman experience to boot. There's no cutesy ambience to Antica Roma, in a quiet neighborhood (Monteverde Vecchio) beyond Trastevere, but the crowd is local, the staff is mainly family, and the salmon pennette studded with fish roe ($11) is ridiculously good. Via Alberto Mario 17, 011-39/06-581-6809.
Antico Arco A "fancy" dinner tends to mean a trattoria with a great location and double the normal price for spaghetti with clams. Antico Arco, on the Janiculum Hill, just west of the city center, is in a whole different category--a youngish, upscale restaurant with dishes such as puff pastry filled with tomato and mozzarella ($13), and a carbonara like you've never imagined ($18). The impressive wine list is fairly priced. After dinner, walk past the Fontana Paola and look at Rome twinkling beneath you. Piazzale Aurelio 7, 011-39/06-581-5274.
San Crispino There's average gelato, excellent gelato, and then this stuff. Portions are small and priced with a swagger (starting around $2.50 for a small cup), but San Crispino, near Trevi Fountain, is worth seeking out. The grapefruit one is so concentrated you can almost taste the pith. Via della Panetteria 42, 011-39/06-679-3924.