Subject: How to find a good restaurant
No, you are quite correct! Of all the variables about restaurants there is one constant: The quality is quite variable from day to day.

I use all the Italian restaurant guides (L'Espresso, Osteria D'Italia etc.) plus various guidebooks to generate a list of all the possible choices for an upcoming trip. Then the first thing I do upon arrival, is review the list with the hotel's concierge or other hotel people. If they seem knowledgeable, I follow their recommendations. The very friendly bartender in Amalfi told us to try a pizzeria that was tough to find even after he gave us clear directions. It was high on the second floor of a building at the high end of Amalfi.

Too, I also ask the manager of a restaurant where we enjoyed, or are enjoying, a meal what his opinion is of our local choices. This has been very productive for me. On our last trip we asked about a marvelous-looking place that we has seen in the afternoon but was closed. The owner of the restaurant we were in, advised against it but agreed that it was a nice looking place. He enthusiastically supported our restaurant choice for the next day though. He also gave us some good tips which I hope to go to in a future trip.

Going where the locals go (I hate that word!) does not, by any stretch of the imagination, lead one to a really good place. Think of all the chain eateries in the US that the locals line up and wait to get in. Ugh!

In November we went to very highly-rated (and very expensive) place in Rome that was so bad, we paid our check when the pasta course arrived that looked and tasted terribly. Interestingly, the book that gave this restaurant very, very high grades in its '99 edition had no mention of it in its 2000 edition.

In Italy I try to steer clear of restaurants that serve creative cuisine and one guide I have does describe the type of cuisine that a restaurant serves. One other thing, I find that the restaurants in the small towns or in the country are usually suit my taste better than the ones in the larger cities.