Subject: Re: Italy restaurants favorites
Three entries from my journal Rome

ìChecchinoî, our first ìplateî restaurant, and the restaurant that has specialised in traditional roman offal dishes since 1887. There are some 90 restaurants throughout Italy that belong to a society committed to maintaining traditional Italian menus. If you order the specialty of the house, they give you a special boxed plate as a gift.

We were the first to arrive, and felt a little uncomfortable sitting with the entire staff lined up waiting to serve. The restaurant is shaped like an aircraft hanger-semicircular. Immaculately painted, carpeted and every dining table had an accompanying serving table- round and set lower that the dining table. Every table set with a vase of yellow roses. The round ceiling had a most peculiar effect. At various times during the night, as the restaurant filled up, we could hear certain voices so clearly, it was as if they were sitting at our table. We would look down the far side of the restaurant, to identify whose lips were in sync with the voice we could hear. Truly peculiar. Service was 5 star. In particular, we were amazed by the wine waiter. Having assisted in the selection, he would then bring out the appropriate number of suitable glasses. Pour a drop into one glass, swirl it to coat the inside of the glass, then pour it into the next glass and repeat, and so on for all glasses. For one group, he even brought out his own tasting glass, tasted it, and decided that the glasses he had selected werenít appropriate. He then changed all six glasses, and resumed the routine. Ches had Veal Trotter Salad, Pasta and Bean Soup, Baby Lamb Hunter Style (which was the plate dish), and Panna Cotta. I had Calfís Head Cheese, Spaghetti with Eweís Milk Cheese and Pigís Cheek, Oxtail Stew, and Gorgonzola with Unprocessed Honey and a glass of Marsala. Espresso to finish. Fantastic. Worth the wait for the past two years.

Walked back down past Piazza Navona to Trattoria de Pallaro. Christina, the owner of our pensione, had recommended this restaurant. She assured us that the tourists didnít know about it, that the served food like her mother cooked, and that it was a fixed price and they just served whatever they chose to cook on any given day. Again, being 7.45 pm, we were only the third to arrive and were offered a table outside under the awnings/umbrellas. That was fine, trouble was that numerous groups and couples of tourists began arriving. At least half a dozen departed when they couldnít get the table they wanted. Eventually the locals began to arrive and overwhelmed the tourists. We started with a bottle of mineral water and a jug of red wine. Antipasto: Seafood Frittata, olives, white beans, fennel drizzled with olive oil, deep fried potato balls and vegetable patties. Pasta: large tubes in a rich tomato sauce (mine served in the huge mixing bowl). Main: Roast pork shoulder with oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, flowered and fried eggplant, baby mozzarella and potato crisps. Desert: custard tart-cake like pastry served with a lemon digestif in a shot glass. No coffee served. This brilliant meal was 65,000 lira, the same we had paid for the ìcrapî meal early in the week. The setting is a small piazza ìLago del Pallaro, basically the junction of three small narrow back streets. The centre is packed with parked cars, at any angle they can fit in. Very quiet. On a return visit, we would probably eat here every night. When we went in to pay, I thanked him for allowing us to dine at his restaurant and shook his hand. He ignored me, took Cherylís hand and kissed it.

Lucca There we discovered Ristorante Bargo Giannotti, in the street of the same name. We shared a Farro and Seafood salad and a Cannellini and Prawn salad, and two Pizzas. One a mistake-four types of cheese and tomatoes, the other a seafood. The highlight though was foccaccia cooked in the wood fired oven. It had rock salt sprinkled on top and was moist and flaky and fabulous. We bought some to take home for dinner, but discovered it has to be eaten straight from the oven. It dries out in no time flat, and goes all chewy. Good value and an interesting experience. One guy eating alone, demolished a seafood platter, a bottle of red wine, basket of bread, bottle of mineral water a coffee and a glass of grappa, and was still there when we left. No tourists at all, but packed with locals. We plan on returning next week.

Gavin (sydney australia)