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Is there a guidebook you'd particularly recommend?


Iestyn
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I am aware there's a wide spread perception that the Michelin guide is not great for Italy. Without wanting to enter that debate (because I obviously don't know), I'd like to know what guidebooks e-gulleters recommend.

I am heading to Italy this autumn, because I've never been in a food context (to Rome to to watch Rugby, to Sardinia to dive, but I ate well in Sardinia), don't know where I'm going, as my first time I suspect either Tuscany or Piedmont, but the food guide might swing it.

I'd just be interested to know, that if Michelin is not well regarded there, what is. I don't have much faith in the restaurant sections of normal travel guides, and just wondered if there was an Italian equivalent to Michelin/Gault Millau that I didn't know about. I'd be eating at places that would be Bib standard in France, and maybe 1* standard once.

Ok, I know there will be people who say just search the board, I find the boards great to browse over a long term and build up a view, but I haven't done that with Italy, or to search for a specific restaurant you know the name of but I struggle to come up with searches to provide this kind of information, and besides, like reading food guides!

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Two that I have found very useful are Osteria d'Italia published by Slow Food Italy, and the Touring Club of Italy's guide to Ristoranti e Albergi. Unfortunately both are in Italian and can be bought in any big bookstore in Italy--e.g. in Rome at the bookstore in Termini and Feltrinelli.

There is an english version of the first one that includes both restaurants and hotels available here. It is also helpful, but less complete with regard to places to eat.

Mike Arons

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I'm in the "here" camp. That is, I don't know of any great, up-to-date food guides. There might be one, some even. But here, once you know whom to trust, you can get the latest info about the specific places you might like.

I'm not the end all of anything, but I did just visit Piedmont twice for extended periods each time. I have some recommendations there, if you'd like. And other here are much, much more expert than I, and they can offer ideas. Good luck. SOunds fun.

(Read Burton Anderson's "Treasures of the Italian Table." It's getting old, but it is a great book about the food culture of some Italy's seminal foods.

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Doesn't Gambero Rosso publish some sort of restaurant guide? But I'm not sure if there is an English version

Thanks for your answers. I've seen Gambero Rosso mentioned elsewhere on here. I gather its only in Italian. Do people who own it think it would be readily decipherable to a non Italian speaker, eg, lots of symbols. It looks like I'd have to order it from them direct if I wanted it in advance of going to Italy.

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I am aware there's a wide spread perception that the Michelin guide is not great for Italy. Without wanting to enter that debate (because I obviously don't know), I'd like to know what guidebooks e-gulleters recommend.

...

That is really a toughie. When we take road trips (i.e., when I can bring a "library" bag), I pack Michelin, Gambero Rosso, latest edition, and Osterie d'Italia, latest edition. I have quibbles with all three, but have yet to find anything better I haven't written myself (and everything I've written is out of date). Otherwise, in English I find the Time Out guides the most credible where they apply. Everything else I schlepp, including the Touring Club, which I love for cultural stuff, disappoints, though I would have to award Touring runner up. I haven't bought the Espresso guide in a while, but it has never been entirely reliable.

As for whether Gambero is intelligible to an English speaker, it's not even intelligible to an Italian speaker, so just read the final scores and addresses. The graphics give me a headache in any language, and the organization changes frequently (though the city guides are organized worse than the national). There are several indexes, inevitably not including the kind you want.

The SlowFood guide, Osterie d'Italia, is hefty but its descriptions are more to the point and the hardcore local foods are in bold. So it's easier than Gambero. There is some duplication between the two guides, but GR is really about restaurants and creative chefs, and penalizes places that haven't changed their menus in 150 years, while that is just the sort of place SlowFood likes, though they have an unfortunate affection also for the "hey-kids-let's-open-a-restaurant" genre as long as it has a good wine list.

For situations when we are driving and getting hungry and want to know the nearest place to find something decent to eat, Michelin and Touring Club are best. Of course, their orientation is motoring, while the others regard motoring as what you do between meals.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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For situations when we are driving and getting hungry and want to know the nearest place to find something decent to eat, Michelin and Touring Club are best. Of course, their orientation is motoring, while the others regard motoring as what you do between meals.

:laugh::laugh:

Absolutely on target reply! And oh so true about the indexes.... they just don't come naturally to Italians!

Grab a guide or two, and trust in serendipity.

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I like all of the above, but especially like "Italy for the Gourmet Traveller" by Fred Plotkin. Was more than just a restaurant guide-gives information on local food shops, regional cuisine, dishes, wine, etc. Was most helpful during a recent trip to Basilicata/Puglia, but covers all regions.

Mark A. Bauman

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Just back from Sicily where we used Osteria d'Italia from Slow Food and were never disappointed. The emphasis is firmly on the local and traditional which means many of the entries are somewhat idiosyncratic. They also tend to be significantly cheaper than the "high end" restaurants.

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I like all of the above, but especially like "Italy for the Gourmet Traveller" by Fred Plotkin. Was more than just a restaurant guide-gives information on local food shops, regional cuisine, dishes, wine, etc. Was most helpful during a recent trip to Basilicata/Puglia, but covers all regions.

Unless there are updated versions, this was written in 1996...so there has been some changes....

Talking to people, ask a shop keeper, the toll booth guy where they like to eat. The toll booth guy outside of Rome sent us to one outstanding seafood place. :laugh:

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Fred Plotkin's book was revised and re-published in 2007. We mainly used that book and Osterie & Locande d'Italia on a recent trip. It was reassuring to ask local people for recommendations and find that often their choices were also represented in either/or/both books (without telling them first).

Mark A. Bauman

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Another interesting guide is the "Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe". It's an organization of young chefs and we've been pretty consistently pleased with these restaurants.

They have a web site....google them up. The Italian guide is all written in Italian, but it has the critical stuff like address and phone number.

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Another interesting guide is the "Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe".  It's an organization of young chefs and we've been pretty consistently pleased with these restaurants.

They have a web site....google them up. The Italian guide is all written in Italian, but it has the critical stuff like address and phone number.

I'll second this. My experience with them last summer was 5/5.

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Have plumped for buying a copy of Osterie at a lovely Italian book store, previously unknown to me, to any Londoners reading the thread, its on Cecil Court of Charring Cross Rd, they also had Gamberro Rosso Espresso, and one called Panorama. A tiny bit pricier than ordering online, but you get it straight away and the people in the shop seemed very nice.

I like the look of the jeune restaureteurs, will bear in mind for future reference, so thanks everyone for your help.

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  • 6 months later...
I like all of the above, but especially like "Italy for the Gourmet Traveller" by Fred Plotkin. Was more than just a restaurant guide-gives information on local food shops, regional cuisine, dishes, wine, etc. Was most helpful during a recent trip to Basilicata/Puglia, but covers all regions.

See my separate post on this before buying Plotkin's book...

Bill Klapp

bklapp@egullet.com

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I started with L'Espresso, then shifted to the Gambero Rosso but for 2 years have preferred the Osterie guide. However, I got into a heated discussion at the Gambero Rosso HQ in Rome with an Italian food-expert last week who insisted Gambero was still the best. I too like Fred Plotkin's book.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I started with L'Espresso, then shifted to the Gambero Rosso but for 2 years have preferred the Osterie guide.  However, I got into a heated discussion at the Gambero Rosso HQ in Rome with an Italian food-expert last week who insisted Gambero was still the best.  I too like Fred Plotkin's book.

Gambero is probably still the best, used in conjunction with the SlowFood Osterie d'Italia, which covers a more limited range. However, the organization and graphics of Gambero give me the pip, plus they change every year, it seems, so that by the time you're used to it, you have to learn a new system. Also, Gambero gives lower scores to restaurants with conservative menus. There may be good reasons for this, but you get situations where a hey-let's-open-a-restaurant newcomer that is not all that good and a reliable classic have the same score. Then there are the cases where they don't sufficiently explain why a restaurant has a lower score than most readers would expect, and in general I find the writing has become less critical and perceptive and the whole thing a bit too insidery. We still go to Gambero first, but sometimes the scores make no sense to us (my husband is an engineer and likes numbers). Slow Food is pretty reliable for trattorias, but again the whole thing is getting very insidery. You just know who all their friends are. Still, we've had some super meals thanks to Osterie d'Italia. Bottom line is we look for consensus among several guides, including Michelin. I haven't bought L'Espresso in a few years but will probably start again.

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Anyone here taken a look at the Guida Gourmet 2009 yet?

They first released it with, I believe, the February issue of TuttoTurismo magazine, but they've started to sell them in bookstores as well.

They seem to favor innovation over tradition to some degree. And it's still too soon to see if it will take off, but so far an interesting read, if nothing else.

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I've been having good luck with TCI's Trattorie d'Italia. As Maureen notes, TCI guides are directed at motoring. Still, I've discovered little gems that are due passi from the highways I often travel along, never having known they were there. And all entries are cheap, coming in at ca. 20/35 (for L/D) (prezzo medio di un pasto completo bevande escluse) (lower for rural joints).

For Rome conoscenti, here's TdI's listing:

* Augustarello

* Campana

* Da Armando al Pantheon

* Dal Cavalier Gino

* Da Sergio

* Da Vittorio

* Fabrizio

* Gnegno

* Hostaria Unione Sarda

* La Danesina

* Matricianella

* Osteria del Velodromo Vecchio

* Osteria St. Ana

* Ponte della Ranocchia

* Sora Margherita

* Tram Tram

* Trattoria Cadorna dal 1947

* Trattoria del Ragioniere

* Trattoria Monti

* Zampagna

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I started with L'Espresso, then shifted to the Gambero Rosso but for 2 years have preferred the Osterie guide.  However, I got into a heated discussion at the Gambero Rosso HQ in Rome with an Italian food-expert last week who insisted Gambero was still the best.  I too like Fred Plotkin's book.

Gambero is probably still the best, used in conjunction with the SlowFood Osterie d'Italia, which covers a more limited range. However, the organization and graphics of Gambero give me the pip, plus they change every year, it seems, so that by the time you're used to it, you have to learn a new system. Also, Gambero gives lower scores to restaurants with conservative menus. There may be good reasons for this, but you get situations where a hey-let's-open-a-restaurant newcomer that is not all that good and a reliable classic have the same score. Then there are the cases where they don't sufficiently explain why a restaurant has a lower score than most readers would expect, and in general I find the writing has become less critical and perceptive and the whole thing a bit too insidery. We still go to Gambero first, but sometimes the scores make no sense to us (my husband is an engineer and likes numbers). Slow Food is pretty reliable for trattorias, but again the whole thing is getting very insidery. You just know who all their friends are. Still, we've had some super meals thanks to Osterie d'Italia. Bottom line is we look for consensus among several guides, including Michelin. I haven't bought L'Espresso in a few years but will probably start again.

Your post raises an interesting issue. When I'm travelling by car, I schlep 3 or 4 guidebooks but on my "Grand Tour" this month, I was backpacking and with a computer and running stuff, had to limit myself to one. I chose Osterie.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've just lent my copy of Osterie & Locande D'Italia to a (trusted) friend who tells me that this invaluable book is now selling second hand at a premium on Amazon.

Seems she's right and the prices quoted now run up to £126 sterling for the 2007 edition (although new copies of what seems to be the same book still seem to be available at a more reasonable price through other third party suppliers).

Has Slow Food or their publisher really let this go out of print? They and their website have occasional lapses of endearing amateurism but somebody should tell them that they missing out on the market.

As has been said frequently here, this is probably the best guide to bring to eating well and authentically in Italy - at the above price, I can't be the only one being asked for photocopies.

The website http://associazione.slowfood.it/ had restaurant listings but I can't find this section - but that may be just my very poor Italian and fatal impatience.

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I've just lent my copy of Osterie & Locande D'Italia to a (trusted) friend who tells me that this invaluable book is now selling second hand at a premium on Amazon.

Seems  she's right and the prices quoted now run up to £126 sterling for the 2007 edition (although new copies of what seems to be the same book still seem to be available at a more reasonable price through other third party suppliers).

Has Slow Food or their publisher really let this go out of print? They and their website have occasional lapses of endearing amateurism but somebody should tell them that they missing out on the market.

As has been said frequently here, this is probably the best guide to bring to eating well and authentically in Italy - at the above price, I can't be the only one being asked for photocopies.

The website http://associazione.slowfood.it/ had restaurant listings but I can't find this section - but that may be just my very poor Italian and fatal impatience.

The 2009 Osterie D'Italia from Slow Food is available in the bookstore on via Mazzini in Forte dei Marmi. All the copies you want for 20 Euros each.

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The 2009 Osterie D'Italia from Slow Food is available in the bookstore on via Mazzini in Forte dei Marmi. All the copies you want for 20 Euros each.

I believe that the Osteria D'Italia is the Italian version which is updated every year. "Osterie & Locande D'Italia " is the English language version which apparently is two years old.

Didn't know there was a version in English.

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