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Pity the poor athlete in Rome! He must stick to his monotonous diet, be it red meat or nuts and dry cereal, while those who came to watch him may freely enjoy some of the most delicious food in Europe. The choice of dishes they will find is wide and delectable. No less inviting is the wide and many-sided choice of eating places in the Olympic city, among which, after much thought not only about their menus but also with an eye to variety, we have selected enough for two weeks of gastronomic pleasure.
THE BIG NIGHT OUT: At the smartest restaurant in Rome, the HOSTARIA DELL'ORSO (Inn of the Bear, tel. 564.250), you need count on only $7.50 per head for dinner, including service and carafe wine—and this is as high as you will ever have to go, for Roman restaurants are pleasantly inexpensive. This is the place for your big night out. The lights and the music are low, the carpets are thick and the Renaissance furnishings are infinitely restful. The menu at the Hostaria dell'Orso is one of the most comprehensive and erudite in Rome, for the old hostelry has a prodigious history, dating back to the 12th century. Dante and St. Francis were early guests. They were followed later by such customers as Rabelais, Montaigne and Goethe, and down through the years this has continued to be a meeting place of Rome's food-conscious patricians.
The Inn of the Bear is best reached by cab (and call for another cab before you leave). Reserve your table well in advance—Fernando Minelli is the headwaiter—and prepare for an evening you will never forget.
MODERN AND INVITING: On an avenue leading across the Tiber toward St. Peter's is the broad, sheltered sidewalk terrace of the RISTORANTE PASSETTO (tel. 650.569), a fashionable restaurant that takes pride in being new, modern and mondain. The cool interior is fitted with inviting banquettes, the lights are merciful, the ceilings high, the hangings soft and luxurious. Whether you dine inside or on the terrace, don't fail to inspect the towering panorama of fine foods for which Passetto is famous—an immense still life of fruit, vegetables, hors d'oeuvres, fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, game, cheese, and heaven knows what else, the very sight of which serves as an appetizer. The antipasto chariot is laden with delectable things, perhaps the best selection in Rome.
Passetto offers a brilliant menu (in English, if you wish), filled with the aristocracy of Roman dishes, and an excellent wine list. It is a good place to try Rome's famous baby lamb, abbacchio al forno, or chicken alla diavola or a roast pheasant with orange sauce. The prices are above the norm, but very fair, roughly $5. The directors—and, of course, the ma�tre d'h�tel, Antonio Di Giammarco—speak English.
DIGNITY AND CR�PES SUISSES: On a side street—Via Mario de' Fiori—near the Piazza di Spagna, the quiet, dignified RISTORANTE RANIERI (tel. 671.592) has been favored by Roman epicures for decades Giuseppe Ranieri, a chef to royalty, founded it more than a century ago, and royal visitors have long signed its guest book and enjoyed the impeccable cuisine prepared by the great Giuseppe and his direct descendants. The atmosphere in these faded rooms with their velvet banquettes is definitely old world, with aging waiters, rare old Burgundies and crystal chandeliers. If you ask for the proprietor, this charming gentleman of the old school will help you select his choicest dishes and appropriate wines. There is also a translated menu, and Nello Morandi, the headwaiter, is fluent in English. Prices range from $3 to $4, including carafe wine and service. I recommend cr�pe Suisse for the beginning of your meal, a thin pancake rolled around a symphony of cheeses and browned in the oven. Most of the great specialties of Italy are found at Ranieri's, prepared by one of Rome's best chefs.
GRILLED SHRIMP WITH A VIEW: The neoclassic CASINA VALADIER (tel. 673.469), perched high in the Pincio Gardens, is a summer favorite with Roman society. Here you dine in the open air, with a magnificent view crowned by the dome of St. Peter's. The handsome building was designed by the architect Joseph Valadier as a residence for Napoleon's son, the King of Rome, but he never occupied it and it was eventually transformed into a restaurant-in-the-park. For all its view and distinction, the Casina Valadier charges only a trifle more than comparable restaurants in more crowded parts of Rome—a good average would be $5 per person, carafe wine and service included—and the waiters, as well as the headwaiter, Romolo Pampecra, all speak English. Among the favorite dishes are risotto alla certosina (rice with shrimps) and spiedino di scampi (grilled shrimp on a skewer).
THE KING OF BUTTERED NOODLES: There are three Alfredos in Rome, each dedicated to that culinary hat trick known as fettuccine—buttered broad noodles. The original Alfredo, after long flourishing a golden fork and spoon presented to him by two of his many admirers, Mary Pick-ford and Douglas Fairbanks, sold his business to one of his waiters and retired, but subsequently opened an imposing establishment, ALFREDO ALL'AUGUSTEO (tel. 681.672), on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. (The menu carries across its cover the proud claim, in English: "The Real King of Fettuccine.") Alfredo himself, alas, has departed this world, but he left his fork and spoon to a capable successor who, like him, has a curly mustache, a charming smile and a grandiloquent manner as he twirls his beautiful hot fettuccine in butter and powdered cheese. Built on vast proportions, with high ceilings and bright lights, Alfredo all' Augusteo will probably be the most popular of Roman restaurants during the Olympics, particularly among the Americans. The outdoor terraces, one on the street, one facing the inner court, are cool and inviting. There are musicians, of course, and a candid photographer to commemorate the memory of your fettuccine. The headwaiter is Pietro Di Napoli, and the waiters speak English, many of them Broadwayese. You can't go wrong with any of Alfredo's specialties, and a good dinner, with wine, will average $5.
A SETTING FOR GOURMETS: RISTORANTE FAGIANO (The Pheasant) (tel. 672.010) is most attractive in summer, when its tall outdoor arcade is filled with well-fed Romans and well-informed gourmets from overseas. The restaurant faces a square where, at night, the great marble column built to honor the Emperor Marcus Aurelius looms bright in the darkness. Set on the Piazza Colonna in the busy heart of Rome, the Fagiano is a conventional, old-fashioned dining place, reminiscent of the Gay Nineties. The prices are very fair ($3 to $5), the proprietors and the director, Sabatino Di Giacinto, speak English, and there is a genial little tavern downstairs for those who like to linger longer and enjoy the music.
THREE STEPS TO TRANQUILLITY: On the beautiful Piazza Navona, where Bernini's boisterous baroque fountains splash with endless abandon, the Restaurant of the Three Steps, or TRE SCALINI (tel. 561.312), is situated just out of reach of the central fountain's spray. It is a most romantic spot on a summer evening. The tranquillity is conducive to a fine, contemplative dinner. Among the noble dishes are three top specialties that are always ready: cannelloni tre scalini, with a magnificent sauce; bauletto con funghi, a spicy veal bird with mushrooms; and gelato tartufo, a rich chocolate dessert. You might end up your dinner, which will cost between $3 and $4.50, with fragole (strawberries) and cream, caff� espresso and a tiny glass of Aurum, a joyous, orange-scented liqueur.