Outside of Italy, Italian food tends to be heavy and robust and most first-time visitors to Italy find authentic Italian food too simple and light in terms of flavor. I think you have to re-set your palate and expectations to savor the freshness and simplicity of the cuisine. This was my second dinner in Italy and I was slightly disappointed because I wasn't used to the lack of meat even in meat dishes. Remember this was my first time to Italy. When I returned to Italy a month later, I loved the lightness and simplicity of the dishes made with fresh ingredients and without much condiments.
This restaurant was highly recommended by Rick Steves in his book, Best Of Europe. I think it was Osteria da Lucia in Trastevere, the old district of Rome. Osteria is a trattoria, family-run restaurant. We ordered the Roman dishes that Rick had recommended. The portions were rather stingy.
This was one of the best bread we ate in Italy and for me, it was a welcome change from baguettes.
I can't remember the name but it was a beef dish.
Trippa alla romano is a Roman dish of braised beef tripe. Tangy and good, full of tripe flavor.
Another famous Roman dish, alla amatriciana, which hardly had any guanciale or pig cheeks bacon.
Again, memory fails me but I do remember that this was a tasty pasta. The strong al dente-ness of the pasta surprised me. Back home, the pasta would've been considered too hard. It was a revelation to me what al dente should be.
We wanted to try another recommended restaurant just a few steps up from Osteria so we went there for dessert. They weren't happy that we weren't ordering dinner and said we had to order at least one main dish. We thought that was quite bossy and it was unnecessary to eat more than what we wanted so we left. There were plenty of places to eat and we didn't need to bow to any stupid rules.