For the love of food

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens*Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens*Brown paper packages tied up with strings*These are a few of my favorite things*Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels*Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles*Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings*These are a few of my favorite things*Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes*Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes*Silver white winters that melt into springs*These are a few of my favorite things

Tuscany June 17, 2008

Filed under: Italy,Travel — lovemyfood @ 9:42 pm

Florence

There are two noteworthy places, both are simple and delicious.

Trattoria Mario– a hole in the wall right by the market in the old part of Florence. Simple, daily changing food according to whats fresh on the market. Open only for lunch so be patient while waiting for your table as it is on a first come first serve basis. Your wait will be rewarded. Communal tables, bread on a napkin and a plastic table cloth await you together with fresh pasta, soup and meat. We opted for the local specialty Bistecca Florentina, 33 Euro/kg, when a portion is about 900gr or so (yes we shared…); it is a beautiful cut, a T-bone, grilled to a perfect medium-rare; the specialty is not only in the grilling but in the local cows :) Eating with your hands is encouraged…

Address: 2 Via Rosina  Tel: 055 – 218550

WWW: http://trattoriamario.com/

Gusta Pizza on via Maggio the corner of via de’Michelozzi (on the opposite side of the Arno) – the tables are made of wine barrels, the menu consists of less than ten types of pizza and it is oh so good! We had the Calabrese and the Gusto which had lots of fresh tomatoes, rucola, olive oil and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.

Address: 46R via Maggio  Tel: 055285068

Hotel: Relais Campanile, the most expensive and the only bad hotel we stayed at throughout our holiday – it was noisy, the AC did not work so it made it difficult to close the windows, the window faced the back terrace of a bar, mosquitos were a real pain and breakfast was a joke.

San Gimignano

The world ice cream champion, the only icecream shop on the main piazza in San Gimignano that does not have chairs (or tables) outside. It is the best ice cream I have ever had. Three times ;)

I do encourage you to taste a local specialty which has nothing to do with ice cream…Wild Boar, they are plentiful in the area (we saw some running in the vineyards) and many shops offer salami and other ways of preparation; they are also served in restaurants.

Volterra

La Vecchia Lira –they have a counter where you point at the things that look good (and they all do…) and take them for to go or eat in; they also have a sit down menu which is worth exploring. We chose the papardelle with wild boar ragu and let me tell you it beats spaghetti Bolognese on any day!

Address: 19 via Matteotti  Tel: 0588 86180

Hotel: we stayed at the lovely Fattoria San Donato, about 15 minutes drive from San Gimignano. Nice rooms, very hospitable owners, beautiful views and delicious breakfast. If you go there and they are serving dinner don’t pass on it under any circumstances!!!

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Bologna and Venice

Filed under: Italy,Travel — lovemyfood @ 7:24 pm
 

 

Bologna

 
 

The city many people overlook and not bother visiting – what a mistake! The city is beautiful and lively, being a student town many bars and places that are open late, many cheap and good eats. One is a “by the slice” pizza place, Pizza Gingio, right in the center of the university and party district on via Rizzoli where it reaches the piazza with the two towers (it meets via Castiglione, via Zamboni, via de Giudei). It is an unattractive, unassuming, little place with really good pizza that is open well into the night. The second one is a Gelateria on 1 via San Vitale (there are a couple more locations), Gelateria Gianni, which is also on the same piazza where the two towers are. The number of flavors is huge but do try the Nutella and the Mascarpone ice creams, they were delicious and sepcial.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

The third place is a deli which turns into a self service lunch place, it’s called Tamburini and it’s on 1 via Caprarie. The deli is the type of deli you dream you had by your house while your physician dreads such a development. It has so many delicious things… cheeses, salumi, fresh pastas of all sorts, bread, herbs, oils and much more. We had pasta with Ragu (i.e. Bolognese) which is sort of obvious given that we were in Bologna [to be honest it was exactly the way I expected it to be, good and tasty but nothing out of the ordinary], some ricotta stuffed tortellini and lemon veal which was one of the best ones I’ve had.

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WWW: http://www.gelateriagianni.com/

WWW: http://www.tamburini.com/

 

Hotel: Hotel Paradise right in the center of town, nice and helpful employees, good breakfast, clean and quiet; nothing special décor wise but we didn’t really come for the decor.

Venice

Every website, every book, every traveler warned me that it is practically impossible to find good, fairly priced food in Venice. They were wrong.

You just have to look in the right places; you just have to look deviating from the course of all the tours with their red umbrellas and plastic sunflowers, away from the shopping crowds and the cruise ship passengers – the same deviation that will show you the real, beautiful, aging, crumbling Venice with its laundry hanging across the narrow streets and the dozens of flower pots on every balcony. One place I liked is called Ristorante Giorgione on via Giuseppe Garibaldi corner of Corte Nuova; via Garibaldi is a pedestrian street and there are 3-4 rows of outdoor tables – I had spaghetti with shrimp and Busara sauce which was very nice, my husband accidently ordered steamed seafood…he obviously did not like and he didn’t want to order anything else after that…The second place was shown to us by a nice Italian guy who was working on the Rialto Bridge checking its weakest and strongest points for future repairs and maintenance of the bridge; it was called Ristorante Pizzeria Corte dell Orso and it is somewhere close to the Rialto bridge but I can’t find it online hence don’t have the address. I had a great Branzino, a whole one filleted by the server by my table and hubby had a good pizza.

 

While in Venice we stayed on the neighboring island of Lido which is a small island east of Venice with a beach stretching throughout its length. We stayed in the Hotel des Bains which was wonderful, with big bright rooms, a big terrace where a delicious breakfast was served and a pool; the façade was facing the sea and the back had a view towards Venice. One of the nights we spent having dinner on Lido in Ristorante la Tavernetta on 4 Via Morosini Francesco (Tel: +39 041 770530), nice outdoor sitting with authentic simple food, I had Tagliolini in Saffron sauce with shrimp and zucchini and my husband had the Spaghetti with squid ink and squid.  

 

 

 

 

 

Milano, the Lakes and Verona June 9, 2008

Filed under: Italy,Travel,Uncategorized — lovemyfood @ 8:46 pm

I decided to break the restaurant recommendations into a few posts; this would cover the northern part of Italy we visited.

Milano

We stayed in Milano for a day after our flight from Vancouver and had dinner at a very nice trattoria called Torre Di Pisa which specializes in Toscan food. It is located on a small street with a bunch of other restaurants, many of which have outside tables. The façade is not assuming and the restaurant looks tiny but it actually has two more rooms (all full by the way). It was our first day and we were tired and did not want to fumble with the Italian only menu which was fairly extensive and asked the waiter to bring whatever he thought was good. We got a selection of appetizers including rissoles, salumi and some other things I can’t recall (I was so jet lagged); I had a risotto with asparagus and shrimp which was done perfectly, my husband had some veal scaloppini if I recall correctly. We also had dessert and coffee which was way overpriced (7euros for a doppio espresso!!!) Reservations are absolutely necessary.

Address: Via Fiori Chiari, 21/5, Milano  Tel: 02.874877 / 02.804483

WWW: http://www.trattoriatorredipisa.it/it/home.html

Hotel: We stayed at the Diana Majestic hotel (Sheraton) which was well located and spacious.

Como

Il Caicco is located on Piazza Volta, a lovely piazza in the center of Como.  The Campari portion was very generous, my tagliatelle with Speck and Saffron cream sauce was delicious so was my hubby’s pizza (one of two pages worth of options).  

Address: Piazza Volta 53, Como  Tel: 031-242587

Rota d’Imagna

We stayed at a lovely hotel, the restaurant belongs to it but is not in it (about 50m up the street) and it was amazingly good – they even won some sort of a prize for their ravioli – which was definitely worthy of it. The name is Da Pina and the legendary ravioli are stuffed with pork, beef, raisins and amaretto biscuits (you would have never guessed it unless it was written on the menu) dressed with bacon, sage and butter. We also had the antipasto platter which was delicious and the Pappardelle with Porcini mushrooms.

Address: Get to Rota d’Imagna, when you reach it follow the signs to hotel Miramonti…It’s a small village – you will find the restaurant J Tel:035-868003

WWW: http://www.h-miramonti.it/ristorante.asp?l=en

Hotel: Hotel Miramonti, very modern inside and very clean but its two most important virtues are the balcony each room has with an amazing, unobstructed, view of the valley and the huge deck where a good breakfast is served.

http://www.h-miramonti.it/index.asp?l=en

Lake Garda

It was market day in Salo and we used the opportunity to enjoy a picnic by the lake with some bread and cheese we bought at the market – recommended J

Hotel: Il Nido is a nice little B&B about 15 minutes drive from Lake Garda; its nothing fancy but it is clean and comfortable for a good night sleep after a busy day. Breakfast is good; the restaurant is not. Owners are very nice.

Verona

We got to Verona on a Sunday…a very bad day to look for a good restaurant as the majority of them are closed as everything else is except for large grocery stores and some mostly touristy restaurants you don’t want to visit. In spite of it being a Sunday and lunch coming to its end we managed to find one of the best restaurants we have been to throughout our trip. It’s across the bridge from the old city center but it is worth the short (pretty) walk. Il Burchio – memorize the name! There was a private event inside and all the tables outside were busy…we came back half an hour later and after my hubby told the waiter (who told the chef) that the smell was so good we just couldn’t leave without having lunch there he asked us to wait and organized a table for us. We started with a serving of Tagliatelle with Truffles, I ordered grilled Branzino (Mediterranean sea-bass, delish!) and my husband ordered a trio of meats. After we finished the pasta and the fish my husband said that he does not care if he will feel bad afterwards but another serving of that pasta was in order, we finished that one too – it was just too good to pass on. I could eat that pasta every day… The meat proved to be a difficult task and my husband gave up half way through (it was on the house). We finished our bottle of wine and were ready for dessert – instead of something specific we got a selection of delicious cakes including Zuppa Inglese and Torta della Nonna as well as some dessert wine. I had to have an espresso after that as I was the one driving…If you know when you will be in Verona make a reservation.

Address: Interrato Acqua Morta, 20  Tel: +39 045 8004383

 

 

Bella Italia

Filed under: Italy,Travel,Uncategorized — lovemyfood @ 1:39 pm

You know how it is when you come from vacation – there is a pile of things that need to be done and it takes you about as long as you were away to clear this pile and see the light…? I am no different, and now two weeks later I am almost done and am ready to tell you all about the food in Italy.

Let me start with the basics – when you go to Italy there are a few things you need to know:

Breakfast – there are pastries on the counter in every coffee shop, just take one with a napkin and pay when you are done eating it and having your coffee, many times there is a separate cashier. Note also that the price will change according to your choice of a sitting spot – if you stand (or sit if there are bar stools) at the counter it would be the cheapest option and then the price will rise if you sit at a table and then it will rise again if you sit at an outside table. You are paying for the spot.

Lunch and Dinner:

Coperto – ranging from 50c to 3euros (the average being 2e), is a mandatory charge for bread and service – it exempts you from leaving an additional tip at the end of the meal unless you really want to and service was exceptional or your really liked your server J

Wine – house wines are decent about 80% of the time, especially for a lunch; rarely I saw wines offered “by the glass” but I assume it could be arranged if you insist – it is either 1 liter or ½ (mezzo) which in my opinion is really the way to go as one glass of wine is absolutely not enough!

Antipasti– being the equivalent of our appetizers is either one type of food or a selection of sort, and no, it is not the salad course which is usually presented separately on the menu. I prefer the ones with an assortment of local products which usually include salumi (cured, smoked or cooked meats), a couple of different olives or other brined vegetables, some cheese and a few greens.

 

First course (Primi Piatti) – pasta of all shapes and colors or rice usually in the form of risotto. The portions are of regular main dish size so don’t order more than you can actually eat.

Second (Secondi) course – meat or fish; note that in many cases if it says meat X, that would be the only thing on the plate unless you order a side dish (Contorni) and many times it would be thinly sliced rather than a thick piece.

I don’t think an explanation about dessert is necessary.

Coffee comes after dessert not before or during! And it is always an espresso or a macchiato, never a cappuccino with all the heavy milk after a large meal.

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Out there between Lunch and Dinner, at about 6pm, its time for an aperitif. Many businesses offer the drinkers standing by the bar some snacks  to keep people from getting too drunk too early…Those often include cheese, some sort of salumi, peanuts, chips, little sandwiches and are all free for you to enjoy with your Campari&Soda, Wine or Spritz which is made of either Aperol, Campari, Select or Cynar and mixed with White Wine or Prosecco and Sparkling Mineral Water. Napoleon Bonaparte donated Venice to the Austrians because he had too much difficulty gaining control over the island. The Austrians drank a lot and the Venetians mixed their wine with water. This they called Spritz. Later on they added one of the four liquors described above to come to the Spritz as it is drunk nowadays (wikipedia).

Ice cream – not a single day should go by without you having an ice cream while on vacation in Italy.

AN ICE CREAM A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY!

It is delicious and not so sugary as many of the ice creams sold in North America, more over – traditional Gelato is milk based (rather than cream) which makes it so much more figure friendly. Try some conventional but delicious flavors like Pistachio or Strawberry but don’t forget the ones you will not see anywhere else like Zuppa Inglese (a type of cake really) or Wild Strawberry (Fragoline di bosco).

Coffee (=espresso) – it is always good, always strong and should be consumed a few times a day especially in colder weather. Normal pricing would be between 80c and 1.5 euros. If it is more – you are being ripped off.

Markets – if you have the opportunity to go, you should. Whether to stock up on some goodies before you leave or to get some stuff for a little picnic lunch or just for fun. The variety will make Whole Foods jealous and the prices are so low you will be sorry you can’t eat a whole wheel of cheese in one day.