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Restaurant prices in Bellagio, Lake Como

Looking at a receipt dated 5/2012 from Ristorante Silvio, primi were €8,50 and secondi were €15,00. A glass of house red was €3,00, and a bottle of Roero Arneis was €13,00. The other two restaurants at which we dined were about 25 percent more expensive than this one. I guess you could get by on €30/day if you were careful.

Mar 25, 2014
Il Duomo in Italy

Recommendations - Whirlwind Rome / Florence / Venice Food Tour

Based on all the research that you’ve already done, which restaurants in Rome, Florence, and Venice do you find appealing?

You’ll receive much more feedback if you broach the topic with specific questions about certain restaurants, rather then dealing with generalities such as “must eat” and “off the beaten path”. For example, in Rome, Mesob fits both criteria perfectly, but I doubt it’s what you seek.

Mar 24, 2014
Il Duomo in Italy

What food related items do you tuck in to your luggage?

You mean the "balsamic condiment" sold at Acetaia Villa San Donnino? They sell it through their website. If they ship to Australia there's no need to declare anything. Just for the record, my wife likes Nerone better than their extravecchio balsamic vinegar.

Sep 10, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

Orvieto: I Sette Consoli

Thanks for the reply, Elizabeth.

I used to feel confident about tipping, but now I’m confused. The Chowhound consensus on tipping seems to be that, when paying in cash, one may leave coins at a trattoria and five to ten percent of the bill at a ristorante. When paying with a credit card, one may not leave anything at a trattoria because typically there isn’t a tip line on the receipt. This generally matches that what Italians have told us, who often add that while tips are appreciated, they are never expected.

I was under the impression that service is always included in Italy, and we have never been told in any other trattoria or ristorante that service was in addition to the bill. To us, it seemed as if the waitress was trying to take advantage of us. Do you think we misread the situation?

Sep 02, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

Orvieto: I Sette Consoli

Photos from I Sette Consoli:
1. Tripe
2. Tortellini
3. Roasted Umbrian goat
4. Pigeon
5. Gorgonzola

Sep 01, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

Orvieto: I Sette Consoli

Finally, my overdue report from Orvieto:

I Sette Consoli’s unassuming front door is tucked snuggly into the corner of Piazza San’t Angelo off of Corso Cavour. Had my wife and I not read about it on Chowhound, or been told about it by our Umbrian hosts, I doubt that we would have found it, as there are no clues to its existence other than a menu posted discretely within its anonymous entry.

When we arrived, we were given a table in the rear room, which appeared to be the only indoor dining space in the restaurant. The night of May 31, 2013 was cold and raw so their garden, which we had seen in photos, wasn’t open. This was disappointing for two reasons: 1) because I wanted to see it to understand how such a seemingly large space could be so well hidden from the streets outside, and 2) because the garden’s lush lawn and delicate gazebo draped with white linens, looked irresistibly quaint and inviting. In comparison, the interior, although well appointed and comfortable, made me feel as if it was indifferent to the diners that ate within its space. This wasn’t much of a concern, as the food made me feel very welcome shortly after our arrival.

Our meal started with tripe and tortellini. The tripe, which was roughly chopped and mixed with cannellini beans and tomato sauce, was neatly piled into a disk, upon which was balanced a wide strip of crispy phyllo and a sprig of parsley. We have had tripe prepared similar ways many times before, but the addition of the crispy phyllo dough reinvented the dish for us; its satisfying crunch gave every bite a little extra interest. The addition of a texture that contrasted with that of the tripe seemed like such a simple idea, and yet we wondered why no one else had thought to prepare a dish of tripe in a similar manner. Our other primo was a shallow bowl of five plump pork tortellini, which were served under a “ratatouille” of finely diced zucchini, mushroom, and onion and a drizzle of olive oil. When it comes to pasta, we prefer those that aren’t stuffed with things, so we weren’t terribly excited about the tortellini when we order them. However, if every tortellino were as good as the five that I Sette Consoli prepared, we would feel differently about stuffed pasta. These tortellini were excellent.

In fact, both primi were so good that we took a second look at the menu to search for items that had tempted us during our first look, but were ultimately passed-over. We settled on ricotta stuffed zucchini blossoms. The lightly battered and fried blossoms were very good, although I don’t think we would have missed them had we not ordered them.

If it were possible to devour things with your eyes, our secondi wouldn’t have lasted more than a minute. We shared Umbrian kid goat with roasted potatoes and spinach and pigeon with chopped carrots, zucchini, and snap peas. A roasted goat rib and chop were placed over a pile of roasted potatoes and wilted spinach, over all of which was a drizzle of sauce made from what remained in the pan in which the goat was cooked. Everything on the plate was excellent, and the goat was so fantastic that I found it difficult to not gnaw on the rib like I was at a backyard BBQ. The pigeon, which was covered in a slightly sweet and spicy glaze, was perfectly cooked: the skin was slightly crisp, and the meat was juicy and tender. The snap peas, carrots, and zucchini, which appear blanched and overcooked in the photo below, were still slightly crisp and were a nice clean accompaniment to the pigeon. We weren’t able to decide which we liked more: our primi or our secondi.

For dessert, our curiosity drove us to order a plate of creamy Gorgonzola on which was shaved dark chocolate and a sprinkle of crushed Szechuan peppercorns. Such a strange combination of ingredients, yet the three came together admirably. The peppercorns provoked an extra level of salivation that cut through the thick creaminess of the cheese, and the dark chocolate provided a bit of sweetness to balance out the saltiness of the Gorgonzola. In addition to be being very good, it was the sort of innovative dish that one enjoys eating as each bite is novel and unexpected.

The only hic-up of the night occurred when our waitress brought the check at the end of the meal. The check itself wasn’t a problem. The total, which included a bottle of water and a bottle of local white wine, was only 105€. In Rome, the bill would have been fifty percent more. The problem was that the waitress told us that service was not included. Since my wife and I spoke in Italian to our waitress all night, we thought that our waitress should have realized that we weren’t so naïve when it came to tipping in Italy. I guess she figured that it was unlikely that we’d ever return, and that she had nothing to lose by hoping that we left an additional twenty percent. Although it was an unfortunate end to an excellent meal, we’d still go back, and we’d still recommend I Sette Consoli to anyone with the caveat noted above.

Sep 01, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

Rome Report (long)

It's as if we took the same trip: Roscioli, Il Forno Campo, Il Sorpasso, and I Sette Consoli in Orvieto. What did you have at I Sette Consoli? My wife and I had a different experience there. Hoping to complete a report for it soon.

Jul 19, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

ROME Report: Roscioli, Antico Arco, La Gensola, Perilli, Checchino, Sorpasso, and my impressions on Carbonara

And the photos...

Carbonara at Roscioli,
Fillet of Veal and Cacio e Pepe at Antico Arco,
Spaghetti alla Colatura di Alici at La Gensola,
Carbonara at Perilli,
Carbonara and Grilled Offal at Checchino, and
Cacio e Pepe and Bollito alla Picchiapò at Sorpasso

Jul 13, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

ROME Report: Roscioli, Antico Arco, La Gensola, Perilli, Checchino, Sorpasso, and my impressions on Carbonara

I’ll try to keep this brief, as all of the trattorie and ristoranti at which my wife and I ate last May have already been thoroughly discussed on this board. Think of my report as another data point rather than a detailed account fit for the food and wine section of your local paper.

Roscioli: Having missed Roscioli on each of our previous visits to Rome, we anticipated our reservation here more than any other reservation that we made, and we were not disappointed. We started with Amatriciana and Carbonara, and we shared a terrine of foie gras and a plate of meatballs as our secondi. As a side, we ordered Misticanza Romana, a salad of field herbs that shouldn’t be confused with common salad greens. It should be no surprise to hear that the Amatriciana and Carbonara (photo and more at the end) stole the show; both were extraordinary, although I should mention that both were the slightest slightest bit too al dente for us. Of our secondi, we both preferred the meatballs, which is not to say that we didn’t like the terrine of foie gras. The foie gras, which was served with poached pears and grilled bread, was very good, but the meatballs were simply more memorable. Perhaps it was the unexpected discovery of a smoky flavor in the tomato sauce that accompanied them? As for the Misticanza Romana, it was spare and dressed only with olive oil and salt, but its humbleness made it unique and special. The bill was 110€, and it included bread, bottled water, and an inexpensive bottle of Cesanese.

Antico Arco: I think I understand why Antico Arco is popular among Italians: the service is warm and attentive, the plates are attractive and attentively composed, and the menu is varied and different from what might be found elsewhere. I assume Antico Arco offers Italians an alternative to the typical Roman fare found throughout Rome. As a visitor to Rome, I wish we realized before we arrived that all we truly wanted was typical Roman fare. To be clear, this isn’t a criticism of Antico Arco’s menu, rather a word of caution to others who have similar taste. As for our meal, the majority of it was quite good. As secondi, we had steak tartar and a fillet of veal glazed with honey (photo). Despite not being exactly what we wanted, both were very good, although the veal was slightly over-cooked. Our primi were disappointing. The pasta in our Amatriciana and Cacio e Pepe (photo) were both well cooked—each were al dente—but the sauces were not what we expected. The sauce for the Amatriciana was thin and watery, and it seemed to us that guanciale had been replaced with what appeared to be bacon. Perhaps this was a trendy substitution, but I’ve never cared for bacon in this dish. Similarly, maybe the overwhelming Alfredo-like sauce that I found on the Cacio e Pepe was simply an interpretation of the sauce found on the classic? Including an antipasto of delicious stuffed calamari, outstanding bread, bottled water, and a bottle of moderately priced wine, the total was 143€.

La Gensola: During our previous trip to Rome in 2010, we had a very memorable dinner and experience at La Gensola, and we hoped that our second visit would be just as wonderful. Regrettably, our lofty expectations fell somewhat flat. We started very well: the Polpettine di Tono were just as good as the ones we had in 2010, and my Spaghetti alla Colatura di Alici (photo) were simply outstanding. After that, things started to turn. My wife’s paccheri with monkfish ragu was perfectly fine, but the tomato-based ragu was under seasoned and a little bland. Similarly, the tomato-based sauce on my secondo of monkfish cheeks was also flat. A better sauce would have saved both dishes. My wife’s secondo needed more than just a better sauce. Her Trippa alla Romana, which admittedly isn’t an item in which La Gensola specializes, was categorized as merely average. Our meal, including a second antipasto, bread, bottled water, and a bottle of moderately priced wine was 114€.

Perilli: Perilli is old school. We saw a grainy black and white photo of Perilli’s interior that dated to the middle of the last century, and it appeared as if the photo had been taken the week before we visited; the interior had hardly changed in the many years that had elapsed, and I’m willing to bet that their food has remained unchanged too. We started with Amatriciana and Carbonara (photo); both were excellent, and both rivaled their counterpart at Roscioli. The Trippa alla Romana was outstanding, and the roasted pork with potatoes was well done, but not to the same level of excellence as the other dishes. We loved Perilli, not just for their pastas and tripe, but also for its atmosphere and service, which was warm and friendly. Including marinated artichokes and stuffed zucchini antipasti, bread, bottled water, and a bottle of inexpensive wine, dinner was 95€.

Checchino dal 1887: Elizabeth Minchilli was right to describe the service at Checchino as “weirdly formal.” My wife and I found the service very pleasant, but it felt as if they were trying too hard. No matter. Pay no attention to the service and focus on the Roman dishes that can be found in few other places. We started with Fagioli con le Contiche (beans stewed in pork fat) because it looked fantastic when the family seated next to us the previous night at Perilli ordered it. Checchino’s version was mostly pork fat, and unsurprisingly it tasted like fat. It wasn’t our thing, but I was glad that we tried it. Just like the Amatriciana and Carbonara at Roscioli and Perilli, the Amatriciana and Carbonara (photo) at Checchino were also fantastic. My wife ordered the mixed grilled offal (photo), which consisted of pajata (veal intestine still filled with milk), sweetbreads, liver, and testicle; I ordered the Coda alla Vaccinara. Both were excellent, and I was surprised that I really liked the pajata (my wife loved the whole dish). Our next visit to Rome will definitely include another visit to Checchino. The bill, including bread, bottled water, and a bottle of inexpensive wine, was 98€.

Sorpasso: Having made plans to spend the day around Vatican City, we had lunch at Sorpasso, which was only a few blocks from Piazza San Pietro. We ate a bit of this and a bit of that: Pizze e Fojje (sautéed polenta cubes and greens), Cacio e Pepe (photo), Polpette al Sugo, and Bollito alla Picchiapò (photo). The polenta and greens, which were similar to chard or kale (I can’t remember exactly what they were), were OK—I’m not sure I liked the textures of the two together. I had never had this dish before so I couldn’t make any distinctions between it and other preparations. To the contrary, I’m very familiar with Cacio e Pepe, and Sorpasso’s Cacio e Pepe was classic and outstanding; Antico Arco should take notice. The meatballs were very good, although not as good as the ones at Roscioli, and the Bollito alla Picchiapò was excellent. If you’re in the neighborhood, there’s no reason not to come here; and if you’re not, it would be worth the walk. Including a glass of wine, bread, and bottled water, the lunch was 42€.

Carbonara: Having eaten Carbonara at Roscioli, Perilli, and Checchino dal 1887—three restaurants consistently recommended to people seeking excellent Carbonara—I thought I’d wade into the never-ending discussion of where one can find the best Carbonara in Rome. Each was excellent and traditional. Each of the pastas was well cooked and sauced, and all the ingredients were of excellent quality. I would happily eat any of the three Carbonare for the rest of my life without complaint. However, I keep thinking about the Carbonara at Roscioli, particularly the large chunks of guanciale. Their fat had been rendered, and they were crisp as if they had been fried. And when the chucks were chewed, the crispness gave way to the most satisfying chewiness. Divine. I know that I said at the top of the post that I thought the pasta was too al dente, but the guanciale and the rich velvety sauce that coated the pasta were irresistible. So, add another tally on the scoreboard for Roscioli, but know that any of the three are worth the trouble of making an effort to find them.

Il Duomo

The photos aren't uploading correctly; I'll try to add them later.

Jul 13, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

Dinner in Bologna and Modena

I understand the context of your suggestion perfectly well now, barberinibee. My wife and I have strolled though many Italian markets lamenting our lack of a kitchen. Previously, I thought that your suggestion to find an accommodation with a kitchen was an indictment of Bologna's dining scene. Thanks for your post.

Feb 12, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

Dinner in Bologna and Modena

Thanks for the recommendations, ttoommyy. Were you able to find the name of the trattoria that you mentioned in your last post? If you're able to reply with a name, thanks in advance. If not, thanks all the same for your help.

Feb 12, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

Dinner in Bologna and Modena

@ttoommyy

Thanks for your two cents. I think we'll cease to second guess ourselves and proceed with our plan to spend five nights in Bologna. Aside from the places already mentioned in this discussion, do you have any favorite trattorie in Bologna?

Jan 22, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

Dinner in Bologna and Modena

@Barberinibee

My wife and I are considering a seven-night stay in Emilia Romagna, principally because we want to sample the food that makes the region famous. We were thinking that we might spend two nights in the vicinity of Parma and spend the remainder in Bologna. Our rational for spending five nights in one place is that we’d rather not waste time hauling luggage, and we’d prefer to familiarize ourselves well with one city, rather than briefly visit several. And our rational for choosing Bologna is that it’s the largest city in the area and should therefore have more worthy dining options than other cities. However, your recommendation for anyone staying in Bologna more than a few nights to seek accommodations with a kitchen makes us wonder about our choices. It’s unlikely we’ll have a kitchen, and we won’t have a car. Should we look at different cities, or should we be prepared to hop around in order to find excellent meals?

Jan 20, 2013
Il Duomo in Italy

MILAN Report: L'Assassino, Manna, and Damm-atrà

My pleasure! I hope it works out for you.

Aug 01, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

MILAN Report: L'Assassino, Manna, and Damm-atrà

No, they definitely weren’t the silvery-white, vinegary kind. To me, they appeared to be the type that is simply packed in oil, possibly salt. It’s hard to say because they had been broken down so much. The menu identified them as alici marinate. Perhaps I shouldn’t have described them as marinated in my original post, as alici marinate may not translate directly to marinated anchovies.

Aug 01, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

MILAN Report: L'Assassino, Manna, and Damm-atrà

Here’s a photo of the passatelli and anchovy ragù. It’s a little blurry, but if you decide to give it a try, take a close look; you might be able to find some clues to its preparation if you squint.

Jul 30, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

Three nights in MILAN: Are these restaurants worthy?

Thanks again for your suggestions. I posted a report from our trip here:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/860751

Jul 28, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

MILAN Report: L'Assassino, Manna, and Damm-atrà

Ciao tutti! My wife and I were in Milan for three nights at the end of May, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. To show our gratitude for the helpful recommendations that we received from this forum, here’s our report:

Ristorante L’Assassino; Thursday, 31 May 2012

I became nervous that we made a poor choice when we entered Ristorante L'Assassino at 9pm because there wasn’t a single diner to be seen. But when the hostess led us to the building's courtyard, I felt somewhat relieved. There, we discovered an elegant, arched portico ringing the courtyard and several occupied tables along one side. Although the few full tables didn't offset all the empty ones inside, I felt more confident in our decision. This decision to dine at L'Assassino was partially made due to our desire to experience Milan's fashion-forward culture, and the restaurant delivered this. The appearance of the other diners fit my preconceived notions of how well-dressed Milanese should be, especially the gentleman who wore Wayfarer sunglasses throughout the night. And the food, as we would come to discover, was diligently composed on its plate and refined (in a way appropriate for Milan) and not pretentiously deconstructed or re-imagined.

Our server welcomed us with complimentary glasses of rosé prosecco and miniature potato frittatas the size of a 2€ coin. The frittatas were moist and spongy and placed on plates with streaks of orange and green colored sauces. As we sipped our prosecco, we reviewed the lengthy menu and made our selections, albeit at a leisurely pace that seemed to surprise our server.

We started with beef carpaccio topped with shaved fennel and roasted cauliflower that was drizzled with olive oil and topped with pomegranate seeds and a pea flan garnished with fennel fronds that “floated” in a creamy tomato sauce. The flan was delicate, and its sauce was bright and rich. Although the flan didn't boldly assert a pea flavor, I still enjoyed it. The beef carpaccio was served as a thinly pounded fillet of beef, but my wife found it tough despite its tenderized appearance. Regardless, she found the unexpected combination of flavors a treat.

As secondi, we had slow-cooked pork knuckle with millefoglie di patate and veal ossobuco with risotto alla Milanese. The browned ossobuco was fork tender, flavorful, and covered in dark, rich braising liquid that was thickened. The risotto, which had a warm, yellow color thanks to the saffron, was creamy and homogenous, although the individual grains still had a pleasing, slight chewiness. The slow-cooked pork knuckle had a well-caramelized exterior and great flavor, but its interior was slightly overcooked and should have been juicier given the cut of meat.

At the end of the meal, our server brought us complimentary, bite-sized "brownies" with walnuts that were accompanied by two shot glasses filled with whipped cream and blueberries. Although the relationship between the whipped cream and the brownies wasn’t clear to us, the brownies were fudgy and were a satisfying finish to a very good meal. The bill, including a bottle of Castello di Grumello's 2005 Valcalepio, was 134€.

Manna Ristorante; Friday, 1 June 2012

One glance at Manna Ristorante's menu was enough to convince us that a trip outside Milan’s center would be worth the risk. To provide context, my wife and I enjoy walking everywhere when we’re in Europe, so choosing a restaurant that required us to take a taxi to reach it was unusual for us (the fare was about 12€ from La Scala); obviously, we entered Manna with high expectations. We were greeted at the door by the hospitable host, who turned out to be one of our servers, and also the head chef. The bright room in which we were seated felt somewhat spare, and the high ceiling accentuated the effect. But when another server brought us menus and complimentary glasses of prosecco, I turned my attention away from the room and towards our dinner. The menu was full of playfully named dishes like Però, hai fegato! and Riassunto di bovino (Hardcore Version), and it presented us many tempting options. We made our selections, ordered a bottle of Ciro Picariello's Irpinia Aglianico, and started our meal.

As an antipasto, my wife started with calf's liver topped with bacon and onions (Però, hai fegato!), which was served over salsa bianca. The liver was firm and silky, and it tasted sweet and rich, unlike other liver that I find too metallic in taste. The risotto mantecato (Il prosciutto lo porto io), which was my primo, was dressed with a spiral of port reduction and sprinkled with crisped bits of prosciutto. The salty prosciutto balanced the sweet port reduction well, and the risotto was a great blank canvas, but I found the textural contrast between the super crisp prosciutto and creamy risotto much too sharp. My wife ordered Nel paese delle meraviglie: passatelli (a pasta formed from bread crumbs, eggs, parmesan cheese, and nutmeg) with a ragù of marinated anchovies, dill, and fresh chili peppers. I thought the passatelli were mushy; inexplicably, my wife thought they were still firm and al dente. I can't explain our divergent opinions, but I can report that my wife loved the dish and its strong sea flavor.

As a secondo, I ordered pork cheeks braised in white wine that were served with slightly wilted watercress. The greens were more of a garnish than a side, but their bitterness cut through the fatty richness of the three cheeks that were sauced with white wine. The dish appeared simple, but was carefully executed, and completely delicious. The Riassunto di bovino was a composed plate of overlooked cow parts: heart, sweetbread, oxtail, and kidney that were arranged in a line on a square plate. Starting with the heart, it possessed a flavor so intense it was as if all the flavor in a steak was concentrated into a morsel of beef. The sweetbread was simply seared and deliciously creamy, and the oxtail was chopped and incorporated into a crispy, fried crochet. The kidney was cubed and pierced with a skewer and placed in a shot glass filled with an identified mousse. Each of the items was fantastic. For dessert, we ordered a half portion of pork cheeks, which was one of the items on Manna’s menu that could be ordered in such a manner. We appreciated this flexibility, and we imagine that people interested in trying several dishes would too.

Although a visit to Manna required extra effort, it was entirely worthwhile, and despite my criticisms of the primi, this was our best meal in Milan (possibly our best meal in Italy). Beyond the food, we were charmed by the chef, who checked on us throughout our meal and even chased after us to the street to simply say thanks for our visit. The bill, including wine, was 95€, which seemed inexpensive compared to the other restaurants at which we ate.

Ristorante Damm-atrà; Saturday, 2 June 2012

On our last night, we walked to Ristorante Damm-atrà, a boisterous, neighborhood restaurant that was located a few paces from one of Navigli’s canals. We sought unassuming, traditional Milanese cuisine, and we heard that Damm-atrà offered exactly this. The restaurant’s atmosphere was a subdued version of the atmosphere that swirled around the streets and bars that ran parallel to the canal—it wasn’t of a rambunctious quality, but of a more jovial one. We ordered a few glasses of wine and waited for our antipasto to arrive.

The antipasto that we shared was called Misto Milanese: a giant platter of fried meatballs, fried polenta, fried potato skins, chisolini (Italian fried dough), and a cup of nervetti. Aside from the nervetti and chisolini, the platter was one-dimensional and overwhelming composed of mediocre potato skins (as an aside, we found excellent fried potato skins at Fioraio Bianchi Caffe, a great spot for aperitivo). To be clear, there was nothing wrong with the platter, it just wasn't exciting. Next, we shared a primo of pumpkin tortelli (which was easily large enough to be divided between us) that was generously tossed in melted butter, fried sage, grana padano, and pancetta. It was good—what’s not to like about pasta with melted butter, cheese, and pancetta?—but it wasn't especially unique.

For our secondi, we ate ossobuco alla Milanese with saffron risotto and cotoletta ben battuta alla milanese di maiale. Damm-atrà offered several different takes on cotoletta: pork or veal and ben battuta or non battuta (well-flattened or not flattened). Our kind server said that the well-flattened cotoletta of pork was the most traditional, and I ordered that. I'd love to know how they were able to flatten my pork chop to the approximate thickness and size and of a shovel blade. And I'd also like to know how they were able to keep such a thin piece of pork from drying out. Maybe it was the butter in which it was fried? And maybe it was the butter that made it so good! The cotoletta was served with roasted potatoes and a small collection of mixed vegetables that resembled a salad, but I didn't touch them—I had eaten too much. My wife's ossobuco alla Milanese was a more humble and approachable version of the one that I enjoyed at L'Assassino. The sauce was much thinner, the meat wasn’t browned, and the risotto wasn't as rich, but it was still a solid dish on its own merits.

In the end, Damm-atrà delivered exactly that what we sought: uncomplicated, classic, Milanese fare. It wasn't as good as L'Assassino or Manna, and some of the dishes weren't homeruns, but Damm-atrà dishes were dependable and accessible. Our last dinner in Milan cost 84€.

Jul 28, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

Italia Trip September_Rome to Venice_Middle to Top

In Venice, which Al Garanghelo are you considering? There are two, and I can't recommend the one at which I recently ate.

Jul 09, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

Traveling through Northern Italy

Not sure what sort of restaurants you’re seeking in Milan, but I would recommend each of the places where my wife and I had dinner while on vacation last month. I haven’t had the time to write a report yet, but check out Ristorante L’Assassino, Manna Ristorante, and Ristorante Damm-atrà. I would describe the food at L’Assassino and Manna as refined Milanese cuisine. Damm-atrà also serves Milanese cuisine, but it’s much more humble and traditional.

Are you going to Lake Como, or the city of Como?

Jul 04, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

VENICE Report: Ostaria Al Garanghelo, La Zucca, Antiche Carampane

We saw the menu that was posted in Il Ridotto's window, and it looked promising. You should be in great shape. Buon appetito!

Jun 28, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

Sending something back in Paris

If I could rewrite this post, I would omit the fact that the pork loin was recommended by our server, as it appears that I’m attempting to shift the blame to him. To clarify, the pork was tough (but within the limits of acceptability), and the dish was fine (but it didn’t appeal to my wife). When we asked for something else, we expected to be charged for both items, and we thought the bistro was correct to do so. We very rarely send anything back to the kitchen, so this experience made me wonder: Should we have expected different treatment? Based on the responses here, I would say definitely not! As I now understand, one should expect to be comped only when a dish is egregiously flawed or contains undisclosed ingredients that would cause an allergic reaction. Allow me one other question. When we politely asked for a replacement dish, our server’s surprise gave us the impression that our request was most unusual. Was it? Is it unusual or rude to ask for something else based on personal taste in Paris?

Jun 27, 2012
Il Duomo in France

Sending something back in Paris

At a Parisian bistro, my wife asked our server for his impressions on the following two main courses that were tearing her in two directions: beef tartar (the dish that she loves) and pork loin (the dish that was tempting her). He recommended the pork, and she accepted his advice. But when the pork loin arrived, she found it tough and not to her liking, and she immediately regretted that she hadn’t picked the other. She told our server that she wasn’t happy, and she asked for a second main course of beef tartar. Our server was incredulous. It was as if we had thrown a glass of red wine on his crisp, white shirt. I have two questions: 1. When is it acceptable to send something back? Can one send something back if they simply don’t like it? Or must it be over-cooked, over-salted, etc.? 2. If one sends something back in Paris, how should one expect the restaurant to handle the bill? This particular Parisian bistro charged us for both items. Thanks for your thoughts.

Jun 26, 2012
Il Duomo in France

VENICE Report: Ostaria Al Garanghelo, La Zucca, Antiche Carampane

We happened to walk by the trattoria around 1130am, and there were half a dozen people prepping things and milling around. If you call, try calling at that time.

Jun 26, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

VENICE Report: Ostaria Al Garanghelo, La Zucca, Antiche Carampane

jinx: You're welcome. Our bed-and-breakfast was located in Antiche Carampane’s neighborhood, and our hostess said that she had a good relationship with them—she made the reservation on our behalf the day before we had dinner there. I’d suggest doing the same, or making a reservation in person when you arrive. I would make the reservation at least three days in advance if you’d like to eat later than 800pm. I’m not surprised they aren’t responsive to your emails; I don’t think email is their preferred method of doing business.

Jun 25, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

VENICE Report: Ostaria Al Garanghelo, La Zucca, Antiche Carampane

PBSF: Thanks for addressing my curiosity and clearing the issue. Given the quality of everything else at Antiche Carampane, I would have been very surprised to learn that they relied on frozen items. I was confused by this issue because a search on the internet seemed to indicate that the season for moeche would have ended a few weeks before our visit. I should have been skeptical about my source because I saw moeche at the Pescheria. Let me ask: When is the season for moeche, and does it very substantially from year to year?

Jun 25, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

VENICE Report: Cicchetti

During our trip to Venice from 22 May to 24 May, one of my and my wife's favorite activities was to visit the barcari and osterie that served cicchetti. We visited for lunch, we visited before dinner, and we even visited in the morning to supplement the breakfast that was served by our hostess. Below are our impressions of the places that we patronized.

Cantina do Mori, found on one of the back alleys near the Rialto Market, was our first stop. Inside its dim, rustic interior we found a decent, straightforward selection of cicchetti: baccala mantecato on rounds of bread and sarde in soar (which were consistently good everywhere), assorted tramezzini, meatballs, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs with anchovy. We returned each day, sometimes twice, not necessarily because the cicchetti and wine were extraordinary, but because we liked the staff and the ambiance. The gentleman who worked behind the bar recognized us each morning and humored our imperfect Italian. It felt as if we found a neighborhood bar.

To compare, we thought the food was better at Cantina do Spade, which was several doors away from Cantina do Mori. We went to Cantina do Spade twice and enjoyed the food both times, but we felt awkward and uncomfortable with the staff. Compared to Cantina do Mori, the cicchetti was more varied and a step or two beyond simple tramezzini or cheese. There were grilled or stuffed squid, crab legs, grilled vegetables, and seafood risotto as well as the Venetian standards like sarde and baccala.

Also near the Rialto Market was Bancogiro, and its location on a campo adjacent to the Grand Canal will allow you to overlook the tourists that occupy all the tables (tourists were the minority at each of the other places that we visited). We typically equate restaurants that offer unparalleled views with restaurants that serve unremarkable food, but the cicchetti were excellent and different than the standard line. We sampled the sarde in soar, and we also ate roasted eggplant, octopus, and lardo salad on grilled polenta, and baccala mantecato (lumpier and less creamy than elsewhere, which wasn’t bad, only different) on a square of squid ink polenta, which was far better than baccala on bread. Compared to the other bacari and osterie, one should expect mechanical (albeit professional) service given Bancogiro’s propensity to attract tourists.

Although we considered Cantina do Mori to be our neighborhood bacaro, our favorite spot for cicchetti was at Osteria La Bottega Ai Promessi Sposi, inconspicuously located off of Strada Nova. The front was small and crowded, and each evening groups of men would pop in for a glass of wine and a snack as they fraternized more and delayed their trip home. It all seemed very Italian. Behind the glass case, there were platters of sarde in saor, baccala mantecato, grilled peppers, meatballs, and various plates of sardines and anchovies. The sarde in soar and baccala were the best of all the places that we visited. The acidity and sweetness of the saor was perfectly balanced and the sardines were relieved of their fishiness, and the baccala was whipped so well that it mimicked mayonnaise. The staff was overwhelming friendly and even willing to list the ingredients in the sarde in soar despite the crowd. And to top it off, their house red wine was only 0.80€ per glass and perfectly drinkable.

Farther down Strada Nova, we found Osteria al Bomba and La Cantina. The former was probably the osteria equivalent of an American dive bar. Although the owners were friendly and engaging, we didn’t find the cicchetti that tempting or the ambiance that stimulating. We tried Osteria al Bomba’s sarde in saor, which was comparable to all the others and a warm spinach “cake” topped with parmesan, which was watery and bland. If Osteria al Bomba was a dive bar, then La Cantina was the equivalent of an American wine bar. It had a refined-rustic sort of style that so many new establishments in San Francisco attempt to recreate. Their cicchetti focused on salumi, cheese, and fish. Unfortunately, these items didn’t appeal much to my wife, so we only stayed for a quick drink and a snack of sashimi (I can’t remember the type of fish) topped with shaved radish, olive oil, and finely chopped parsley on a round of bread—very fresh and clean and definitely the prettiest piece of cicchetto that we found. Based on my limited sample, I wanted to return, but it wasn’t in the cards.

Also in the Strada Nova neighborhood was Osteria Ca’ D’Oro, which seemed to be the most popular among the group that we visited. Many customers here brought their wine and plates of cicchetti outside and placed them gingerly on windowsills or any other available surface. This was done not so much because the evening air was warm and inviting (which it was), but because the crowd in front of the trays of cicchetti at the front of the house occupied all the prime interior space. Osteria Ca D’Oro offered the types of cicchetti that we found elsewhere in Venice, as well as a wide selection of fried items like meatballs, sardines, anchovies, and calamari. The quality of the cicchetti was as good as Osteria La Bottega Ai Promessi Sposi’s, and if not for the crowd, we would have gone more than once.

And finally: Pronto Pesce. It’s last because it didn't fit well with the other establishments mentioned here, nor did it belong in my report of Venetian restaurants. However, its last place position is no indication of the quality of the fish that Pronto Pesce prepared, which was excellent. Maybe this should be expected given Pronto Pesce's location adjacent to the Rialto Market, which allows one to watch the fishmongers prep their catch from the shop’s window. We did just this with glasses of wine and plates of terrific seafood on two separate occasions. Pronto Pesce offered typical cicchetti like sarde in saor and baccala mantecato (both were excellent) as well as more extravagant cicchetti like moeche (soft-shell crabs, which unfortunately were overdressed with olive oil). However, Pronto Pesce’s specialties were its prepared fish, two of which could not have been served in portions large enough to satisfy us. The first was branzino with celery, carrots, olives, and ample rosemary and olive oil. And the second was salmon with roasted potatoes, celery, grapes, fennel seed, and olive oil. Although we were in Venice three weeks ago, we still think about those two dishes.

Jun 25, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

VENICE Report: Ostaria Al Garanghelo, La Zucca, Antiche Carampane

For the benefit of the Chowhound community, here's my report on the restaurants that my wife and I visited for dinner during our recent trip to Venice from 22 May to 24 May.

Four years ago we ate at Ostaria Al Garanghelo, and we enjoyed it enough that we decided to return our first night. Our choice was made that much easier by the fact that it was so close to our bed-and-breakfast. Most of the tables were empty when we arrived, and they stayed that way throughout our meal. We ordered a liter of the house red wine and a bottle of water and started with spaghetti all’amatriciana and sarde in saor. We thought amatriciana, typically roman, would be a mistake, but we couldn’t resist. We should have. Prosciutto cotto had been substituted for guanciale, and the sauce, normally rich and slightly spicy, was thin and bland. The sarde in soar was solid—slightly vinegary, sweet, and not at all fishy. Next, we split fegato alla veneziana and spaghetti with seppia. My wife thought the liver was too greasy; I thought it was overcooked and not especially great. The spaghetti with seppia was good, but less because the dish was exceptional and more because this pasta was better than the first. Overall, we were disappointed, and our experience didn’t match the one that we had four years ago. We learned the next day from our hostess that Al Garanghelo’s previous owner had sold it four weeks prior. She wasn’t sure that the food had suffered because of the sale, but she said that Venetians had ceased visiting. Unless we romanticized our experience from four years ago, I would say the food has definitely declined. But at least the meal was inexpensive. Dinner was 53€.

We went to Osteria La Zucca the next evening, and I was a little surprised by the menu. I had seen so much written on Chowhound that La Zucca was vegetarian friendly that I assumed there wouldn’t be much meat. This wasn’t true at all (although, indeed, there was no fish as reported elsewhere in this forum). La Zucca seems to be labeled “vegetarian friendly” due to the long list of contorni on the menu rather than anything else. I was also disappointed to see that many of the items on the menu weren’t especially Italian. To start, we ordered a carafe of house red wine, a bottle of water, tagliatelle with goat cheese and artichokes, and La Zucca’s pumpkin flan. The pumpkin flan, which we liked very much, was topped with Mizithra cheese, olive oil, and pumpkin seeds, and it reminded us of pumpkin ravioli filling. The tagliatelle, like the spaghetti with seppia from the night before, was fine, but not exactly memorable. After our primi, we had lamb with tzatziki sauce, veal, and stewed romano beans with tomatoes. The lamb was well cooked, well seasoned, and the better of the two secondi. Neither my wife nor I can remember anything about the veal, which may say more than anything I could have written about it. My wife liked the beans; I thought they were overcooked. At the end of dinner, my wife and I were split on La Zucca: she enjoyed it, and I thought it was mediocre. I’m not sure we’d go back. The total bill was 80€.

On our last night, we had a 730 reservation at Trattoria Antiche Carampane, which was earlier than we would have liked, but the sleepy dining room quickly sprang to life as more diners arrived. We were led to a table and given menus that had been translated into English and French. When we ask for Italian ones our server replied that none existed. We thought this was odd, but when a Venetian woman sat to my left, indeed, she never consulted one. While we made our selections, our server brought us simply fried tiny shrimp served in a paper cone. They weren’t extraordinary, but they were pleasantly addictive, and a great start. We ordered a bottle of Roero Arneis, a bottle of water, and pasta for our primi. My wife had linguine tossed in a baby octopus sugo, and I had spaghetti with a spicy shellfish sauce. Both were excellent and satisfied our notions of what pasta should be in Italy: simple and fresh. As secondi, we ordered sepe in tecia (cuttlefish) and moeche fritte (soft-shell crabs). According to my discerning wife, the cuttlefish, which was served with white polenta, was the best she’s had in Venice. I didn’t try her secondo as I was too preoccupied with mine. The crabs were lightly fried and mixed with greens and fried sage. (Quick aside: After reading about moeche upon returning home, I wonder if the moeche I ate were previously frozen or imported as their local season didn’t seem to correspond to our visit. Either way, they were delicious.) We usually pass on dessert in Italy, but we went against our instincts and asked for the tortino morbido di cioccolato. Richly decadent and chocolaty, it turned out to be one of the best desserts we’ve had in Italy. From start to finish, our high expectations were met in all areas. Not only did we enjoy our dishes very much, but we also appreciated our server's willingness to engage us, a gesture that made us feel most welcome. The total, including a glass of grappa, was 133€.

Jun 25, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

Kicking off my honeymoon in Rome

Mbfant: I appreciate your reply. I don't recall seeing coda all vaccinara on the menu, but if it was presented as a "hambuger" it's possible that I overlooked it. We don't usually order salumi at restaurants and your other favorites are off our radar, especially the tomato soup and the parmigiana di melanzane. Further, I wasn't familiar with fave e cicoria, but I'll look for it in the future—I assume it's prepared with dried beans and therefore not seasonal? Perhaps if we had ordered different items, our experience would have been better. I just wish my carbonara could be explained. The dish I was served wasn't too light; rather it was way too heavy. It’s as if the carbonara that you describe was from a different restaurant.

Iglazer: Regarding your original question, I’ve wanted to try the carbonara at Roscioli for some time, but I’ve never had the chance. When I return to Rome, Roscioli will be my first stop. Take this for what it’s worth.

Apr 18, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy

Kicking off my honeymoon in Rome

Mbfant, I’ve noticed that Grano is one of the few, moderately priced restaurants in Rome that you consistently recommend. However, I was disappointed (their carbonara was no exception) when I ate there in late 2010. Each time since, whenever I see you put forth another recommendation I wonder more and more about why our opinions are so divergent. May I ask you to elaborate on what makes Grano special and what you typically order when you eat there? I wouldn’t bother asking if I thought our differences were based on personal preferences, but given your reputation regarding Roman cooking, I’m convinced that I must have missed something. Thanks in advance.

Apr 17, 2012
Il Duomo in Italy