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Best of Florence, Arezzo, Rome and Naples (Debrief)

Thank you all for the helpful tips and advice regarding food and beverage advice in Florence, Arezzo, Rome and Naples. Since many of you have been so generous with your insight, I thought I would report back on my favorite gastronomic aspects of the recent trip with my father so that others can hopefully have as great a time as we did. I'll break this down by city.


One thing of note in Florence is that the bread found practically everywhere in the region has little flavor, is somewhat dense and doesn't brown very well. Apparently this is because it does not contain salt. This tradition supposedly goes back to the middle ages. As romantic as this is, IMO the bread is typically much better in other parts of Italy.

La Carraia Gelaterie: Outstanding dark chocolate and lemon gelato. Some of the best on our entire trip.
Mercato Centrale: A great place to "window shop" at the offal vendors on the bottom floor and an even better place to bring home food related gifts. I picked up a 100 ml bottle of Oro Balsamico Tradizionale for around $175 at Conti (which is $100 less than I would pay at Formaggio Kitchen).
Nerbone: Tried the lampredotto sandwich again. This time I got the stewed rather than the boiled version. While less funky, I missed the fiery red and green chili sauces that go on the boiled version. Porchetta was a bit dry.
Alla Vecchia Betolla: The sister restaurant of Nerbone. Tried the summer (cold) tripe salad with potatoes, green beans, onion and basil. When in Florence, right? Surprisingly, the tripe was super mellow - clean and tender. Risotto was simply rice with veggies, rather than the creamy stuff we get here in the US. Just not my thing, I guess. White beans were solid. Bresola (the pounded and fried version bathed in a red sauce, not the cured meat) was the star of the show however. Tiramisu for dessert was solid.
Tuscan Wine Tour by Grape Tours: Did the half-day trip for 100 Euro/pp and visited two Chianti wineries. Wine was decent. Views were outstanding.
Gelaterie dei Neri: Chocolate amaro gelato. Need I say more? Lemon and pistachio were amazing too.
Carapina Gelateria: Perhaps the best overall gelato of the entire trip. Their seasonal fruit flavors cannot be matched.
Trattoria da Mario: Outstanding Florentine-style steak. Ribollita was amazing too. White beans were, well, white beans.


If possible, I'd recommend visiting Arezzo during the first weekend of the month when much of the town is transformed into a huge antique market. Amazing and unique products are sold (including WWI and II memoribilia) and good deals are to be found almost everywhere.

Dal Moro: An amazing family-run salumeria with some of the best (and affordable) Italian "cold cuts" you'll ever try. Many are made by the owner himself. Great selection of cheeses too, including the fresh, raw milk parmesan (aged 6, 12 and 18 months).


Il Gelato di San Crispino: Stopped by the one near the Trevi Fountain. Outstanding gelato (the barolo chinato was especially noteworthy) but also very pricey. Blame the location, I guess.
Eustachio: 1.20 Euro espressos at the bar, but much pricer if you sit. Crazy amounts of crema! Ask for no sugar and you'll get a little sugar. Ask for sugar and you'll get a lot. Coffee purists hate on this place but you'll never get another espresso like this.
Armando Al Pantheon: Definitely the best food we had in Rome and without a doubt the best carbonara I ever ate. Cacio e pepe and trippa alla Romana were both terrific as well.
Roscioli (forno): Fantastic, super affordable, Roman-style pizza. The plain (bianca) was great but the buffala and eggplant topped slice was amazing.
Roscioli (salumeria): This is both a salumeria and a restaurant. One of the priciest meals of our entire trip. Solid but not mind blowing. They serve espresso by Giamaica (Verona), which many consider to be Italy's best. The espresso lived up to the hype.
Carapina Gelateria: Again, the fruit flavors were mind blowing. The fresh mint was also spectacular
Tazza D'oro: Worst espresso I ever had, with service to match. Tasted like liquid char.
La Carbonara: Carbonara pasta was great (though not as good as Armando's) but the stewed oxtail stole the show. Fantastic. This place also has an amazing amaro selection as well. Olio Rabarbaro Bordiga was a close second to my favorite amaro of all time (Varnelli Dell'Erborista - which they also carry).
Grom Gelato: Perhaps the worst gelato of the trip. Licorice had no flavor and the dark chocolate contained chocolate chunks. Pass.
Giolotti: Amazing gelato. If you're a chocolate fan, you must get the cioccolto fondente. You'll never experience a deeper, darker, more sinful frozen chocolate concoction. Pistachio was terrific as well. Fruit flavors are a bit sweet however.
Chirra and Angelini Enoteca (stores): If you're an amaro fanboy like myself, these are two of the best places in Italy to shop for them. Both are located near the opera house and both have outstanding selections (tons of stuff you won't find in the states). Some bottles are from defunct manufacturers and a few are so old that they have labels falling off (especially at the latter location).
Verde Pistacchio: Amazing "artisanal" gelato. Located close to the opera house. The pistachio may have been the best of the trip.


Yes, Naples is noisey, fast-paced, dirty and a bit sketchy (especially at night) but so amazing! The sights are incredible, the food is fantastic and the people couldn't be any nicer. Don't be dissuaded from tourists saying otherwise. If you stay at the fancy hotels near the bay, be sure make your way up to the pizzerias near the train station, the historic city center, and Spaccanapoli for a taste of the "real" Naples.

La Antica Pizzeria Da Michelle: Definitely lived up to the hype, and then some. Waiting outside is crazy but the line goes quickly. Amazing, super old-school interior with tons of character. Margherita was solid but the marinara was other worldly. I've had dozens of Neapolitan-style pies, but these were so different and had so much character. Just be prepared for a very "wet" pie, as I was clocking cook times at around 55 seconds.
AutoGrill: We stopped at an AutoGrill on highway A16 on our way out to the Italian countryside. I got the prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella plate and my father got the frutta de mare salad. Both were outstanding, not just for "fast food," but for food in general. You could even request chicken and beef that is cooked to order. It's amazing how food is such a part of Italian culture everywhere you go. If only...
Di Matteo: Didn't have the pizza but tried their "street food" out front (two different types of arancini and a deep fried pasta and cheese concoction). When in Naples!
Attanasio Sfogliatelle: Classic, old school bakery located near the train station. As one would guess, the sfogliatelle (their specialty) are outstanding. If the bakery isn't open, you can buy their baked good at Caffetteria Viva Napoli across the street
Bar Carraturo Pasticceria: Amazing baba (Naples's other signature pastry). Be prepared to feel a bit of a buzz afterward.
Starita by Don Antonio: Kenji from SeriousEats rated this as his favorite pizza in Naples, but I wasn't impressed. The montanara (their signature fried pizza with smoked mozzarella) was interesting but super heavy. The margherita lacked character (as did the restaurant itself). I feel like I've had this same pie in the states a dozen times before.
Cafe Mexico: Great espresso. Some of the best on our travels. Gorgeous, bright orange La San Macco espresso machines. Various locations throughout the city.
Da Donato: Old school pizzeria and restaurant near the train station. Balsamic glazed grilled octopus and "scampi" (langoustine with linguine and pancetta) were fantastic.
Baba for dessert was terrific.
Sorbillo: Many claim this is the best pizza in the city. The 35 minute wait at 10:15 on a Tuesday night got my hopes up even more. Tried the marinara and the margherita DOC (with mozzarella di buffalo). While I might give the slight edge on the marinara to Da Michelle, the margherita here won by a landslide. All in all, perhaps the best pizzas I've ever had. Their 5 Euro Piedirosso "house wine" paired perfectly with both pies.
Naples Airport: Buffalo milk soft serve topped with candied hazelnuts and almonds. Why not?

Jul 23, 2015
dbarneschi in Italy

Best ice cream in Boston is..

FōMū in Allston. Yes, that's right. A vegan ice cream shop. I love Toscanini's burnt caramel, as well as their wort, pumpkin ale, grapenut, etc., but FōMū consistently has the most exciting and intense flavor profiles. Their avocado, salty caramel and bananas foster are all outstanding. I was recently talking to a rep for a company that sells coconut oil as one of their main products, and we started chatting about coconut milk ice cream. She recently moved here from Portland, OR, where there are apparently a number of vegan ice cream shops. She's said that she's tried them all but, in her opinion, none come close to FōMū. Personally, I think it even beats any of the traditional ice cream spots in the area as well.

Best ice cream in Boston is..

JP Licks isn't yuppie ice cream. Oops. Does this make me a yuppie?

Best ice cream in Boston is..

Oops. Meant to say Caffe Paradiso, not Cafe Graffiti.

Best ice cream in Boston is..

Yup. That's correct.

Best ice cream in Boston is..

I'm shocked that people on this board think that Dolce Freddo makes good gelato. I went to the Newburyport location, tried the hazelnut and pistachio, and thought both flavors were terrible.

Boston is a gelato wasteland IMO. That stand on Hanover Street in the North End is an abomination. Cafe Graffiti makes some decent flavors. Has anyone been to Amorino on Newbury Street yet? Looking at the website, this place sounds promising.

I've heard rumors that Morano Gelato MIGHT be franchising and coming to Boston sometime soon. I say a prayer every night that this comes true. For anyone that hasn't been to Morano and loves good gelato, make a pilgrimage some day. I've been to many of the famous spots in Rome and Florence and Morano beats most of them. Their cioccolato scuro is simply the best ever.

Sorry to keep veering away from "Boston," but for those of you venturing to Portland, ME this summer, you should definitely try Gorgeous Gelato (terrible name, I know). The owners are from Italy and they simply kill it. Their dark chocolate and hazelnut gelatos and their raspberry sorbetto is on par with some of the best stuff in Italy IMO. Definitely avoid Gelato Fiasco, the place across the street from GF. Their "artisan" flavors are sub-par, and I heard that the owners are jerks. You can get canisters of their stuff at Whole Foods, but personally, I'd rather grab a pint of Talenti (who I actually think make a solid pistachio).


Yes, I totally agree with you. In the case of Posto, however, they are VPN certified AND make amazing pies.


I used to like Gran Gusto until I tried Una Pizza Napoletana, Motorino and Keste, all in NYC. These guys introduced me to proper Neapolitan-style pies. Gran Gusto's pies are a bit dry and their crust is quite dense. It seems like they're trying to do the Neapolitan thing, but not doing it all that well. I don't think that their oven burns hot enough, or maybe they need to retool their dough recipe.

Posto is the only place in Boston that does true Neapolitan-style pies. They are even VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) certified. If you like Gran Gusto, definitely give Posto a try. I think you'll love their pies, as well as their other dishes.


Santarpio's makes a solid bar pie, but their BBQ is terrible. On the multiple occasions that I tried it, both the sausage and the lamb were dried out and nearly flavorless.

Regina's is very underwhelming. Even when ordered well done, their pies are thick and gloppy. And don't even think about getting their margherita. They put fresh mozzarella and basil ON TOP of dried mozzarella. WTF?

My favorite pies in the city are at Posto in Davis Square, Galleria Umberto in the North End and Pinocchio's in Harvard Square.

Posto makes true Neapolitan-style pies in an imported wood fired oven. Their margherita is amazing, but the real gem on the menu is the marinara (which unfortunately will be taken off the menu very soon - not sure why). It was even featured on the pizza site Slice:
Posto makes some of the best fresh pastas and Italian-style meat dishes in the city as well. Be sure to book a reservation on OpenTable if you decide to go here, or plan on waiting a long time in line.

Galleria Umberto makes cheese squares that taste like school cafeteria pizza it it were made with love. Their panzerotti and arancini are both outstanding as well. Be sure to wash them all down with a Dixie cup of red wine. Yes, you heard right, a Dixie cup. Note however that GA is only open for lunch, and that they often run out pizza by 1:30 PM.

Unlike Umberto's squares, which are goopey and oily (in a good way), Pinocchio's are light and airy. The white spinach, the white zucchini and the fresh basil, tomato and mozzarella are all amazing. I also love the fact that they are open super late.

iYO Café: Openings Boston

I've been a couple of times and enjoyed their wide selection of fro-yo. The space is very hip and the owners are incredibly friendly. As a tart yogurt purist, their tart fro-yo isn't on par with Berryline and Pink Berrry, but their flavors (chocolate and salty caramel especially) are quite impressive.

Aug 22, 2012
dbarneschi in Features

Centerbe in Boston?

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up that Cirace's recently got in Rucola, the arugula infused amaro from the island of Ischia. I picked up a 50 cl bottle for $20. Even though the ABV is listed at 30%, Rucola is definitely a lighter and sweeter amaro, somewhat in the vein of Cardamaro or Meletti. It is syrupy with lots of pie spice and orange peel notes. The arugula seemed buried under the other flavors. I also grabbed a bottle of Bisleri Liquer Ferro-China for kicks, since I've never seen it anywhere else. (Each 30 ml shot contains 5 mg of iron.) Although some people might be opposed to the metallic notes on the finish, I love the balanced bitterness and the star anise in both the nose and the flavor profile.

On the topic of new amari, Boston recently began receiving the Varnelli line. I picked up a bottle of Amaro Dell' Erborista at Astor Wines & Spirits in NYC a few months back and my girlfriend and I both agree that it is our favorite amaro ever. Made by hand in small batches and unfiltered, the araro is sweet, smoky and honey-ish on the front end, but finishes hugely bitter and dry with gentian notes that linger on your palate for what seems to be an eternity. Despite the high price tag ($66 for a 1 liter bottle) I would highly recommend it to the more seasoned amari drinkers. A big "thank you" to our server at Journeyman for this amazing recommendation.

Tip: When in NYC, amari lovers should definitely visit Amor y Amargo in the East Village. They offer small pours of any of their vast amari selections for a mere $4. Amazing.

Jun 09, 2012
dbarneschi in Spirits

Modern Pastry: Worth the Wait?

Glad you enjoyed it!

My father, my girlfriend and I recently did a blind tasting of cannoli from Modern, Mike's and Maria's. Modern slightly edged out Mike's based on the cheese flavor in the filling, but I like Mike's filling to shell ratio better (Modern's cannoli can be a touch dry). Also, Mike's are much bigger and an overall better deal.

I'm glad you had a had a chance to try the torrone at Modern. There is nothing else in the world like it. I will NEVER eat pre-wrapped "nougat" again!

May 17, 2012
dbarneschi in Features

Best lobster roll thats not 30 bucks

Shouldn't this thread be titled "Best lobster roll under 20 bucks", or something to that effect? Finding a $30+ lobster roll is nearly impossible (thankfully). With that said, if you love lobster rolls and you are visiting Boston from out of town, I would definitely pony up the $25 and go to Neptune. My girlfriend and I are no strangers to fine dining and we both agree that if we could pick our last meal on earth, the entree would be a lobster roll from Neptune (and we've tried some of the best, including Red's Eats in Wiscasset, ME). Although Neptune doesn't take reservations, they do take your phone number when you get there and they call you about 10 minutes before your table is ready. Get there early, give them your name and number, and go grab cannoli to-go from Mike's and Modern (along with a piece of terrone from Modern). Later, you can go back to your hotel with two of the best cannoli on earth and do a blind tasting. You can thank me later!

Al Dente, Santarpio's or Regina???????????

The Food and Wine and the Alan Richman lists are both pretty solid, but the Rachel Ray Pizza Madness Bracket done by Ed Levine and Adam Kuban at Slice is definitely the first resource I turn to for pizza "rankings":

Al Dente, Santarpio's or Regina???????????

Regina's is terrible. Sorry, I had to say it. The pies are limp and gooey, even when ordered "well done." If anyone Chowhounds have eaten at DiFara's or Totonno's, you know the stuff that Regina's tries to pedal is "mediocre" at best. Santarpio's is quite good, but it's only worth the effort to drive to East Boston once in a blue moon (and this comes from a Bostonian who's been to DiFara's five times over the past five years). Personally, if had weekend to eat in Boston, I'd get a few cheese slices at Galleria Umberto (also in the North End) for lunch (they're open Mon.-Sat., 11-3), along with some panzarotti, arancini (both are to die for, and SO cheap!) and a cup (yes, a cup) of red wine. This place has character AND amazing food. Then, for dinner, I'd grab a lobster roll at Neptune (also in the North End) and follow that up with a cannolo, an espresso and a chunk of torrone (to take home) at Modern Pastry Shop. If, however, you want to have the best pizza that Boston has to offer, I'd recommend heading to Pizzeria Posto in Davis Square (Somerville - easily accessible via the Red Line). Posto serves true Neapolitan-style pies from a wood burning brick oven. They got mixed reviews when they first opened two years ago, but the pizzas have improved markedly since then. If fact, the marinara I had there last month was one of the greatest pies that ever crossed my lips (and I've had some amazing pies from many of the best pizzerias in the country). Try to make reservations or plan on waiting two-plus hours for a table on a weekend night. I've been to Gran Gusto a number of times as well and, before trying places like Una Pizza Napoletana and Keste in NYC, I used to think it they made a good Neapolitan pie. Now I know better. If you do Posto, take the Red Line back to Central Square (Cambridge) and treat yourself to a scoop of burnt caramel ice cream at Toscanini's. The New York Times called Toscanini's "the best ice cream in the country" and I'd have to agree (sorry Jeni's). Enjoy your trip.

Modern Pastry
257 Hanover St, Boston, MA

Gran Gusto
90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

Pizzeria Posto
187 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144

Centerbe in Boston?

I've been tasting a number of amari (and fortified wines) over the past year. Here are my notes on what I've tried thus far:

Aperol Apertivo Liqueur: Bright red in appearance. Herbal and citrusy. Very similar to Compari but sweeter and a bit more tame. Mouthfeel is syrupy and viscous. Refreshing and very easy drinking.

Averna Amaro Liqueur: Dark brown in appearance. Syrupy and leggy. Boozy and sweet in the nose with notes of spices and licorice. Cola-like. The taste is also quite sweet and syrupy. Herbal with hints of citrus fruit. The alcohol is less noticeable in the flavor profile than in the aroma.

Caffo Amaro del Capo: Honey-amber in appearance. Spicy and exotic in the nose. The taste is similar. Notes of saffron, clove, allspice and cardamom are apparent. A touch smoky. More sweet than bitter. Overall, very interesting.

Campari Bitter Liqueur: Bright red in appearance. Herbal and slightly more bitter than sweet. Intense. Orange rind dominates. Lots of gentian root as well. Some alcohol is noticeable on the back end. Crisp, clean and refreshing. Lighter bodied.

Cardamaro Vino Amaro: Deep, orangey-amber appearance. Sweet, orangey and fruity in the nose. Lots of vanilla. Quite grape-y. Lots of port in the flavor profile. Medium-sweet. Slight prune notes. Some citrus as well. Hint of bitterness on the finish. Syrupy and medium bodied. Alcohol is barely perceivable. Very smooth and easy drinking.

Carpano Antico Formula: Smoky brown in appearance. Spicy and citrusy in the nose. Slightly herbal. Similar in taste. Spicy, herbal and refreshing with a pleasant bitterness and only a hint of vermouth. Thinner in body. Makes for a nice aperitif.

Cocchi Americano: Pale, dull yellow in appearance. Lots of white wine in the nose. Some lemongrass and herbal notes are also detectible. The flavor profile is similar. The white wine base is quite apparent. Crisp and light. Slightly bitter and herbal with notes of gentian root and lemon peel. Lighter bodied. Super easy drinking and refreshing, especially when mixed with a splash of soda water.

Cynar Bitter Liqueur: Dark brown in appearance. Deeply herbal with distinct notes of bitter orange peel. Overall, more bitter than sweet but balanced. Slight alcohol presence. Medium viscosity. Refreshing. Nice before or after a meal.

Fernet-Branca Liqueur: Dark brown in appearance. Super intense aroma and flavor profile. Mint and menthol dominate. Very bitter with an intense herbal quality and a strong alcohol presence. Dry and tannic on the finish. Not for the feint of heart.

Luxardo Amaro Abano Liqueur: Dark brown/black in appearance. Moderately herbal and spicy. Very cola-like. Saffron notes come through strong. Overall, rather tame.

Luxardo Fernet Amaro Liqueur: Dark brown in appearance. The aroma is smoky and brisk. Intense herbal and eucalyptus notes come through in both the aroma and the palate. Very bitter. Quite similar to Fernet Branca but with less mint in the nose and more alcohol sharpness in the flavor.

Meletti Amaro Liqueur: Glowing orangey-amber in appearance. Citrus notes dominate. Quite floral. Spicy and a touch herbal. Much more sweet than bitter, but not cloying. Light, clean and refreshing. Graceful. Refreshing and very easy drinking.

Montenegro Amaro Liqueur: Interesting nose. Sweet with hints of vanilla and orange. Reminiscent of an orange creamsicle. The taste is quite similar. Sweet and syrupy. Lots of vanilla flavor with notes of orange and spice.

Nardini Amaro Liqueur: Deep crimson-amber body. Thick and leggy. Slightly minty in the nose. More sweet than bitter. Orange notes dominate the flavor. Mildly spicy. Quite sherry-like.

Nonino Amaro Quintessentia: Light amber appearance. Anise is noticeable in the nose. Ultra smooth flavor profile. Moderate bitterness. Citrus notes come through strong. Some anise as well. Saffron is detectible. Slightly salty and aged. Beautifully balanced.

Punt E Mes: Cola colored in appearance. Vermouth comes through strong in the nose. Earthy and herbal. Taste is similar. Lots of vermouth character. Herbal notes dominate. Quite citrus as well.

Rabarbaro Zucca Amaro Liqueur: Cola colored. Deeply herbal and earthy in the nose with a hint of vegetal sweetness. The taste is similar. Bitter yet balanced with lots of herbs and roots. Smoky. A slightly acidic, rhubarb-like sweetness come through as well. Syrupy mouthfeel. Reminiscent of Cynar but thicker and boozier.

Ramazotti Amaro Liqueur: Cola colored. Spicy and herbal in the nose. The taste is flavorful and balanced. Bitter, spicy and semi-sweet. Herbal and earthy. Some orange peel is noticeable as well. Moderately boozy on the finish. Slightly syrupy mouthfeel.

S. Maria al Monte Amaro Naturale Liqueur: Dark brown with red highlights. Very herbal in the nose with a touch of oak and some sweetness. The flavor is herbal with notes of orange rind. Some eucalyptus comes through as well. Quite bitter. Decent alcohol bite on the finish. All in all, a smoother rendition of a Fernet.

To be sampled:
Barolo Chinato Cocchi
Bisleri Liqueur Ferro-China
Branca Menta Liqueur
China Martini Liqueur
CioCiaro Amaro Liqueur
Lucano Amaro Liqueur
Luxardo Bitter Liqueur
Magnoberta Ferro-China Liqueur
Mio Amaro Liqueur
Vergano Americano Chinato

My "go-to" amari at this point is still Cynar, with Zucca coming in a close second. S. Maria al Monte is a fantastic fernet and is a nice alternative to Fernet Brance, which I still find too harsh.

Sep 25, 2011
dbarneschi in Spirits