MBlair's Profile

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Fabulous, fabulous food and wine in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (long)

barberinibee - just got back from a week in Grado and the seafood was amazing. From the terrace of our apartment, we were able to watch the fishermen come in as people lined up to buy their fish straight off of the boats.

I'll be posting a report on the places where we ate, all of which provided excellent seafood at reasonable prices.

Aug 09, 2011
MBlair in Italy

High and Low-end in Maiori, Amalfi Coast

I've never been to Maori, but in Minori (1 mile away) I would highly recommend Il Pontile (Via San Giovanni, 25). We had a wonderful lunch there - top-notch food and service at a reasonable price.

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San Giovanni
Via San Giovanni, 36, Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna , IT

Aug 02, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Birthday Luncheon in Taormina

If food is the top priority, you may have to sacrifice the view. When we were in Taormina, our favorite places did not have water views, which are somewhat limited from the center of town. Although, we did have nice lunches (with water views) at La Cisterna del Moro and Granduca.

If price is no object, go to Maffei's for amazing fish - just take their advice when ordering. Attached is a photo of their courtyard.

Jul 12, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Venice and Florence - Need Recommendations!

With all due respect, allende, if you don't feel that your first post was rude, I don't think there's much more to be said.

Jul 12, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Venice and Florence - Need Recommendations!

enharthun - Here's a link to my dining report from our last trip ('08). We leave for Venice this weekend and are very excited about returning to some of these places as well as exploring some new options that I've compiled.

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/547658

Jul 11, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Venice and Florence - Need Recommendations!

I understand PBSF, and I've found you to be extremely pleasant (and reliable) for Venice and Barcelona. More than anything, I was shocked by the tone of the response (to someone who is excited about planning a very special trip). It wasn't meant as an indictment of chowhound, although I do find the Italy board to be a bit cliquish and not always friendly to posters.

Jul 11, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Your Favorite Pizza in Italy--worthy of a train ride or a long wait in line

Glad to hear from someone else who enjoyed Pellone. Such an aunthentic place and a great Naples experience.

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Pellone
Via Nazionale,93, Naples, Campania 80143, IT

Jul 11, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Venice and Florence - Need Recommendations!

Why are people on Chowhound so rude? Simply amazing.

They were asking for help, not to be bullied.

Jul 11, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Your Favorite Pizza in Italy--worthy of a train ride or a long wait in line

If you are taking the train into Naples, let me put in a suggestion for Pellone (Via Nazionale, 93), which is maybe a 5 minute walk from the station. It flies under the radar on Chowhound and other food/travel sites, but my wife and I discovered it one night while staying at a hotel near the train station. The following year, we made a special trip just to stop by once again.

This is translated from an Italian article on Neapolitan pizza (http://www.dissapore.com/mangiare-fuo...

)

"In a less fortunate area than Via Tribunali, and with less bourgeois frequentation, Pellone for some represents the essence of the Neapolitan pizza."

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Pellone
Via Nazionale,93, Naples, Campania 80143, IT

Jul 05, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Dining in the Italian Lakes

In Bellagio, for fine dining (and service) I would recommned Barchetta, and for mid-range I would recommend Alla Darsena, which is in the neighboring town of Loppia. It's cozy and the tables are right on a quiet area of the lake.

For a more casual dinner in Bellagio, I would suggest going to Bacilus (and ordering the smoked lake fish), which is located in a beautiful garden and has a partial view of the lake. Also, if you find yourself in the nearby town of San Giacomo, try Trattoria San Giacomo, which is a very traditional trattoria.

In Bellagio, Enoteca Cava Turacciolo is an excellent wine bar with a very gracious and knowledgable owner. It's perfect for a tasting and a plate of cured meats and cheeses. The owner is also a reliable source for restaurant recommendations.

Jun 22, 2011
MBlair in Italy

Food Recommendations for Grado?

My wife and I are headed to Grado next month, and there is no mention of it on any of the Chowhound posts. Has anyone been? If so, what can you recommend?

Jun 21, 2011
MBlair in Italy

A Rest. called Zacaria's on the Amalfi Coast

My wife and I ate there in the summer of '08 and found it to be adequate but below the other places where we ate in Atrani (A Paranza, Le Palme, and L'Arcate).

As a side note, if you ever happen to be in Minori (a short ride from Atrani), we had an incredible lunch at Il Pontile Osteria.

Aug 28, 2009
MBlair in Italy

Barcelona/Sitges Dining Report

Here are some of the culinary highlights of our recent trip to Barcelona and Sitges, which was our first to Spain after several in Italy. Although my wife missed her pasta, overall we had many wonderful dishes; we were particularly impressed by the seafood in Sitges, which had no Chowhound entries that I could find.

Senyor Parellada

-This has gotten some mixed responses from Chowhound, but we enjoyed our dinner there. The building, the atmosphere, the level of service and food would be hard to beat for the price. In particular, we enjoyed the lamb with garlic and the Galician octopus. Both were very moist, tender, and flavorful.

Paco Meralgo

-For our Sunday night dinner (although, most places seemed to be open on Sunday), we walked up from a guitar concert at Santa Maria del Pi. We loved the space and the atmosphere, which reminded us of NYC. Everything we had was great, but we especially enjoyed the sea snails and the octopus with onion.

Cometacinc

-A great space with a large glass front looking out onto a narrow street in the Barri Gotic. We enjoyed the beef carpaccio, the scallop wonton ravioli, baby squid and lentils, and duck with wild rice.

Café de L’Accademia

-A very popular and romantic spot in the Barri Gotic that offered visually creative and flavorful dishes. Everything we had were standouts: an eggplant terrine topped with goat cheese (resembling a fried egg), a bikini (toasted sandwich) with duck pate and black truffles, squid with rice (resembling a pasta carbonara), and cod with pistachio, tomato, and olives.

El Boliche del Gordo Cahrera

-A restaurant in Eixample that had a business lunch crowd; the menu del dia was 15 euro (including wine, water, and coffee). We enjoyed the cold carrot soup, merluza, and steak.

Can Majo

-An old-school seafood house in Barcelonetta, we went for the shellfish paella, which was wonderful, the rice having the perfect al dente texture. The stock used was a bit salty, but we noticed that to be typical of a lot the food that we had around Barcelona.

El Rovell

-This restaurant in El Born offers a fantastic lunch menu del dia. 18 euro per person for 5 courses and an amuse bouche with wine included. Of note were the red pepper and goat cheese soup, corvino with olives and peppers, and beef with pepper sauce and green beans.

El Xampanyet

-Highly recommended by everyone and a great experience for a pre-dinner snack. The owners were very accommodating given the crowd and the language barrier. Order the raw fish (salmon and cod), which we were served with pine nuts and black olive sauce, and ask for “cecina,” which is a cured beef similar to Bresaola. After trying it, we started asking for it in different shops, and we were able to find it at a place in Sitges (Chambord) for 30 euro a kilo.

Cal Pep

-We went there for lunch at around 3-3:15, and we were able to sit right away. By the time we finished (4-4:15), it was mostly empty and they were prepping for dinner. We ordered four dishes (tellarines, fritto misto, tortilla, and baby calamari with garbanzo beans), all of which were excellent. In particular, the tortilla was the best of our trip, with a soft, gooey center. With a bottle of white wine, the bill was 59 euro. We were so impressed with the flavor of the tellarines that I bought some later at a market in Sitges (about 12 euro a 1/2 kilo) and made them at our apartment with olive oil and white wine.

Santa Caterina Market

-We stayed in El Born, about 200 yards from the market, so it was very convenient for us, but also we found it a great alternative to the larger and more crowded Boqueria. It was very manageable and the vendors were very friendly. I wish I could remember the name of the local Garroxta-style cheese that I bought at a stall there. It had a slightly sharp bite to it and was perfect on bread with some honey.

SITGES

El Vivero

-Located just above the Platja San Sebastian, we enjoyed a breezy, leisurely lunch with a magnificent ocean view. The menu del dia was 23 euro each, but that included a whole bottle of wine and the portions were very large: the sopa de peix was excellent and could have served three people. Also excellent was the merluza, which was (like all the fish we had in Sitges) cooked to its moist and flaky ideal.

El Castell
-An intimate space in the historic center, the vibe here is hip-urban-casual, but the crowd was a mix of Spanish families and couples. The food had a more modern, fusion-style preparation. We enjoyed the octopus with potato, prawn carpaccio, bluefin tuna with sesame and balsamic, and skewers of tuna, salmon and prawns with apricot sauce (although it would have been better without the sauce).

La Nansa

-A traditional seafood restaurant with a high level of professional service. We liked the sopa de peix, grilled razor clams, baked sea bass, and skate with romescu sauce and white beans, which was one of my favorite dishes of the trip. It was the perfect expression of the Catalan “mar y montana” approach to cooking. Complimentary sherry was given after the meal.

El Cable

-The busiest tapas bar in the historic center of Sitges (located just up from the Platja San Sebastian); we stopped here for a noon snack. We especially enjoyed the goat cheese with caramelized onions and the meatballs.

La Taberna del Puerto

-Located in the Aquadolc Port, this is a more formal seafood restaurant. Complimentary cava and shrimp come when you are seated, and after that come incredibly-sized portions of top-notch seafood. We had the lobster salad with pasta, anchovies Bilbao-style (in a pot of hot oil, garlic and peppers), which was my other favorite dish of the trip, and grilled merluza.

El Xhalet

-We were a bit wary because it’s connected to a hotel, but it’s located in a romantic garden on Carrer Cuba, and it offered a well-priced dinner menu with 7 or 8 choices for three courses, including wine, for 33 euro. We enjoyed the salmon, feta, and avocado salad, baby calamari and garbanzo beans, monkfish carpaccio, and steak with blue cheese.

Can Laury

-Also located in the Aquadolc Port, it is very similar to La Taberna del Puerto but the service is a bit more casual. Comparing the two, it seemed to be more a family-friendly place, but the quality of the seafood and the price are very similar. We had the crab and prawn salad, baby calamari, merluza Basque-style, and grilled turbot.

El Trull

-A cozy, fun, and friendly place in the Old Town, it was a pleasure just watching the one waiter work the room, mix the various tartares, sing to himself, and arrange the singing of “Happy Birthday” (after having turned out all the lights). Everthing was fantastic. We had an avocado and prawn salad, sopa de peix, salmon with a caviar mustard sauce, cod and mussels with a champagne cream sauce, a raspberry sorbet, and an excellent Penedes Chardonnay for 67 euro.

General Observations

FRIED CALAMARI - We are huge fans, and having stayed in various places on the Amalfi Coast, we weren’t sure how it would measure up. But we had it at least 8 times on the trip, and every time it was excellent. Consistently, the calamari had a plump texture and tenderness that we found impressive. I’m not sure if this made the difference, but watching the guys batter it at Cal Pep, they dropped it right in the bread crumbs without first doing flour and then egg. Or maybe the difference is in the bread crumbs?

PENEDES WINE – Since we ate mostly seafood, we tended to order the various whites and roses (having had cava before dinner), and with the exception of once ordering a Martin Codax Albarino, we had wine from Penedes every time. The Chardonnays were particularly impressive and were a perfect match for some of the heavier seafood dishes.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE MENUS – Ask for at least one menu in Catalan. As in Italy, you seem to be at a disadvantage when you are given an English-only menu. Not only do you not get to the learn the proper name for what you are ordering, but the waiters often don’t know the English menu well enough to identify what you are ordering. Looking back on it, I wish I had taken a little bit of time to pick some Catalan basics.

WATER – Once they got over the shock of our ordering water with gas (the Vichy Catalan is excellent if a bit salty), we were surprised to find that most places gave us either a quarter liter or a half liter (often with only one glass), but we were afraid to order two because every so often a place would give you a full liter. If we had spoken better Catalan/Spanish, we could have asked easily enough. Not a big deal, but we found it interesting.

DRAFT BEER – It seems to me that pouring a proper draft beer is a lost art where I live. In Barcelona and Sitges, the draft beer was consistently good wherever we went. In particular, watching the guy pour at Xampanyet was an education in itself. We also became fans of cerveza limon (I preferred the Damm Limon on tap to the draft mixed with Fanta); it’s perfect for your noon snack.

If you are interested in the non-food-related details of our trip, my wife’s report can be found on Trip Advisor

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-...

Aug 14, 2009
MBlair in Spain/Portugal

What Area of Italy for Foodie Holiday?

I don't think you can come to anything near a consensus on this question. The food is good to incredible throughout Italy, and everyone has a favorite region based on how well that region's cuisine matches his/her own personal preferences. My wife and I are partial to coastal Sicily, but I can see why others might prefer Tuscany, Lombardia, etc.

Feb 20, 2009
MBlair in Italy

Has anyone been to these places??

Barchetta in Bellagio would fit that description, but it would be more than 50 Euro a person. I would recommend Alla Darsena, which is in the neighboring town of Loppia. It's cozy and the tables are right on a quiet area of the lake.

When you're in Bellagio, make sure you stop by Cava Turicciolo (this spelling may be a little off), which is a wine bar located right off the main lakefront street in Bellagio. The owners are very nice and extremely knowledgeable about Italian wines, particularly the wines of Lombardia.

Feb 11, 2009
MBlair in Italy

Stiges

Sorry - Sitges. Have you been? There is one post on the board, but it has very little in the way of specifics.

Feb 11, 2009
MBlair in Spain/Portugal

Stiges

Has anyone been to Stiges? Are there any particular restaurants worth seeking out there? I searched the board and got no responses.

Feb 10, 2009
MBlair in Spain/Portugal

Has anyone been to these places??

My wife and I stayed at an apartment above L' Antico Pozzo in '05 and ate there a couple of times. I remember the risotto being particularly good. I'l check my records and let you know what we paid, but I remember it being about mid-level for Bellagio. I'll also send you a couple of other places we enjoyed.

We also had lunch at Trattoria San Giacomo, which is a very traditional trattoria in the nearby town of San Giacomo. If you go make sure you try the smoked lake fish.

Feb 09, 2009
MBlair in Italy

Best Barcelona Food Neighborhood

My wife and I are in the process of planning a trip to Barcelona this summer, and we are curious to see if there is any consensus on which area is the best chowhound destination. We have travelled throughout Italy, but this would be our first trip to Spain. We are looking for food that best represents the local Catalan cuisine and are not interested in places that have more of an international focus.

Feb 02, 2009
MBlair in Spain/Portugal

Baltimore -- La Tavola 'one of the best Italian places' .... seriously?

Agree with locustpointgirl about Pazza Luna and Sotto Sopra. My wife and I have travelled frequently in Italy, and these two places have the best/most authentic pasta in Baltimore.

We haven't been to La Tavola in quite some time, but Aldo's is definintely LI's best, although you will pay for it. Also, their menu can be a bit more traditional American than Italian (not a lot of pasta), but their ingredients are top-notch (especially the imported mozzarella) and the execution of the food is excellent.

Jan 06, 2009
MBlair in Washington DC & Baltimore

Restaurants in Sicily

In Palermo, try I Grilli, near Piazza San Domenico. It's on the second floor and you have to be buzzed in, but don't let that scare you. It is run by a very friendly family and the food is excellent and the price reasonable.

Nov 13, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Venice dinner on a Monday

Of course the fish are always there for catching, but I've read that fresh fish are difficult to come by because fishing is not being done on Sunday. Is this incorrect?

Sep 19, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Venice dinner on a Monday

I haven't eaten at any of these, but I would recommend La Bitta, which is open on Monday and has "No Fish," which is good for a Monday dinner since the fish market is closed on Sunday and Monday. It is popular and cash only, so you should plan ahead.

Sep 19, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Venice Restaurants, by a NYC Restaurant Snob

What are some of the restaurants in Italy that have impressed you?

Sep 18, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Restaurants in San Remo

My wife and I were in San Remo for a week in '04, and we had a great dining experience at La Volta Buona?. The owner, Matteo, was an extremely friendly and ethusiastic host; he went through the menu in detail and explained the preparation of each dish. The next week of our trip, we met a French couple (who lived near San Remo) in Venice, and we told them we came from San Remo. They said that La Volta Buona was their favorite place there and that Matteo was a friend of theirs.

Nuovo Piccola Mondo was also very good. In our journal, we wrote "very high-end, fresh food - delicate in preparation." Our French friends weren't familiar with it; I think because it was fairly new in '04.

Both places serve similar Ligurian dishes (trofie al pesto, etc.); the main difference being that La Volta Buona? takes a more casual, traditional approach.

Also, if you happen to be in La Pigna (the old town), stop by Bar Mazzini for a beer. The couple that owns it are very nice, and the local patrons are friendly and will strike up a conversation with you.

Aug 17, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Italian Island for a Honeymoon: Sardegna or Sicily?

We are huge fans of DonnaFugata and Planeta also. Unfortunately, I don't see their wines enough at home.

Aug 12, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Venice Dining Report (7/19 - 7/25)

Thanks to Chowhound and various other resources, our recent trip to Venice was full of amazing meals. We had been previously in '04, and had good meals at places like La Zucca and Da Ignazio, but the level of consistency and quality for our meals this trip was outstanding. Anyone who trashes Venice as a food city has just not eaten at the right places. We’ve traveled throughout Italy since '02, and based on our recent experience, Venice ranks right up there as a food destination.

Here’s a list of our recommendations.

Highly Recommended

-Osteria di Santa Marina: based mainly on Mark Bittman’s article in the NYT, we went here as our “splurge” meal for my wife’s 40th birthday. We had the 75 euro, 7 course seafood tasting menu (wine not included). Amazing. Highlights include the black ravioli with sea bass, grilled octopus and mashed potatoes with ink, and the scallops in pureed peas. The only downside was that the meal was a bit drawn-out, but when you consider that we had 7 courses (and an amuse bouche), it is understandable.

-Osteria alle Testiere: I called at 6:00 on a Friday for a 9:00 reservation and was surprisingly told “va bene.” I am so glad that I took that chance; it was the perfect farewell meal for our trip. Like Osteria Di Santa Marina, it was an updated take on Venetian classics. Highlights include the scallops with fennel, the gnochetti with clams, and the ricotta and basil ravioli with shrimp broth.

-Anice Stellato: one of only three restaurants in the historic section of Venice that are listed in Osterie & Locande D’Italia, a Slow Food publication. A fantastic dining experience. Run by a very friendly family, the service is professional but not stuffy. We enjoyed the mixed antipasti, but the spaghetti con moeche (soft crab) was one of the highlights of the trip. Also, the deconstructed branzino was the perfect secondo.

-La Bitta: also listed in Osterie & Locande D’Italia, their business card says “No Fish,” so it’s the perfect place to go on a Monday (when the fish market is closed) or when you don’t feel like seafood. But it is cash only! We learned the hard way, and had to walk out on our first night before returning two days later. Like Anice Stellato, it is run by a friendly family, and the service is professional without being stuffy. Highlights include the porchetta trevisiana, roasted duck with butter and sage, and the filet of beef (the best I’ve ever tasted).

As an aside, get porchetta as much as you can in Venice; I had an incredible porchetta sandwich from a bar on the Giudecca (right next to the Redentore) for 1.50 euro.

Strongly Recommended

-Bentigodi Osteria da Francesca: this has gotten some mixed reviews in the past, but we had a wonderful lunch here. In particular, my black tagliolini with zucchini, shrimp, and tomato was fantastic. Very friendly service.

-Al Vecio Forner: we had lunch at this nice corner restaurant near the Guggenheim. Highlights include the risotto with shrimp and celery and black tagliolini with shrimp.

-Osteria al Mascaron: Old-school all the way. Therefore, they only take cash and show you your bill on a piece of scrap paper, which you do not get to keep. But they serve high-quality and large portions of traditional Venetian dishes. My serving of spaghetti with cuttlefish in ink had to weigh close to a pound. The mixed antipasti was also very good.

-Trattoria Storica: I knew the name, but we found this by accident one day when we were looking for a place for lunch. Very local and informal (and good). We had their Menu di Giorno, which consisted of a fantastic risotto with speck and mushrooms. The fried cod was also excellent.

-Centrale: having gone there on our first trip and finding it a good value (while also being very modern and chic), we went there for a late dinner after going to the opera. The prices have definitely escalated, but it stands out for being one of the few places in Venice that offers high-end, late-night dining. We were lucky enough to get one of the tables on the small canal, which somehow justified the price. The octopus carpaccio was perfect, and the black spaghetti with spider crab and the pasta with mushrooms and prawns were very, very good.

-Trattoria Dona Onesta: not too far from Campo San Barnaba, we discovered this by accident (after leaving La Bitta because we had no cash), and on a whim (out of desperation, really) decided to give it a try. The service was exceptionally friendly, the clientele was all Italian (except for us), and the food was very good. As far as I can remember, I haven’t heard anyone mention this place on Chowhound, but I hope others decide to give it a try. The baby shrimp with polenta was superb, and the fritto misto very good. At 35 euro a person for two antipasti, a primo, a secondo, wine, and water, it was the bargain of the trip.

-Il Nuovo Galeon: went there based on the fact that it’s a member of the Venice restaurant association (link to site), and we happened to be in Castello around lunch time. We had their Menu di Giorno, which consisted of a good linguine with clams, salt cod with polenta, and a very good fried calamari.

Recommended

-Osteria al Baccareto: a solid lunch option. It was close to our apartment (San Samuele), and it seemed to be popular with locals. We had tagliolini with squid and prawns, and spaghetti with clams.

-Trattoria Nono Resorto: another solid lunch option in a pleasant courtyard. In particular, the fritto misto was very good.

General Advice

To ensure you get to eat dinner where you want, I recommend that you make a reservation the day before or the day on which you want to eat. Either stopping by during the day or making a quick phone call worked for us every time, and we were very concerned since we were there during high season and the Festa del Redentore.

Soon I will post my food report from Atrani, where we spent our second week, and a link to my wife’s complete trip report on Trip Advisor.

Aug 11, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Inexpensive restaurants for dinner

There's a fast (35-40 minutes) and a slow (2 hours). The schedule is probably online if you search "Lake Como ferry." If you have the time, taking the slow ferry from Como to Bellagio is worth it because of the views you can get on deck. The fast ferry is like being in an airplane, so your view is through a small porthole.

Jul 16, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Inexpensive restaurants for dinner

We stayed in Bellagio in 05 and only day-tripped to Como to see what turned out to be an impressive Picasso exhibit at the Villa Olmo. We had lunch at Locanda Barbarossa (just outside of Piazza San Fedele), which has pretty good pizza for the North.

In Bellagio, Enoteca Cava Turacciolo is an excellent wine bar with a very gracious and knowledgable owner. It's perfect for a tasting and a plate of cured meats and cheeses. For a full meal, I would suggest going to Bacilus (and ordering the smoked lake fish), which is located in a beautiful garden and has a partial view of the lake.

While I'm at it, I'm going to follow-up on my earlier reccomendations for Sicily. In Taormina, Nero D'Avola. Its location is very quiet and romantic at night, and the owner and staff are extremely friendly and informative. Most importantly, the seafood and pasta are as good as it gets. Try the raw fish or the Etna mushrooms if available, and make sure you finish with a glass of Passito di Pantelleria. In Palermo, Sant Andrea or I Grilli, which are both near Piazza San Domenico, just above the port.

Jul 07, 2008
MBlair in Italy

Inexpensive restaurants for dinner

Where on Lake Como? Bellagio?

For Taormina and Palermo, check the recent posts. There have been quite a few in the last couple of months.

Jul 07, 2008
MBlair in Italy