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Fred Plotkin's Profile

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Milan

Many places in central Milano have the words "alla Scala" attached because they lend cachet. But they are not OF La Scala. Here is a place that is not in Italy for the Gourmet Traveler because it is of very recent discovery: Emilia e Carlo (Via Sacchi 8; tel 02/875948; www.ristoranteemiliaecarlo.it; closed Sat noon and Sundays). Delicious food, gracious service, excellent wine list. A ten minute walk from La Scala. Moderately expensive. Even closer to La Scala is Don Carlos, in the Grand Hotel et de Milan. This is where Verdi lived his last days (his suite is upstairs and can occasionally be visited upon request). The rooms of the restaurant evoke opera in general and Verdi in particular. There is a lot of good Milanese and Lombard seasonal cooking and some occasional tendency toward chefiness which you should sniff out and avoid. Very expensive (Via Manzoni 29, tel 02/72314640; www.ristorantedoncarlos.it; closed August) @badwaiter...You can trust Plotkin. No guidebook that is 5 years old can claim to be fully up to date, which is why there are updates. In addition, I post latest discovered at www.fredplotkin.com

Jan 24, 2011
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Napoli December 2010 -- what we ate

Excellent report. Bravo! I have eaten at Donna Teresa since 1973. I don't think they recognize me from one visit to the next and I get the same wonderful treatment, food and experience that was described here. Let's be sure that they continue to do what they do well by not expecting a pre-packaged and digested experience, but rather that we only expect them to be themselves

Dec 23, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Amalfi Coast- restaurants open first week of April

I too had very poor food at Villa Maria (Ravello) recently. In general, hotel dining in Ravello (apart from the mega-expensive places) is not good. When I am in Ravello and want a break from Cumpa Cosimo, I take the bus down to Amalfi, where there are more good choices. Also, I buy fruit, veg, mozzarella and local white wine and feast that way.

Nov 16, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Eating in Istanbul?

Katie, thanks for taking the time and effort for this wonderful info. I am looking forward to my first visit to a city I have been waiting to go to for my whole life. Ciao, Fred

Sep 20, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Europe

Eating in Istanbul?

All suggestions about what and where to eat would be welcome, plus any thoughts on hotels and sites not to miss.

Sep 14, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Europe

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

This was a lovely posting to read and I am glad that Friuli-Venezia Giulia inspired you as much as it has me on frequent visits and stays since 1975. We must always remember to call the region by its full name (or call it FVG) because the Friuli part is only 70% of the land mass and population and the Venezia Giulia part includes Trieste, the region's capital. So when you say Friuli, that should only mean the large area that looks to Udine as its chief town. I am curious about what book sent you to Il Campiello in San Giovanni al Natisone for gnocchi....almost everyone goes here only to eat fish and seafood,which is outstanding. The hotel itself is fine, not special, and the surrounding town is unremarkable. The hotel appeals to business people who purchase chairs and other furniture in the nearby Triangolo della Sedia (chair triangle, the 3 towns that produce more than half of Europe's chairs). I am hard put to name the single best plum gnocchi, though you would do quite well at the Giardinetto restaurant in Cormons. This is a seasonal dish of late summer, early fall. If you love white asparagus, the season goes from mid-April to mid-June. It is found throughout the region, but no more so than in Tavagnacco, where it is prepared in countless ways. One thing I have not noticed much in your and other posts is the astonishing wine culture of FVG. No doubt it has Italy's best white wines, but also has some incredible reds. In the region, people tend to have a different wine with each course, and restaurants are quick to accommodate this approach. Anyone who loves wine should make FVG a priority. Italy for the Gourmet Traveler lists a lot of destinations. Anyone interested in cooking food from the region should look in the library or used book store for "La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia" (Broadway Books, 2001). Here is an enjoyable article from the NY Times about FVG: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/07/din...

Sep 14, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

3 nights in Bologna and one in Milan

A lot of these are very good suggestions and I endorse the fact posters agree to disagree on certain places. I just have a few additional thoughts for nycatty35. First is that your visit to Bologna MUST include an extensive visit (a whole morning, really) to the city's markets. They are described in Italy for the Gourmet Traveler. They date back more than 800 years and the food sellers are incredibly knowledgeable and proud of what they have on offer. Know that you are not allowed to touch fruit and vegetables, as that is considered unhygienic. Rather, indicate with your fingers how many peaches or bananas you want. You will be asked whether they are to be eaten now (Da mangiare subito?) or in a day or so. You will find that a smile and hand gestures go a long way. When you buy cheese or prosciutto or mortadella, know that 100 grams (3-1/4 ounces) is un etto. 200 grams (6-1/2 ounces) is due etti. Think of 250 grams as about half a pound and you will be able to order properly. Wander the market gathering food products (including bread, fruit, cheese, pork products) and this makes for a noble lunch. Note that Tamburini, a store in the market, is not to miss. They do fantastic roasted chicken (pollo arrosto) and other poultry and pork and veal. They also have excellent lasagne verdi bolognesi which you should ask them to heat (riscaldare, per favore). No other pastas here or in stores should be ordered and heated. Save those for restaurants. And in some Bologna or Modena restaurant (such as Giusti) be sure to have tortellini in brodo -- heaven in a bowl. One poster said he/she likes pasta so much that one is not enough. In Bologna you an order a bis (pair) or tris (trio) of pasta in which you will get 2 or 3 classics. One place that specializes in this is Trattoria Anna Maria. And may I gently ask that if you are driving through Italy, don't cut the book up....you might detour to, say, Padova or Mantova (both amazing cities) and if you left those pages home you won't know what you are missing. You will not need the car in Milano (or Bologna, for that matter--walk everywhere) but from Milano you might wish to drive up the eastern shore of Lago di Como to experience the lake and then continue to Chiavenna, a town in the alps with great food, wine and scenery. Have a great trip...Fred

Jul 09, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Fred Plotkin's recent Q&A in the NYTimes with copious restaurant recommendation for all Italy

Dear Chowhounders, Thanks for the support. My NY Times blog on Italy actually came on 4 dates over 9 days. First there was an introduction and it was followed by 3 big batches of questions and answers. Here are the links:

Intro: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

1st batch: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

2nd batch: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

3rd batch: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

Ciao, Fred

Jun 26, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Anzio / Nettuno

This is Fred Plotkin checking in. Da Rodo in Nettuno has changed hands. For your reference, I will be in Rome and Southern Lazio in late July doing updating of my notes and will post anything notable on my web site and try to get a comment up for Chow readers too. Also for your reference, fish and seafood prices have shot up in Italy because of ever higher demand and depleted supplies. In May it was decided to have more days of Fermo Pesca (complete shutdown of fishing) to try to give stocks a chance to replenish. It will take more than that. THey have proposed having no more fritto misto di mare for a while so that these foods can try to come back. A great conundrum, but the answer is obvious. Choose smaller fish at the lower end of the food chain. They are more abundant, less contaminated with mercury and PCPs, and more sustainable. If we stop thinking of tuna and swordfish as alternates to beef (which is how they are promoted) and allow these noble fishes a few years to recover, we will do ourselves and them a great favor.

Jun 26, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Genoa

PS One of the best food markets in Italy is the Mercato Orientale just off the Via XX Settembre not far from Brignole Station. This is an "eastern" market because it is in the eastern part of the city. The fish and produce are phenomenal. Some of the merchants emphasize local produce and you will see peaches from Volpedo, artichokes from Albenga, cherries from Camogli and Basil from PrĂ , thought to be the best for pesto.

Jun 07, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Genoa

I found the Times article to be completely off the mark, recommending things and places that seem to reject what is truly Genovese. You will find more accurate suggestions in David Downie's and my books. I have one more suggestion: take the train from the Brignole station down the coast to Recco. This is the food citadel of Liguria. Go to Manuelina restaurant (285 Via Roma -- a 5 minute cab or 20 minute walk from the station). Be sure to start with focaccia col formaggio, the most gorgeous thing you will ever taste. Then --i Hope you are traveling with someone or will take new Genovese friends-- ask for a bis di pasta, two half courses. You first want trofie al pesto and then pansoti con tocco de noxe. Trust me! The best wine is a pigato. If you have room to get some pesce alla ligure, a simple fish cooked with rosemary and taggia olives, you will be very happy. Ciao, Fred

Jun 07, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

New Edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

Thank you, Bob96. You make some good points. My friend Carla Capalbo's excellent book on Campania (and all of her books, for that matter) are smaller and more portable than mine. You might notice that my book, which once had an American publisher, now has a wonderful British one. Many people who use the book are Europeans and they keep it in their car as they drive around Italy. For them, the book serves the original intended dual role of being a reference and inspiration at home as well as being available for quick consultation during a vacation. Travelers who fly to Europe from other continents have been known to do advance planning with the book at home and then bring relevant pages to Italy in one form or another. I have met quite a few people through the years who tell me sheepishly that they tear chapters out of the book to take to Italy and quickly add that they bought a second copy to keep at home for reading. Other people say they photocopy pages they need. Publishing laws say that this kind of reproduction is forbidden but my feeling (and that of many authors) is that if you purchase the book you may use your copy as you wish so long as you don't make multiple copies to circulate to people who might otherwise buy their own copy. Technically, the research I do is just that...my experience, study, and taste all inform what I write. My opinions and recommendations are not legally protected, just the writing (the sentences and paragraphs I create) I do to communicate them. So, for many years, many generalist food writers (as opposed to lifelong Italy specialists) have used my recommendations (and those of Carla C and a few others) as their own "discoveries." There are two very famous writers (whom I will not name) who notoriously use the research and ideas of specialists who occupy niches (I am one of those) and declare them as their own discoveries. It is a source of immense frustration when these two writers make it sound as if they have done the traveling, research and reporting of these "discoveries." Anyone who speaks Italian (as these two do not) can quickly detect their errors. But I have no recourse if someone reads the name of a food product, cooking school or restaurant and then uses it in his journalism (often without even experiencing the thing first-hand). My only claim is if these people use my text. They have used many recipes of mine and then simply change one ingredient (oregano becomes marjoram) or quantity (1 tbsp of oil becomes 1-1/4 tbsp of oll) and then they are not (by law) stealing. Alert Chowhounders with nothing better to do with their time (I would rather eat) can easily figure out who these two thieves are! ....All of this is how my travel book HAS been used. Chowhounders, most recently bob96, have gently and helpfully pointed the ways to how whole books (and the content they contain) can be used in our new digital era. You see now how my research and "content" can be easily copied, shared and used with no additional fee or royalty to the writer (who is also the researcher and creator of such "content."). Persons such as myself --when writing books about food history, culture and methodology--are paid not only for what they produce, but the background and work they have put into getting there. If you go to a doctor for a consultation, she does not only address the issues she sees in you but brings all of her study and experience (previous patients who might have similar issues; observations from other colleagues) to give you the best care possible in your case. Experts in many fields behave similarly. The difference is that authors and "content creators" are not personally consulted by each reader and traveler who might be charged a small fee for consultation. For years (even pre-email and Web sites) I have received calls and letters from readers and potential travelers. I have given my time and responded for free because it is my pleasure to do so (and because readers provide wonderful input), but it is not a good business model. I recently added a page to my Web site relating to my book so that people can write in with suggestions, questions and corrections. So I am finding my way into the digital world. I have had ideas for apps (though start-up costs are high), but my apps would be in another thing I specialize in and not Italian food travel. Your continued input and encouragement are deeply appreciated. I teach you some things; you teach me other things.

New Edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

To all posters who offered their thoughtful suggestions about different formats for my book and those of my colleagues: first, thank you for your input and your support. Ideally I would like to create digital means of selling my research. I do loving writing, holding and reading books but know that mine is quite hefty. I wrote it to inspire readers to go to places they may have never heard of rather than simply checking listings in towns they already know about. Italy's food culture is great in the cities but many of the real treasures remain in the places less changed by tourism. So you are more likely to get better Tuscan food in a Tuscan village than in Florence. There are exceptions in certain big cities (Rome, Naples, Bologna have sublime food), but in most cases the little towns are the food citadels. You can only really learn that reading a whole book. But I am mindful of the direction that information technology is spreading, especially for topics that require frequent updates. Rick Steves, who does great work, has an excellent organization that enables him to put out content in different forms. For better or worse, I am an individual who does everything himself. It makes me known to the cognoscenti who read Chowhound and keeps me below the radar of the mass market. That is fine with me as I try to write for people who are discerning, passionate and adventurous. I welcome any and all suggestions and am grateful to all of you who have supported my work.

New Edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

Dear SouthernHoo, I wil look for your e-mail and answer questions as I am able. FYI, I will be in Puglia July 16-20 and Campania July 21-22 so our paths might cross. Then Lazio and Toscana. In May I will be in Veneto and Trentino. In Sept I will be in Lazio and SIcilia. I mention all this because I want readers to know that I keep at this and already envision--in some form-- a sixth edition. The book is due to be published May 6 in the UK and June 1 in the US

New Edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

Vinoroma, thanks for your reply. The problem is not the reader (we do it for YOU) but the fact that when books appear in other media (Kindle, etc) authors get a fraction of what we would get on a book sale. And, to give you a sense of context, for a book we usually get somewhere between 75 cents and a dollar on each copy you buy for about $25. In other media we get pennies. To research Italy for the Gourmet Traveler I pay for all expenses myself, travel anonymously and go back to places listed in former editions as well as always looking for new places.

New Edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

thank you, Jen...Fred

New Edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

Here is a link to some interesting off-the-beaten track places in Italy: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010.... For the reference of those who want books on Kindle: One of the reasons that some books do not appear on Kindle is that it is financially untenable. The amount of effort and expense it takes to write and update Italy for the Gourmet Traveler is in no way repaid by putting this content on Kindle and apps. Also, we authors earnestly hope that readers actually buy our books before photocopying the pages they take on their travels. It is the faith that readers put in authors by purchasing our books that enables us to keep doing the research and writing to give you the most up-to-date and interesting info. Think about it: would you expect a winemaker to give away his wine or sell it for less than the cost of producing it? Any suggestions and comments would be most welcome as this is an issue authors struggle with: how to best serve our readers and also make a decent living. Thanks! Fred Plotkin

Looking to go off the beaten path in Italy

For your reference, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler (4th edition) is out of print though you may find it in a library. The 5th edition comes out in May 2010. I agree with the postings and recommendations the hounds give below, especially the Marche (don't miss Macerata and Urbino), and, in the south, Matera. If you go to Matera, also be sure to go to wonderful Martina Franca and Lecce. And the capital cities in Emilia-Romagna are great, Bologna being the best for its incomparable food markets

Feb 28, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Roman/Lazian (don't know what one calls food from Lazio) in Rome

The adjective for anything from Lazio is Laziale (LOTS-yahl-ay)

Feb 01, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Don Alfonso 1890 Restaurant

Hiya Maureen (and other Italian food lovers) I was there in 2007 and 2009 and ate very well. There is a formalism in the presentation, but the food retains its integrity. Fred Plotkin

Jan 28, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Don Alfonso 1890 Restaurant

I think the Don Alfonso is the only restaurant in Italy with 2 or more Michelin stars that is worth it. This is because the food remains Italian and not Frenchified. The ingredients are local and organic, the cooking marvelous and the Iaccarino family adorable. There are rooms there and elsewhere in Sant'Agata, a town that is a quiet aerie in this busy part of Italy.

Jan 27, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Looking For Best Risotto In Italy [split from Home Cooking]

I think Riso Ferron is fine but does not compare to what I list in Desana. In Parma, by the way, the Ristorante in the Hotel Cocchi is consistently good. Trattoria al Tribunale is casual and nice. And I loved the food at the Societa' Corale Giuseppe Verdi, just around the corner from the Casa di Arturo Toscanini (which you should visit). The Societa' Corale had delicious tortelli and an excellent bollito misto and the whole experience there was happy and genuine

Jan 27, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy

Looking For Best Risotto In Italy [split from Home Cooking]

I agree with mbfant (hi Maureen!) that it is pointless to look for the "best" risotto, which you can't know unless you taste every one in Italy. I am not a fan of the food of le Calandre and in Venice would point you to da Ivo rather than da Fiore for risotto ai frutti di mare. SummerUWS2008 in his/her post cities my previous listings. The new edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler comes out in March and includes the following, in a town called Desana in the province of Vercelli (rice central!) in Piemonte: Tenuta Castello/Ristorante Oryza
Piazza Castello 8; tel 0161/318297, www.tenutacastello.com (Castello); 0161/318565, www.oryzariso.it (Restaurant) Here is an all-in-one experience for anyone passionate about rice and risotto. Tenuta Castello is one of the few fully organic producers of rice, hewing to old methods that favor quality over quantity. By prearrangement you can arrange to visit the rice fields and learn all about planting, irrigation, harvesting and packaging. There is a 5-room bed and breakfast, each room named for one of the five varieties are grown here: Arborio, Baldo, Balilla, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano. The castle has exhibitions about rice history and culture. The Oryza restaurant offers wonderful dishes, almost all based on rice, but including fish, meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit or wine. Prices are very modest for this special experience. The bottega adjacent to the restaurant has many delicacies you can purchase to take home. If the original questioner really wants to get the full rice experience, I suggest a journey here. You can learn about rice production, learn recipes and eat course after rice-based course. I also see that the questioner is going to Parma. Note that in the new edition of the book I no longer recommend Parizzi restaurant. It has become too posh for its own good. If there are other questions, I can be reached at my Web site. Thanks, and buon viaggio, Fred Plotkin

Jan 27, 2010
Fred Plotkin in Italy