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Our Rome List- would love some input (we get there today-- oops!)

Thank you so much for the feedback. We just got in and are figuring out our plans for the evening (and the week).

Out of curiosity, were there any glaring omissions from our list?

about 4 hours ago
jdream in Italy

Tuscany report (with a touch of Le Marche)

And that's so interesting about "in salmi" and makes total sense. Thanks for teaching me about this!

about 15 hours ago
jdream in Italy

Our Rome List- would love some input (we get there today-- oops!)

Ok, so we are headed to Rome and have spent some time in the past couple days coming up with the a list of spots we'd like to hit. Would love some help narrowing it down (likewise, let me know if there is a glaring omission). Ultimately, we would like to try a variety of "styles" in Rome-- from the classic trattoria to the cool new hipster spot.
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Here's the list of restaurants we've got going right now-- we have 7 nights. Clearly can't hit all, would love help narrowing it down. Also, if some are better at lunch, that's always good to know too:
-Le Mani in Pasta
-Urbana 47
-Settembrini OR Cafe Settembrini (but definitely want to check out what they're doing)
-L'Asino d'oro (or should we skip since we were just in Umbria?)
-Da Teo (we're staying in Trastevere, thought it would be good to have a spot or two there in case there's a day we don't want to venture)
-Flavio del Valevevodetto
-L'arcangela
-Ceasare al Casaletto
-Cechinno al 1887 OR Perilli Or Roscioli Or Al Moro Or Trattoria Monti (I've grouped these all because I've heard mixed about all and all seem to fall into the same category of more old school/offaly-- I think hitting one would or two most would be plenty)
-Armando al Pantheon
-Pianostrada Laboratoriodicucina

Pizza:
-Da Remo
-Pizzarium
-00100
-Tonda

For coffee:
-Sciascia
-Tazzo d'Oro
-Caffe Sant'Eustachio

For drinks:
-L'angolo divino
-Bir & Fud
-Il Baccoco
-Jerry Thomas Project
-La Barrique
-Litro
-DOM Hotel (for sunset drinks)

And I haven't even started to look at gelato yet!

Thank you!!!

about 15 hours ago
jdream in Italy

Bologna for elderly inlaws (who love food)

da Gianni was terrific; friendly service and very good food-- I would definitely put that on their list.

1 day ago
jdream in Italy

Tuscany report (with a touch of Le Marche)

Alright- we were all together in these regions for just shy of two weeks. For the sake of brevity and usefulness I'll just report back on those meals that were substantial/remarkable/noteworthy (in a good or bad way) enough to warrant a mention.

LE MARCHE

We spent the first couple days at an agriturismo that was inland Le Marche in the valley of the Appenine Mountains. I must confess that this place was SIGNIFICANTLY more remote than we expected and the approach was nearly 5 miles up a semi-paved road after turning off the last real road. As a result, we did day trips but didn't venture out for dinner. Our day trips were more focused on winery visits so I'm not of much use here at all as far as restaurants go. I will say that there was one restaurant that we heard guests at the agriturismo speak highly of: Casa della Tintoria (Urbania).

We then headed to a couple days on the coast of Le Marche, based in Portonovo just near Ancona. The day we arrived we had a terrific meal on the beach at Il Laghetto. It truly was a feast of every type of seafood that the area is known for. We were taken out by a winemaker that lives in the area, so I'm unsure of pricing. The quality of product was truly as good as it gets. Some stand outs from that meal: baked mussels with herb breadcrumb, the most incredibly tiny steamed clams, fried anchovies, sea snails with wild fennel and porky-tomato sauce, paccheri with mixed seafood, spaghetti with mussels (this area is known for their amazing mussels). We also had a very good lunch at Il Giochetta on the beach; drank some local Verdicchio, shared a caprese salad, a bowl of outstanding shellfish and the best tiramisu ever.

TUSCANY

Il Frantoio (Rapalano Terme)- We arrived as they were closing but they happily opened so we could have lunch. They brought us out some terrific focaccia, my husband had homemade pappardelle with wild boar ragu and I had tagliata (my first experience with Chianina beef). Everything was seasoned really nicely and the steak was perfectly cooked. This along with some house wine and a mixed salad was EU30. Very humble food but lovely people and high quality ingredients. This restaurant is listed in Rapalano Terme, but really is on a back road that connects Rapalano to Sinalunga. I would definitely return here.

Osteria Ciriera (Trequanda)- Dinner here our first night as it was quite close to our accommodations. It's tiny and looks more like a cafe but the food was beyond reasonably priced and very very good. We shared pici with cacio pepe (more of a fonduta than I'm used to), roasted rabbit with a wonderful marinade (sundried tomato, green peppercorn, sage…) and roasted potatoes. This with a mezzo of wine of EU27. Not necessarily a place to drive very far out of the way to eat at, but if you're in the area it is really quite good.

La Bottega Calcio (Bagni Vignoni)- Some of the more unfriendly people we've encountered in Italy. However, we had a wonderful little picnic of cheese, salumi and antipasto vegetables. High quality stuff and this tiny town was very cool and worth seeking out.

L'ombelico de Mondo (Montisi)- What a strange little place. It's run by a mom (kitchen) and her son (waiter) and that's all. To my knowledge there is no menu or wine list. You just talk to Gianluca, he explains what they're cooking and then they figure it out. As for wine, talk to him about what you like and he then makes some suggestions. It was a Sunday night at 9 and they were PACKED (not with tourists). We were brought a number of antipasti to start; standout was thinly sliced salame drizzled with honey, fennel pollen and pecorino. We each had a different ravioli dish for pasta-- our hosts who are regulars here, explain that was what they were known for. I had buffalo ricotta with pork, my husband had porcini and someone else had ricotta with pear. Really high quality pasta. We were quite full at that point but shared some amazing steak tartar to round things out. We drank some Ferrari to start and then a couple bottles of Maestro Janni Brunello. It's a quirky strange restaurant but obviously has a tremendous following. I don't know about pricing as we were taken out, but I must say that I imagine it was quite reasonable.

Trattoria Palomba (Orvieto)- After seeing minchilli's blog post on this place I felt we couldn't miss it. The umbricelli carbonara with the most generous shaving of truffles was amazing. Definitely one of the best pastas of our trip so far. We then had their signature dish-- dove with a very intense tapenade/sauce. We were unsure exactly what was in it; definitely lots of olive, maybe anchovy… it was umami rich. The flavor was great but the ratio of sauce to protein was a bit strange (so much sauce!), particularly given that the meat was quite delicate and the sauce was quite intense. Nonetheless it was a very tasty dish. We drank at the servers recommendation the Cardeto "Nero della Grecca" 2008, which was ok but a bit reductive and probably past prime. For dessert a poached peach over vanilla ice cream covered with a hot chocolate sauce-- yes! We were quite happy with this meal, loved the vibe of the dining room and the service was really very good (even if I wasn't thrilled with the wine recommendation).

Macelleria Belli (Siena di Torita)- We had a lovely kitchen where we were staying so we cooked a number of nights. We were told about this butcher and it is stunning! The quality of product is really incredible, the butchers are so nice and they also make their own salumi's and they are the best we had in all of Tuscany. 100% worth seeking out.

La Porta (Montichiello)- After a morning wandering Montepulciano we came here for lunch. It was rainy but they have a gorgeous (umbrella covered) terrace overlooking the countryside so we were still able to sit outside. We skipped pasta and did two secondi. We had maialino with smoked potato and truffle, braised beef cheeks, beans and a salad. We drank a bottle of the Boscarelli Il Prugnolo which was excellent. The food was really very very good, a touch creative, really well executed and the setting could not be beat. The umbrella we sat under leaked a bit-- really so little-- but they comped out coffee and dessert; totally unnecessary and a really nice gesture. Definitely worth seeking out this restaurant.

Osteria Osticcio (Montalcino)- Have very mixed feelings about this place. They are trying very hard-- too hard, perhaps. The room is beautiful, really elegant with a tremendous view. We found the service trying to be fine dining but ultimately just very icy. The prices were a fair bit higher than most places we visited in Tuscany and while the food was very good (it was) the service really took away from it. Additionally, it was a bummer to see that for a restaurant that is part enoteca that they poured (small pour, high price) some of the more mass produced wines by the glass. We shared a crudite, spaghetti aglio olio, veal milanese (the stand out) and a "degustazione" of beans. The beans to be were the perfect example of why this place doesn't make sense. They go out of the way to give it a fussy name and the beans were well prepared but the servers were unable to explain what the different types were (in English or Italian). I think our meal was also a bit tarnished as the table next to our received the wrong dish and we heard the server argue with her for a few minutes before going and replacing it with what she had actually ordered-- which then took nearly 20 minutes to come out and was just a pasta. It's too bad the service is as off here as it is because the food and setting are really quite good.

Il Granaio (Rapalano Terme)- This is a tiny spot run by a couple guys that clearly know what they're doing and love it. The dining room is very elegant, with beautiful plates, silverware, linens etc. The food was quite good and the experience was really so nice. We started with mezzopaccheri with anchovy, garlic, caper, pepperonico and olive oil & risotto with ragu. We then had a duck cooked in the style of porchetta and a green salad. We drank an OK bottle of Tuscan Chardonnay (I was curious, what can I say) and had two desserts, one very good ricotta mousse with red berries. The bill was 87EU was one of our higher ones in Tuscany, but totally worth it and still really quite reasonable. Worth seeking out.

Overall, we ate incredibly well in Tuscany. The food was humble and simple but the quality of ingredients was very high. We found the people in nearly all restaurants to be incredibly warm and are currently contemplating how to pick up our lives and move there!

Off to Positano for a few days and then a week in Rome!

1 day ago
jdream in Italy

Lyon- "real food" (not looking for Michelin-style fine dining)

Thanks so much!

Sep 29, 2014
jdream in France

(long) Florence Trip Report

I assure you with complete confidence that they are not closed.

Sep 19, 2014
jdream in Italy

Tuscany Restaurants- specific questions.

Ok- so tomorrow we're heading to Tuscany. We'll be staying at an agriturismo 15 minutes east of Asciano, 15 minutes west of Sinalunga and 15 minutes north of Montisi. We would love some suggestions of places to eat with a week in the area. We definitely lean toward the authentic over the fussy, but are happy to spend money on a great meal. We will likely be going out for more lunches than dinners, since I'm not crazy about driving these beautiful windy roads after dark. So here's what we're looking for:

-lunch spots in this area, as well as the general area (potential visits: Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, Cortona… open to others of course). this will likely be our "serious" meal of the day most of the time

-we will be visiting a winery in Umbria, right around Montefalco/Spoleta/Foligno, we have a late afternoon visit, would love a spot to have lunch in the area before

-perhaps a couple dinner spots in the immediate area near where we are staying

-a spot for a serious bistecca! we deliberately skipped this in florence so we could get it even closer to the source. we've been told about a spot called la tropaia from a winemaker in the area. there's nothing about it on CH that i can find. wondering if anyone has been/heard of it? if not, suggestions of another spot for steak

Some places we've got our eye on after cruising the boards/talking to friends (would love any insight on places with an asterisk, since i couldn't find much about them on CH):
-le casaline
-da roberto
-dario doc*
-il fornacino*
-da eraldo*
-osteria ciriera*
-l'ombelico del mondo*
-osteria il granaiao*

thanks! (with promises to report back-- i'm good for it)

Sep 19, 2014
jdream in Italy

(long) Florence Trip Report

As of 5 days ago was open and bustling. Not much of an online type of spot. I believe closed on Tuesday. My understanding is that lunch is best and our experience certainly supported that.

Sep 19, 2014
jdream in Italy

(long) Florence Trip Report

We visited one (or maybe two) gelaterias a day. A speaking honestly, we didn't actively seek them out. It was more one of those things that the names and general location was logged in my brain and if we happened to walk by it…

As for wine, I'm of the belief there is a time and place for everything. I work in wine for a living and can certainly taste and discern the difference between a mediocre table wine and a "knockout". But sometimes, for example in a homey environment, you want to drink a homey wine (for lack of a better word). The food at a place like Da Ruggero is so simple that really a simple wine, to my mind, is best for it.

Don't get me wrong, if someone wanted to pop some Paolo Bea I would gladly accept a glass, but a little house wine most certainly does the trick with a meal like that. I'm sure there are many somms that would disagree with me.

Sep 18, 2014
jdream in Italy

(long) Florence Trip Report

Unfortunately we didn't get to Carapina or Carabe. But they're definitely on the list for next time.

And yes, I would agree it sounds like you are correct regarding the rabbit pasta.

Sep 18, 2014
jdream in Italy

(long) Florence Trip Report

Florence was a welcome change in cuisine style and flavors after our week in Emilia Romagna. We got some fantastic recommendations from CH and am happy to report back- in hopefully not TOO much detail..

Day 1:
Our first day of eating in Florence really set the bar high. We started with lunch at Sostanza which was totally spot on. Loved the look and feel of the place. We ordered the bollito manzo with salsa verde, butter chicken, white beans and radicchio greens. That chicken was absolutely amazing. Really, everything was so good, well seasoned and perfectly cooked. The beans still had the perfect amount of bite, generously drizzled with bright green olive oil. Mopping of the remains of the chicken jus/brown butter goodness with a little dip in the salsa verde was heavenly. Neither my husband nor myself has every seen this style of radicchio in the states-- such a delicate green. But man, I will dream about that chicken.

We grabbed a gelato at Neri since we happened to wander by. It was good, but nothing amazing.

Dinner was at Alla Vecchia Bettola which was only about a 5 minute walk from where we were staying. The place was buzzing, such a great energy and the dining room had a really cool look. Loved the communal tables and just the general vibe. We started with the Penne alla Bettola which really tasted to me like the ultimate version of penne alla vodka (not a dish I typically seek out), with a little bit of spice at the end. Perfectly cooked pasta-- we licked that plate clean. For a secondi we shared a special for that day, fried rabbit with fried zucchini blossoms. The batter was airy and light (almost a tempura style) and just served well salted with some lemon to squeeze on top. Simple and so so good. We ordered two desserts; a grape tart and tiramisu-- the tiramisu was a standout. We drank the house chianti. We loved this place and could totally see being a regular there!

Day 2:
This day we walked around a lot and stopped for a number of mini-meals to try as many places as possible. We spent the morning exploring the market. Got the requisite tripe sandwich at Nerbone. Wasn't my cup of tea-- I guess I prefer tripe in some type of sauce or braising liquid and thought that for a dish with that much funk that the salsa verde should have had a bit more zing. As a side note, felt that the produce looked better at the Bologna market (Erbe) but the meat in particular looked very good here.

We stopped for a sandwich at Salumeria Verdi- the owner Pino was SUCH a nice guy. Had a chat with him about what we were in the mood for and he put something together for us. We had fincchiona, roasted peppers, sheeps milk cheese with pepperoncini laced in it, salsa verde & salsa inferno. His salsa inferno is seriously something special. It was a really delicious sandwich, we had a wonderful talk with him and given the size of the sandwich/quality of the ingredients it felt like a steal at EU3.5.

We had a late afternoon snack/lunch at Zeb-- a really cool concept. We sat at the counter and chatted with the owners while sampling a vegetable plate (zucchini, chicory, fennel, roasted peppers) and a couple pork ribs cooked with fennel seed and prunes. The ribs were great and the wine by the glass better than what we had in most places. Certainly a place I would return to/explore more.

We grabbed a gelato at Carraia which actually didn't care for that much-- all the flavors felt too sweet.

We had a very late dinner at Del Fagioli. They seemed to be having a rough service and were in the weeds when we got there. We started with pappa pomodoro-- our first time having this dish-- and pici with sausage ragu. Maybe I just don't understand pappa pomodoro or maybe this wasn't a great rendition… but lukewarm oily/tomatoey mushy bread just didn't do it for us; the pici however was good. For secondi we shared an excellent veal chop, white beans and radicchio greens. The veal chop was very good and the sides were nice too. But having had the exact same sides at Sostanza, I feel like the former really executed on a much higher level. With stuff this simple it's really the little things that set them apart (quality of olive oil, seasoning, texture) and Sostanza far exceeded Del Fagioli. This isn't a place that I would return to nor recommend; it wasn't bad, it just seems there's much better food to be had in Florence.

Day 3:
We had a really simple lunch at Trattoria Casalinga. Shared the crostini misti (chicken liver, carrot/parsley puree, white beans, bruschetta), ribolitta and minestre in brodo. Everything was tasty- nothing revelatory, but I would expect it to be given the simplicity of what we ordered. Again, not a place I would return to but by no means bad.

Discovered a fantastic gelato spot while wandering near our apartment. Santa Trinita was definitely the best gelato we had in Florence-- great texture, really good flavors-- the standout for sure.

Dinner was at Il Santo Bevitore. We were really looking forward to this meal and overall enjoyed it but weren't wowed. They do the little things well and there was a great vibe and good design elements. The wine list was one of the best we've come across; well organized, nice selection and provided necessary information (producer, vintage, etc). We started with the garganelli with cipolline, zucchini & cherry tomatoes and the macheronetti with rabbit, lemon zest and black olives. The pasta itself was very good on both dishes. The garganelli lacked depth of flavor (really just tasted of basil) but was a nice light start. The rabbit had an unexpectedly livery note (in flavor and texture) and despite mentioning lemon on the menu, we failed to find that flavor note in the dish. For entrees we shared the veal belly with sweetbreads and the steak with marsala/truffle sauce. The veal belly was the standout of the night, the cherry/pickled onion sauce was very good but not nearly enough of it given how much protein was on the plate. When we ran out of sauce (quickly) the rest was just bites of belly. The steak was overcooked (we ordered rare, came out med-med well), but the sauce was nice. Usually we would say something but the entrees took nearly 45 minutes and we didn't want to risk another very long wait. We drank a very good Rosso di Montalcino (2010 Tenuta Buon Tempo) that despite being a little high in alcohol drank really well with dinner. Our meal came to EU95, which is the most we spent on any meal in Florence. Part of that was wine and part of the was pricing of the secondi's (primi's were super reasonable). We enjoyed the meal and would recommend it. But it was definitely more restaurant food and not trattoria food and given some of the meals we've had it felt like it lacked soul.

Day 4:
Sunday lunch at Da Ruggero! This was one of the spots we knew we didn't want to miss and I'm so glad we didn't! Talk about soul. We got there early on a Sunday before they filled up. The waiter was patient with my imperfect Italian and generous (and enthusiastic!) about his menu recommendations. We started with the spaghetti alls carretierre. I might be misspelling this, but man it was so simple and good-- just spaghetti with a garlicy-parsely-spicy tomato sauce. Loved it! We then had osso buco, roasted pork chop & white beans. The osso buco was covered with a delicious gremolata type sauce and served with rosemary potatoes. I loved how they cooked the meat-which is to say it still had bite and chew. I could see people taking issue with the fact that it wasn't tender braised, but I personally preferred it. The pork chop was just great quality well seasoned meat. For dessert we had a slice of the house chocolate tart; a slightly salty (in a good way) flourless wedge of chocolate goodness. We drank some house white. We absolutely adored this place! The staff couldn't have been nicer and there was clearly love in the food. Would like to go back here again and again.

We were so full from lunch and shared a bottle of wine and pizza from GustaPizza on the steps of Piazza Santo Spirito late that night-- a perfect end to our days in Florence.

Overall, we were really impressed with the food in Florence. The standouts were so clearly Sostanza, Alla Vecchia Betolla & Da Ruggero. I would love to eat at any or all of those places regularly. Zeb was also a lovely spot and we so enjoyed Salumeria Verdi. We didn't get to try all the gelato spots on our list, but from what we tried Santa Trinita was the winner. We didn't get Bistecca Fiorentina, as we are heading to Tuscany next and plan to go to La Toraia-- however that's a dish I would happily try next time in Florence. Thank you for all the advice recommendations.

Will report in from our next stops (we're heading to two weeks in the countryside now to Le Marche & Tuscany). Sorry for the rambling!

Sep 16, 2014
jdream in Italy
1

Venice/Bologna- trip report

That's great to know! Thank you.

Sep 16, 2014
jdream in Italy

Lyon- "real food" (not looking for Michelin-style fine dining)

My husband and I will be in Lyon for three days in the beginning of November. I have explored the couple recent Lyon boards but haven't turned up much (at least by way of non-Michelin star restaurants).

We are looking for recommendations of favorite bouchons, markets (other than Les Halles) and general speciality shops to check out. Ideally, would love some suggestions on the more affordable end of the spectrum. We love great ambience but often find for us that means the bustle of a busy dining room with great energy and not necessarily pressed linen napkins. Essentially, the equivalent of the great homey trattorias that you find in Italy.

Also, while recognizing that Lyonnaise food is not the lightest (to say the least) if there are any suggestions of places that might be relatively not as heavy or perhaps just do vegetables well, that would be great!

Thanks!!

Sep 14, 2014
jdream in France

Venice/Bologna- trip report

I'm not sure when you're going… but from my experience my biggest recommendation would be to book the restaurants that are just outside the city (Ai Due Platani, etc) at least a week or so in advance!

Sep 14, 2014
jdream in Italy

Brief Parma Report

With 48 hours in Parma and without access to a car we did some exploring within the town. We tried to get into Ai Due Platani and Antichi Sapori- both to no avail. There were a couple food related festivals in town at the time, so perhaps that explains how booked up they were-- but apparently neither had a dinner opening for the next week! We officially learned our lesson in planning ahead.

Day 1
We had lunch at Degusteria Romani a new salumeria/cafe/panino shop off Via Farini. Had a culatello panino & a salad with fennel, greens, Pugliese Mozzarella and unsurprisingly delicious Prosciutto. A couple glasses of (better than average) house lambrusco. Felt like a steal at 15 EU.

Dinner was at Trattoria Tribunale. This was significantly better than either of us expected. We started with the degustation of salumi (prosciutto, salame felino, coppa, culatello) and pane fritto. The salumi was all terrific, prosciutto and salame particular standouts. The pane fritto was good, but lacked the delicacy of the Hosteria Giusti's version. For pasta we had tagliolini al culatello and tortelli al radicchio; both very good. We shared the rabbit stuff with spinach and prosciutto for a main. It was a simple dish, nothing earth shattering but tasty.

After we had gelato at Cremeria Emilia… WOW! The texture was flawless and the flavors so good-- stracciatella a particular standout. They also have a fountain of dark chocolate and milk chocolate running and offer to put some in the bottom of your cone… certainly makes the last bite a little less sad.

Day 2
After seeing all the locals lining up at a panini shop the day before, we decided to check out what it was all about. We went to Pepen and again found it mobbed. We each got a panino and while good, neither were remarkable. I found the bread overwhelmed the ingredients. We had one with roast beef, grilled zucchini and flakes of parmigiano and one with prosciutto, salsa rosso… and (unexpectedly) mayonnaise. Their mayo is homemade and very good, but personally, just not a condiment I want on prosciutto… perhaps I'm a purist.

We had an apertivo at Enoteca Fontana. After being unsatisfied with our earlier lunch we also split a prosciutto/parmigiano panino. The bread was certainly better (more of a focaccia and pressed)-- though the quality of the ingredients not quite as high.

We couldn't figure out where to have dinner and were a bit bummed about not being able to get in where we had hoped. We talked to a couple in the hotel that said they want to Tribunale the first night and then went to Gallo d'Oro and really enjoyed it. We mistakenly took their word… as soon the primi hit the table we knew we had mad a mistake. We each tried to muster a couple bites but it just wasn't edible. I found the waiter, told a polite lie that my husband was feeling unwell, we paid the check and left. We decided that with only one night left in Parma we should go back to a sure thing. So lo and behold, we ended up back at Tribunale for dinner. We ordered the lasagne (very good) and tagliolini al culatello (just as good as last night) and a few contorni.

Parma round up: There's amazing product around. And certainly some good restaurants in town, but clearly, you need to venture out for the exceptional. As a matter of personal preference, I completely appreciate the cuisine of Emilia Romagna and it undoubtedly produces some wonderful items. However, the flavor profile of much of what we had just doesn't excite me. I 100% recognize that this personal, but I found myself wanting crunch, acid and a bit more balance. However, I do look forward to November when we have a few days in Zibello and will be able to explore La Buca, Da Ivan, etc.

Sep 11, 2014
jdream in Italy

Venice/Bologna- trip report

We didn't make it to Francescana. We've decided if we're going to do something super upscale/Michelin *** that we would likely to Piazza Duomo in Alba instead.

It sounds like you're right about Giampi e Ciccio's wine-- though we didn't see it on any tables it certainly tasted as such. However, the food was really quite tasty and the energy in there was terrific.

We will certainly keep up the reports during our 9 weeks. (Though also very much looking forward to the parts of the trip when we have an apartment with kitchen so we can hit up the markets, grab a bottle of wine and enjoy dinner at "home".)

Sep 10, 2014
jdream in Italy

Florence-- your thoughts on our list...

Noted, particularly about the gelato. Will also look out for Da Sergio if we are looking for another spot.

Will be sure to report back.

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Florence-- your thoughts on our list...

Sounds great, thanks so much for your input!

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Venice/Bologna- trip report

PBSF:
You are 100% correct regarding Venice's individual culinary tradition and it was absolutely one that we mistakenly underestimated. With the exception of Osteria San Marco, we did mostly bacari/cichetti. It was in these spots that we felt (mistakenly?) that we were finding a bit more of the soul of Venice. Perhaps, as Minchilli suggested, we made it to the touristy bacari, nonetheless we had some really enjoyable bites (particularly Alla Vedova & Gia Schiava). We definitely really enjoyed Osteria San Marco; their baccala over polenta & braised artichoke was really memorable. Nico we didn't know was an institution; rather, it was in the right place at the right time as we walked the Zattere. Our other unfortunate pitfall in Venice was no working internet. We were only there for two nights, the first I had researched in advance (Osteria San Marco) the second we asked the hotel concierge for a recommendation. After cruising by the place he suggested, over our budget and totally empty we landed on pizza.

Bologna we began to get our bearings more (and also had internet). However, had some flubs of missing some great places that we didn't know were closed on Sunday and/or Monday… Caminetta d'Oro & Osteria all'Bottega. We'll figure it out, fortunately 9 more weeks to go!

And Parma, however, is off to a strong start!

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Florence-- your thoughts on our list...

It's thunder & lightening here in Parma right now and seemed like a perfect time to do some research for our upcoming days in Florence. We will be there for 4 days/nights and have been scouring the boards/assembling friends recommendations of places to go. Would love the CH stamp of approval (or not, as the case may be) on our list. If there's anything we should add or take away, please don't hold back! Also, if there are any spots that are better for lunch/dinner, dishes not to miss or whatever else! Thanks in advance!!

Gelato:
Vivolo
Neri
La Carraia

Sandwich:
All Antico'Vecchia
Salumeria Verdi

Lunch:
Zeb
Al Vecchia Bettola
Sostanza

Dinner:
Trattoria Casalinga
Il Santo Bevitore
Del Fagioli
Da Ruggero

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Venice/Bologna- trip report

Thanks ekc, was just reading about ai due Paltini-- think we're going to head there for dinner tomorrow (since they are closed on Tuesday's). Seems to be overall solid recommendations for Tribunale on CH, so will give that a shot this evening. Will be sure to report back.

(and thanks Minchilli for the kick in the a--/gentle nudge to do a bit more research)

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Venice/Bologna- trip report

Thanks-- Da Ivan and La Buca are both on our lists of "musts" when we are back in this area. We will be staying at Antica Corte Pallovicina…

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Venice/Bologna- trip report

Additionally, as we are in Parma now for two nights, would love to know if you have any recommendations of restaurants here (either within city limits or easy accessed by public transport, as we don't have a car).

From here we plan to head to Florence for 4 nights and later in the trip will be in Rome. I know you've got some apps for that, absolutely look forward to using them and would love your (and any one else's) in the meantime about Parma (or Le Marche or Tuscany countryside).

This trip came up relatively short notice, at least for a trip of this length, so we haven't had the opportunity to do a ton of research in advance as we usually would.

Grazie!

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Venice/Bologna- trip report

We definitely had a lot of fun in Venice, not a mediocre time at all, just not any amazing food. I did a bunch of look online and didn't come across much. Venice was also a spot we just didn't prioritize food as much.

What were some of the best spots that we missed in Bologna? We did a bunch of research there and all with conflicting opions. Many of them seem to have gotten recent poor reviews (Meloncello, Diana, Trattoria Anna Maria etc) unless in my trolling of these boards I missed some other spots entirely…. (totally possible). If so, would love to know for future reference (or if we head back there later in this trip).

Hosteria Giusti included because we were staying in Bologna at the time (did Modena as a day trip) and for the sake of organization sort of broke this down by where we were based.

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Venice/Bologna- trip report

For the next week we don't have a car; we'll be in Parma for two nights and Firenze for four. After that we will have a car for a couple weeks as explore Le Marche (inland and coast) & Tuscany. After that it's Amalfi & Rome (no car).

We will then be in Barcelona (no car), Pamplona/Getaria/San Sebastian (car), Paris (no car), Loire/Burgundy (car), Lyon (no car).

We return to Italy in early November for a week in Piedmont (car) and a few days in Zibello (car).

Sorry for the long answer. But we're basically half and half with a car. We're hoping to track down a couple good meals in Parma today and tomorrow, but we do understand that countryside is where it's at. Some place like La Buca, for example, we will go to when we stay in Zibello at the end of our trip.

Do you have any place you recommend within the Parma city limits? We'll be there for two lunches and two dinners.

Sep 09, 2014
jdream in Italy

Venice/Bologna- trip report

So my husband and I just embarked on a 10 week trip, Italy/France/Spain. He's a chef, I'm a sommelier-- we just got married and decided now is the time to do it. We're seeking out regional, real food wherever we go. This is half honeymoon and half research&development. I'll try and weekly hop on Chowhound to do a trip report covering where we were that week. The first week of our trip was 48 hours Venice and five days in Bologna. I won't go into the glory details of every meal, but name any stand outs. Will happily answer any questions about price or whatever else if wanted. Also, I'll stick an asterisks next to our recommended spots!

Day 1 (Venice)
Lunch
Enoteca Cavatappi- this was pretty crappy. we had heard about it from someone and need a jet lagged bite of food near our hotel. vegetable risotto and a cichetti plate, both palatable, nothing more than that. not a place i'd recommend.
Dinner
*Osteria San Marco- this place was a real gem and a bit unusual for venice. it was not super touristy (despite location), reasonably priced. the food was creative & well seasoned, the dining room was cool, nice wine list. standout dish was baccala montecato over polenta & braised artichoke. we drank a nice local dry tocai for about 14 EU/bottle.

Day 2 (Venice)
Breakfast
*Fuori Menu
cute pasticceria, quality stuff. each had a panino piccolo (him with cotto, me with salame). despite looking bland the bread had crust, salt and flavor.
Lunch (there were a few stops for little bites, we do that a lot):
Pizza al Volo- fine slice, nothing to write home about
*Osteria Ca D'Oro Alla Vedova- now this is a find! off the beaten path a bit, but such a charming space. we stood at the bar and had a glass of house wine, polpette (they're known for these meatballs, really more of a croquette) and blistered peppers. great snack, cute spot, if we had more time in venice definitely would have gone back.
Enoteca Da Colonne-had a spritz and a few cichetti. nothing to write home about. we did have some pepperonata that was excellent. despite being a cichetti bar, i think veg is more their thing.
Gelato Nico- this was fine, nothing exceptional
Dinner
Antico Forno- we had walked by this place earlier and seen tons of tourists so we weren't interested. after cruising by the spot we were going to have dinner and deciding we just didn't want to spend that much money on a spot that looked "meh", we ended up having a couple slices from here instead. they were surprisingly good and was a totally satisfying 9 EU dinner.

Day 3
Lunch (Venice)
*Bottega gia Schiava- such beautifully composed little crostino, we had one with tuna & cocoa powder, one with fig/goat cheese/pink peppercorn, one baccala. all really tasty, definitely a recommended spot
Dinner (Bologna)
Trattoria Serghei- despite the fact that i speak italian we felt very much treated as tourists here. we dove right into the classics; tagliatelle bolognese & tortellini in brodo. tortellini was the standout and quite good. tagliatelle nothing special. the dining room was hot and we weren't feeling the vibe so we left after those two plates. wandered a bit and decided we needed a second dinner.
*Da Gianni- so glad we went here. room was a mix of tourists and locals. but service was friendly and food was significantly better than Serghei. we had gnocchi bolognese and taglioline with prosciutto. flavors really well developed and pasta itself very good. good vibe.

Day 4
Lunch
Pasta Fresca Naldi- this was near our apartment on Via Pratello. one woman cranking out homemade pasta to cook at home or to takeaway out of a tiny storefront. she was charming and there were tons of locals lined up for lunch. it was tasty and so reasonable at approx 6 EU each pasta. we tried maccheroni alla barese, orchiette con broccoli, tortellini in brodo (the serghei version was better). we felt that the pastas themselves were very good, but all the sauces left a bit to be desired. but price/quality ratio you really can't complain.
Dinner
*La Baita- this is one of the major cheese shops in the market area near piazza maggiore. we sat at one of their tables and had a plate of meat/cheese from the emilia romagna region, some sun dried tomatoes, cured artichokes and cerignola olives. all super tasty and of excellent quality. drank a very good unfiltered local sparkling wine.

Day 5
Lunch
**Hosteria Giusti- well holy shit, this lived up to/exceeded every expectation. the room was quiet and lovely. service could haven't been more wonderful. and i'm unsure how such remarkably simple compositions of flavors were executed with such precision. we each felt it was the best meal of our lives. we started with gnocco fritto, then tagliolini with fresh porcinis (!!!), maccheroni w/ duck, room temperature pork with warm agrodolce onions (stand out for me), cotechino with lambrusco zabaglione and for dessert, taglietelle al ragu. quite simple, as good as it gets. we drank a gaja chardonnay with lunch.
*Gelato Bloom- recommended by the folks at Giusti, this stuff was exceptional. hazelnut in particular was just amazing.
Dinner
Trattoria Bella Napoli- after lunch we wanted low key/inexpensive for dinner. we wandered into this trattoria/pizzeria right around the corner from our apartment and i'm glad we did. we were the only non locals there. pizza was tasty, certainly not the best of life but very good. i had one with buffala mozzarella, raddichio, grana & pancetta that was quite good; they're using great ingredients.

Day 6
Lunch
Il Piadineria- we lined up with all the young italian students and ate lunch on the street with a beer. tasty and cheap. standout piadina w/prosciutto crudo, arugula & squaquerone.
Dinner
Trattoria Belfiore- this was a sunday so our options were more limited. we had walked by the little spot during the day and it was packed outside with tons of italians seeming to thoroughly enjoy themselves so we decided to go back for dinner. the server was such a friendly guy and it was a nice quiet street to sit out on. food not something to seek out but if you find yourself here it won't be a bad meal. we had penne with tomato sauce, black truffle, chili. it sounded strange but the server insisted it was their speciality. not the best pasta of my life but tasty nonetheless. scallopine bolognese, pork cutlet with cream, prosciutto and melted cheese. we also had a few contorni. and a liter of wine. oops. 43 EU.
Gelateria Peccati di Gola da Claudio- despite having the longest name ever, it was actually quite good. especially the mascarpone gelato with nutella.

Day 7
Breakfast
Pasticceria Gamberini- mediocre coffee but great pastries; nutella bomboloni & cornetto pomodoro w/prosciutto crudo
Lunch
*Giampi e Ciccio- passatelli estivo (arugula/lemon/pancetta) & lasagne bolognese. both pasta dishes were very very good. however, this was definitely the worst table wine so far. oxidized and flabby. would definitely recommend otherwise.
Sorbetteria Castiglione- wild blueberry was amazing. as was the mascarpone gelato mixed with espresso beans & chocolate chips.
Dinner
Al Sangiovese- Insalata San Giovese to start; basically a mixed salad with the addition of balsamic glazed lardo on top… this was quite good. tortelloni with butter & sage, pasta itself was really good, sauce a bit thin and overly sagey for me. chicken with lemon sauce & sliced grana. contorno of figgione bolognese; these tomato braised onions were probably the stand out of the night. tasty meal, nothing mind blowing. but the salad and friggione both very very good.

Overall impression of food in Venice:
Seems that if you stick to bacari, cichetti you can eat well and affordably in Venice. There were some really tasty bites. More pronounced flavors, aggressive seasoning than in Bologna. However, the city (for us at least) is just too expensive and we didn't get to try much there. We have many months to budget through and Venice wasn't where we wanted to splurge.

Overall impression of food in Bologna:
There are great ingredients around. The menus all are very similar so it really comes down to execution. Dishes can be a bit one note and we often found ourselves wanting acid or spice; but understand that isn't the flavor profile of the regions cuisine. Really affordable city to eat in. Our expectations weren't of mind-blowing; rather of tasty/homey and that we definitely found. Hosteria Giusti though, wow, that place deserves all of it's hype!

We're now off to Parma & Florence!

Sep 08, 2014
jdream in Italy

Osteria Francescana or Piazza al Duomo?

Osteria Francescana is located in Modena. Piazza al Duomo in Alba.

Aug 18, 2014
jdream in Italy

Osteria Francescana or Piazza al Duomo?

My husband (a chef) and myself (also in the restaurant business) are embarking on a nearly three month trip through Italy, France & Spain.

The main purpose of this trip, beside escaping the madness of the restaurant business for a bit, is to eat/drink/explore and learn! We are primarily interested in local, regional cuisine; rustic, honest, real. However, we would like to do one three Michelin star meal during our trip and are leaning toward doing it in Italy since it is the cuisine we both enjoy most.

All that to say… we leaning toward dinner at either Osteria Francescana or Piazza al Duomo as our super high end splurge, and would love to know if anyone has eaten at both and has strong feelings toward one or the other?

Thanks much in advance!

*(I will soon followup with a list of all the regions we'll be in and some of the places we're thinking of exploring. I'll report along the way-- we leave in two weeks!!)

Aug 17, 2014
jdream in Italy

3 Nights honeymoon (1 San Fran/2 Yountville). Second night is French Laundry, should our one San Fran dinner be Nopa, Flour + Water, Delfina, Cotogna or?? Some general itinerary guidance pretty please!

Good to know about Gott's. That is firmly checked off the list. Agreed that day after TFL we'll want something lighter. We haven't figured out specific vineyards yet-- but we'll likely be staying in the Napa area. I've heard wonderful things about Sonoma, but given our very limited time we're looking to spend as little time as possible in transit.

Feb 07, 2014
jdream in San Francisco Bay Area