Posts Tagged With: Italy

Emilia Romagna – Little Miss Black Piggy

Italy 2014 868Moving on to the region I like to call Emilia Romagna, because that is what its called.  This is the middle leg of the trip, First leg is here, last still to come.  This is the most eclectic leg, featuring a variety of food filled fun…  Culatello, Prosciutto, Parma Cheese, Parma, castles, AT&T misadventures, wife finding out that all the shoes you packed have holes in them, and some of the underwear, mountains, black truffles, more great food including another “one of those meals”, and much more.

Day 5 – Cremona and Corte Pallavicina

We drove the two hours from our hotel in Piedmont to Cremona, a town (just outside ER) renowned for its Violin making.  Violins, violins and more violins everywhere you turn, workshops, Violin Museums, chocolates shapes like violins. A very interesting, clean, super bike friendly town.  As a New Yorker I was staring at old ladies riding bikes with great fascination in particular.  This could also be the home to the most underrated Duomo in Italy.  But all this fun came to a crushing halt after I called AT&T to upgrade my data service, only to have them disconnect everything completely.  Thankfully, I pre-programmed the GPS with most of the sites so we could get to the next destination.

Rest of the day was one of the highlights of the trip, Antica Corte Pallavicina where we spent the night.  The entire stay was like a dream, a very good one, and I will have a blog post when the time comes.  Corte Pallavicina is renowned for their Culatello, essentially prosciutto on crack, which can only be produced in that area in/near the town of Zibello.  Food lovers detour to visit their famous cellar featuring their black pig Culatello aged for Price Albert, Prince Charles, René Redzepi of Noma, Osteria Francescana in Modena and more.  Each one comes with a sticker who it belongs to.  We used their bikes to ride along the Po river, visited their famous black pigs, white cows, and had a wonderful dinner at their Michelin Starred restaurant, before a friend I met on Trip Advisor Forum joined us for the meetup we’ve been planning for a year

Italy 2014 648 Italy 2014 651 Italy 2014 743 Italy 2014 731

Day 6 – The cheese producer, the meal, the castle

I arranged an early morning visit to CiaoLatte in Noceto, one of many Parmigiano-Reggiano producers in the area.  For a mere 10 euros we got a tour and witnessed the entire process of cheese making, along with a tasting of some of their products.  This is a small family producer that is very popular with local schools partly due to the efforts of the mother who turned into a Liza Minnelli song and dance routine when she just met us and found out we are from NYC.  More on CiaoLatte later

We then visited the town of Felino, known for the Felino Salami, dubbed “King of Salami”.  We had a little Felino tasting at a small Salumeria by the Rick Steves of Salumi salesmen who tried to sell us his entire store.  We wanted to visit the salami museum in the nearby castle of Felino but it was closed.  Although the splendid views from that castle didnt make us feel too bad.

Lunch was probably the most memorable meal of the trip at Locanda Mariella in the mountains.  A culinary ecstasy by a Slow Food legend.  If you understand Slow Food and seek it in your travels to Italy, it doesnt get any better than this.  After lunch, the magnificent Castle of Torrechiara was the obvious choice smack in the middle between Mariella and our B&B.  Dinner at Ai Due Platani was good but pales in comparison to lunch and other meals on the trip.

Villino Di Porporano, our B&B for the next two nights did the trick and more.  Highly recommend it

Italy 2014 813 Italy 2014 846 Italy 2014 858

Day 7 – Parma

Spent an entire day touring Parma.  Visited the magnificent Duomo, Farnese theater and the attached museum where we couldnt for the life of us find the exit when we were done.  The stunning Teatro Regio was unfortunately closed due to the Verdi festival rehearsals.  Salumeria Garibaldi treated us to a nice light lunch at one of their 3 tables.  Then we explored the big park and the city outside of the historic center which we found equally as fascinating.  Dinner was a good one at the ancient Cocchi

More to come soon.  Going shoe shopping….

Italy 2014 1028 Italy 2014 953 Italy 2014 1047 Italy 2014 1001 Italy 2014 1071 Italy 2014 1077

Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Top 10 Things We Ate in Tuscany

Il Pozzo RavioliI’m off to the Island I like to call Providenciales in Turks and Caicos, but meanwhile here is something to chew on…

Pollo al Burro in Sostanza (Florence) – Call it chicken with butter, butter with Chicken, doenst really matter.  Two generous breasts are cooked over coal before pan fried with eggs and one stick of butter.  Thats still 2 sticks less than the similarly celebrated BBQ Shrimp at Mr B’s in New Orleans, but rich nonetheless.  The result is tender and addictive goodness.  With the massive Sostanza Bistecca Fiorentina side by side, for the first time ever my fork was reaching for the bird over a well cooked medium rare steak.  Long live pollo!Sostanza Chicken

Pappa al Pomodoro at Da Ruggero (Florence).  Love on first bite.  My first Pappa al Pomodoro of the trip might as well have been my last.  The waiter reassure me that this is one of best Pappas in town, so who am I to argue.  Who knew tomatoes and stale bread can taste so good.  And I could have easily included some of Ruggero’s killer pastas (with a nice kick) here as well.

Da Ruggero

Cecina at Da Felice (Lucca).  Oldest Pizza in town, and the most popular with locals.  We sampled some great pizzas, one with salami, and another one with prosciutto that blended oh so nicely with the rest of the ingredients.  But I came for the Cecina, thin pancake like or crepe if you will, made of chickpea flour.  Delicious!  Add a little bit of seasoning, Delicious-er!

Lucca - Cecina

Charcuterie Board at L’Incontro (Volterra).  Holy smokes this was good.  Leave it to local Annie Adair from Tuscan Tours to take us to this treasured local bar.  A feast for all senses that included great Salami, Prosciutto and all sorts of Pecorino cheeses (not seen below).  But the highlight was a first-rate Porchetta they just happened to have prepared that day.  Highly recommend having lunch here when in town.

Charcuterie Board at L'Incontro

Pecorino at Podere Il Casale (Near Pienza).  Like eating cheese for the first time.  The views did not hurt, but the smells and flavors from the Sheep’s milk cheese like the grape aged or walnut leaves age was nothing like we ever had.  And did I mention the views?  Oh yes, looks like I did

Italy - 2013 969

Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli at Il Pozzo (San Angelo in Colle). (Top Picture).  Magical dish in another magical setting in stunning San Angelo in Colle.  Watch the monks sing nearby at Sant’Antimo abbey before having this beauty with butter and sage.  This is a typical Tuscan dish you can have anywhere, but it was especially memorable here, as was the marvelous Pici.  Or Pinci as they call it in nearby Montalcino, a town too proud (of their Brunello) to simply call it like everyone else. 😉

Bruschetta at Gattavecchi (Montepulciano).  Carnival in my belly!  Fantastic Salsa Verde with melted cheese, savory liver pâté (best of the trip – Lilian the Brazilian cook makes it with wine and fruit), all kinds of great concoctions in a cup including potatoes-onion-bell pepper thingy (foodie technical term), and my fave, white beans spread with bread and veggies – ribolita.  Heavenly stuff at this heavenly city.

Gattavecchi - Bruschetta

Insalata Lagumi at Da Roberto (Montisi).  Simple, beautiful, and highly palatable.  One man show Roberto lets the ingredients do the talking.  5 different beans with pecorino, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, carrots, stem of garlic, olive oil.  All work together like a beautiful symphony, showcasing Roberto’s true passion.  The wrong place to ask “Whats good here” in this Slow Food Ambassador’s place.

Da Roberto - Insalata lagumi

Polenta with Porcini at La Tellina (Siena).  On a Porcini filled trip this was most memorable.  Grilled to perfection Polenta with these delicate, great textured Porcini, a nice app before the great seafood arrives.  All prepared with a lot of love from the family that runs this picture perfect trattoria.

La Tellina - Poricini

Ravioli with pigeon from Guastini (Valiano).  This was a tough pick since everything in this meal of the trip was so good.  I could have easily inserted the glorious fennel crusted duck, or the divine Tagliata, or the sinful fried rabbit I suppose.  But these pigeon stuffed Ravioli with 2 succulent pieces did the trick and more.  No wonder this place was full with locals

Guastini - Ravioli

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Lazy Post – Postcard Perfect Tuscany

No idea where this is

No idea where this is

For the photographers out there looking for those perfect Tuscan shots, here are some important tips on where to find them.  Grab a pen and pencil (in case… you know… the pencil breaks)

1)  Drive all over Tuscany, especially the Val d’Orcia area

Hmmm, I swear I thought I had more tips, but I’m drawing a blank.  I think this might be it – just drive around with your eyes open.  Surely it would be challenging to drive with your eyes closed, but I’ve seen it done in Florida (and got the metal plate in my leg to prove it).  But the truth is the entire Tuscany region is one giant postcard, and Val d’Orcia is perhaps as picture perfect as it comes.  Simply going from point A to point B anywhere in that area will produce more unique landscapes, quite different than the drive you took to get to point A.

From Florence to Lucca to seeing Volterra through the eyes of Annie Adair, to Siena, Pienza and the rest of the gems in the South, here are some of the best shots we took

Florence - Santa Croce

Florence – Santa Croce

Podere Il Casale

Podere Il Casale near Pienza

Siena

Siena

From Avignonesi to Valiano

From Avignonesi to Valiano

Near Monticchiello

Near Monticchiello

La Foce

La Foce

Siena to Asciano

Siena to Asciano

lucca san michele in foro

lucca san michele in foro

Villa Grazianella

Villa Grazianella

Volterra

Volterra

Pienza to Montepulciano

San Quirico to Pienza (very close to San Quirico)

Pisa

Pisa

San Quirico

San Quirico

Near San Quirico

Near San Quirico

Montepulciano

From Montepulciano

Montalcino

From Montalcino

La Vitaleta (famous chapel by San Quirico)

La Vitaleta (famous chapel by San Quirico)

From Avignonesi to Valiano

From Avignonesi to Valiano

From Abbey of Sant’Antimo

From Abbey of Sant’Antimo

Bagno Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Florence – City of Eugene

Today the plan was to write one of those “lazy posts” on the Italian City of David.  Its where I spend some time picking the best pictures of some place I visited recently and just throw them in here with minimal word content.  But it just feels weird to do that today due to some circumstances.

When people mention the subject of Trip Advisor, the immediate thing that comes to mind to most people is Reviews.  Mainly reviews of Restaurants, Hotels,  and Attractions.  But very few know about Trip Advisor’s other powerful arm, the Forum.  You can spend a month in some city or country’s TA forum and gain a wealth of information.  Information that is absent from your guidebook.  The forum to me is internet’s best travel tool.  All this, thanks to regular forum participants that spend their spare time helping tourists with the various questions they have.  They are some of their city’s greatest ambassadors.  One of those ambassadors was Eugene Martinez who tragically passed away a few days ago.  I never actually met Eugene but we came very close when I was there in June.  Eugene was a tremendous help in making our Florence stay as memorable as it was.  From my interactions with him and from what I heard he was kind, caring, funny, and passionate about the city of Florence and Tuscany.  He will be sorely missed.

Italy - 2013 457 Italy - 2013 455 Italy - 2013 365 Italy - 2013 333 Italy - 2013 201 Italy - 2013 171 Italy - 2013 150 Italy - 2013 118 zz Italy - 2013 105 Italy - 2013 094 Italy - 2013 083 Italy - 2013 076 Italy - 2013 072 Italy - 2013 070 Italy - 2013 059 z Italy - 2013 017

Categories: Florence, Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Podere Il Casale – So This is What Cheese Tastes Like!

Italy - 2013 9743 months later I’m starting to forget details about the trip.  But I’m not forgetting feelings.  I remember having that “How can I prolong this moment, I don’t want to leave, I’m such an idiot for scheduling more things than I should” feeling more than once, all in Tuscany.  And while sitting outside in Podere Il Casale on that perfect day, trying to decide whether I prefer the grape aged Pecorino or the one aged with walnut leaves, only to be interrupted by that stunning view, that feeling took over again.

Nestled smack in the middle between Pienza and Monticchiello, Podere Il Casale, an organic farm producing sheep’s (pecorino) and goat cheese that was unlike anything we ever tasted.  It was like eating cheese for the very first time.  Sandra and Ulisse run the farm since 1991.  Sandra gave us an overview of the place (much bigger than it seems at first) and cheese making process, while showing us the facilities and Ricotta making in action.  The 5 minute old Ricotta was easily the most satisfying ever.  But I couldn’t get enough of that Pecorino, especially the aged stuff.

Podere Il Casale is more than just a cheese producer.  Its a full service Agriturismo, attracting lodgers, campers, farm students and volunteers.  2 meals a day including a wood oven pizza expert hanging around in the premises (how can I get a pizza expert hang around my premises, all I have is a crazy neighbor and her dog), cooking classes, and various educational programs are offered.  They also produce wine, olive oil, pasta, honey, and even some prosciutto. All that in an absolute jaw dropping setting, making other pigs and sheep extremely jealous.  The cliché “Pictures don’t do this Justice” has probably been invented in South Tuscany, somewhere near here

Sandra and Ulisse also recently received a grant by the Italian government that allows them to open operations oversees.  As long as they sell and promote Tuscan based products, the gov’t will help sponsor the operations.  First stop, NYC, slated to open in a few months.  I will post details here as soon as I get them

Italy - 2013 983 Italy - 2013 981 Italy - 2013 980 Italy - 2013 979 Italy - 2013 966 Italy - 2013 969 Italy - 2013 944 Italy - 2013 948 Italy - 2013 936 Italy - 2013 935 Italy - 2013 1021 Italy - 2013 1006

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Lazy Post – Siena in Pictures

Italy - 2013 1477Top 5 reasons for a lazy post today…

5)  Last minute kids dentist appointment.  Meaning, I remembered in the last minute that I have to take the kids to the dentist

4)  I had to take out the dishes from the dishwasher.  Note:  I’m only allowed to take them out, not put them in.  Mrs Ziggy doesnt like the method I use to put them in.

3)  I had to help the kids with their homework.  By help I mean take their new phones away from them

2)  I would like to watch the MLB playoffs, please, for a change

1)  I’m lazy

The 2 scenic shots below are from the stunning drive from Siena to Asciano.  Enjoy!

Italy - 2013 1418 Italy - 2013 1412 Italy - 2013 1422 Italy - 2013 1468 Italy - 2013 1475 Italy - 2013 1472 Italy - 2013 1491 Italy - 2013 1490 Italy - 2013 1512 Italy - 2013 1449 Italy - 2013 1467 Italy - 2013 1502 Italy - 2013 1547 Italy - 2013 1558 Italy - 2013 1384 Italy - 2013 1385 Italy - 2013 1395 Italy - 2013 1400 Italy - 2013 1403

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sorpasso in Rome – 10 More Minutes

Italy - 2013 2469“10 more minutes!”  “10 more minutes!”  “Altri 10 minuti per la grande cucina”  That’s what I tell visitors staying in Times Square  or any other famous tourist attraction.  That’s what I tell my family often on our vacations.  My youngest doesn’t even ask anymore.  “Dad, how far is lun.. oh let me guess… 10 minutes?”  Another 10 minutes and you get to a little foodie paradise, where tourists are largely outnumbered (those pesky, annoying tourists!), where you are not being taken advantage of, where there are no waiters standing outside suddenly speaking your language and complimenting your hair.  10 minutes away, the food gets more refined, and the ingredients begin to talk.

Such is the case with Sorpasso in Prati.  10 minutes, depending on the size of your heels, from the Vatican.  And if you do indeed wear heels to the Vatican as I’ve seen so many do, than I really have no sympathy for you.  I bet you are also the kind that spends a ton of time “freshening up” in the ladies room while on a date.  Why do women do that?  If the makeup needs refreshing every hour, doesn’t it mean you simply need to buy better or new makeup?  The only time you’ll see a man in the bathroom staring at the mirror is after his left leg fell asleep while sitting in the stall for too long and he’s waiting for the blood to start flowing again before he can walk normally, but until then he pretends that he’s busy with his hair or shirt, or answering an important text

But I digress, Soprasso while not your typical Roman Trattoria delivered all sorts of big flavors…

Mozzarella ball – Heavenly!

Hard Cheese with pear and honey – A revelation!  Supposedly a hard to find Umbrian cheese according to waitress.

A gorgeous Salumi plate included fantastic Mortadella, savory speck and ultra tasty dry salami.  The type that normally gets my attention at a Salumeria

Strozzapreti (obviously invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while watching a priest being strangled) with monkfish and fresh tomato sauce – couldn’t get enough of this one

Fettuccine with pesto, zucchini flowers and sunflower seeds. Perhaps the single best pesto sauce I ever ate.

Orecchiette (Mike Tyson’s favorite pasta) with meat. Perfectly al dented pasta, tender meat. We eat this dish a lot back home but its never like this.

The pastas here were on a separate menu that changes daily, and on a pasta filled trip we found them rather exceptional.  A truly memorable lunch overall.  If there’s one tip I have to give you about Rome is go to Sorpasso after your Vatican visit.  Its 10 more minutes folks!

P.S.  I’m just about ready to embark into the next phase of my blogging career.  Any idea how much those clown guards charge?9327892123_106f0f1b5f_b

Italy - 2013 2461 Italy - 2013 2460 Italy - 2013 2463 Italy - 2013 2465 Italy - 2013 2466 Italy - 2013 2467

Categories: Italy, Rome | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Things To Eat In Florence

Carapina FlorenceIt was like seeing your dentist in the supermarket. Flying from Newark, the last thing I wanted to see upon landing in Florence was standing there in all its glory, IKEA!  And it was not your average IKEA, no.  This was a mean and scary one.  I mean the Airport is located in its parking lot!  I did not come 4182.6 miles which included a scenic tour around Charles de Gaulle on a shuttle from hell to eat Swedish Meatballs.  I needed to see pizza ASAP and 90 minutes later I did.

When in Florence, or Rome, or anywhere else pretty much, leave your eating habits behind.  Forget the bread with butter, your evening cappuccino, your well done steak.  Eat and drink like a local and let the chefs do their thing without asking for alterations.  When we went to Portugal a few years ago we kept hearing about the Portuguese obsession with Bacalhau, and how they can make it in 365 different ways, for every day of the year.   Well, we must have picked the 2 worst days.  Tried it once and hated it just enough to try again at one of the top spots in Porto, and hated it even more.  However, the opposite was true with Porto’s famous 5 meat beast, Francesinha.  I expected to hate it but absolutely loved it.  For every Bacalhau there are 10 Francesinhas sitting there waiting for you.  A statement borderline offensive.

Anyway, here are 10 items to try in Florence.  Some unique to Florence, some unique to Tuscany, while some aren’t unique at all.  Hey, its my list and I’ll do what I want to.  But feel free to comment on anything that I’m missing of course.  In no particular order…

1)  Pizza/Bakery.  Yes I know, I know, Pizza is not a Florence thing.  Leave it to Rome or Naples.  But it doesn’t mean there’s no great pizza here.  Try Pugi while visiting David or San Marco.  Grab a number, and while you wait look at all the Foccacia and Schiacciate coming out of the oven.  Then point to what you want, point to your mouth, show them the size you want with both hands (like an NFL referee showing how many inches are left for the first down) and you are all set. The smells alone at Pugi is worth going.  Another popular pizza option is Gusta Pizza near the Pitti Palace

Pugi FlorencePugi Florence2)  Bistecca alla Fiorentina – This is a no brainer and required eating by local law.  A massive bloody rare Chianina raised Porterhouse cooked to perfection.  Cooking it any differently will result in what I call a Paris Hilton – Pretty to look at but with zero substance.  My personal preference however in the region is Tagliata style, which is sliced Chianina and served with with olive oil and spices.  Just about every Trattoria in Florence offers it seems like.  All’Antico Ristoro Di Cambi and its 21 day aged Bistecca, Trattoria Mario, and Sostanza are good betsGuastini - Chianina

3)  Pappa al Pomodoro.  Tomato and bread sounds as sexy as a George Costanza pose, but surprisingly delicious when done right.  Garlic, Basil, Pepper, spices are added accordingly to create this beautiful dish.  Try it at Da Ruggero.  And while you at it try the Ribollita, essentially bread, white beans and veggies.   Da Ruggero

4)  Crostini – Talking about bread, more please.  You wont find many great bread baskets in Florence or Italy as a whole but I love everything else they do with the bread.  The Tuscan Crostini, rich buttery liver goodness is the perfect starter.  Especially when paired with savory Salumi like the fennel studded Finocchiona (so so good).  Try the liver crostini at La Pentola dell’Oro, or better yet the entire assortment plate they offer.La Pentola Florence

5)  Pollo al Burro at Sostanza – Perhaps the most celebrated single dish in Florence.  Chicken with butter!  Or is it butter with chicken, not sure.  Rest assured there’s plenty.  Check out this dish and the rest of our meal at Sostanza here

Sostanza Chicken

6)  Panini – This goes hand in hand with #9.  In Italy Panini simply means sandwich (other than sandwich made of sliced bread) and trying all the various sandwiches in foreign countries is always fun.  Try any of the tripe stands all over town, Bollito with Salsa Verde (Boiled beef with green salsa) in Nerbone, top notch ingredients in legendary ‘Ino, and something we truly enjoyed:  mini sandwiches at Procacci.  They are known for the truffle sandwiches but we really enjoyed the rest of the lineup as well.  Don’t eat the biscotti sampler.. you will wind up buying a case for your entire family and your neighbor, even though their dog is annoyingly wakes you up early in the morning and is ugly.  Had to get it off my chestProcacci Florence

7)  Pici – Pici is more of a regional dish and you will see Pici predominantly featured in the country side.  Its essentially a thick round spaghetti, very “meaty”, very delicious, and very absent in the USA.  When we learned how to make Pici in Montelpulciano our instructor made us add a little big of egg, though normally its eggless.  Try it anywhere with any ragu like cinghiale (wild boar).La Pentola Florence

8)  Anything in Mercato Centrale – Here I am torn.  I need help from the locals as I see 3 options.  A stupendously cheap full meal at Nerbone (inside the market), or just walk around the market and try everything in sight including the cured meats and cooked on the spot fresh seafood.  Or, both of the above.  2 trips here would be idealMercato Centrale

9)  Tripe – Ok, I have to admit, this is my Bacalhau in Florence.  Meaning I wasn’t exactly crazy about what I tried.  The plate of Lampredotto I tried at a restaurant that shell remain nameless was the worst thing I ever ate in Italy.  Lampredotto is made from the fourth stomach of the cow.  Maybe I’m just a first and second stomach kinda guy, or maybe this tripe thing is not for me.  Either way, I tried it, I hated it, and I’m taking you all down with me.  I mean, YOU may like it.  Thats what I’m trying to sayItaly - 2013 530

10)  Gelato – I started with something that isn’t so much a Florence thing and I’m ending with something thats definitely is.  Some of the best Gelato in the world is right here, but you need to do a little homework in order to take advantage of this artisanal craftsmanship.  We tried  all sorts of Gelato all over town.  Pretty much anything that starts with “Cara” is good (cara I think means delicious ice cream!) as in Carabe and CarapinaGelateria dei Neri was another winner

Italy - 2013 295 Italy - 2013 413

What not to try in florence:

1)  Swedish Meatballs

Categories: Florence, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Piccola Trattoria Guastini – Meal Of The Year

Guastini - Caprese

August 21st, 2019 Update

Allora, so which is my favorite restaurant in Tuscany? A question I get asked often.  Its actually easier for me to answer this than naming my favorite NY restaurant these days.  The answer is Piccola Trattoria Guastini in the little hamlet I call Torrita di Siena, because thats what its called.  The post I’m bumping is also to announce a location change.  Emanuela and Davide Guastini moved the restaurant from close to home in Valiano to the other side of the Autostrada, 12 km north of Montepulciano.

The title refers to the meal we had here in 2013.  But this one was not too shabby either.  New location, same family, new atmospheric terrace with some of the best views in town.  Although Davide seemed to age a little so I dont know if I can wait another 6 years to visit this gem.  His wife Emanueala however, hasnt missed a beat.  A super versatile chef who is like Houdini in that kitchen.

Piccola Trattoria Guastini - Faraona

One can spend hours on that terrace.  And we did.  But before you knew it, we were munching on delicate eggplant parm featuring fresh, tangy tomato with buffalo mozzarella.  Then came the same great crostini with creamy chicken liver, onion and apple we had last time.  Superb Pici topped with tomatoless Ragu of Chianina, the local cattle so prized its announced on the menu.  It always amazes me how the Tuscan extract so much flavor from such little meat.  And of course there was Tortelli again, packed with that addictive fresh ricotta.

That versatility is especially showing with meats, particularly game birds.  This time we enjoyed a fantastic, most tender Faraona (guinea fowlwith pistachios and raisins.  And a roasted Maialino – delightfully salty, crunchy, and fatty in all the right places.  Like slow dancing with your mother-in-law.  A proper Tiramisu, and an even better Ricotta with honey.  All enjoyed with a Pieropan 2015 Soave.  GO!

September 10, 2013 Post (Old Location)

The “Saving the best for last” cliché doesn’t quite make sense to me in this context.  How do you know its the best if you haven’t done it yet.  Surely it can turn out merely “pretty good”, or perhaps one of the earlier meals rises to the occasion.  With that said, I cant help but anticipate and suspect whether I’m leaving the best for last sometimes.  Piccola Trattoria Guastini, our last meal in Tuscany was not only the best meal in Tuscany, it was the best meal of the entire 12 day trip which included about 20 pretty good ones.

GuastiniEmanuela and Davide Guastini run this popular spot in the tiny village of Valiano not too far from Montepulciano.  Sunflower galore on the way there from the Cortona direction. Gorgeous terrace overlooking the area I can only describe as “the other side of A1” which doesn’t sound as sexy as the real name I keep forgetting (Val di Chiana).  Everything was working that night – the sublime food, the wine, the mood, the comfort, the gracious hosts, and the one ingredient missing from just about every other place we visited, locals.  Guastini - Crostini

Started with, what else, more amazing crostini this time with chicken liver and caramelized onions – sweet and savory.  Followed that with an ultra fresh Caprese salad.  Cant get much better than this.  Tortelli with ricotta were topped with fresh tomatoes and basil, almost resulted in a family feud (I won simply by staring).  One particular stunner was the ravioli stuffed with pigeon with 2 succulent pieces to boot.  Our first pigeon of the trip resulted in a messy moment of silence.Guastini - Ravioli Guastini - Tortelli

More deliciousness followed in the form of fried rabbit which we couldnt get enough of.  Glorious duck encrusted with fennel, one of those dishes you know will be good as soon as it arrives.  My nose and sense of smell were working overtime that night.

Guastini - rabbit Guastini - Duck

I had a long talk with Davide about food and after voicing my slight disappointment with the Bisteccas in Florence and the region, he comes back minutes later with a full plate of Tagliata, sliced Chianina beef perfectly cooked with olive oil.  This was absolutely delicious.  Who knew that the best steak of the trip would be the free one.  Great desserts here as well.  Panna Cotta with chocolate sauce, ricotta mousse with honey and hazelnuts (seems like a specialty here in the region) and a fine tiramisu. Guastini - Chianina

It was packed with locals which was not surprising considering the restaurant was suggested by a restaurant owner in Montepulciano.  Reservations are a must.  If you want a quick meal, this is certainty not the place.  Like Da Roberto and many of the other places we visited, Guastini oozes Slow Food freshness.  A meal you need to experience at least once on vacation.  Guastini is why I come to ItalyGuastini - Pana Cotta

Guastini patio

Categories: Italy, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Lazy Post – Morning in Trastevere

When in Rome… do as the tourists do.  Explore all the major sites which can take about 3 days.  But, it pays to stay a few extra days and explore some neighborhoods such as Trastevere.  As is the case with other major cities in Europe we visited, we prefer to stay away from the center, in a more residential area.  I rather open my window to a line of laundry in the morning rather than an Eifel Tower, or Colosseum.  When leaving to do our thing as tourists I like to see the locals starting their daily routines, kids going to school, Orange Yogi man preparing for work.  Trastevere, although a bit more touristy than I imagined in the evenings (those damn pesky tourists) was just that in the mornings…Italy - 2013 2550 Italy - 2013 2605 Italy - 2013 2540 Italy - 2013 2544 Italy - 2013 2557 Italy - 2013 2564 Italy - 2013 2565 Italy - 2013 2569 Italy - 2013 2575 Italy - 2013 2582 Italy - 2013 2545 Italy - 2013 2609 Italy - 2013 2602 z Italy - 2013 2597 Italy - 2013 2595 Italy - 2013 2591 Italy - 2013 2589 Italy - 2013 2587

Categories: Italy, Rome | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.