We recently returned from Italy; you can read my travelogue over here.
But, let’s get to the food. I was initially going to run through all of the meals, but I think I will just hit the highlights.
First, the coffee, of course. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many single espressos in so short a time. It was all so civilized and ritualistic. And also so yummy that Rick may have come over to the dark side. One of the best cups we had was at the legendary Tasso d’Oro in Rome:
It was crazy crowded, and so slightly annoying, but also exciting and interesting. And a damn fine cup of coffee.
The first night was definitely a highlight at Da Bucatino near our hotel in Testaccio. In addition to the pleasing decor and atmosphere, the food was great: an outstanding amatriciana and a sick roast pork with potatoes. Erin and Rick also polished off many a grappa.
Up to Tuscany then. When we first arrived, our host Claudio had some wine and cheese waiting for us. The outstanding cheese here was a pecorino with truffles that was just amazing. I bought some before we left and plan on having it with football tomorrow:) I also brought home some of Claudio’s olive oil since it was unlike most olive oil — less oil than the lightest oil you’ve ever seen and so pungent with olive taste instead of just oil taste.
That night we also went to a local place in Vinci that was just an avalanche of amazing food. Another cheese stole the show: fresh gorgonzola that had the consistency of brie — something I had never had but was truly revelatory. It was a sweeter, smoother blue than any had ever had.
At this place, we also had two traditional Tuscan dishes — pappardelle cinghale (wild boar ragu) and steak florentine. Holy Moses these were amazing.
It was rich but not heavy, and wonderfully spiced — a perfect hearty winter dish.
The steak florentine was dramatically presented:
Just seared on one side, we seared it on the other once it came tableside. Yeah, it was good. Simply seasoned, but ridiculously tender and delicious.
Oh, and we drank some there:
We were also lucky to make it up to Pistoia to friend Alessandro hosted and fed us well at La BotteGaia. The standout dishes for me were a spinach flan and ravioli filled with mozzarella in a deeply satisfying sauce:
Look at those ravioli, my friends: obviously fresh pasta veritably bursting with the cheese. Nummers.
Speaking of pasta, I couldn’t let a trip to Italy go without getting gnocchi, and I luckily got some with a gorgonzola sauce in Volterra:
Not much to look at it, but gnocchi never is; you could tell though that this sauce was made with that fresh gorgonzola I mentioned above: not bitter, but just tangy, and so so so creamy.
Oh, and pizza, of course. Where we got the gnocchi, I had a good pizza with roasted vegetables. In Siena, I had what I think was my favorite pizza — a pizza carbonara, and you know what that means: egg baby!
Yeah, that’s bad-ass. At another place in Lamporecchia, we had a sausage and cream cheese pizza with the thinnest crust I’ve ever had — a mere wisp of a crust really.
So, let’s end with dessert. I didn’t go really insane with desserts until the last night walking around Rome. After we got our coffee, we came across a market in the Piazza Navona, where we sampled some treats, including basically pine nut brittle and freshly grilled jumbo doughnuts:
I’m a big sweet and savory fan, so the brittle hit the spot, but I of course also love doughnuts, so that was nice too — sort of homey. We also had gelato during the trip, but nothing was really transcendant, though very good.
Overall, it was a wonderful food trip, in part because I just love Italians’ relationship with food. It is something to be enjoyed and something with which one takes time to enjoy. There is also such a spirit of sharing. I mentioned above that I bought some cheese before leaving; it was at a delicatessen near Da Bucatino in Trestaccio. It was such a happy place, with the myriad workers offering sample upon sample and wanting you to enjoy what they obviously are proud of. It was just a great place that took much money from me, though I parted with it gladly. Oh and here’s a parting shot from that place — of that miraculous gorgonzola.