I took it as a sign that Bon Appetit’s May issue was all about Italian food. Being surrounded by restaurants who know nothing more than the recipes of your favorite cuisine? You quickly get a feel for what’s really worth the Euros. My top four:
Hotel Baia. Via Fegina 88, 19016 Monterosso al Mare, Italia.
This fish ravioli nearly made me cry. It was so perfect. Our day trip to the Cinque Terre was, is, and remains one of the most memorable days of my life, and the pasta and pecorino-pear plate had as much to do with it as everything else we experienced that day.
4 Leoni. Via de’Vellutini, 1R. Firenze, Italia. 39 055218562.
So good we ate there twice. We found 4 Leoni on our first night in Florence thanks to a great recommendation from our Fodor’s guide. I had the sea bass alla fiorentina, and it was a fresh cut of fish covered in my favorite of the nightshades, tomatoes. Much lighter than the pasta I had for lunch that day.
We didn’t want to chance any gastronomical mishaps on our last night in Florence, so we went back to 4 Leoni for Round II. (Get it? I just used Roman numerals in my Italian vacation post. Hah!) The bruschetta was super disappointing, but the signature pear ravioli in goat cheese sauce and asparagus was not. It was the lightest pasta I’ve ever had. I don’t usually associate pasta dishes with summer flavors or even particularly crave them, but that fruit filling really packed three months’ worth of that vacation-y feeling into my bowl.
It’s worth noting that Bill, even on his Specific Carbohydrate Diet, was able to find quality steak and chicken at 4 Leoni. He finally felt redemption after dozens and dozens of menus that knew nothing beyond pasta and pizza.
Gelateria Artigianale. Vernazza, Italia.
This isn’t such a great photo, but man, was that ever the perfect cone of sorbetto. Bill and I had just completed the one-and-a-half hour hike from Corniglia to Vernazza with the coastal mid-day sun blazing overhead. I had my big-ass statement hat on (One of the locals uttered “Mamma mia” when I passed by. But guess who’s not sunburnt?), and the sweat was seeping through my shirt into my backpack straps. (Mm, such sexy imagery.) It was a full-on workout. Just when my legs were turning to jelly, we came across Gelateria Artigianale. Those scoops of homemade limone and fragola got me through to the next meal.
SCD Bonus: Gelateria Artigianale also blended fresh juices on the spot!
La Gelateria Frigidarium. Via del Governo Vecchio, 112, 00186 Roma, Italia.
On our last day in Italy, energy was waning as we tried in vain to locate some mysterious amazing restaurant that has no sign. (“18” on Governo Pecchio, highly recommended by Eugenia.) I was sad we didn’t find it, but I did have a spritely conversation with a woman from Bangladesh about Sade (Her version sounded more like “Shaggy.”), Rihanna (“I don’t like that Rihanna.”), and Shakira (“Shakira can dance!”) – And I found some awesome vintage shops (I imagine Governo Pecchio is where Italy’s hipsters would shop.) and La Gelateria Frigidaire.
This gelateria supposedly uses no hydrogenated fats, which I felt was justification to order both some crema and their eponymous flavor, “Frigidaire” – which comes with a cookie that reminds me of FAO Schwartz wrapping paper. I was very happy.
I vote myself Least Likely to Get Tired of Carbs, but…I relinquish the tiara. Living in the Bay Area, one takes for granted the ridiculous amount of international and authentic variety of cuisines available. In the Bay, the question is “What are you in the mood for?” In Venice, the question is, “Where do you want to get yer pasta from?” This is not to say that I did not love the opportunity to eat pasta. every. day – Indeed I did partake in the opportunity, and indeed I did love it.
I’m just glad to be home. I missed the diversity of food while we were in Italy – Just about as much as I simultaneously loved the pasta.