After a lovely stay in Nice, The Wife and I hopped on another train and began our journey into Italy—Venice for two nights, Florence for one night, and ending in Rome with four nights. Since our stays in Venice and Florence were short, I decided I’d lump in a recap of those cities together with Rome.
Oh yes, on to the food...
There are probably 101 random places in Venice from where you can get your gelato fix, as every liquor store, market, and bakery seemed to have its own gelato case. But we stopped at Gelateria Nico because its outdoor tables had a great view of Venice's Grand Canal.
On a hot Venetian afternoon, there’s probably no better activity than
to sit outside of Gelateria Nico and watch all the water buses, boats, and
gondolas drift by while you enjoy a scoop of gelato. And we did just
that—I, with a scoop of Croccante con Rum and my wife, with a scoop of peach.
The Croccante con Rum, which is some sort of nut brittle made with rum, was among the best flavors I had during our trip, while the peach was
We were having such a great time on the Grand Canal that we ordered a few beers and something called Gianduiotto, which is hazelnut and chocolate gelato topped with whipped cream. We probably would have been better off ordering more gelato of the normal variety, as the Gianduiotto was more whipped cream than gelato. But beer always seems to make things right.
Mmmm. Gelato and beer. Together at last.
We came upon this restaurant only after being turned away from our first choice restaurant that was "booked for the night". Without a Plan B, we went through a classic case of "Where do we eat now? You pick. No, you pick. No, you pick. Fine! We're eating here!" Marriage--it's all about compromise, no?
Despite this helter-skelter strategery of picking out a restaurant, we actually ended up quite pleased with our meal here. We started with Sarde in Saor, a Venetian specialty of sardines sauteed with olive oil, onions, raisins, and radicchio:
I loved these sardines. They had that meaty sardine-y taste that was perfectly accented with the sweetness of the onions and raisins.
My wife's main course was a delicious buccatini and mushrooms in a velvety and creamy sauce. I don't usually go for white sauces on my pasta, but I had plenty of bites off of my wife's plate. At the time, I didn't remember that I had grilled langostines a few nights before in Nice, but I ordered them again here:
These little buggers were worlds better than the buggers in Nice. Well, actually, they weren't that much better. The langostines I had in nice were meaty, but overcooked. These Venetian langostines were cooked perfectly, just not so much meat in them. Damn you langostines! Damn you straight to hell!!!
Ristoro Terra Terra
We were barely in Florence for 24 hours, but it was one of our favorite cities and where we had some of the best food of our trip.
At Terra Terra, a little restaurant that was literally around the corner from the famed Duomo, we were greeted by a gentleman dressed in black baggy jeans, a black t-shirt, dark hair pulled into a pony tail, and a goatee. He pretty much looked like a non-threatening Satan. He spoke very good English and had a gruff voice that was a cross between Cobra Commander, Antonio Banderas, and Count Dracula. When he wasn’t serving guests he was either outside smoking (five cigarettes by my wife’s count) or behind the bar downing a glass of cold white wine (three glasses by my count). An all-around cool dude if you ask me. Seriously.
Anyhoo, enough of my fascination with Beelzebub Lite. We started with a delicious first course of sun dried tomatoes, melted pecorino cheese, and prosciutto rolled up in flat bread:
For our main courses, we wanted to keep things simple, and we wanted pasta, real pasta. So my wife ordered cheese ravioli with tomato sauce:
While I ordered papardelle with wild boar ragu:
When the Prince of Darkness brought out our plates, he set down my papardelle in front of me and we had the following exchange:
Him: “I’d offffer you fresssshhh cheese, but it would cover the fffflavor of the wild boooaar. Mwwaaahahahha! (evil laugh inserted by me.)”
Me: [taking a bite of the papardelle and wild boar] “Mmmmm. Good. It’s fine without cheese.”
Him: Yessss, I thought sssssso.
He was right you know. I could actually taste the wild boar. Not that I can notice a difference in flavor between wild boar and regular ol’ ground pork, but I could definitely taste the meatiness of the dish as opposed to tasting just cheese. And that was important for this particular dish.
We then had this huge epiphany as we licked our plates clean: Pasta in Italy is really good. Mind-blowing right? I know. I am the torch-bearer of human enlightenment.
This gelateria was right across the way from Terra Terra, and came oh so close to unseating Pozzetto as the best gelato for me and my wife. In fact, we had the same exact flavors (pistachio and café) at Grom as we did at Pozzetto just so we can compare the two gelato juggernauts.
Oh the pistachio! It was so smooth, so creamy, so almost as good as Pozzetto’s gelato back in Paris. The café on the other hand, was like drinking a straight shot of espresso, which is good if you want espresso, not so good if you’re not expecting your gelato to overpower your palate. And the café gelato from Grom was actually a bit grainy and not nearly as smooth as that from Pozzetto.
After watching the sun set on Florence from Michelangelo Park, we walked over to Enoteca Fuori Porta, a nearby wine bar that specialized in crostoni and salumi (if you haven’t noticed by now, if we weren’t eating gelato, we were eating some variation of cured meat).
As we eased into the tight quarters of this wine bar’s dark dining space filled with locals and young college students, a huge wine list was set in front of us. Fuori Porta’s wine list consisted mainly of Tuscan wines, of which we probably sampled two or three that night. I don’t remember what kind of wines they were as I just randomly picked from the wine list (and by “randomly picked” I mean “specifically chose the cheapest”).
While the wine was good, the food was spectacular. Among the best things that we ate was a dish with a healthy helping of Lardo. No, Lardo is not the chubby kid that was on your little league team. Lardo is pure pork fat. That’s all. Just seasoned and cured pork fat. It’s kind of like bacon, but without the meat and 100x the porky goodness. I’ve been wanting to try Lardo ever since I heard that there is a Lardo pizza at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. Although I’ve been to Mozza twice, they were out of Lardo each time. So when I saw the word “Lardo” on the menu at Fuori Porta, I knew I had to try it.
So we ordered the crostoni topped with melted pecorino and Lardo. I really can’t describe how good this dish was. It was basically a piece of bread with cheese and fat on it, but it is among the best things I have ever tasted. I still daydream about that melty and salty ooze of sharp pecorino and paper-thin slices of pig fat atop a crunchy piece of rustic Italian bread. Lardo, I love you so!
The last leg of our trip was, for me, the least enjoyable. Rome was hot and sticky and uncomfortable and crowded and I was miserable for it. I know, those are lousy excuses to not like a city. And it's not that I didn't like Rome, we had a great time, all I'm saying is that it was unbearably hot during our stay there.
With all that said, I couldn't not enjoy the food while I was there could I? Of course not. When in Rome...
This little restaurant was right next to the outdoor market in the Campo de Fiori. A nice old man was inside slicing some sort of ham on his meat slicer. For once, we didn't have any salumi, but we did have great pasta here. My wife had the gnocchi in tomato sauce:
While I had the fettucine with shrimp:
Old Bridge Gelato
We were in line for the Vatican museums for maybe an hour and a half in the hot Roman sun. I needed relief from the heat so I bought a Hat of Awesomeness for 5 euro from some vendor on the street. It was indeed cool, but I needed another kind of cool. Luckily, Old Bridge Gelato was right across the street where we got a scoop of Amaretti gelato:
I don't know which was sweeter, my hat or the gelato. Yes, I know you are torn about it too. But the gelato provided a nice respite from the heat and even had little chunks of amaretti cookies in it. Ok, the gelato was better, you're right.
Enoteca Cul de Sac
More wine and more salumi were consumed by the wife and I at this very small wine bar near the Pantheon. The service was a little slow and we had to flag down a waiter every time we wanted a different glass of wine or another small antipasto dish. But when we did catch the attention of a waiter, we were always pleased with what they brought to us.
Of course, we had another plate of salumi. This time it was a mix of prosciuto di parma and some kind of salami, as well as two kinds of cheeses. This was a pretty decent plate of cured meats, but nowhere near the charcuterie I got in Paris, and still a distant showing behind the Lardo in Florence.
We also had some grape leaves stuffed with risotto, raisins, pine nuts, and cheese.
Cul de Sac also had a selection of maybe 10 different pates, so we tried out three of them: Sweet and Sour Wild Boar, Tobasco and Veal, and Pheasant and Black Truffle. I thought I would like the Tobasco and Veal pate the best because I love Tobasco, but it turned out to be my least favorite as all I tasted was hot sauce and not veal. We couldn't decide on the final two though as they were both delicious. The above picture is of the Pheasant and Black Truffle, with the black blur being a piece of black truffle.
Appropriately enough, the last thing we ate in Rome was gelato of course. Gelateria Duomo was also near the Campo de Fiori. You'd think we'd be all gelatoed out by now, but oh no, one can't have too much gelato.
My wife had the Lemon (foreground) and I had something called the "Duomo" which tasted like a chocolate/coconut combo. The lemon gelato though, was very tart and definitely lemony but surprisingly good. My mouth waters still thinking about that sour gelato.
You know, maybe Rome wasn't that bad after all.
[Whew! That's it. That's all I've got on Europe. Like you, I'm burnt out on all this Euro-food-blogging. We now return to the regularly scheduled programming--whatever that means...]