We’re eating at Trattoria alla Rivetta in Venice. We’ve been coming here for over 20 years—for the seafood risotto, the moeche (soft shell crabs), the branzino, and whatever else they have that day that’s fresh. And always, in addition to great fish, there is a generous assortment of fresh vegetables that are boiled, sliced, and served with a generous anointing of olive oil. Was ever a potato so good? Continue reading →
When I got home from the grocery store I looked at the sales slip and saw tartaruga. Which means turtle in Italian. It took me a minute. I didn’t remember buying a turtle for lunch. Then, of course, I saw and remembered: it was the bread. Continue reading →
At dinner last night I had a piece of Lake Superior trout with oxtail on top of it. Five green beans and a fried polenta ball with roasted corn inside. Nifty.
To my knowledge I’ve only had oxtail once, in Rome, when my daughter was having a semester abroad in college. She and I ate lunch one day in Trastevere. A chef buddy back home named Franco had spoken appreciatively of Trastevere. Ballanno, cantanno. Non lavora nessuno. They sing, they dance. Nobody works. Continue reading →
For dinner one night we find our way to Casa del Sole. It’s a country house outside of Pesaro. We’re 15-20 miles inland, where the gentle hills rising to Urbino begin, far enough from the sea to know we’ll be eating meat.
“We haven’t been to this place before,” my wife’s cousin says.
“But my sister has,” his wife adds. “Si mangia bene.”
One of my first recollections of grappa dates back more than thirty years. My wife and I joined a friend and her husband for dinner down in Villa Verucchio, at a place called Casa Zanni. One part butcher shop, nine parts restaurant, Zanni is known for its meats. That night, after warming up with tagliatelle al ragu, we probably had a mixed grill: castrato, which is a cut of young lamb, pork ribs, and sausage.
At the end of the meal Fiorenzo said he would like a digestivo, a “grappina,” a little grappa. The Italian diminutive makes just about anything seem attractive. I pictured a small glass, maybe the size of a thimble. Bring one for me too, I told the waiter. Continue reading →
The food is good, plentiful. The wine, Sangiovese from Bertinoro, a barrel of it.
Around here there is no shortage of help if you want to find a good place to eat. One of our sources is Ricky. He has an enoteca across Ponte di Tiberio, on the San Giuliano side of Rimini. Before lunch or dinner, we stop in for a glass of wine.
The thing to do at Ricky’s is listen to the locals. What do Italians talk about? Where and what to eat. Our friend Adele jokes about Italians: Even while they’re eating, all they talk about is food. Continue reading →
These are people who know and care about local food.
For years I would ask my Arabic students, Where do you eat? In what restaurants do you find the best, most authentic Arabic food? The response was predictable: a bewildered smile. Then, also predictable, the answer: At home. Whatever they ate in a restaurant was, by default, going to be second best. Eating around in Dearborn, I tended to look toward the kitchen, hoping to see an old lady or two. If there was a grandma back there, that was a good sign.
In the last couple days, we’ve eaten in establishments with kids in charge. Kids? Okay, people younger than us, a lot younger, fully in command of local food tradition. Continue reading →
Food so beautiful you can’t believe your eyes, food so good you can’t believe your tastebuds.
If you grow up and come of age at the dinner table in Michigan, the way I did, it can be hard to fathom the variety of foods in Italy.
For 40 some years now I’ve been plumbing those depths, coming up for air with a smile on my face, then diving deeper. In these next few blog posts, I’m going to try to warm up to this subject; in words and pictures, sharing some of the food fun we have when we come to Italy. Continue reading →
My friend Luigi asks, “Do you think prehistoric people were happier than we are?”
We’re standing in line at an airport food vendor called the Dogpatch Bakehouse. Our flight is on time, but my stress level is high. I took a few wrong turns driving from the hotel to the airport, then left my phone in the rental car and had to run back to retrieve it, down two long flights of stairs, down two floors in a hesitant elevator, and back to the rental car parking garage, where the phone’s recovery was very gradually accomplished. Continue reading →
These itineraries are PDF’s. Feel free to download:
Rome, day one This half day walk takes you to some of ancient Rome’s greatest hits. Dinner at Trattoria da Luzzi, near the Colosseum.
Rome, day two: Campo de Fiori, Ponte Sisto, Trastevere, the Janiculum Hill, Isola Tibertina, Piazza del Popolol Lunch at Il Brillo Parlante. Continue to Via Marguta, Spanish Steps, the Colloseum and Palatine Hill. Dinner at Trattoria der Pallaro, near Campo de Fiori.
Rome, day three: The Vatican, lunch at Dino and Tony’s, Villa Borghese, Porta Pinciana, Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars, back to Trevi Fountain. Dinner at Hostaria Farnese, near Campo de Fiori.
If you have questions, let me know by email or by using the Contact link at the top of this page.
Here are some recommendations for where to stay, daily itineraries, and where to eat. You will walk Florence for two and a half days, see a lot, and eat very well. Also recommended, a half-day trip by local train to Lucca. Most of the walking itineraries have the Duomo as the point of departure.
I have always stayed at Hotel Casci. It’s reasonably priced, centrally located, and clean.
These itineraries are PDF’s. Feel free to download:
Florence half day orientation walk: Half-day orientation walk around Florence: Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Croce, Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace, Santo Spirito, Piazza della Repubblica. Dinner at Osteria Fagioli (reservation required).
Florence, day two: A full-day in Florence: Bargello Museum, Piazzalle Michelangelo, lunch at Fuori Porta, Accademia Museum (reservation required), Piazza Sant’Annunziata, Fiesole. Dinner at Trattoria Marione (reservation recommended).
When you get to Pahrump it feels like the end of the world. It’s California desert country, on the northwest edge of Death Valley National Park. Driving into town we pass Bride Street, Gravel Pit Road, and WTF Sand and Stone. Next to the Mobil where we gas up is a storefront church. It might have been a travel agency at one time, Anywhere But Here Travel. Now, in big letters above the door, between two crosses, the church identifies itself: IT IS FINISHED. What, as in end times? Continue reading →
I’ve been having doubts about my hat. It’s a hiker’s hat, with a full brim all the way around, and a drawstring that hangs in front of my ears and can be cinched under my chin. I bought it sort of on the fly. It was a careless oh-what-the-hell purchase. I knew I would need a hat. In three weeks time we would be walking eight National parks.
Unlike my wife, who looks great in hats (and she will tell you so, and it is true), a hat on my head can look ridiculous. When I buy a hat, attention must be paid. Continue reading →