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Mar 3, 2007 03:16 AM

My best meal in all of Italy was ...

It seems few queries draw as wide a variety of answers as the one above.

In the few months that I have been researching great meals in Rome, Tuscany, and Venice, I have heard and read more that 100 different answers to it.

One particular place that I have not heard mentioned as much as I though is Gambero Rosso in San Vincenze. They got a nice write up in Gourmet's Italy issue and seemed worth the long drive from Cortona, and we may just do it anyway.

Unfortunately, we are travelling during the beginning of July. Not the height of gastronomic abundance I know ...

So is there something, like a balsamic producer in Modena or a bakery in Siena, or somewhere, like La Giostra (not even sure if I got the spelling right on that one) in Florence, that we just cannot miss?

And, btw, after countless searches on this and the international board, I just want to say a HUGE tyvm to all who posted. You are all much appreciated.

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  1. I cant recommend a "best" restaurant but there should be a lot of delicious fruits and vegetables available in July - peaches and tomatoes, say. Thats one of the great joys of italy - what the cooks have to cook with, as much as the cooking itself.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jen kalb

      You nailed it, Jen! After more than 30 years of traveling all over Italy, I too find it hard to name a 'best' restaurant. Dining in Italy is a combination of so many factors--the location of the restaurant, the warmth of the hosts, the displays of fish and vegetables, the good smells coming from the kitchen, and of course, the food itself. It's total immersion.

    2. Jen and Mnosyne have both nailed it--it's been for me the sum of many wonderful food and eating experiences, most of them local or regional--from the white figs of the Cilento to fresh pecorino abd hot soppressata from a roadside market in Calabria or octopus in a spicy ragu in a waterfront icafe in Pozzuoli. You don;'t say where in Italy you'll be, but check for sagre and other food-fests that showcase local and small town traditions, many of them held in July and August.

      11 Replies
      1. re: obob96

        I saw your reference to Cilento - We are looking forward to a day in Paestum in a couple of weeks - do you have any recommendation around there (I know there is a slowfood place, La Pergola and have read Carla Capalba's book but I would love some chowhound thoughts.

        1. re: jen kalb

          Capalbo's very good. Check Luciano Pignataro's reviews at for good places in Agropoli, Ogliastro Cilento, and Battipaglia (pizza, La Victoria). We stay in Castelabbate, a bit past Agropoli (and a recommended trip to the old hill town above the marina); La Taverna del Pescatore in Santa Maria di Castelabbate is well thought of, though we've not eaten there. In the region, of course: mozzarella di bufala and related cheeses, figs, and emeerging wines from Maffini and other growers--there's an excellent wine shop on the main street of Santa Maria di Castelabbate. The Cilento peninsula is big--and lovely--with a whole 'nother side down by Sapri and Pisciotta.

          1. re: obob96

            thanks you your prior post I checked out the pignataro site - its really great. Im afraid we will not be able to get much into the Cilento this trip but Im thinking I will want to come back..

            I cant decide what to think about Capalbo yet - she covers a lot of producers lovingly but she also seems to buddy up with the Iaccarino's etc - the food establishment - the same group that Arthur Schwartz highlights - there seems to be a lot of work being done to support the local economy, artisanal cheese makers, farmers, wine makers where there is a natural linkage between the interests of the restauranteurs and the farmers - Im sure I will have a better appreciation of her work when I see Campania firsthand.

            1. re: jen kalb

              There's a certain amount of star-kissing in Capalbo's book, probably to be expected, but much beyond the expected as well, and I'm looking forward to bringing it along on our next trip, especially because there's so little else available in English. Incidentally, I'd love to hear your honest take on the area around Paestum, with its mozzarella mile along SS18.Buon viaggio!

            2. re: obob96

              Obob...if you stay in a hotel in Castelabbate, would you share the name with us. Or recommend a good place to stay in that town or nearby? I am trying to put together a food trip that would include the AC and a bit of the little information out there on this area in English..

              1. re: erica

                We stay at a small, family owned place in Castellabate proper (above Santa Maria di Castellabate) called L'Albergo Castello (, owned by Franca diBiasi. The rooms in this medieval home are simple, but the hillside location and the family-style food are wonderful, as is Franca. Prices are very fair.

                1. re: obob96

                  Obob..thank you so much. The Castello looks wonderful. I am going to think seriously about including it in the plan for a trip early next year.
                  What is the dining scene like in town? A few choices? This is such a lightly discussed area of Italy and I am grateful for any information....
                  very exciting!

                  1. re: erica

                    Honestly, we ate almosty everyday (and so well) at the inn and managed to miss a real chance to try other places. The Taverna del Pescatore in Santa Maria di Castellabate is recommended, though, by many.

              2. re: obob96

                Hello to everbody! I'm italian and I'm just read your post about Italy. I came from Napoli but I'm living in Fiumicino (Rome). I know many places in the south of Italy expecially around Sapri, Maratea, Palinuro ( very close to Pisciotta)...and if do you need I can Hael us for booking or to give you some advice! By Rosaria p.s. Sorry for my english...but I'm studing english yet!

                1. re: rosaria

                  Hi rosaria,
                  we dont allow ads on here but welcome! do you have restaurants you like in Naples?

                  1. re: rosaria

                    Rosaria..forget trying to advertise. But please give us some good places to eat!
                    What about A Figlia do Marinero in Naples near Botanic Garden?

            3. If not the best, certainly my most memorable meal was a lunch at Da Cesare in Albaretto della Torre (in the Langhe) during truffle season 10 years ago. Lunch lasted over 2 1/2 hours as we sat in the indoor patio over looking vineyards.

              1. To add on top of what other people have said, the time of year, the night, the people, and heck, even the weather all contribute to amazing dining experiences. It's hard to pick a best meal that is reproducable for someone else.

                However, one place i never miss when im in Italy is Le Volpi e L'Uva in Florence. Wine and cheese bar. Riccardo the sommelier picks what i consider to be the best valued wines available. It's like a personal guided tour of small Italian wineries, while sitting in your seat! And the cheese? mmm, i've missed many a meal or activity because i was too tipsy, and having too much fun there. Give it a try. Give it an afternoon. It is a quintessential experience for me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: yen

                  One of my best meals it Italy was lunch at Il Vescovino in Panzano. It's the next little village south of Greve in Chianti and would be a lovely drive from Cortona. I said lunch because the setting and views are devine and the food is wonderful.
                  In Cortona the Osteria del Teatro is great, too.

                  For lots of Italy restaurant talk and reviews you could look at the Slow Travel site.


                  Have a great trip...


                2. The Dodici Apostoli in Verona, where they substituted fresh perfect figs for the melone and proscuitto, served on a wooden plank that imbued an earthy flavor to the whole lovely affair.

                  Just recently on the Island of Procida in a modest seaside restaurant, an off-menu delectable combo of penne pasta, zuchinni slivers and mozzarella cheese and some sort of amalgamation magic back there in the kitchen. Perfecto.

                  Many years ago - it was Villa Cirpriani in Asolo above Vicenza - just their prix fixe menu was wonderful from start to finish. Ah, the tagliatelle.......

                  Trota al vino bianco in Desenzano on Lake Garda - quickly learned how to bone a fish and went back over and over for such a simple treatment.

                  Agree, in Italy it is not so much "Italian Cooking" as it is caring for the freshness and flavorfulness of the basic ingredients. That is really Italian "cooking".

                  The marzipan in every shape and color from the windows of Taormina. The Sicilian pastries they sell on the winter streets of Milan. The pan forte in Lucca. The pizza in Naples. The hours old fresh buffalo mozzarella which makes this cheese all the sudden make sense, again in Naples.

                  When the ingredients are good, and the preparation simple with superb flavorings, all of Italy is sublime. Then they start cutting corners and no amount of "red sauce" can ever cover up cheap corruptions often passed on to tourists.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: glbtrtr

                    Mmmm. You just reminded me of the mascarpone and truffle 'Napoleon' we had at Dodici Apostoli!