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My best meal in all of Italy was ...

seal Mar 3, 2007 03:16 AM

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.

  1. jen kalb Mar 3, 2007 05:14 AM

    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
      mnosyne Mar 3, 2007 02:59 PM

      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. o
      obob96 Mar 5, 2007 08:10 AM

      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
        jen kalb Mar 5, 2007 08:52 AM

        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
          o
          obob96 Mar 6, 2007 10:26 AM

          Capalbo's very good. Check Luciano Pignataro's reviews at http://www.lucianopignataro.it/rubric... 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
            jen kalb Mar 6, 2007 11:12 AM

            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
              o
              obob96 Mar 6, 2007 01:24 PM

              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
              erica Mar 11, 2007 12:45 PM

              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 Cilento...so little information out there on this area in English..

              1. re: erica
                o
                obob96 Mar 12, 2007 07:10 AM

                We stay at a small, family owned place in Castellabate proper (above Santa Maria di Castellabate) called L'Albergo Castello (http://www.hotelcastello.co.uk), 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
                  erica Mar 12, 2007 02:05 PM

                  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
                    o
                    obob96 Mar 14, 2007 07:10 AM

                    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
                r
                rosaria Mar 15, 2007 06:35 AM

                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
                  jen kalb Mar 15, 2007 07:08 AM

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

                  1. re: rosaria
                    erica Mar 15, 2007 01:16 PM

                    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. d
              DavidT Mar 6, 2007 11:45 AM

              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. y
                yen Mar 6, 2007 01:34 PM

                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
                  j
                  jangita Mar 7, 2007 11:45 AM

                  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.

                  www.slowtalk.com

                  Have a great trip...

                  jan

                2. g
                  glbtrtr Mar 8, 2007 07:23 PM

                  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
                    mnosyne Mar 9, 2007 12:09 PM

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

                  2. Sid Cundiff Mar 11, 2007 10:25 AM

                    strictly subjective, from limited experience, in order from the best

                    -- Il Convivio-Troiani, Rome: supper, last there 03 Jan 2007. The wine steward really knows his stuff; his brother the chef also.
                    -- Don Alfonso 1890, Sant'Agata sui due Golfi, above Sorrento: supper, last for March 2000
                    -- Agata e Romeo, Rome: dinner ("lunch" to you Yankees) Feb 2003. lasted amost 3 hours
                    -- The Met, Hotel Metropole, Venice: supper, last 14 Jan 2007
                    -- Cumpa' Cosimo, Ravello, dinner March 2000 (pasta: piatto misto della casa)
                    -- Giglio d'Oro, Orvieto: dinner March 2006 (where I learned to love white wine by trying the local)
                    -- Nettuno, Paestum: dinner Feb 2002 (best Mozzarella)
                    -- L'Archeologia, Via Appia Antica 139, Rome: dinner March 2006 (disheveled from my hike, this fine dining place still gladly seated me by the fireplace and offered fine food and fine service)
                    -- Osteria dei Cavalieri, dinner Pisa: March 2004
                    -- Al Mangia, dinner Siena, Jan 2004
                    -- La Capannina, dinner Capri: March 2000
                    -- Trattoria Marione, Florence: supper last Nov 2004 (ribolitta, Tuscan beefsteak)

                    1. a
                      alixschwartz Mar 15, 2007 02:42 PM

                      There is a very famous, very small restaurant in Modena called Giusti, which has a small shop upstairs that sells balsamic of all ages and prices. The restaurant has four tables, and the owner comes out and pretty much tells you what you are going to eat--there is no menu. He'll take very, very good care of you. The only down side for us was that each course was very rich (for instance the first course was very light fry bread with thin slices of lardo on it) so we ended up back at our hotel room after lunch literally moaning in pain, and for dinner that night (in Parma) all we wanted was salad. Still, I'd say it was worth it. You have to book about a month in advance.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: alixschwartz
                        GretchenS Mar 21, 2007 08:06 AM

                        Second this, we had the most amazing meal here as reported in linked post. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/267010

                      2. c
                        coombe May 27, 2007 08:54 PM

                        If you're anywhere near Parma, Reggio Emilia, Piacenza, Bologna - basically anywhere between Milan and Bologna you could spend a day seeing exploring how the best known local products (like Parmesan cheese) are made and get a chance to try them all. My friends had a very memorable experience. Try contacting staff@parmagolosa.it

                        1. galaxypark83 Jun 19, 2007 11:43 AM

                          This can't be missed........Modena.........Salumeria Gusto.......Nano Morandi and his wife Laura (she's the chef) have a salumeria in front and the best restaurant in Italy in the back..........we were there many years ago and now they are written up all the time so it might be really hard to get into this small, exquisite restaurant.......Buon Appetito!!!

                          1. Ruth Lafler Jun 23, 2007 06:15 PM

                            This isn't the kind of place you're looking for, I don't think, but the best meal I had in Italy was lunch at a little place called Al Caneseo - da Amedeo on via Vendramini in Bassano del Grappa. Not fancy, just a little osteria that serves a daily menu. But even though the meal was fairly simple, everything we had was almost perfect. A local friend of a member of our party had chosen the restaurant and pre-ordered the meal:

                            We started with white asparagus risotto, which was permeated with the essence of the sweet white asparagus and cooked to the ideal degree of toothsomeness. Probably the best thing I ate in Italy.
                            Then we had a pasta dish -- Tagliatelle with Lamb Ragu with wonderful, chewy housemade pasta.
                            The secundo was spezzatino with a soft polenta. Not what most people would have wanted for lunch on a warm day, but I love stew. I make a lot of stew. This was stew I would have been proud serve. My Dad, also a stew lover, positively lit up over this dish.
                            Dessert was a "fruit of the forest" crostata. I'm not a fan of Italian-style pastry, but this was the best one I've had -- I think there were ground hazelnuts in the crust, which kept it from being as dust-dry as most Italian short-pastry.
                            There was plenty of red wine in ceramic jugs (don't know what it was, but it was very deep in color and slightly effervescent) and platters of cortoni (we were a party of 14). I think it came to 17 Euros a person.

                            As I said, nothing fancy, but everything a "best of type." It was exactly the kind of meal people are talking about when they say that you can have a great meal even in a humble little place in Italy.

                            1. r
                              rockhead99 Jun 23, 2007 10:42 PM

                              Le Sorello (i.e. "The Sisters") in Roma, and Osteria de Le Logge in Siena.

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