October Trip Report - Torino, Cinque Terre, Montalcino, Norcia, Rome
This is my first post to Chowhound, and I am typically lazy when it comes to writing but I needed to thank all of the people who posted on this board and on Trip Advisor who helped make our food focused trip to Italy and Rome an amazing experience. Unfortunately I didn't start reading the Italy board until the end of our trip in Rome but Italy being Italy we ate very well everywhere we went. Special thanks to Elizebeth and a post by Tenortom whose opinions and trip report were spot on. To follow along with our food tour of Italy pictures are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/achang99...
We only had a day in turni on our way from Paris to Cinque Terre, but that was enough to make Turin the top of my food list for the next time we come to Italy. Well deserved reputation for some of the best food in Italy.
Eataly: First time going to the slow food super center. Loved it, best Gelato we had the whole trip. Worth a visit no matter your opinion on it being a "chain".
Ristorante Solferino (Piazza Solferino, 3, Torino): Found Solferino in Trip Advisor. Nice restaurant and ambience, service was very friendly and helpful. My wife's favorite dish of the entire trip was served here, the house special Rosemary Tagliatelle with white Ragu. Simple but with the twist of the rosemary. Done perfectly. Gnocchi with in cream with local cheese also good. Will be back again on our next visit.
Porta Palazzo Market (Piazza della Reublica, Torino): Largest fresh market in Europe. Only had an hour in the morning so we only saw the produce outside that filled the square, several hundred vendors, biggest I've ever seen. We were roundly chastised for picking up the lettuce, note, don't mess with the displays the vendors do a beautiful job and don't take kindly to tourists messing their work up. Though seems that's not always the rule for locals. Look forward to seeing the inside of the market on the next trip.
Cinque Terre ----
Had three nights in the postcard perfect hill/seaside town of Riomagiorre
Enoteca Dal Cila (Via San Giacomo, 65, Riomaggiore): Great deck, very popular. Food was all good with their Mixed fried fish hitting very good but nothing extraordinary. Would go back if it was convenient.
Trattoria Dal Billy (via Aldo Rollandi 122, Manarola ): Top rated restaurant in Cinque Terre on Trip advisor, I agree. We hiked 3 hours to Manarola from Riomagiorre before our lunch, I would be willing to walk twice as far to eat at Billy's. Very cool three level layout with wonderful views over Manarola to the sea. Service was good with light doses of italian attitude and humor. We ordered too much so we weren't allowed to order pasta until we insisted for the third time, then we were given a single portion of the black ink seafood pasta, luckily. Squid ink seafood pasta alla Chittarra was pasta perfection itself for me, wonderful fresh seafood, just the right touch of tomato, pasta was perfeclty al dante with that little bit extra from the squid ink. Was one of the best pastas we had in three weeks in Italy. For starters the seafood anti pasta was one of the unexpected food highpoints of the trip. The Seafood Antipasti included 12 different dishes of seafood, 8 of which were fantastic, the rest merely very good. Also had two nicely done grilled filet's of fish (I think a Bronzini and something else), but mains have a hard time competing with exceptional pasta and anti pasta in my book. Finished off with Limoncello and Grappa on the house. Wonderful afternoon would love to go back tomorrow if possible.
One day in Florence mostly for shopping then three nights in Montalcino, home of Brunello wine, which I learned means a wine that's 100% San Giovese, aged for 5 years, 2 years in Oak, 4 months in the bottle, and certified from the Montalcino region. Apparently one of the best reds from Tuscany, we definitely enjoyed them. We stayed at a agriturismo winery, Le Regnaie, that produces Brunello so had the treat of seeing how it was all done.
San Lorenzo Market/Nerbone (Florence):
Must go for food lovers. Really incredible displays of your northern Italian specialties. We went two days and tried the Laprodotto from another stall then the classic Nerbone. Nerbone was great. The Katz's of Florence, or maybe the other way around since Nerbone started in 1874 while Katz's is a young whipper snapper having only started in 1888. Either way boiled chopped meat on a roll is the way to go. Both the Bollito and Lamprodotto (intestine) were very good, espicially with the spicy green sauce.
Osteria le Logge(Via del Porrione 33, Siena): Fancy restaurant masquerading as an Osteria, near the main Piazza in Siena. Modern cuisine highly recommended by our Sienese host in Montalcino. They made a really wonderful beef tongue and potato croquet like thing on pesto sauce, great combination. Chittarra cacio e pepe was very good. Pumpkin ravioli too sweet for our taste but done well. Carciofi in mandarin sauce with a dusting of olives was interesting but not super tasty. Little too expensive and fancy for my sweetspot so I wouldn't go back, but a very good restaurant.
Il Grifo (Via Mazzini, 18, Montalcino):
Very popular pizza place. Casual atmosphere, big families, friends, couples. Good service and very reasonable prices. Memorable crust, bit thicker than thin and a little focaccia like but still very crispy on the bottom. Tried the sausage, pepper and buffalo mozzarella. Very good. Go if you are in the area.
Enoteca Osteria Osticcio (via matteotti 23, Montalcino):
We had a great lunch here, apparently the most creative, and some say the best food in Montalcino, though we didn't try anything particularly creative. Tagliatelle with white Ragu sauce was very good and the Bistec a la Fiorentina was one of the best steaks I've ever had. Place is known for it's wine and they had a Brunello from our hotel, Le Regnai, great with the steak.
After reading in the guidebooks that this was the capital of black truffles, wild boar, and was in the mountains I decided to make the trek. Glad we did.
Taverna De' Massari (Via Roma, 13, Norcia
)Traditional Umbrian resturant in Norcia. OK atmosphere, good service. First time having truffles so when I asked a question about the way the truffles were prepared he brought it out and showed how it was ground. Tagliatelle with Black Truffles was very good, though I'm probably not a good judge since it was my first time trying truffles. Mallissa had the Tagliatelle with wild boar which was also good. Tagliata steak on arugala pretty good but I had just had a Bistec a la fiorentina the day before so it paled a bit. Probably wouldn't go back.
Trattoria Dal Francese (Via Riguardati, 16, Norcia)
Homestyle trattoria in Norcia. Friendly relaxed service, lots of locals and tourists. Sausage with Lentils, delivered on the hype of Norcia's meat, delicious, juicy, yum.. Grilled lamb, Pappardelle with wild boar and tortellini with cream and black truffles also good. We went twice, really enjoyed the low key atmosphere and tasty food.
Rome being Rome I was expecting great things and was happy to report it surpassed my expectations.
Perelli Dal 1917 (Via Marmorata, 39, Rome)
Classic Roman Trattoria, almost a 100 years in the making. Feels very old school, which is reinforced by the age of the extremely experienced waitstaff. Not what I would call friendly, more like tourist tolerant, but I'll take it since the food was so good. Seemed to be mostly locals at lunch. They are known for their Rigatoni Carbonara and it was exceptional, perfectly crisp pancetta, perfect tang of pecorino, pasta perfectly al dante, eggs just cooked to a perfect creamy consistency (as you might have guessed with all the perfects I am a big Carbonara fan and this was the best). Rigatoni coda alla vaccinara (stewed oxtail) was also very good. And I really enjoyed the anti-pasti, stuffed zuchinni, breaded peppers, chickory with olive and raisin, roman style artichokes.
Osteria La Gensola (Piazza della Gensola 15, Rome)
Trastevere Sicilian seafood restaurant. Friendly service, nice atmosphere, we came early and it was mostly foodie tourists but by 10pm it had filled up with local crowd. Exceptional scampi, again another best of my life dish, grilled with some kind of fish roe exquisite explosion of seafoody goodness. Bass Stuffed ravioli with Mullet roe and a Fish stock reduction perfectly combined, pasta meets the sea to their mutual benefit, also exceptional. Very good Pezzona alla diavola (whole fish diavola style with fresh tomato and basil salsa). Fried baby squid, Scallops with tomato, basil, and pinenuts and mixed salad were good but it's tough to compete when there were so many exceptional flavors during the meal. One of the more expensive meals we ate but fully worth it.
Forno Campo de' Fiori (Campo de' Fiori, 22, Rome)
Slice bakery/pizzeria in Compo de' Fiori. Great place for a roman slice. Margarita, Zuchini flower and zuchini white pizzas all very good. Different flavors have slightly different crusts, all delicious. Wish we would have had another stomach or two to try more.
Trattoria Monti (Via di San Vito, 13, Rome)
Lovely family run trattoria with a creative flair. Sunday lunch was completely booked but we stood in front of the restaurant after they told us they were full and eventually gave in due to our hangdog looks and let us in as long as we agreed to finish by the time the late reservation arrived, deal. Was a treat to sit near the open kitchen and watch mom work her magic. The special of the day was an exceptional rolled eggplant with ricotta with a zabaglione sauce. Crisp strips of skin were laid over top and the combination of the slightly sorughumy reduction against the creamyness of the cheese and meatiness of the grilled eggplant was memorable. Lasagna was very good as was their signature roast suckling pig with potatoes, seasoned and cooked to perfection, though a little more gamey than I was expecting, not sure if it was the day or that's the way it's supposed to taste. We also tried a bacaloa with breadcrumbs and mustard and leek sauce, my pasta was a simple sausage rigatoni with a bit of cheese and pepper, both were also good.
San Crispino (Via della Panetteria,42, Rome)
Very popular Gelato place. After trying a cup we dropped into another Gelato place around the corner (because I really wanted mint ice cream) and the owner told us that San Crispino has the best.... marketing of any Gelato, but he had better gelato. Agree with the first part of his statement. Not really much impressed by San Crispino, couldn't hold a candle to what we had in Eataly in Torino.
Look forward to next trip. Thanks again to all the posters.
Thanks for all the detailed feedback and taking time to write it all up for others. As for Eataly, no doubt some do find it worthwhile, but I would urge others in Torino for a short visit not to take time away from visiting Torino's historic food shops to go to EATALY (which has identikit outlets all over the world, with plans for more).
It's what in the box that I thought was cool. Seeing such a huge range of pastas, cheeses etc, in the big box model was fun. I do think having more mini restaurants (read food court) integrated into the store using the products from the store is also a nice touch, which I haven't seen before in the US. Not that it is new, I recently went to Seoul and they have a great fish market with restaurants on the second floor that specialize in sashimi, sliced up on the floor and sent up the restaurants.
If they had an Eataly here in Shanghai I would be thrilled, but I can see your point, especially if I lived there. I always gravitate back to the real local markets and shops as well.
Don't know if there are any solid plans to open an EATALY in Shanghai, but I'd bet on it coming there. It is a huge hit in Tokyo, where there is more than one branch (I think there may be as many as nine branches of EATALY in the greater Tokyo area. )
I've seen giant Whole Foods stores in the American suburbs that incorporate food courts (pizza, burritos, hamburgers, smoothies). The one in NYC in the basement of the Time-Warner Center has some restaurant-type service as well.
Thank you for taking the time to report back in. It really does help tremendously for others to hear these kinds of reports.
Glad everything went well. And as for San Crispino, it's just not good any more. They've actually started opening franchises, and not only has the quality gone downhill, but the service in several of them makes believe they are actually a front for something else. I'm not going to recommend them any more.
Glad to help. Thanks again for your commitment to the Italy board, with your help my foodie friends are all seriously envious. Now just looking forward to our next trip back.
By the way if you ever come out to Shanghai please let me know I would be happy to show you around another of the world's great cuisines.