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Sep 17, 2013 09:30 PM

Please critique my Bologna-Florence-Milan itinerary :)

Hi Friends!
I wanted to consult you guys on my upcoming food boyfriend and I will be traveling to Italy for a wedding at an agriturismo in Tuscany and will also spend a little bit of time in Bologna and Florence. After my boyfriend returns to the states I'll stick around and a couple solo days in Milan and one solo night in Bologna.

Based on the great recommendations here and off other sites and local acquaintances, I came up with a rough itinerary (if we can get tables at these places):

-Thursday Lunch: all'Osteria Bottega

-Thursday Dinner: Sostanza (or would you recommend Mario?)
-Friday Breakfast (before 9am): Nerbone (or is that too early?)
-Friday Lunch - Sunday Breakfast: Wedding in Agriturismo
-Sunday Lunch: Ruggero

BOLOGNA (again!)
-Sunday Dinner: Ristorante da Nello al Montegrappa/Antica Trattoria della Gigina/Anna Maria/Trattoria La Corte Galluzzi/Da Vito/Osteria dell'Orsa (the ones mentioned on CH have all received mixed reviews so haven't quite decided - what are your thoughts?)
-Monday Lunch (Modena): Osteria Francescana
-Monday Dinner: Al Sangiovese/Teresina/Sette Tavoli/Osteria dell'Orsa (which one do you think?)

-Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday Lunch: Abele Trattoria Temperanza/Trussardi alla Scala/Pane e Acqua/ Gatto/Solo Pizza/La Brisa/La Risacca 6/Manna
-Tuesday/Wednesday Dinner: 28 Posti/L'Incoronata/Al Bacco/al Pont de Ferr/Trattoria all’Antica/Piazza Miani...or just aperitivo, and only lots aperitivo :p
*Snacking: Sissi, Panarello, Luini
**any other places to recommend for a solo diner/drinker? I'll be staying near Navigli and will also be doing things near the northeastern and eastern parts of the city center and will travel in and out of Garibaldi train station

BOLOGNA (one last night!)
Thursday Dinner: Sale Grosso, or one of the spots I was considering for Sunday or Monday


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  1. Florence:
    All looks good to me. I'm not sure if Nerbone is up and running at 9am? But many of the tripe carts around certainly are. I particularly love Lupen and Margo, at the corner of Via Ariento, just outside the market.

    Definitely Sostanza over Mario.

    1. Bologna:

      A lot of this depends on your capacity for eating. Most people would find eating 2 restaurant meals per day in Bologna (or Bologna plus another city combined) to be unpleasantly too-filling. I feel fairly certain that the day you eat lunch at Osteria Francescana that you will not want a full dinner. If the weather is nice, try strolling around atmospheric central Bologna, partaking of the bar scene, and if you get truly hungry, consider heading to Trattoria Twinside for something simple. (Check it is open that night). Or go to Il Tinello for a simple passatelli in brodo followed by some grilled veg, or to Les Pupitres across from it for a salad.Or try splitting a pizza (Nicola's is the one I like best, but none are great). There are bars along the via Claveture that serve plates of sliced meats or single dishes of pasta that might be preferable to a full blown meal. (Bistrot 18 is my favorite.) Divinis, too, on the via Battibecco or other enoteche can work if it is convenient to your strolls. Just eyeball menus and ambience and see what appeals to you for something plain to eat.

      I don't know how filling a lunch you will be eating at Ruggero. I've not eaten at all the Bolognese restaurants you are considering, but of the ones I know, my feeling is that the ONLY conceivable reason to eat at Nello is to sample mushroom dishes there. I like Gigina, but only for a full blown multi-course meal (minus dessert), so If you have had a large lunch at Ruggero, you might not want Gigina. My favorite pastas at Anna Maria are the richest ones (and they rest of their menu is meh.) Osteria dell'Orsa is popular for serving huge portions at cheap prices. I doubt I would bother going out of my way for that.

      Regarding Teresina, it is an upscale restaurant that you would only enjoy if you were hungry and wanted a full restaurant experience, especially if you were craving fish.

      Also, just so you know, the star of the show at all'Osteria Bottega is cured meats, and if you are not going there specifically to enjoy that, you might as well pick another restaurant in the same price category, like Teresina or Caminetto d'Oro, or Gigina for a wider focus.

      I like to remind everybody heading to Bologna that there are many delicious Bolognese pastas to try other than tagliatelle al ragu or tortellini in brodo, or lasagne al verde (my favorite of the famous trio). Pastas in gorganzola sauce can be fabulous, passatelli in brodo is a unique treat, and in upcoming months, pastas dishes featuring mushrooms or pumpkin can be delightful.

      1. one minor note, I think da Mario in Florence is lunch only.- check their website for their opening days

        18 Replies
        1. re: jen kalb

          Wow thanks for the tips everyone!!

          Guess for some meals we'll play it by ear as best we can (hopefully we won't be too out of luck scoring a table).

          I have a reservation for Osteria Francescana and just attempted to book mine at all'Osteria Bottega, but the signal got weak. Tried calling back but couldn't connect. Ooph--hope we can just snag a spot. We arrive tomorrow!

          1. re: waxyjax

            exciting! looking forward to your report!

            1. re: waxyjax


              I would e'mail your hotel tonight and ask them to make the reservation for you, unless you will be able to try again enroute. You might try Da Gianni if you can't get into all'Osteria Bottega, or Teresina.

              1. re: barberinibee

                hey barberinibee....i land tomorrow in bologna, then am having lunch, then taking the train to florence to spend the night (where i'm hoping my florence hotel can hook me up with Sostanza).

                would it be asking too much of my florence hotel to book my reservation for all'Osteria Bottega? i'm doing airbnb in bologna so unfortunately don't have the luxury of concierge service :(

                1. re: waxyjax

                  Don't know the answer and you are probably already traveling by now. If you are carrying a cell phone, just keep trying. You are unlikely to be able to reach anyone at a restaurant before 11am anyway.

            2. re: jen kalb

              Trattoria Mario is definitely lunch only, 12-3:30 Mon. through Sat. No reservations; communal seating; cash only. If that doesn't appeal, or if the lines are too long, try daSergio, just minutes away. Both have traditional, well-priced Florentine classics.

              1. re: lisaonthecape

                you guys are great - thank you!!

                and looks like all'osteria bottega is a no-go....same goes for any lunch in Bologna today because my flights got messed up. i'm stuck in London Heathrow because my early morning incoming flight was delayed by an hour, which caused us to get bumped from our morning Bologna flight....and apparently the next flight to bologna lands at 6pm (and there are no earlier flights to anywhere else in italy - well, ones that the airline can get us on, i suppose). but, my hotel in florence got us a reservation at Sostanza tonight - so that's something to look forward to!

                lisaonthecape - thanks so much for your tips...Da Sergio looks great but looks like the only other meals we'll have in Florence is a breakfast tomorrow and lunch on sunday. will have to keep it on my to-do list next time!

                minchilli--looking forward to checking out those stalls at the market tomorrow.

                barberinibee and jen -- will let you know how things pan out in Bologna...perhaps i'll just hit up all'Osteria Bottega on Friday :)

                1. re: waxyjax

                  sorry to hear of your travel delays. If you want to eat at all'Osteria Bottega next Friday, make a reservation ASAP.

                  1. re: barberinibee

                    woops - actually i meant i'll try for all'Osteria Bottega thursday...not sure if i'll have a dining mate. hope they're cool with a table for one there. if not, what's a good place to dine solo?

                    so after spending an entire day at Heathrow, with a little bit of a delay at Bologna central station sprinkled in we just made it to Sostanza before they were closing. we had a reservation for 9pm - but then as bad luck would have it our flight from London to Bologna was delayed again, then the later train to Florence was also delayed so we couldn't make it until 9:40. I had called just to see if that was ok and they said they don't take customers after 9:45 - no exceptions. We rushed over, arrived a little after 9:40 and got seated a little after 9:45 once a table finished paying their bill. A group arrived barely after we got seated and the staff had to turn them away.

                    As for food, here's my official report from:

                    -Thursday Dinner: Sostanza...

                    This was exactly what we needed! We were too drained for an elaborate meal, but too hungry for anything light....and most certainly we needed something comforting!!

                    To start, we split the tortino carciofi. WOW - amazing. I'd read some reviews here from people who weren't so impressed but my boyfriend and I really loved it. Aside from the fact that we're both egg fans and that I'm a huge omelet snob (not to brag, but mine are better than most restaurants), this dish was one of the most impressive I've had (even counting non-omelet dishes) - in that it was so simple, but elegant. It's not a folded omelet, but one in which the egg is shaped into concentric circles - it reminded me of the way the shell of a puff pastry tarte appears. The artichoke was so juicy and flavorful, the egg (and whatever else was mixed in) made for such a smooth, creamy, savory experience....and the butter grease that coats the bottom of the plate is really something heavenly. It went very well with the Tuscan bread that came with the coperto.

                    For our segundi, my boyfriend got the bisteca, I got the butter chicken, and we split sauteed spinach for contorni. The bisteca was also exquisite. I remember, a few years ago getting dragged to Il Latini (which I later discovered you all like to mock here) and feeling disappointed by this mythical Florentine steak. However, the steak at Sostanza lives up to the hype! Between the quality of the meat, the rareness and the seasoning - it was such a perfectly crafted piece of meat, there wasn't anything I could imagine would need to be done to improve it.

                    My butter chicken was as good as I imagined....butter, plus quality chicken + simple and flawless preparation. The spinach was also nice - I can't really say much more than it was very solid, since the restaurant wasn't trying to do more than cook up some nice spinach. It hit the spot, considering all the protein we were eating.

                    For dessert we got the meringue semifreddo with wild strawberries and raspberries. It was surprisingly light and served as a nice way to end our meal. I wouldn't say it's worth a trip for by itself, but I certainly enjoyed it nonetheless.

                    Also, the service was very warm and kind - again, it was well timed, considering our crappy travel day. There were a few tables of non-Italians (2 were groups of americans), but they were pretty well integrated into the culture here so none of the Americans really stood out in an embarrassing way.

                    I also loved walking through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. The smell of the wood-coal stove was so wonderful - strangely, it reminded me of the old kitchen my relatives in Saigon had before they modernized it.

                    My only criticism is the wine selection. It represents wines in the medium to high price range, but as bottles - not glasses or quartinos. It would've been nice to have some solid, less expensive bottles or just another wine or two that could be served in quartinos as well. They have a house chianti served by the quartino, which is cheap and drinkable, but not something I'd call a standout. Normally, this kind of selection wouldn't have made me think twice - but again, we were fried and wasn't so in the mood for anything too precious...and, the house chianti wasn't quite doing it for us. We had some, which was pleasant. Then followed it with a bottle of La Braccesca, which was good for the price (although I felt a little more marked up than it merited) and then corked the remainder and took it back to the hotel. But whatever, it's a touristy city where the overhead might be a little unwieldy so I'm sure that has a lot to do with it.

                    Overall, I really loved Sostanza. Considering I'm doing Osteria Francescana next week I'm glad I could have something rustic, comforting and so satisfying.

                    I'll update you on the next places as they come....


                    1. re: waxyjax

                      next update:

                      -Friday Breakfast (before 9am): Nerbone

                      I got there at 8am - they were definitely open for business. There were already a couple tourists settled in at a table eating tripe sandwiches. I ordered the same and decided to walk back to my hotel, eating it en route. I was wondering if the locals would find it odd seeing me eat such a rich sandwich in the morning while speed-walking through town. Instead, many locals would smile at me with a look of approval. Not sure if they knew what I was eating exactly, or if they were just amused by my early morning gluttony but it was nice to have such positive reinforcement.

                      As for the sandwich itself, it was very good. The spicy sauce had the perfect balance of flavor and kick, the roll had enough crust to make it crunch without it being to tough to bite through, and of course the tripe was delicious. I've always loved the flavor of tripe but have been at odds with the texture. This certainly wasn't an issue with this sandwich though...well, there were a couple bits that were so chewy I couldn't really eat them - but overall, a lovely sandwich. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish the whole thing as it was basically my first meal of the day and I hit a wall. I imagine it'd be an incredible hangover helper though!

                      One of the guys working behind the counter made himself a nice looking mozzarella sandwich....I could imagine myself eating my way through their menu.

                      I'll have to try Lupen and Margo next time!

                      And Mercato Centrale is so fun to walk through! If it weren't the for the fact that I'm on a bit of tour and don't want to risk destroying anything I would've bought some food items there.

                      1. re: waxyjax


                        I ate lunch solo at all'Osteria Bottega, no problem. I doubt they will turn you down for a single seat at dinner if they have a seat open.

                        If you can't book there, I have eaten solo at every restaurant I've favorably discussed on this board -- minus 1 exception -- with no problem. I ate with a friend at Trattoria Gigina, but cannot imagine they would have been any less gracious if I had dined alone.

                        Many people travel to Bologna on business, and they eat in restaurants alone. Many visiting university professors go out to dine alone. The restaurants are quite accustomed to solo diners. But the ones most frequently recommended in guidebooks and online book up, even during the week, because Bologna is a business town.

                        1. re: barberinibee

                          @barberinibee--good to know. thanks!

                          @minchilli--i'm second guessing lunch at Ruggero tomorrow. the place looks amazing but we may want something quick and closer to the center since we missed out on doing much walking around on our first day in Florence and will also be catching a train later that afternoon--we'd like to take it easy and don't want to feel too stressed out trying to get to the train station later.

                          Are there any places open on Sundays that are within 15 minute walking distance from the train station that would be good for lunch? open for anything from street food to something more elaborate. thanks!

                          1. re: waxyjax

                            TUSCAN COUNTRYSIDE
                            -Friday Lunch - Sunday Breakfast: Wedding in Agriturismo

                            The wedding and accommodations were at Agriturismo Poggitazzi. A nice place with great amenities. They produce their own olive oil and wine, which were both quite enjoyable. Although some dishes weren't mind blowing, overall they cooked up some great meals--especially considering how large of a group we were. Some of the best things I ate there were fried zucchini blossoms, prosciutto, cheeses, straci di pasta with ragu bolognese, grilled pork and an incredible, massive layered strawberry tart used as the wedding cake. Definitely a place to consider if you're looking for a wedding venue.

                            -Sunday Lunch: Pitti e Gola

                            Our bus from Poggitazzi left so late there wasn't much time for an all out lunch...we ended up at Pitti e Gola, which was exactly what we needed. We asked for a sparkling wine that would relieve us of the extreme heat of the afternoon and were served a wonderful dry sparkling Chardonnay from Italy (sadly, the name escapes me) and had a crostini with burrata, tomatoe and anchovies, plus thinly sliced porchetta. Both were very delicious and were portioned larger than expected. On top of that, the service was very friendly and informative.

                            BOLOGNA (again!)
                            -Sunday Dinner: Antica Trattoria della Gigina

                            So rich and SOOOO good! We also enjoyed the service. First we were seated by one of the formally dressed gentlemen. However, an older man in a chef's jacket came out to take our order. Not sure if he was one of the chefs, but that's how I've remembered him as.

                            We split the antipasti sampler, which was nice way to sample multiple items - included was the carpaccio, prosciutto, roast beef and lonza. Of the four, the carpaccio stood out the most, with prosciutto coming in second. The roast beef and lonza were tasty but not incredibly memorable.

                            My boyfriend got the tagliatelle and I got the gnocchi. Both were wonderful. The tagliatelle was so flavorful on its own - the addition of the ragu really made it outstanding...I doubt I'd be able to find better in the states and will be longing for it until my return to the restaurant. The gnocchi was pillow soft and tender--I loved the parmesan sauce and was also impressed by how generous they were with the sliced truffles! It was definitely rich though - it would probably knock out anyone who isn't accustomed to heavy dishes.

                            We split the second course and, considering how much pork we had that day, were close to ordering something that didn't come from a pig but the chef was quite emphatic about trying the Cotoletta alla petroniana. I'm happy we took his advice because I've been up at night reminiscing about it. Pork cutlet, breaded and fried, wrapped in truffle and prosciutto, pan-friend again. It was crisp, juicy, flavorful and--yes--very decadent...and most importantly, very memorable.

                            We also drank a wonderful lambrusco "Otelo", which was quite juicy and more full-bodied than ones we've had in the states. Everything about our meal was great - I can't recommend the place enough.

                            -Monday Lunch (Modena): Osteria Francescana

                            It took a bit of time to decide which menu to order. I remember their site talked about how the theme was "Come to Italy with Me" (I also read a great rundown of that on CH thread) - however, the printed menu at the restaurant only said it was "seasonal plates from the experimental kitchen", I didn't get any explanation beyond that from the waiters and just assumed they were doing something completely different and new. We went for the Classics tasting because we wanted to check out their signature dishes. However, having overheard the other tables it looked like the Sensations tasting included many of the same dishes, supplemented with experimental courses, as well. Kind of a bummer - had I known that we would've ordered the Sensations menu.

                            But anyway, the Classics tasting was still great. Highlights were the baccala mare nostrum, the eel, compression of pasta and beans, foie gras crunch, lemon tart and petit fours.

                            I found the only not so impressive dish to be "Think Green" - having done a little googling, it looks like the name stays the same but the rotation of vegetables and ingredients changes. Its past incarnations seem to have been tastier than the one I had. It had the makings of a great dish: it was stunning and very vibrantly green in color; I could also taste a lot of fresh plant/chlorophyll flavor in it, layered with some sweetness from peas, a play with temperature as it was topped with a fine granita of peas (likely using the liquid nitrogen-food processor method) as well - but while each element was interesting they weren't really doing much of anything in combination with each hearing a few instruments play different notes but not making a harmony.

                            The wine we had was great. There was no mention of a tasting option on the menu - but we weren't in the mood to drink a lot of wine anyway and would've ordered a bottle regardless. We got the chardonnay from Emilia Romagna, recommended by our was dry, oaky, complex and complemented the variety of dishes so well.

                            Chef Bottura came out twice - first to introduce himself and check in on things, and then at the end of the meal to see how we liked it. He was a very genial, interesting, passionate guy. I did enjoy eating "Oops! A broken lemon tart" and hearing his inspiration for it made me love it even more.

                            -Monday Dinner: Twinside

                            It turned out our apartment was right next door to Caminetto d'Oro and their sister bistro Twinside. We attempted to reserve a table at Caminetto earlier in the evening but they were booked - however, they told us many of their signature dishes are offered at Twinside and are prepared exactly the same. With that, we ended up eating there.

                            We started with a couple appetizers from the Twinside menu - a panzanella salad, complemented with prosciutto and parmesan. It was nice, but nothing mind blowing. We also split their gazpacho, which also had anchovy. It was more bready than my liking but the flavors were great.

                            For primi, I got the tortellini in brodo and my boyfriend got the tagliatelle alla ragu bolognese so he could compare it to Gigina...Gigina's was the winner, but Twinside's was still a pleasure to eat. The tortellini in brodo was nice - the ingredients and preparation were of superior quality. However, I wouldn't say it's a must-eat dish, but I was happy I had it...especially since the other primi on offer were gnocchi or pasta with truffle - and I was ready for something different.

                            For secondi we split the branzino al forno. It was lovely, as was the chickory and fennel that went with it.

                            The service was very sweet - it was quite serendipitous for us to be staying just next door.

                            1. re: waxyjax

                              Thanks very much for reporting back. Good to hear you had a great time at Gigina. I've never had cotoletta alla petroniana there because it is usually done so badly all over the city that I've quit ordering it. But you've piqued my curiosity about trying it Gigina. Likewise the gnocchi, which I've yet to sample there. I will have to fast for several days, however, before attempting both in one sitting!

                              I'm also happy to hear that Trattoria Twinside worked out for you, including the service. When they are very busy (weekends), it can feel disjointed, but even then, the casual feel and lighter offerings on the menu can make for a nice break from some of the more old fashioned restaurants in town if you are in the mood for that. Their vegetables are bright and fresh. I don't think you would have been happier at Caminetto d'Oro, and you will probably would have paid more!

                              Hope you will continue to keep us updated. I'm always interested where people ate in Milano as well.

                              1. re: barberinibee

                                if you try to cotoletta alla petroniana let me know what you think! i've had a couple mediocre renditions before so am not an expert on the dish. the gnocchi is also special - in that it's as if it's in a cheesy soup than a sauce. i was pretty into it - but it may not be for everyone.

                                ok, now onto Milan...unfortunately, I was on a very jam-packed non-food related itinerary. As a result, my restaurant picks were driven more by convenience than by gastronomic motivation. I didn't have any spectacular meals in the city but ate decent enough food without much planning that I'd like to go back and see what's really out there in their food scene.

                                -Tuesday Lunch: El Brellin

                                My selection of this place was based more on my fatigue and desire to eat somewhere on the canal that wasn't too far of a walk from my hotel. I'd read positive reviews and thought I'd check it out.

                                Started with the salad of lukewarm spring chicken, grilled vegetables, toasted hazelnut, raisins, ginger salad...I was in a salad mood and that is what the waiter recommended. I had no idea what I was in for so gave it a try - it was reminiscent of a Chinese-American chicken salad and tasted good - but definitely not something to order if you want to keep things traditionally Italian.

                                Followed that with the risotto with saffron and beef bone-marrow was a vibrant saffron yellow, topped with bone marrow sauce that you could mix in. The rice was nicely cooked although I felt like the flavor was, to put it best, "subtle" - perhaps that was intended as they provided a bowl of parmesan for the duration of the course. I definitely made use of it, but tried not to overpower the other flavors, which was definitely a tough task to balance.

                                The service there was extremely warm and friendly. They saw I was on my own and made an effort to socialize with me and give me some advice on the city, which was nice. The garden area was lovely to eat in. There were tables of different international fashion types and one large table of a Milanese family of different generations having a celebration.

                                Based on the two dishes I had, I can't really say whether or not their food lives up to the reviews I'd read - but would gladly give their other dishes a try based on the atmosphere and hospitality I received.

                                -Wednesday Lunch: Parma & Co

                                Was so tired that I actually passed out Tuesday night and didn't eat dinner. That low blood sugar caused me to forgo my intended Wednesday lunch options and eat at the first place that looked ok while famished and wandering La Brera. That place was Parma & Co. It's a cheerful spot that caters to office workers on their lunch break. Included with their bread offering is gnocco - which I ate with a plate of prosciutto and culatello. Both cold cuts were good - like as good as the best stuff I can find at my favorite butcher back in Brooklyn, although not as good as the best I'd had in Italy. I also had the pumpkin ravioli--I could tell the pasta was made fresh that day (but would guess they source it from somewhere else) but I didn't love it. Wish they had some sage and cracked pepper on there.

                                The service was also very friendly and attentive. I'd say it's a fine place - nothing to go out of your way for, but if you're hungry it's worth stopping for a quick snack of cold cuts and gnocco.

                                Wednesday Dinner: Damm-atra

                                I passed out again, but woke up in time for dinner and just wanted a cotoletta alla Milanese in the area. I read a fine review of the place on CH and elsewhere and decided to check it out. I thought I'd snack on their fried potato skins, which were ok - I had a brain lapse and thought the last person who wrote of Damm-atra recommended them...but I re-read his review and it turns out he didn't but had preferred another bar that made them. Woops. I'd also agree that there are probably better places to get them.

                                The cotoletta was solid. I was pleased to try it with the bone still intact. I also have a feeling there are better cotolettas out there but this one satisfied my craving.

                                The restaurant itself was pleasant to eat in. The room has a warm vibe and the service was also very kind and friendly. It's definitely popular among the locals - I don't believe I saw or heard any foreigners there.

                                Thursday Lunch: Al Pont de Ferr

                                I went for their Panoramic tasting, which included the following dishes:

                                >Welcome cocktail of "bellini" with "olives" and "mozzarella" balls....this seemed very El Bulli-inspired. The bellini was a creamy concoction frozen in a ball-shaped shell that tasted like white chocolate. This was served in a martini glass on top of some ice cubes. The olives and mozzarella were served in liquified form, made into balls using the calcium alginate trick. The membrane of each ball was a bit too thick - I remember eating this approach to olives for the first time when they premiered at El Bulli in 2006 and how the balls just exploded in your mouth as you just began to bite down. The ones at Al Pont de Ferr required a little more effort to get them to break open.

                                >Raw amberjack’s mosaic, foie-gras, pink grapefruit and macadamia nuts...basically it was pretty to look at and taste nice - but nothing revelatory

                                >Origami and frogs in the pond....the standout component was the frog broth, which had a wonderful rich, earthy flavor.

                                >Raviolini filled with was served in a dashi broth, which at first was a bit jarring. The taste of the pasta and the dashi broth didn't quite work, but once I chewed into the raviolini and let the flavors of the filling meld with the dashi everything came together.

                                >Ravioli filled with “Tuco” was good - but nothing too experimental

                                >Steamed codfish served with charcoaled potatoes and green beans....the cod was a bit rubbery - especially after having eaten the cod at Osteria Francescana, it had a lot to live up to. The charcoaled potatoes didn't taste so different than conventionally cooked potatoes, which was a bit disappointing.

                                >Red light pidgeon...the presentation was a trip. It was slices of pigeon breast served on a piece of plexiglass on a light box, with red liquid in between the plexiglass and the light box. When I cut into the pigeon the red liquid would spread and expand, reminding you that you're eating an animal that was alive not that long ago. I'd had food served on a light box before - most vividly at Arzak, but never with such a provocative presentation. As for the food itself, the pigeon was cooked rare - but somehow I felt the parts that were most cooked were dry, despite the inside of the breast being so red. The sauce and foam tasted fine, but didn't taste that exciting.

                                >Apple tarte tatin....this is probably their most famous dish, and I can see why. The tarte tatin is presented in a beautifully scuplted apple-shaped sugar shell. When you break into it, it's filled with a mousse that tastes just like tarte tatin. Very memorable!

                                >The service was warm - but not as diligent and prompt as at the other places I'd tried in Milan, which was surprising since this was the only Michelin-starred restaurant I tried. I would've thought their service would at least match that of the other restaurants. The place certainly gets busy for lunch - although most people order a la carte and probably go for the tastings for dinner. Perhaps that affected the pacing of service as well. As I looked around, it seemed the spaghettone with basil and tomato was the most popular dish among the locals.

                                >Overall, I'd say I enjoyed the intention of the place but think they have some refining to do. That said, I do feel some potential here and am curious to see how they evolve. If I go back I may just have the spaghetonne (hopefully it's as good as everyone else seems to think it is) and tatin and leave satisfied.

                                As an aside, their bread basked included a curried croissant, rolled like a cinnamon roll (my first impression was a turban, but I don't think the culturally-loaded subtext of that shape was intentional) rather than a crescent roll. Osteria Francescana included a croissant flavored with toasted black rice...I wonder if there's something with experimental Italian restaurants and croissants. ha

                                -Thursdays snack: Splendini & Co

                                Splendini & Co is a gluten free bakery I passed by on the way to my hotel. I can eat gluten but was curious to see what they made and tried to buy some chocolate shortbread cookies. The couple in front of me took a really long time. The owner felt so bad that she refused to let me pay for my cookies, which was so sweet of her. We chatted a bit - her sister lives in Seattle in introduced her to gluten free recipes. She said she's still developing recipes but has been getting lots of business from Italians who are gluten-intolerant or celiacs. Seemed like a solid place to go if you can't eat gluten.

                                -Thursday - Friday final hours....

                                I...well...passed out my last night in Italy after arriving in Bologna and had eaten so much at Pont de Ferr that didn't need to have dinner. I would've forced myself to eat if I got a table at all'Osteria Bottega but they were booked. Too bad, would've been nice to have one last meal there!

                                Went to meet a friend for a drink at Modo Infoshop, a charming bar attached to a bookstore. I ended up buying a couple cool books, too.

                                The next day I went and did some food shopping. Got some truffle-flavored items at Tamburini....I did see they're fortified with "natural flavoring" - I was hoping to find stuff that was flavored with truffle alone, but bought them anyway.

                                Got some cheese and prosciutto at Ceccarelli - the guys there are super nice and they also vacuum seal! They had some pretty tortelloni with stripes of color on the pasta but they looked a bit dry.

                                Attempted to buy the handmade tortellini at Paolo Atti but they don't vacuum seal and I've had bad luck at JFK customs lately....I ended up grabbing a ham and provolone calzone as a snack and that was wonderful!

                                I got a bottle of Otello, the lambrusco I had at Gigina, at this wine a food shop called Plaza Real at via Cesare Battisti. They have a great selection of wine and a kind owner. Definitely lots of other great finds there.

                                I also bought some cooking supplies at the discount casalingas on via Marconi between via San Lorenzo and via Riva di Reno. Some of what is sold is crappy, but there are some gems. I'm excited to give them a try :)

                                ...and now I'm back in the states. I just finished that prosciutto I bought at Cecarrelli - wow, I wish I bought more!

                                Thanks again for your advice, everyone! Despite some middle-of-the-road dishes in Milan I had an enjoyable time eating my way through this trip.

                                1. re: barberinibee

                                  oh, and here are some photos of some dishes at Al Pont de Ferr:

                                  -Frogs in a pond
                                  -Before of tarte tatin
                                  -After of tarte tatin

                                  1. re: waxyjax

                                    Thanks so much for this level of detail. The blow by blow and plate by plate of your experience at Al Pont de Ferr is especially helfpul, and I will remember that picture of the pigeon for a long time, I am pretty sure. I very much appreciate, too, the tips on Plaza Real and Modo Infoshop and look forward to checking them out. I hope you get a lot of joy from your new gadgets and may they last forever! (I'll be sure to let everybody know if Atti ever gets that vacuum packer machine. Maybe they'll catch up with modern times someday, and in the meantime, glad they produced a tasty snack for you.)

                                    1. re: barberinibee

                                      thank YOU! i'll stay tuned on Atti's vacuum sealer. in the meantime, i'll savor that calzone ;)