We all know Italy offers amazing food and wine. Here are some specifics to track down and help you unleash your inner foodie.
Best Beer – Baladin www.baladin.it The Italian craft beer movement continues to rise pioneered by Brewer Teo Musso who brews unique Italian interpretations of Belgian style ales. Not only does Baladin produce excellent and strong beers that are bottled and distributed around the world, but they have recently opened a bar off a side street near the Campo di Fiori neighborhood in Rome called Open Baladin where you can taste all these fine brews. Closer to home in New York City catch them at Eataly www.eatalyny.com where they have joined forces with this impressive Italian market at which you can get the best of the best of anything foodie related!
Best Pizza – Forno Campo Di Fiori, Rome Excellent any time of the day from opening til late night munchies. This pizza a taglio (by the slice) is ridiculously delicious. Don’t be surprised if you finish the night with it then wake up wanting it again the next morning. It’s that good; especially the pizza patata with buttery potatoes that melt in your mouth topped with fresh rosemary.
Best Bread – Osteria con cucina “A Cantina de Mananan” Corniglia, Cinque Terre. Made in house and cut into large chunks, this spongy yet chewy bread is the perfect texture for soaking up fresh, bright green olive oil. You won’t even feel guilty devouring the entire basket before your meal arrives! Sam Calgione from Dogfish Head brewery was recently spotted here while passing through on his way to Octoberfest in Munich. It must be good!
Best Focaccia – Batti Batti Vernazza, Cinque Terre Tricolore is the favorite here, given the Liguria region is the birthplace of pesto it seems only fitting to have focaccia with tomato, pesto and cheese; the three colors that make up the Italian flag; hence the name tricolore. Grab a slice or two, a bottle of wine and head down to the marina to enjoy stunning views of the sea, village and surrounding hills. It’s a perfect sunset snack.
Best Restaurant – Osteria delle tre panche, Florence Tre Panche translates to “three benches” called so due to the fact this tiny restaurant has literally three tables. Run by a charming husband and wife team; she does the cooking while he runs the front of the house. Where to begin? Fluffy pillows of goodness were the raviloi stuffed with cheese, but more importantly topped with a creamy sauce and shaved truffles…many, many shaved truffles. That flavor will linger with you for days. You won’t get it out of your mind! If you are even considering trying tripe this would be the place to do it. Not only is the region well-known for it, but Tre Panche in particular considers it a house specialty. Just be careful, as you may really enjoy it then expect that same sort of deliciousness at another establishment only to realize Tre Panche is simply the best! Hands down, this is not an opinion, but a fact. Just go! Reservations are essential Via A. Pacinotti, 32R
Best Gelato – Gelateria della Passera, Florence Forget the heaping piles of electric fluff that seem to lure the tourist in through hypnosis. This is gelato artigianale. Why would they want their precious gems exposed to all that oxygen? Stored in cold, covered silver buckets this is the richest, creamiest, and most decadent gelato in the land. The flavors are simple, but true and deep. The pistachio exudes a fresh roasted flavor. The gelateria occupies a tiny corner in the piazza listed below. Via Toscanella, 15r
Best Local Favorite Neighborhood in Florence – Piazza della Passera also known as “Pussy Square” a small, off the tourist track area that boasts an excellent spot for appertivo, Caffe Degli Artigiani http://www.caffedeliartigiani.it (from the same folks that brought us that fine gelato). There’s another wine bar and two other quaint restaurants within close quarters. Notable is Il Maggazino for traditional Tuscan favorites and a house Sangiovese called none other than “Pussy Square.”
Best Wine Bar – Il Santino, Florence Dark and cavernous, this small enoteca sits adjacent to the great restaurant of the same name. Come here while waiting for your table. Chances are you won’t want to leave. In traditional Italian style sample wines, craft beers, cheese, cured meats, and even local jam & honey. The unpretentious staff will prepare a meat/cheese course based on your preferences. If you sit at the bar, the tender may even pass you a plate of samples to try on the house. Dark, candle lit, jazz, and friendly staff…what more could you ask for? This is a place to go before heading out for a night on the town. Get there early to beat the pre-party crowd, otherwise you may not be able to squeeze in. Via S. Spirito, 60R
Best Risotto – Trattoria Da Romano Burano, Venice The rich unique flavor of this risotto starts with a fish called “go.” This local lagoon fish is not eaten, but used to create a broth which has to be so delicately handled since if the fish are broken up during the cooking process, they release a black bitter ink that will ruin the broth. This broth is in turn used to cook the risotto. The result is a creamy, steamy bowl of the best risotto ever – if only for the incredible cooking process which we can all appreciate. Anthony Bourdain highlights Trattoria Da Romano on a recent visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyQvTefwP48
While this list will continue to grow through time, it will as least get you started on your quest to living la dolce vita!