Florence: Day 68

Emily took an early nap today, so we just ate lunch at home. I went to the bakery for more fresh bread and made ‘nduja crostini again. This time I added some grated mozzarella cheese and put the crostini under the broiler. The cheese was an excellent addition to balance the spice.

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Emily’s nap was also quite long, so that afforded us the opportunity to go out for an early dinner. It is difficult to find a restaurant that serves dinner before 7:00, but we were able to go down the street to Trattoria ZaZa which was recommended to me by a former co-worker. They use truffle in a ton of dishes, so we took advantage for two of our three courses.

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To start, we had the truffled bruschetta. It was one large piece of bruschetta and a great amount to share. The topping was a mixture of tomatoes, red onions, a little basil and black truffle. It was excellent!

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The second dish we tried was potato tortelli in a duck ragu. The pasta was basically extra large tortellini stuffed with a potato filling. The duck ragu was rich and delicious, although I will say that you couldn’t necessarily tell it was duck. Duck is potentially my favorite meat and I think this showed me that I prefer it in a way that really showcases the flavor of the meat. Having said that, the dish was extremely delicious.

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Lastly, we split a rabbit dish. The rabbit was rolled around a pork and pistachio mixture and sliced and then covered in a truffle cream sauce. It was served with a side of rosemary potatoes that look very simple, but they were so decadent and flavorful. The entire meal was rich but excellent! It had been awhile since we had been out for a multi-course meal like this and I greatly enjoyed it!  I want to take advantage of as many more meals like this as we can for the rest of our time here.

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Florence: Day 66

After spending the morning at the Central Market of San Lorenzo, we took Joe and Leah to one of our favorite lunch spots, La Prosciutteria. It was fun to order a board for four people for lunch. They brought a short board of crostini topped with an olive tapenade, veggie pate and a truffle cream. The long board with meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruit was absolutely stunning! It is the perfect way to enjoy a casual lunch while catching up with friends.

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We had Joe and Leah over for dinner and I foolishly didn’t take any pictures of what I made. We started with crostini with ‘nduja, the spicy sausage spread from Calabria that we had first tried at a wine bar. I found a jar of ‘nduja at a local market. This version was far spicier than what Joe and I had tried before, but it was great. I then served fresh tagliatelle from the market with a homemade bolognese sauce. For dessert we had a couple small cookies from a local baker with limoncello on the balcony. Catching up with old friends in a setting like this is absolutely priceless!

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Florence: Day 65

Today our friends Leah and Joe came to Florence. It is so fun to see familiar faces over here! They got in around lunch time and had an early afternoon tour, so we had to think of a quick and easy lunch place that was located between their hotel and their tour. Obviously I wanted it to be extremely delicious as well. We decided Eataly would work well.

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We ordered two pizzas and a pasta (and wine, of course). We figured this would be quickest and easiest to share. We rarely see these two, so we were so busy catching up, I didn’t capture all of the details of exactly what we ordered. The first pizza was sausage, tomatoes and some kind of creamy cheese. The cheese was incredible, I wish I remembered which type of cheese it was.

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The second pizza was a margherita pizza with fresh buffalo mozzarella. The cheese melted into the pizza and almost created a creamy sauce.

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Lastly, we ordered the pasta di terra. Every day they have a pasta di terra (land) and pasta di mare (sea). The pasta was huge rigatoni served with a ragu of some sort. It was all very delicious and an amazing treat for such a quick lunch!

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Florence: Day 64

We finally tried the bistecca alla fiorentina today. This is potentially the most popular dish in the Florentine cuisine. It is a huge t-bone steak grilled to medium rare and it is generally seasoned simply with salt, pepper and olive oil. We went back to Birreria Centrale where we had the plate of mixed grilled meats since we knew it would be delicious (it’s a bit of an investment and I didn’t want to just blindly try it anywhere). It was so good! This steak rivaled those that I have tried at big steakhouses in Chicago, without question. And it was far less expensive as well.

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Knowing we had a lot of meat coming, we didn’t want much as a starter. We decided crostini fagioli sounded good and would be a good balance to the steak. It was a simple crostini of white beans and olive oil, but the beans were cooked perfectly and the olive oil was so delicious!

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The bistecca was then served with a salad of mixed vegetables which was definitely a nice mix with all of the beef we ate. I’m glad we finally tried the bistecca all fiorentina. It did not disappoint and I’m sure we will try it again before we leave.

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Florence: Day 63

Joe heard about an outdoor cooking demonstration that was going on all day on the beach of the River Arno, so we decided to check it out. It was such a fun activity! I loved watching the cooking demonstrations (even though they were in Italian, so I only understood bits and pieces), Emily loved playing in the sand and we all loved sampling the dishes. All three dishes we tried were also a bit adventurous.

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The first was a zucchini risotto with a mixture of mushrooms and lampredotto on top. Lampredotto is cow’s stomach and is a popular street food served on a bun (see Florence: Day 35). I didn’t care for lampredotto the first time we tried it and didn’t have any intention of trying it again. But being in this situation, I felt I might as well. It was certainly more appealing to me cooked this way. Its texture is similar to mushrooms, so this preparation made sense to me. I could taste the lampredotto, but it was much milder than in sandwich form and it was complimented by the other ingredients in the dish.

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The second dish was a panini with a mustard-like sauce, steamed spinach, and pan-fried beef tongue. This is the second time I have had beef tongue (first was at Girl and the Goat in Chicago). Both times have been extremely delicious! It’s taste and texture really just mimic regular beef.

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The last dish we tried was a salted, preserved cod served in some kind of tomato sauce with croutons. Emily was getting restless at this point, so I wasn’t able to focus as closely on the demonstration and didn’t catch exactly what went into the dish. The sauce was very tasty, but I didn’t care for the fish.

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When we left the beach, we were still a little hungry, but didn’t have room for a full lunch. We were in the neighborhood of one of our favorite places, so we decided to stop in to La Prosciutteria to get a mixed board of meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables to round out the meal. I absolutely love this place! The quality of the food is excellent, the staff is extremely nice, the place is adorable and they play fun music. With visitors soon coming to town, we will for sure be back to this place again real soon.

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By the time the evening came around, we really hadn’t had one full meal, so we decided to continue grazing through dinner by visiting a new aperitivo. A restaurant called Kitsch just opened its second location right down the street from our apartment. It is the most expensive aperitivo we have been to (€10 for a drink with full access to their buffet), but it was also the most extensive spread of food we have seen. It definitely is easy to get your money’s worth from that buffet! I think I still prefer our other local aperitivo (Wine Bar Nabucco) because it has a more family-run kind of feel and is less expensive (€7), but this was a great aperitivo to try and I imagine we will be back again before we leave Florence.

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Florence: Day 62

Today was the big wedding day in Florence. I promise we didn’t do anything to stalk Kanye West or the rest of the clan, but we did decide to hang out at one of our favorites which just happens to be down the street from Fort Belvedere, le Volpi e l’Uva.

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We ordered the crostone with asiago cheese, speck and honey and a caprese salad. As with every time we have been here previously, everything was extremely delicious! We have a couple visitors coming to Florence over the next couple weeks, so I am sure we will be back soon!

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Florence: Day 61

After being out of town for a few days, we wanted to visit some of our favorites spots. This of course started with the Central Market of San Lorenzo. We bought some fresh produce and some fresh pasta to have for dinner with some leftover bolognese I had in the freezer. The fresh pasta stand is so incredible. They cut the tagliatelle to order, and enough pasta for three generous portions only cost €1.80!

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We then went to our favorite seafood stand for lunch. After several visits, we have learned not to bother with the prawns, anchovies, or french fries. We just go straight calamari and baccala (cod). This is definitely a place we will all miss when we return home!

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So this was the day before the Kanye West and Kim Kardashian wedding in Florence. They were getting married up the street from our old apartment, so I admit we decided to use this as an excuse to wander around our old neighborhood to potentially see some action (we didn’t). While wandering around we decided to stop into one of our old favorite wine shops (Il Panino del Chianti) for an afternoon snack before heading home, putting Emily to bed and cooking our fresh pasta for dinner.

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Florence: Day 60

We left Como in the morning and drove over to Capronno, a tiny city about an hour west where the Signorelli family comes from. The town was so small, it only has one little Osteria. I would have LOVED to have eaten there, but unfortunately they are not open for lunch during the week. So after exploring the small town and the cemetery where many of Joe’s ancestors lay, we drove a little further to another lake town, Angera. We stopped at a pizzeria that had a beautiful view of Lake Maggiore.

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This restaurant was such a gem! All of the people working there were so kind and just loved Emily. Even though we were sat at the beginning of a big rush, the service was extremely quick. And the food was so good! We had a salad of lettuce, arugula, chicken, red bell peppers, tomatoes and pineapple and a pizza topped with sausage, porcini mushrooms and arugula. It was a perfect meal to end our time in the northern lake country before we drove back to Florence.

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Florence: Day 59

Lake Como is absolutely gorgeous! Today was definitely one of my favorite days in Italy. We got up and got moving pretty early and caught a boat from Como to Bellagio. It was a two hour ride making stops at small ports along the way. We got to see George Clooney’s house from the water. And overall, it was just wonderful to be on a boat, on a lake, in the fresh air among some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen!

We got to Bellagio around lunchtime, so we walked up to the point of the town and found a beautiful restaurant called La Punta. It was a bit more expensive than what we generally spend when go out, but with the views from the tables, we just couldn’t resist! We decided it was time to splurge a little.

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We started with the antipasto di lago which was assorted fresh-water fish from the lake prepared in various ways. Our favorite was the fish pate. The flavor was extremely fresh and mild.

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For our mains, we ordered the spaghetti con bottarga di lago (spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, and dried fish eggs) and Lavarello alla piastra (grilled Lavarello, the most popular fish that comes out of Lake Como). The pasta was incredible! I had heard of bottarga, but had never tried it. It was very interesting. It looked like a simple spaghetti dish tossed with bread crumbs, but the bread crumbs were actually dried fish eggs. This was the best dish of the meal!

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We ordered the lavarello because it is the most popular fish from the lake. Especially after the seafood class I took, I appreciate all of the work that went into the preparation of this fish. But I have to say, I prefer meatier steaks of fish, and I don’t care for them served whole where you have to avoid the head, tail and fins while eating. But it definitely tasted very fresh and had a nice mild grilled flavor. Overall, it was an incredible meal!

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We took the express boat back to Como knowing it had been a long day and Emily likely wouldn’t tolerate another two hour boat ride. The express trip took only 45 minutes. When we got back, we decided to try an aperitivo for dinner. Emily was due to go to bed soon, so we knew we didn’t have time for anything too lengthy. Again, we had a great view of the lake and a piazza. The aperitivo was great and had a large selection of fresh, grilled vegetables. It was a perfect day of enjoying life on the lake!

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