Here, There & Everywhere Under the Tuscan Sun

Summer is for getaways. The first half of mine was all about Italia…

ROME

San Marco was home away from home. In one weekend, I managed to hit this spot three times. It’s rustic interior resembled Lilia of Williamsburg. Although I enjoyed the large variety of pizzas, I enjoyed the red pepper infused olive oil more. Once I discovered I could use this olive oil on everything, there was no crust left behind.

 

Hosteria Del Moro da Tony is home of the best chicken parmesan in Italy. Overflowing with melty cheese, the dish literally sits bubbling in front of you. When in Rome, you must go here!

 

Freni e Frizioni Trastevere should be your final stop of the night. This old firehouse turned bar has the coolest vibes along the river. Modern art, chandeliers, and artistic cocktails… count me in! To drink a true work of art, order the Passion drink.

 

CINQUE TERRE

Taverna del Capitano served local seafood in Vernazza. We started with the fried fish plate, which included fresh, flash fried calamari, anchovies, and prawns. Their whole prawns served with gnocchi and zucchini was a perfect seaside dish. The gnocchi tasted light and airy, making it perfect for lunch.

 

AMALFI COAST

Trattoria de Emilia is a local seaside restaurant in Sorrento serving freshly caught seafood, my favorite being spaghetti with clams. The noodles came out steaming, covered with fresh clams in a buttery sauce. The spot seemed to be popular among the locals and well worth the long wait for a table.

 

There was no shortage of granitas in Capri. The icy lemon and orange juice slushies are made fresh from the juicy lemons of Capri, and you often have the option to add vodka. There was nothing more refreshing than sipping on a granita while walking around the island.

 

In Positano, we visited the Palazzo Murat hotel for lunch. This Michelin rated restaurant had a gorgeous atmosphere surrounded by plants and lemon trees. Since we were on the Amalfi coast, the linguini with clams was a must and a truly unforgettable dish!

 

VENICE

Harry’s Bar opened in 1931 by bartender Giuseppe Cipriani and became a local spot frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, and Woody Allen, to name some. It is home of both the Bellini and Carpaccio, originating under the Cipriani name in Venice. This Bellini was the best I’ve ever had — a perfect mixture of white peach juice and prosecco which lived up to its name.

Foraging in Florence

Four weeks into my eating abroad, oops, study abroad summer in Florence!

La Milkeria is a dessert-lovers dream. This cafe offers made-to-order crepes, waffles, and pancakes from morning until night. Wait, it gets better. You can top your made-to-order treat with scoops of gelato, heavy drizzles of Nutella and white chocolate, maple syrup, custard, jam, marscapone, and even fresh fruit. Stop in for brunch, lunch, or even a midnight snack!

 

La Ménagère is the coolest new concept-restaurant that offers everything from food to flowers. With a sort of slower Brooklyn vibe, La Ménagère is about as cosmopolitan as it gets. The space is home to a restaurant, coffee bar, cocktail bar, flower shop, and housewares retail shop. The restaurant’s menu is small, but creative, and known for its high-level cuisine filled with oxymorons, like a cold tomato soup or a poached egg served with broccoli cream and topped with lemon and garlic bread crumbs. Reserve the table in the kitchen (yes, you can literally dine in the kitchen) or the long communal table next to the piano. If you’re on the go and don’t have time for this exceptional dining experience, the coffee bar will satisfy both your caffeine-fix and your sweet tooth. Pair a Ditta Artiginale coffee with a fresh-baked pastry or dessert that are beautifully encased similarly to Dominique Ansel. The flower shop adds to the botanical and biological vibe. Across from this small wall covered with silver buckets and open drawers stuffed with fresh flowers is the housewares retail shop. Here you can find cookbooks, contemporary cutlery, kitchen, and table goods.

 

Obicà translates to ‘here it is!’, which is the feeling you get as soon as you walk through the front gate to see a spacious outdoor seating area. If you’d prefer to sit indoors, you could still enjoy the patio scene thanks to the large windows and high ceilings. The menu is simple with no lack of fresh mozzarella di bufala. This is my favorite lunch spot for a classic salad. You can never go wrong with their Pollo Ruspante, a salad mixed with grilled chicken, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and olives, dressed with a light olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

 

La Giostra was a meal for the books. The romantic ambiance of string lights only made me fall even more in love with this place. When visiting Florence, the trifecta of burrata, pear ravioli, and balsamic steak is a must-have. Be sure to order all 3 and share, even though I can guarantee you’ll want it all for yourself. The burrata was unlike any other I’ve ever had. Aside from the fact it was served in a dish rather than inside the usual solid mozzarella shell, it is accompanied by jam, honey, nuts and fresh citrus fruit. The pecorino and pear ravioli was unbelievable. The sweet pear complimented the savory cheese all within the freshest of pastas. The balsamic steak was tender, rare, and drenched in balsamic sauce. The meat absorbed this strong flavor perfectly and would definitely satisfy any balsamic-enthusiast. These dishes were truly unique and representative of La Giostra’s motto, “In Food We Trust”!

 

Quattro Leoni is home to a couple of my favorite Italian specialties — fiori di zucca (fried zucchini flowers) and fiocchetti di pera in salsa di taleggio ed asparagi (fiocchetti pasta with pears in a telaggio cheese and asparagus sauce), the second pear pasta dish I’ve discovered in Firenze. The restaurant has a contemporary Tuscan style with modern photography on the walls and stone arches reaching towards the ceiling. Bruschetta and fiori di zucca are the perfect pregame to the renowned pear fiocchetti. The bruschetta was topped with fresh tomatoes and, of course, the purest of olive oils. The fiori di zucca was lightly fried and sprinkled with salt. The pear fiocchetti was in a taleggio cheese and asparagus sauce, but the pasta itself had such a sweet bite to contrast the creamy sauce. Everything about this pasta and the restaurant itself reminds me of the popular and amazing Lilia in Williamsburg. For a sweet ending, order the cheesecake!

 

Acqua al 2 is serving up two of the most unique, yet traditional, dishes in Florence. The walls are covered with painted, designed plates and there is a television in the dining room which is live streaming from inside the kitchen. You can watch the chef as he prepares your mouth-watering blueberry steak. Yes, blueberry sauce poured on top of a filet. This sweet spin on a steak is new and unexpected, but extremely delicious. The penne vodka is also prepared in a unique way. The vodka sauce is creamier and cheesier than a traditional tomato-based vodka sauce. The shape of the pasta and this sauce could fool you into thinking that you’re eating mac and cheese. Everybody loves mac and cheese, so naturally, everybody would love this penne vodka.

 

Osteria delle Tre Panche is a tiny hole in the wall with only 3 tables inside for a cozy, authentic experience with an all-truffle menu. This hole in the wall may be the entrance to truffle heaven. Order the taglierini al tartufo to experience the traditional way to enjoy truffle. The pasta is simply served in a butter sauce and topped with fresh-shaved truffle. If you have room for dessert, or even if you don’t, you have to taste the cheesecake. It is served warm and everything else is their secret.

 

Trattoria 13 Gobbi shares a menu full of Tuscan traditions, especially their rigatoni. This al dente pasta is better than your traditional rigatoni. Not only is the sauce sweeter and creamier than a traditional tomato sauce, but the chef adds bufala mozzarella to the center of the warm pile of pasta, so you’re left with a cheesy, creamy tomato sauce. The spinach and ricotta crepes Florentine could be the closest thing to spinach dip that I’ve found here. The flaky, pastry-like dough adds the perfect crunch to the cheesy spinach filling.

 

O’Munaciello may be my favorite pizza in all of Florence. The space is large, Neapolitan style, and full of locals, which proves I have great taste in pizza! Choose from the long list of both traditional pizzas, or specialty pizzas if you’re feeling a bit extra that day (which I always am). Two of my favorite specialty pizzas are the Cornicione di Ricotta and the Vesuvio. The Cornicione di Ricotta is your typical tomato sauce and mozzarella pizza with a special twist, ricotta-stuffed crust. This is the kind of crust you don’t leave behind! The Vesuvio pizza is the pizza of my dreams. It is loaded with mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, fresh black truffle, and to top it all off, burrata cheese.

 

Yellow Bar serves traditional pastas and pizzas that are perfect for a quick bite. All pastas are made fresh and served in the pot it was prepared in! If you love both gnocchi and penne vodka, the gnocchi rosé is the pasta for you. What looks like a sea of freshly made gnocchi is covered in a pink sauce. Typically, gnocchi could be heavy, but this fresh gnocchi was light and airy.

 

Gelateria La Carraia could be referred to as my second home. This gelateria offers a wide range of flavors, but most importantly, it offers my favorite, mint chip! La Carraia’s dark chocolate is extremely rich and tastes like melted dark chocolate. The tiramisu flavor is creamy and fluffy. My friends could practically survive on their cookies flavor, while I definitely cannot (nut allergy – FML). You can never go wrong with their strawberry and mixed berries for instant refreshment. To make this spot even better — a small cone only costs 1 euro!

 

Gelateria dei Neri is home to an array of unique gelato flavors. Some may go as far as to call them exotic. Dei Neri’s rose flavored gelato is the most feminine and fresh tasting gelato I’ve ever tasted. I felt like a flower princess even after I devoured the whole cone. The ricotta cheese & fig flavor may sound questionable, but it is truly #magical — thank you Foodie Magician for introducing me to this spot. If you like fig newtons (don’t make that disgusted face you’re making right now) you must try this flavor, thanking me later is optional.

Love at First Bite

Yes, I’ve been in Italy for two weeks. I know it will be hard to believe once you scroll through my looong list of Florentine foods, but what can I say. A gal’s gotta eat!

News Cafè has become part of my daily routine thanks to Marco and his cappuccino art. He has drawn the bridges above the Arno River, I Love You, and even the Duomo all on my cappuccino! If you stand at the bar you can watch the magic happen, but don’t blink because he does it quickly.

 

Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica has a great outdoor atmosphere to admire the carousel, watch the foot traffic at this intersection of Florence’s axis, and most importantly, enjoy a cappuccino freddo on a warm summer morning. This iced cappuccino must be paired with, my personal favorite, an apricot croissant. If you’re looking for something a bit stronger, order the espresso shakerato — an ice cold espresso topped with a foam. Nothing beats the pastries and espresso at this place.

 

Le Vespe Cafè satisfies all of my brunch needs. This cafè serves Canadian breakfast with a healthy twist until 3:00 PM every day. They have fresh smoothies and juices, coffees, and many eggcellent breakfast options including organic, gluten free, and vegan. This is where I finally reunited with breakfast burritos, avocados, and chai tea.

 

Carduccio is the perfect pick-me-up after a week full of of carbs. Time to treat yo self to some cold pressed juice or a smoothie bowl. Their menu is creative and made fresh daily from organic and biodynamic produce. The zucchini pasta with goat cheese and strawberries is a healthier way to eat pasta in Italy! The zucchini was the perfect medium between the flavors of the sweet strawberries and the tangy goat cheese.

 

Gusta Pizza has a pizza my heart. This heart shaped pizza does not only look amazing, but it tastes amazing, too. Both the Margherita and the Caprese pizzas are classic must haves. This pizza is the best in Florence and well worth the wait. It is made in a wood-fired stone oven and comes out fresh with the cheese still bubbling over. You can either join other pizza-lovers at a round table inside, or take it away to watch the sunset above the Arno River or sit on the steps of Santo Spirito.

 

Mercato Centrale is the hub for all quick, but BOMB eats (Florentine approved ✓). This food market is located on the second floor and offers everything — pizza, pasta, paninis, burgers, sushi, and vegetarian options. The opportunities are endless, you can seriously buy anything from fresh produce to olive oils and spices to a half of a cow. I definitely had to do a couple laps before coming to a decision, and with each lap I’d pass somebody else holding a delicious, fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza. I would get a whiff of it and practically break my neck to see where they were coming from. Finally, I made it to Sud – La Pizzeria. This was my first meal in Italy, so, naturally, I had to taste pizza and prosciutto at the same time. I got the Saltimbocca pizza — mozzarella, prosciutto, and olive oil. DIO MIO. My taste buds thanked me immediately.

 

Il Bargello in Piazza della Signoria is perfect for a quick outdoor lunch after working up an appetite at the Uffizi Gallery. The prosciutto e melone was great for sharing and quite refreshing after walking under the hot Tuscan sun all morning. If you’re looking for a light pizza, the Regina Margherita was paper thin with fresh tomato slices.

 

All’antico Vinaio is the best spot for paninis in Florence. Waiting in line isn’t too bad when you’re on the cobblestone of Via dei Neri surrounded by the beautiful views of Florence. Order “La Schiacciata del Boss” to experience real panini perfection. The thin prosciutto adds a salty layer above the sharp pecorino cheese, but wait, there’s more. Cremina di tartufo (truffle cream spread) is practically oozing out of the crunchy toasted bread.

 

Buca Lapi is the oldest restaurant in Florence and it has still got it! The walls and ceilings are covered in old photos and advertisements of cities, adding a cool vibe to an otherwise romantic atmosphere. Known for their Florentine steak, Buca Lapi serves up the largest steak for one I’ve ever seen. It was perfectly seasoned and just rare enough. You could tell that they’ve learned a thing or two over the past century. The spinach and ricotta cheese tortelli with olive oil and sage was just as perfect. It comes with three pieces, which I laughed at when it was placed in front of me, but was light, fresh, and a surprisingly filling portion.

 

Il Profeta is hands down my favorite thus far. The food, the service, the atmosphere come together for a true Italian experience. The waiter went over the entire menu with us and pointed out the best dishes from their Renaissance menu. To start, I’ve never had such good bruschetta. The bread was not too hard, the olive oil was incredible, and the tomatoes were perfectly ripe. The truffle pasta, “Il Gratinato del Granduca”, was unreal. It is served in a parmesan bowl with the perfect amount of truffle and cheese. The renowned dish, “La Bontà del Profeta”, translates to “the goodness of Profeta”, which is quite fitting. It is also known as the John Travolta pasta because he literally licked his plate clean after finishing this dish. I may or may not be guilty of using their fresh bread to wipe my plate clean of this famous pink sauce. To top this all off, the owner’s wife makes the best fudge in Florence. Even if you’re starting to unbutton your pants, you must try this dessert.

 

Osteria Santo Spirito offers authentic Italian in a more casual setting. They serve fresh bread with an olives spread which was a unique change from the usual olive oil. The truffle gnocchi was out of this world, and a half portion was just enough for a satisfying lunch. The rigatoni was perfectly al dente and topped with dry ricotta, unlike the usual soft ricotta we see stuffed in ravioli. For a sweet finish, the check is presented with fresh cherries at the end of your meal! Their antique atmosphere, outdoor porch, and half-size portions make this my favorite spot for lunch in Florence.

 

Trattoria ZàZà is ZA best. There was so much to choose from, but the truffle menu caught my eye immediately. I obviously started with bruschetta, a favorite of mine, and it was piled high with tomatoes. The truffle tagliatelle was the highlight of my night, though. It was creamy and very truffled, just how I like it. I do recommend sharing, the portion was perfect for two.

 

SE·STO on Arno is the perfect spot for aperitivo. It is at the top of the Westin Excelsior hotel and has the most beautiful sunset view of the Arno River. Be sure to reserve a table, or a spot at the couches, for the most picturesque rooftop aperitivo. For €20, you get a view, a drink, and a taste of a Mediterranean spin on classic Italian dishes.